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The Nigerian crude oil tragedy

One of our biggest problems – perhaps our only problem – as a people, is unoriginality.  I don’t believe we have justified the schools we…

One of our biggest problems – perhaps our only problem – as a people, is unoriginality.  I don’t believe we have justified the schools we attended much less the millions of certificates in our possession. And this shows everyday. The level of reliance of the black man, on the innovations of other people is something else; very scary.  Look at our electricity sector. We daily fixate on increasing the amount of energy the government generates just for the bragging rights that government is working, while being entirely blindsided to the fact that the entire national grid business is becoming archaic. I have just reviewed an article wherein innovators have pronounced that the national grid system will become antiquities in about 20 years. Rather than promote billions of dollars in private and public investments into that sector, why don’t we encourage alternative energy? Experts predict that in the next five years, the kind of sea change we will see on that sector will be more than what happened in the last 100 years! And I believe them. Never dare an innovator. I believe we may have to adopt something similar to the telecom sector in the energy sector. I’m talking about how Nigeria leaped over landlines to become one of the countries with highest teledensity through the adoption of the GSM technology. 

In my view, we should have used new investments to encourage indigenous learning and thinking but we aren’t.  We all want immediate results; leaders and the led. Not for us to invest for even 5 years. If Fashola had come up with such a strategy in the last 3 years by now we would be seeing some lasting effects.  This is not about Fashola though, but about governance in its entirety.  The kind of initiatives we need right now are very profound. They cannot fit into anyone’s 4-years cycle. It cannot be about your ego and whether you get another term.  The reason why government labours to tell us how many kilometres of road, how many boreholes, and other fleeting achievements it has made, is because we lose sight of the fact that these things – which mere local governments elsewhere even in Africa take for granted – will not take us anywhere sustainably.  

But today I’m focused on Nigeria’s ‘cash cow’; the oil sector. Or is it really a cash cow or a harbinger of laziness? 

There’s a short clip on Youtube that was made by a group called ViceNews. It’s titled “The Battle Raging in Nigeria over Control of Oil”.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAgw_Zyznx0&feature=youtu.be.  It is a very depressing watch. An American lady – one of those daring activists – came on a trip to Nigeria’s oil zone to show us what we never show ourselves. If there is another problem we have, it is the fear of the truth. Lugard documented it as early as 1922. There would have been nothing wrong with Nigeria’s amalgamation but for the fact that this embrace of lies and deception became encoded into the governance till today.  But let’s move on. Before the ViceNews, to be honest, there was another effort, (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEqbVL0AAjI ) by an activist and Delta Governorship aspirant for 2019, Sunny Ofehe. 

Anyhow, what the ViceNews correspondent documented was a situation where the locals have totally despoiled a vast area of their own farmlands with what they call ‘refinaries’ (actually ‘REFINARY’ is what a large official road sign says it is in Port Harcourt). These Nigerians out of desperation, frustration or defiance, have dug up the land in different place and created different crude contraptions from what some of them may have learnt in O’level to BSc Chemistry, creating ovens, cooling units and so on in the marshes of our Niger Delta. The result is a total mess; a mindless pollution of their own environment that would make any reasonable person from anywhere throw a fit. If one should stand back and consider the way we think and behave as a people it is easy to conclude that we have some missing chips left to attain full humanity.  Nigerians are unbelievably backward.  We complain of how oil companies have destroyed our environment but are now doing so ourselves perhaps on a larger scale.  Vast areas of the region lie in waste today. No plant could ever grow there. Waters have been polluted, and the crude ovens they have built with all the spillages and the mad methods of adding fuel to get things going, means that even the water table is polluted. Ah! Nigeria! 

There is a huge problem with the Niger Delta that might never be solved. The other day on the same Sunny Ofehe’s show, it was Boyloaf sitting in his luxury apartment in wait for this… Rotterdam for an interview, complaining of the injustices they have been done.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlOJxZDN76Y. I mean in the pristine, planned, rustic and modern, well groomed, sleepy city of Rotterdam. All the people who have been at the forefront of the Niger Delta agitation – some of whom took up arms against the state – have used the money to establish several nests around the world.  I wager that Niger Deltans also run away from their own land. There are cultures in Nigeria where they believe going back home exposes you to the dangers of witchcraft. For if 20% of the money that our government as well as oil companies have spent placating the Niger Delta had remained there perhaps the story might have changed. The question is; do we even want the story to change? This does not mean that our governments over the years have been fair, or that the international oil companies have been anything near good. The oil companies are some of the hardest profiteers and exploiters since the advent of guys like JD Rockefeller. Those guys are brutes. But we seem to be more brutish to ourselves; indeed self-destructive.

 

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