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« The Curse of Oil | Main | Beyond 2007: Shaky Future Awaits Nigeria »

May 18, 2006

3rd Term Funeral: Give us Step by Step Middle Class Revival Plan

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- Third Term Pall Bearers are back again fighting for who is going to be the President. There are more of them to go and more work ahead of us as celebration is too early. Keep your eyes on the prize which is our middle class. These politicians do not have to learn from their misdeeds since we hardly hold them responsible.

We were brought to our knees with a single stroke of the pen by pulverizing our middle class with “structural adjustment.” If it was the Colonialist that did it to us, we might have had a target to stab. No sir. They got sleek, they left the Neo-colonialist at the helms of our affairs and they wiped us clean of our skipper class. Is there any country in this world that has done any good without the middle class? Nigeria has very few, it is time to search for a new savior who is going to give us a detailed road map for reviving our precious class.

As I was watching one of the last interviews of the great Canadian American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith; my take on it was how the communists failed and how to move forward. It boils down to unproductive middle class. They do not even have to sell their heavy and strategic industries to regularize their economy. It is the creation and duty of the middle class to man the service and manufacturing industries. We could have listen to Professor Aluko on heavy industries on one hand, as well as other professors against structural adjustment rather than giving our most important industries to the same ruling club all over Nigeria who do not give a hoot about their people except in words.

Most of our graduates deserve the life of the middle class. They should be able to take over the manufacturing industries to provide the goods we need and compete with one another to balance low price with reasonable profit. If that need reorganization of some of their curriculum, so be it. One of the biggest industries begging for action as I have written before is the maintenance sector. We still lack maintenance mentality and those heavy industries that should encourage it embezzle allocated funds for it (o die e). As much as we have patriotic Nigerians returning home to start businesses, most Nigerians still live at home and must be encouraged into business of providing for others. But there must be a buyer environment to encourage a seller.

There was a region in Nigeria that did very well without the Federal Government. Indeed, the same region competed with the Federal Government in its capital. They created wealth amongst the middle class by “co-operative management”. This was in Nigeria, not oyinbo country. Middle class flourished all over Nigeria until ten percent bribe became fifty percent, increased to hundred percent, family support to book me down, then 419. Concentration of money and power in Abuja breeds corruption, dissonance and disable local initiatives. There must be some decentralization of federal might.

People create wealth not government. The amounts of money that can be generated by private sector dwarf that of government. Mind you, government contracts are also very important. The middle class can create wealth without Abuja handouts but its enabling environment is necessary. Easy oil money has blinded our ingenuity and we blame government too often for our procrastination. State and Local Governments in Nigeria collect taxes from the people but not very much to show for it, not even good roads.

Why do we invent only stuffs that need government handouts, foreign exchange and materials? What happen to our natural resources that others use as raw materials, and esusu contribution Africans are known for throughout the world? Sometimes, I develop fears that Chinese, Koreans, Indians etc will use their esusu contribution to create wealth for themselves in Africa as they do elsewhere. What? Oh, they are already doing that!

Professional people – professors, doctors, lawyers and not so professionals like contractors, traders and skill men who had saved all their lives for businesses, retirement or education watched their Nigerian pound became naira and naira became useless with a stroke of the pen. Those who were changing clothes every day started wearing it every other day until they fade into tatters, those who had houses started selling them to eat and those with cars never bought another one. They could not feed or send their children to universities. Our old people, pensioners and their families started dying on the queue waiting for money that came too late or never came. Even when they got the money, it could not satisfy their basic needs. These are middle class who are repaid for their contributions in cowries.

Nigeria became a Country of the haves and the many have-nots. We know how we got here. Who is asking who the questions about how to get out of it? If we do not know where we are going, as the saying goes, we know where we are coming from. The problem with dictators is that they think they know everything and only they know Nigeria well well well. Some even claim God is on their side. In their move to what they call free market, they sell the whole store to themselves. What matters at that point is not their ethnic group but their club. As soon as someone is shortchanged sharing their stolen loots, he remembers his ethnicity and call on his people! Like fools we answer!

If you had an abusive husband or a wife that had duped you once or twice and of all people available in the Country, you are attracted to the same type of person to marry and keep your treasures again, you deserve what you get. There is certain attraction to abusers and losers. Those are our militricians. Do we deserve them because they are products of our society? In our case, it is more complicated than “every country deserves its leaders.” There are heavy foreign influences at play in our psyche. What is even worse is that it is infectious and debilitating to those who never left home. We keep on asking failures or misplaced successful aliens to lead us. Some of the same middle class who are their bureaucrats dance and tell militicians whatever they want to hear. Ask them why? Who would argue in the face of jungle justice or seek justice that is selectively complied with?

Look at the older age, qualifications and the caliber of people daring to flee Nigeria now and cry for our Country. Look at the age and specialties of those who refuse to go home and pity our Country. Some of us spend six months on each coast. They call us visiting professors, visiting lecturers, temporary agency manager or accountant, security guards, taxi drivers, Mac Dee etc at a point we should be nurturing our Country and preparing our young at home for the challenges of the future.

After a long conversation, I had to agree with some friends of mine that the only benefit of staying outside the Country is that nobody knows your business as long as you corner three square meals a day. If you can not do that in Nigeria, you are a disgrace to your family and a nuisance to your neighbors. Otherwise, why would a middle class Nigerian be outside or an elder outside his base? Man does not live by bread alone have meanings?

Once you take away the middle class, the brain of any society, who are the children idolizing? I always tell the story of a friend of mine who used to boast that his children would grow up in his village. If you don’t, how could your children? Another friend who spends six months on each coast refused to bring his family over and promised them the best of what they want in Nigeria. Then there are those who think the best solution is to let them attend high school in Nigeria and go back for university education. Do we have any guaranty that they will come back home?

Going back to Nigeria has never been easy and I remembered we were scared to death in spite of the fact that we had had it and ready to go bananas. A little smiling and suffering in Nigeria cured that! Honestly, at a point we can not tell where we want to be. That is why some of us can not stay put in one place. There is no place like home and so we can not surrender the place to only the very rich and the very poor.

Look at children who should be in school, selling all types of materials, food and drinks in the traffic or in the market. In order to pass the buck, we argue about whose and where they belong instead of looking at our future in them and wondering about ourselves. You will see a young man who can neither read nor write. If there is one thing Africans can be proud of after independence, it is the amount of children educated in broad variety of fields instead of dictated areas by limited school. Under our watch, all that gain is slipping away. It is not too late, if we rescue our middle class.

Our politicians do not have to do their homework on what they will sell to the masses. All they have to do is whip up ethnic sentiments. Even then, we know that no single region can win or rig election in the whole of Nigeria. We fail each time to demand or ask for accountability from these politicians and they know us very well.

So please do not be taken by any celebration of some crooks fighting amongst themselves. Seek out those who can tell us how they are going to reproduce middle class in Nigeria. It is the only way we can return to planning, reasonable provision for the future of our children, adequate preparation for option B and C if A fails. Nigeria, no matter what the intention of those planners always fails woefully.

Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa

faroukomartins@netscape.net

Posted by Administrator at May 18, 2006 09:46 AM

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