Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rich Daddy, Poor Mummy

We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature is cruel to us… We are poor and will remain poor because we lack attitude


Good morning, class. Today we are going to reflect on why some people have everything and others do not. To do this, we shall have to take a global look at the disparities between nations. And the question we have to answer is: Why are some countries rich and some are poor? Let's start by saying that the difference between the poor countries and the rich has nothing to do with the age of a country because, if it is age, countries like Egypt and India, which are more than 2000 years old, would not be poor. On the other hand, countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand that were inexpressive less than 200 years ago would not be counted today among the rich and developed countries of the world. Take a look, too, at South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. Again, the difference between poor and rich countries does not reside in the available natural resources. If it is so, Japan, which has a limited territory, 80 per cent of which is made up of mountains, would not be the world's second largest economy. The country is like a mega factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products to every nook and corner. Switzerland is another example. It does not plant cocoa but has the best chocolate in the world! As little as the country is, it raises animals and tills the soil during the four months that its climate allows a year. They produce dairy products of the best quality. Not only that, it is a tiny country that radiates an image of security, discipline and hardwork, which makes it the world's strongest safe for billionaires. Talk of Swiss accounts and our thieving public officers are wont to hop on the next available bullion van to the Swiss capital to deposit their new loot.

What's really the problem with poor nations? Is it a question of intellect? No! There is no significant difference in the intellectual abilities of the entire human race. Whether you are white or black is also not important. Immigrants labelled lazy drones in their respective countries of origin are the productive power in rich Western countries. By the way, have you ever wondered why the Americans want thousands of immigrants every year to come and reside in their country? Think about it.

But what is the difference between rich and poor countries, sir?

Thank you. The difference is in the attitude of the people, framed, along the years, by their education and culture. Studies have shown that the behaviour of the people in rich and developed countries reflects their attitude to certain principles they hold dear. After taking a serious look at the behavioural patterns of the people in rich and developed countries, it was discovered that the great majority follow certain principles in their lives. These are ethics, integrity, responsibility, respect for the laws and rules and regulations guiding their day-to-day conduct, respect for the rights of other citizens, love for work, punctuality, quest for saving and investment and the will of super action. These principles may appear ordinary or simple but, in developed countries, they are perceived very important and are held sacrosanct. They have standards for morality which they do not encourage anybody to go below. Integrity and transparency are a sine qua non for business transactions. To them, time is money, thus punctuality at public functions and workplaces is non-negotiable. In their everyday life, there is the urge to aspire to reach greater heights. They want to reach the deepest parts of the ocean, climb the highest mountains and fly into space to conquer new territories...

Sir, I think that's how their explorers discovered Africa and the new world, because they wanted to expand their horizon.

Good, you get the drift. They have this willing attitude to do something super and the ‘can-do’ spirit to achieve. That's how they landed a man on the moon in 1969 and, today, they have satellites in space that can pinpoint the exact locations of troop movements anywhere in the world. They can use their satellites, too, to close in on their target in a taxi on a lonely road in Badagry or Baghdad and blast it to smithereens within minutes. How do they do it? It's because they have been brought up with the principles of hard work, adventure, a striving for excellence and the urge to do the impossible. In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their daily life. And that accounts for our poverty. We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature is cruel to us. There are very few countries among the rich and developed nations that have the kind of natural resources that our country has. We have the 'sweetest' oil in the market and we are the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world; yet we rank among the poorest! Nature has been kind to us, like Ethiopia which prides itself with having 13 months of sunshine in the year! Yet, both are not tourist havens for the rich daddies of developed nations. We are poor and will remain poor because we lack attitude. We lack the will to comply with and teach those functional principles which are held sacrosanct by the rich and developed societies. Most of the leaders in the poor countries lack the will to serve without grabbing. They lack integrity and responsibility. Neither do they have respect for the laws of the land. They prefer to break all the rules and regulations that aid in the development and advancement of their societies and still expect their followers to obey! They do not save and invest for their countries like, for instance, Saudi Arabia which has a respectable stake in the US economy through investments in banking and other ancillary industries. The Asian Tigers are also ahead of the pack because of their strict adherence to these basic principles which are practically ignored by the poor countries. Our country, for example, is happy to be the fastest-growing market for mobile telephony in the whole world; yet it lacks both the will and discipline to aspire to be the biggest manufacturer of GSM handsets. Tiny Finland is the home of Nokia! And Samsung is to Korea just as Motorola is to the US. We eat chocolate made in Switzerland, yet the raw material is from the cocoa farms in Ondo and Owo. There was a time local entrepreneurs produced cocoa bread, cocoa butter and cocoa cookies in Ibadan but Niagarans would not have anything to do with them. They preferred Australian butter and Swiss chocolate. Attitude, that's the difference between rich daddies (developed countries) and poor mummies (underdeveloped nations). As part of their own extended responsibility, borne out of unprecedented magnanimity, developed countries even encourage leaders of poor countries by providing part of their own savings as lifelines for ailing economies. They call it aids or soft loans. Unfortunately, many have collapsed under the heavy burden of such liabilities.

