Ogunyemi Bukola (@zeebbook on Twitter) is one of those brilliant, detribalised and passionate Nigerian youths that wish for nothing other than a level playing field in a country that works. He is a 25 year old graduate of Biochemistry from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. He has passion for teaching and fondly calls himself ‘a social evangelist’. He is the Editor of omojuwa.com, one of Nigeria’s foremost blogs and a leading voice in the clamour for positive change in Nigeria. Bukola started his literary enterprise as a poet, but has since veered into other genres of literature, putting his abundant talent to use in raising the social consciousness of his generation. He rose into literary stardom on Nigeria’s blogosphere earlier in 2012 when he won the rave-making, tightly contested and widely acclaimed SuperBloggers competition in its second season with an excellent poem, having come second in the first season of the same competition with an equally brilliant piece of poetry.
Bukola is especially adept at writing satires, and one of such written in light of the Farouk-Otedola bribery scandal (The Lootitudes) remains one of the most widely read blogposts of 2012. His works have featured in blogs and newspapers beyond the shores of Nigeria, and to accentuate his emergent international status as a writer he recently became a columnist on the Voice of Liberty Africa (VOLA) Project on AfricanLiberty.org.
I first met his work on Twitter (The Lootitudes), a satire which uses biblical language to throw darts at our dishonest leaders in the wake of the revelations around fuel subsidy in May 2012 and remain hooked. It is my singular honour and privilege to introduce another young person Mr. Ogunyemi Bukola, following in the footsteps of Yemi Adamolekun, Auwal S. Anwar, Elnathan John, Japheth Omojuwa, and Zainab Usman – all youths that give me hope that a future Nigeria will be better than Jonathan’s present dysfunctional excuse. He writes about a Nigerian without oil, something that my sister Oby Ezekwesili recently prayed for. – Nasir El-Rufai
A Nigeria without Us; A Nigeria without Oil – By Ogunyemi Bukola
A ball of fire in the sky, the sun was on its way home and so was I. While my body sat through the two hour trip, my mind traveled 45 years in time. On a distinctively dispiriting morning a few weeks after my 70th birthday, I sat switching from one news channel to the other, different voices echoing the same news; Nigeria’s oil reserve is exhausted. The goose laying the golden egg is dead. It’s been a long time coming, oil prices crashed two decades earlier, together with demand for Nigeria’s oil at the international market in the face of increasing supplies from other countries.
A rude awakening for the one-time giant of Africa; an economy almost entirely built on oil wealth came crashing. The queue for visas at the Ghanaian Embassy reminds one of what used to be the norm at the American embassy half a century ago. Roads, schools, hospitals and industries in total disrepair or comatose, Nigeria has nothing to show for the tens of trillions of dollars earned from oil exploration spanning over a century. And now the cookie jar is empty!
The twig snaps not except a cause there be; I had earlier in the day read a damning World Bank report which estimates the depletion of Nigeria’s oil reserve in 41 years! What the report did not say is that the emergence of alternative sources of energy and production in newly oil-rich countries such as Ghana and Uganda are likely to crash oil price and create less demand for Nigeria’s oil over the next couple of decades. Throw in the contributions of Nigeria’s $60 million a day oil theft industry, and you have on the canvass a disturbing picture of the future of Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy.
The handwriting is on the wall, in bold letters for all to see, except of course those benefitting from the rot prevalent in the nation’s polity whose conscience have been blinded by greed. One would have thought the alarm bells ringing would wake Nigeria’s sleeping ruling class to the reality of the impending doom, and instruct the President and his economic team to fashion the 2013 budget along the lines of prudency.
What do we get instead?
A cursory look at the 2013 budget proposal presented by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly reveals atrocious allocations of insanely humongous amounts of money for unjustifiable ventures and desperately unintelligent methods of padding up the overhead costs of ministries and agencies of government. The N2.6 billion budgeted for the President’s trips in 2013 makes a mockery of the promise made by the same government in January 2012 to cut down government expenses including foreign trips. Indeed the Jonathan administration is unenviably successful at making a comedy of itself in ways that would make you worry for Nigeria’s professional stand-up comedians whose means of livelihood are being put on the line.
