Further lessons from Cairo – Nigeria has missed it - By: Tope Fasua | Dailytrust

Further lessons from Cairo – Nigeria has missed it

Maybe those who have led Nigeria signed a deal with the devil – that the nation will never make progress and that, perhaps, there will come a time when the entire people of this country will be set off for annihilation. This is my conclusion, because I just cannot fathom why we will do this to ourselves. It goes against any intelligent reasoning. I also conclude that what we lack are philosophers who can stridently define a path for the nation and society, step back to view the entire mess we create daily, and not stop warning us of our sheer foolhardiness, until something shifts.

What we have aplenty, are attention-seekers, who proffer ideas that will never work, oftentimes, cut-and-paste ideologies that have held us in slavery since independence. Our education has not delivered for us – in fact, our most-educated are oftentimes our biggest betrayers and sell-outs. Yet we started our first university 72 years ago, solving no problem since we commenced higher education; still being totally reliant on foreigners to bathe for us and clean our behinds when we defecate. Of course those foreigners now treat us with disdain. The west despises and mocks us. The Chinese helps in delivering some infrastructure, but in a short while, there will be hell to pay for what we think are freebies.

I rue my fate as a Nigerian often. Why me, oh God?! But I can only rationalise that I am here for a purpose. I will do my level best to move the needle in this contraption. I shall not despair. I will tell the truth. I will provide hope. And I will offer solutions, not just criticise and run down the nation. For no nation is perfect, not in least. But Nigeria is especially becoming a worst-case scenario, not because we are incompatible, not because of our structure, but because we have not mainstreamed intellectualism and intelligence as the way forward. That is my take.

Having agreed that South and North Africa are far gone, let us look at East Africa. Still very much a banana region in many respects, but East Africa has the advantage (or even disadvantage) of having the remnants of European colonialists who have helped that region to establish the beginnings of a sustainable structure. From Uganda to Kenya, down to even places like Zimbabwe, we find that the large white communities also help attract tourists and institute a culture of infrastructure maintenance.

A friend who has lived for long in that region, believes that the reliance of these countries on donor-funding may have helped their leaders understand better how to live on the straight and narrow. Recently, the president of Malawi was roasted on social media because he travelled with a few extra people including his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, on the bill of Britain for a conference which he said he was personally and specifically invited to be physically present.

In truth, that president – like Magufuli who many believe was liquidated in Tanzania – is one of the more articulate and frugal leaders in Africa. He recently laid off ministers and many in the civil service for tampering with COVID-19 funds (even after they had refunded the sums). But we unwittingly joined the pack of hyenas who tried to tear at the wounded man where he laid, helpless. I will rather look inwards. A president travels with two extra stragglers and we Nigerians join the baying wolves? Have we seen what our own deluded and megalomaniac leaders do? Do we have a sense of introspection at all?

East Africa is likely to emerge faster than West Africa. Indeed, the interventions of China in that region are more extensive, more profound, and more effective. And the people seem to understand how to maintain stuff better than Nigeria which leads Africa. I visited Kenya in 2013 and entered well-maintained government buildings commissioned by Jomo Kenyatta in the 1970s! I was shocked. Nairobi has more skyscrapers (all functional), than the entire Nigeria. Uganda is less snazzy, but their maintenance culture is also wow. I visited a wildlife park in Entebbe, the best I’ve ever seen. No one ate the goat meat designated for the lions. It was well maintained too, among other places.

I am particularly challenged by the achievements of Egypt. Maybe less integrated with Europe unlike her Mediterranean sisters, but Egypt definitely has a mind and ambition of her own. I started to wonder why they got rid of Hosni Mubarak, even though the current leader, Al Sisi, is totally on steroids. Egypt has built a new Cairo in the last 15 years, and has seen a new capital to fruition in 10 years. Though the country has a problem with the class system – with many desperately poor and others desperately rich, there is a palpable middle class. Domestic consumption is an Egyptian. They have all the brands there in Egypt – many of which tried Nigeria and ran (not only because of bad policies or somersaults, but principally because we do not have the purchasing power, the patriotism, or the middle class). From Italian to British to French brands, they are there in Egypt. All the great hotels are still there intact and thriving – Sofitel, Le Meridien, Hilton, Sheraton, Movenpick. You could sense a palpable buzz in the economy. I stayed at one called Sonesta and wow, the services were better than our Hilton Abuja. They spare no expense to satisfy their customers. Their hotel gym was like nothing I’d ever seen anywhere. I visited Pizza Hut in the City Centre, and they close at 2am. In fact, Cairo comes alive at night more than during the day.

A country of 100 million people has one million policemen, and most people are gainfully employed. Their poverty problem pales compared to ours. Their major slum – Mansheiya – is bad but pales into insignificance beside most of ours. Egypt fancies herself trailing behind Turkey and leveraging the technical prowess as diplomatic power especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Arab Contractors, Osman Ahmed Osman, and Hassan Hallam, are two of the biggest contractors out of this region. Under Al Sisi, a standard overhead bridge must be concluded from scratch to finish under one month; a very long bridge maybe two months. People pass an area after two weeks and see new, solid infrastructure. Some Egyptians say Al Sisi is too focused on infrastructure, but he believes that now is the time to build for coming generations. In spite of being half Nigeria’s population, with her people less restless than Nigerians who are all over the place everywhere in the world, Egyptians abroad send more remittances than Nigerians – almost $8 billion more on a yearly basis if we consider current situations. Of course, Nigerians are migrating improperly. I visited Festival City and CityCentre in New Cairo, built by the same people that did the Dubai ones, only bigger. I did a bit of shopping near my hotel in Nasr City. Even the shops there are very standard and connected with the rest of the world. Nigeria has been left behind.