In the 17th century, the Catholic Church declared that the earth, and not the sun, was the centre of the universe. This was contrary to the scientifically proven belief of Italian Mathematician, Physicist and Philosopher, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who asserted the Copernican position that it was the earth that moved around the sun and not vice versa. He stood his ground and taught his pupils his point.
But the Pope and the Catholic lords would have none of this heresy. In their reasoning, if they allowed the scientist to have his way, it would severely undermine the authority of the Church as the sole arbiter of the affairs of man.
There was another weighty consideration: if the earth and not the sun was seen as the centre of the universe, it would in effect reduce the importance of man and all that inhabited the earth, including the Catholic Church and the Pope, who its adherent considered as infallible.
So the Church asked Galileo to undergo a daily exercise of recantation during a house arrest. But after each utterance of denial as dictated by his captors, Galileo would say Eppur si muove (but it (the earth) does move.)
One account says: The moment he (Galileo) was set at liberty, he looked up to the sky and down to the ground, and, stamping with his foot in a contemplative mood, said: Eppur si muove, that is, it moves, meaning the earth moves.
In Nigeria, there is a replay of this ancient session of the theatrics of those who say nothing is moving in the country under the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. They say we are at the tip of an apocalyptic pit. They want the world to believe that each new day would see Nigeria fall off the cusp overlooking the abyss. But each day, a bright sun emerges to announce new breakthroughs to be thankful for in Nigeria.
To be sure, there are challenges. But there are positive engagements on the part of government to cage them.
If Nigeria is not moving as suggested by some, how come for the first time in the history of the country the policies of the Jonathan administration have made it possible for Citizen Aliko Dangote to be rated the 25th richest person in the World.
Dangote himself has admitted this. Speaking during a recent visit to Nairobi, Kenya, the industrialist declared that “his achievements as Africa’s richest man and the 25th richest person on earth are due to the favourable policies of President Jonathan’s administration.”
Aliko Dangote told his hosts: “I want to tell you what the President has been doing in Nigeria. He is very humble and may not want to sing about what he has been doing. We are very grateful for some of his policies he introduced… Without the good policies of government, there is no way a person like me from the big town like Kano can rise from a humble beginning to become the 25th richest person on earth… if government has bad policies, the whole economy will crumble, and if they have good policies people will be able to prosper and that is what is happening now.” Eppur si muove!
His remarks came even as the international community was also noticing Jonathan’s strides at home. Ex-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came calling with a firm assertion of faith in the policy drive of the Nigerian government. Revealing implicit confidence in the government’s moves to tackle the protracted challenges in the education sector, Brown said he had spoken to the European Union to offer substantial grant to Nigeria for the development of the sector over the next seven years.
Brown’s words: “The Federal Government of Nigeria has made available $250 million for investment in education by the states. What we have managed to do by talking to the individual agencies is to match that $250million, making possible new investment of $500million in education in Nigeria.” This amounts to injecting a hefty N77.6biillion into the system! And that’s coming from the international community. Would a sophisticated corporate group pitch with a system that isn’t seen to be moving? Eppur si muove!
The main point to note is that it is one thing for a country’s government to adopt measures aimed at developing its citizens. It is another matter altogether for foreign partners to decide that such measures are worth identifying with for mutual benefits in accordance with the tenets of international co-existence and peace.
We can safely submit that despite the security challenges, power outages and the stress of our teething democracy, the Jonathan administration has initiated progressive policies that have so far impressed local and foreign businesses and made Nigeria a serious contender for massive investment in oil and gas, auto ventures, telecoms, aviation and commerce among other sectors.
It is obvious that Jonathan’s critics are too glued to the dream at the tip of a cliff. But we have long backed away from the precipice. Nobody is talking anymore of falling off into an abyss because everyone is dreaming of making it by merging into policies that can make a Nigerian the wealthiest Blackman in the world. They want to team up with a government that can attract reputable world leaders and their representatives to the country.
These key players on the local and global scenes admit there are challenges in Nigeria. But they are wise to discern that these problems ought not to be distractions. The bigger picture they see is that the country is moving forward through broad strategic policies. Some of these initiatives are bringing instant results (railways, new roads such as second Niger Bridge, agricultural reforms) and others are maturing for the future harvest (education, oil and gas, political reforms etc).
The authorities in the days of Galileo Galilee did not succeed in forcing the untruth of a motionless earth on the scientist and the world despite the power of the papal paraphernalia because it was not the reality. In our age also, the reality is not that Nigeria is not progressing. It is, indeed, moving. Eppur si muove!
* Alabrah is Head, Media and Communications, Presidential Amnesty Programme, Abuja