The N23.6 billion voted for the ‘stipends and allowances’ of 30,000 Niger Delta ex-militants in the 2013 budget proposal translates, averagely, into about N65, 000 per month per ex-militant while the national minimum wage is a meagre N18, 000. The total recurrent expenditure projected for the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (N46.6 billion) is almost equal to the Capital Allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (N48.7 billion), and more than the budgets of Mines and Steel Development (N13.5 billion) and Science and Technology put together (N31.8 billion). This coming from a government that vowed to put a man in space by 2015 is laughable.
Indeed the Total Recurrent Expenditure of the Office of the Presidency and that of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation put together, about N69.6 billion, is more than the Capital Allocation for Education (N60.1 billion) and Health (N55.8 billion) and just about equals that of Power (N70 billion). Little wonder then that our schools have become production centres for certified illiterates and members of the ruling class take trips abroad every now and then for medical attention.
Nigeria’s National Assembly is recklessly expensive. It has moved from being an arm of government to being a glutonous mouth, wide-open, hungry and insatiable, eating up all resources on its way. The geometric increase in overheads of the National Assembly from the N23.3 billion figure of 2003 to N104.8 billion in 2008 and N150 billion in 2013 spells doom for the continuity of the entity called Nigeria.
The total annual emolument of a senator as recommended by Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) stands at N12.766 million, per annum which translates to about N1.063 million per month, with slightly less figures for House of Representative members. At this rate, the total annual emolument of all 469 members of the National Assembly amounts to N5.6 billion. The 2013 budget however makes a provision of N150 billion for the National Assembly, with members to earn in a month more than they are entitled to in a year based on the RMAFC recommendation referred to above. And what do Nigerians get in return? A slow process of lawmaking, shallow debates, irrelevant bills, extraneous resolutions and shameful bribery scandals.
An audit conducted by NEITI on Nigeria’s petroleum industry from 1999 – 2008 indicated that the Federal Government earned a total sum of over N40 trillion in revenue. So why do over 100 million Nigerians still wallow in poverty and misery and basic infrastructure lies undeveloped and some in abject disrepair? Neck-deep in huge, unsustainable debts, foreign and domestic, Nigeria shall soon cease to be the marriage between the poor husband from the North and the rich wife from the South many are prone to call it. All six of Nigeria’s impoverished geopolitical zones are married to a prodigal polygamous drunk who calls himself government, feeds on the labour of his wives and lives a lavish life he can’t afford, piling up debt for generations unborn!
Total debt of about N7 trillion, and 9,294 uncompleted Federal Government projects requiring about the same amount for completion suggests that Nigeria cannot afford to continue to satisfy the desires of kleptomaniacs in power. Each of Nigeria’s geopolitical zones must wake up from this oil-windfall induced, dangerous dependence on federal allocation which has killed creativity in revenue generation and develop their human resources and non-oil sectors in preparation for what lies ahead. It is time for states to stop spending recklessly on frivolities and focus on projects that have direct meaningful impacts on the people.
Nigerians should get angry in a way that would make the fuel subsidy protests of January 2012 look like child’s play. Nigerians must begin to say NO to this wanton wastefulness with strong will and loud voice if indeed we care about the future of our fatherland. Years of military dictatorship have instilled in us a sinful and contemptuous docility inimical to the progress of our nation. But we have been in that state of spineless slumber, tremulous silence and cowardly sobriety for too long. Now is the time for Nigerians to arise and reclaim this nation from men whose luck feasts on corruption.
As our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable, so are our responsibilities to see to the proper functioning of governments instituted among us, for the sake of the security of these rights, inextricable. We must understand that the right to alter or abolish any form government that becomes destructive of these ends is not given but claimed, by any means necessary, for the benefactors of a state of dismal depravity and dreary degeneracy would rather have the status quo maintained.
Governments at all levels should take the fight against corruption serious and take drastic, painful steps to reduce overhead costs and make more funds available for the execution of essential capital projects. We should borrow a leaf from Malawi’s Joyce Banda’s salary cut and proposed sale of presidential jet and Senegal’s decision to scrap its Senate and the post of vice President all in a bid to save costs.
Government should fix the perennial problem of power, mechanize agriculture and diversify the nation’s economy and promote non-oil export trade. Industrialization should beget entrepreneurship, and an efficient tax system maintained. Take a cue from East Asia by investing in our human capital without which no meaningful development can arise.
This is hoping for a peaceful and united Nigeria without us, and a prosperous Nigeria without oil, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall someday find its way to our shores.