God bless Africa!

And also those leaders who may vow today to embark on a systematic change of attitude to work ethics and civic responsibilities in their respective countries!!

*First published in TELL 2007

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Like Father, Unlike Son


“Everybody wants a share of the robber economy and the real bone of contention is the percentage of share from the oil and gas account”

Hi, Jagunlabi. Long time! No see!! Where have you been?

My friend, I have been away to participate in the last voting exercise.

Which one? Do you mean the wuruwuru thing of last April? So, how did it go in your state?

It wasn't funny at all. It was like April Fools' day. Do you remember my uncle, the politician?

Yes, Uncle Fijabi. I remember...

No, it's not that one. I mean Uncle Jegudujera, my paternal uncle who has been in the Upper House since the soja go, soja come “arrangee” democracy of the Salami days.
I seee! So, what happened?

On election day, Uncle Jegudujera came out very early in the morning to monitor the electoral activities in his constituency but all he saw were deserted streets and heavily armed soldiers at roadblocks. Everywhere he looked he was confronted with stern-looking soldiers. He just put two and two together and quickly rushed back home, donned his wife's attire and headed straight for the (Idi Iroko) border.

Why? Did his two and two give him 40?

I really don't know... That would be kabukabu mathematics. He didn't tell anybody. It was only after he came back from the closed border that he deemed it fit to let us know why he bought the proverbial pounded yam and did not wait to collect the mandatory soup. He said he thought the jackboots were out to collect their power back as they were wont to in the dark days of military siege to the commonwealth.

Can you imagine that?

Poor man! What's he afraid of?

My friend, I don't trust these I-chop-you-chop politicians, not even my uncle.

Why do you say that?

They all have one skeleton or the other in their underpants. If not, why did he race for the border on seeing soldiers on the roads?

Maybe he is allergic to green uniforms. But, by the way, let's leave the politicians underpants and come back to the polling booths. So, generally speaking, how did the election go?

It was abracadabra all the way.

Kai! Who says? Is it the retired general or the ever-bubbling professor?

None of the above.

So, who is your source of information?

You want me to tell you?

Yes, why not? Or are you a journalist who will not disclose his source of information even at the point of death?

Well, I'm not a journalist but a man who has a third eye and a satellite dish...

It’s a lie! Third eye... Satellite dish!! What's that supposed to mean?

An inner eye and a listening ear, of course.

Whose ear is not for listening and hearing?

Are you asking me? A lady's ear, of course!

Beg your pardon! You must be kidding. Bring it up... Come again!

A lady's ear, if you do not know, is meant for decoration.

There you go again! Bloody chauvinist!! So, what did you see and what did you hear with your so-called satellite dish?

My friend, I heard a lot and saw wen! For the first time in my life, I saw hoodlums parading the streets in four-wheel-drive vehicles, posing as electoral officers and, in some cases, as policemen. I saw ballot boxes snatched in the presence of policemen who chose to look the other way. I saw an under-age voter thumb-printing one thousand ballot papers in one minute!

Akika! Small, small...

True! Before God and man, I saw returning officers returning home with bundles of naira notes...

Jesus Christ!! Is that all?

Look at you... I heard one politician complain that one party was just being too greedy by not allowing his own party also to capture the cake, saying, afterall, the said party had been robbing the people for the past 18 years and it was time it allowed them also to do their own bunkering while the oil well runs.

Now you can see why those militants are itching for a piece of the cake, too. As a matter of fact, everybody wants a share of the robber economy and the real bone of contention is the percentage of share from the oil and gas account. What do you pay the explorers? What do you give the exploiters? What do you concede to the owners? What do you share among the remaining citizens? For as long as this problem remains unsolved, so shall we continue to have political unrest, electoral robbery, social inequality and a permanently drifting entity called Niagara.

You forgot to add that so also shall the politicians be sleeping with one eye closed because of the persistent threat from their opponents who reside in the barracks. And so shall Uncle Jegudujera and his friends continue to be keeping their ECOWAS passports and NAGBAKO maps under their pillows every night. They come in handy just in case...

It means we are still living in a fools' paradise. Just too bad.

Real super bad. But I think the Gentleman on the Rock is up to something. He can perform miracles with his the-less-you-look-the-more-you-see style of governance.

For where? We need an Iron Lady like Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher, or a Strong Man like Ghadaffi, the Desert Warrior, to scatter everything and make everybody sit on the edge of the knife.

Ah! You must be kidding!! What did the king of yesterday achieve with his crude bravado, impressionistic bravura and volcanic eruptions?

We are still counting.

The losses or the gains?

Na you sabi. My friend, give unto Baba what is Baba’s and give unto son what is son’s.

Thou sayest.

*First published in TELL July 9, 2007.