Much ado about Otuoke church renovation
By BEN NANAGHAN
Wednesday April 11 , 2012
The hullabaloo about an alleged church gift to President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to subside. The opposition parties are having a field day concocting falsehood and disseminating half-truths about a non-existent gift for the president.
It is a celebration of ignorance and folly to believe that a contractor’s corporate social responsibility to a host community can be mischievously misinterpreted as a gift for the President, just because the President comes from that community.
And, immediately without confirming, without crosschecking the accuracy of their information, our so-called opposition parties started pouring invectives and diatribes on the person of the nation’s President and Commander-In-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces. The Action Congress of Nigeria even called for mobilization for the impeachment of the President. Another party spokesman who till date laments the loss of his ministerial portfolio in petroleum resources even called for not only impeachment, but also a further prosecution of the president for accepting a “church gift” as bribe from a contractor.
It is true that a firm which executed a Federal Government contract in Otuoke which is undeniably the presidents place of origin, renovated one Anglican Community Church for the residents of Otuoke. Even by the remotest calculations and imaginations, I find it very incongruous to translate the renovation of a local community church into a gift for the nation’s president. The nexus is just not there.
However, the antics of these rabblerousers least surprise me. They are the same people who infiltrated the ranks of the Nigerian Labour Congress in January 2012 and even bankrolled the Lagos protests to maintain its violent momentum with the ultimate aim of dislodging President Goodluck Jonathan from the Presidency. These so-called opposition parties are the same people who assembled members of the Federal House of Representatives on a Sunday during the protest in January with the ulterior intention of impeaching the same president. This so-called opposition group has threatened several times to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan via the House of Representatives because they assisted the installation of the current leadership of the House on June 6, 2011.
Who, by the way are these opposition parties? Is it the party that started bombing indiscriminately in the North immediately President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was inaugurated on May 29, 2011? Or is it that unserious party that has elevated leadership rascality to nobility status? Or is it not the same party that won most of its gubernatorial elections through our internationally acknowledged corrupt judicial system?
In all this tomfoolery, I am highly elated that the names of Professor Pat Utomi and Pastor Chris Okotie of the FRESH party have not been mentioned among the desperados.
Perhaps, we should regress into our glorious past and refresh our minds about what political opposition used to be.Chief Obafemi Awolowo unarguably stands out as Nigeria’s greatest opposition symbol that ever lived. But unfortunately, the virtues of hardwork, mostly pursuit of truth and the need for mass education which the avatar meticulously handed over to us have all been abandoned by our “modern opposition leaders”. The only asset our so-called opposition leaders flaunt without shame is excessive wealth, illegally acquired from an impoverished people.
With so many praise singers and ghost writers, our present opposition leaders build an imposing and intimidating cult figure for themselves without consideration and regard for the sensibilities of the down trodden wretched of the earth. Chief Obafemi Awolowo singlehandedly made education a commodity every Nigerian must pursue to attain excellence but today in all Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) states, education has been taken away from the poor and even the middle class as any father with up to 3 children in any ACN state universities has to source a million naira loan to educate his children. These unscrupulous leaders who need these extra fees to expand their provincial base to acquire a new national spread needed to acquire their new national party status.
If our so-called opposition parties do not merge to form a formidable mega party, the prediction of a former chairman of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) that PDP will rule Nigeria for the next sixty years will not only come to pass but will also surpass the predicted years.
Nigerians would have expected the firm to build a hospital or secondary school for the Otuoke people instead of merely renovating an old, existing Anglican Church. The Nigerian political class has established direct links with foreign transnational corporations and firms working in Nigeria and this has emboldened these corporations to shirk their traditional community responsibilities in their areas of operations. Instead of these Multinational Corporations (MNCs) investing in local infrastructural development, our political elite has corruptly enriched itself with what belongs to the people with our deeply flawed regulatory system looking the other way.
It is, therefore, not surprising that this same political class is screaming itself hoarse for the mere renovation of a church instead of sending the money to their foreign accounts. And so, in the interpretation of our politicians, it is now criminal for multinational corporations to perform their globally acknowledged traditional functions of partnering with local communities for effective development.
For instance, President Lula Da Silva of Brazil, for eight years, changed the mentality of transnational corporations in Brazil and added value to the lives of the people. And today, Brazil is no more a Third World country but the fastest developing economy of the world. This is because a creative government that thinks outside the box must evolve a positive system for economic and social change.
But in Nigeria, it is a different story. Shell BP started oil exploration in Nigeria in 1937 but only started its community relations/assistance programme in 1980. For forty three years, Shell Petroleum Development Company exploited Nigeria’s oil resources and never paid a dime back to the host communities except for occasional pittance to the. community chiefs who were so grateful for the droppings in the bowl. Meanwhile, our leaders are smiling to the banks via SHELL BP largesse.
Instead of castigating the presidency for a church renovation which cost the firm less than .05% of total profit, our so-called opposition parties should rather put intensive pressure on government to overhaul our archaic regulatory system in the oil sector and give unambiguous mandate to the transnational corporations (TNCs) to take primary responsibility for the infrastructural development of their various areas of operations.
The United Nation’s Development Program describes the Niger Delta region as suffering from “administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor and endemic conflict.
Oil has generated over US$700 billion since the 1960s and this has only boosted the foreign account balances of our political leadership while further impoverishing the people and devastating their ecosystem in a disastrous and unspeakable manner.
Our opposition parties should take a cue from our political ancestors like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. These politicians gave us a very sound and worthy political culture and heritage. It is not that there were no political upheavals then but the emphasis on wealth was very minimal as against today when money wins everything and makes one automatically a political leader.
Or are our opposition parties afraid that development and dividends of democracy will eventually reach the people after so many years of diversion into foreign bank accounts of our ever grabbing political elite? Abuja and all the state capitals of the federation have been made comparable to big cities of the world with proceeds from the Niger Delta.
Is it, therefore, an abomination if the goose that lays the golden egg is also taken care of? The Nigerian political leadership must show modicum of respect for the president, for by so doing, they also respect the country which the president represents. Executive rascality does not pay. It only belittles us in the international system.
Nanaghan writes from Lagos