Saturday, December 4, 2021

    If you know what the true meaning of transformation is, you'll know how to vote in the presidential election by Phillip Isakpa

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    Babatunde Akinsola
    Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

    IsakpaI am writing this in far away Davos, the small Swiss town, that has become world famous for the yearly hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). As I bend over my tablet hitting away at the keyboard in the huge lobby/walkway, there are different peoples from all over the world world streaming past, evidence of the yearning for knowledge, the need to connect with the rest of the world and take stock of what is happening elsewhere that could be of benefit to individual organistions, countries and people.  Knowledge is fascinating, it is the lack of it that people sometimes perish, when they shouldn’t. And it is particularly for the lack of it that a whole lot of people in this world gets deceived by those that they elect or who offer themselves to be elected.

    This year in Davos, it appears as if no Nigerian government official is interested in the current trends in terms of what is shaping outcomes in a great many things. Never mind the excuse that they give about elections! Not technology, not refugee problems (we are currently seeing a pile up in the number of internally displaced persons; and there are many Nigerians in neighbouring countries who have become refugees because of the current Boko Haram crisis in some parts of the north), not healthcare issues, not even security and the issue of uncertainty that seems to have become a global issue. But it’s our way, to use a local way of explaining our attitude to things which we consider to be inconsequential in the scheme of things.

    It’s my first time at Davos, but it’s equally being my first time in many places in the world. If you are intellectually engaged enough to be discerning, you would know that the complexity of government is often the result of the political mystification of government. But that mystification is often personally driven; that is by interest that are largely personal either in isolation or sometimes in the compartmentalizations of group interest. It is the reason why the importance of education is often short circuited because it’s liberating power can expose those who hide under the cloak of politics and interest peddling to misgovern societies.

    In the last four years at least, one word that has become a household word in a rather special Nigerian context is transformation. One painful thing about it is that in bandying it about by government as a whole, and its officials and hangers on in particular, for four years! it has lost its soul and essence. And because education has been so seriously damaged in our country, it has become difficult for citizens to really tell the difference between what seems like intentions and scratching efforts, and what transformation really stands for. This is the most dangerous thing about the state of education in this country; the fact that our people, including those who you’d ordinary expect to know, failing to discern between truth and deceit.

    My quarrel, stemming from the fact of my international experience of seeing and knowing,

    is that what is largely routine government work is presented as transformational. I would not like for this to detract from some shining lights in some routine work that has taken place in the country, especially because these are still work in progress and therefore not finished articles yet. Nothing is transformational, in my view, if it is yet to surpass a state which once existed. So, to borrow from Obasanjo (who appears now to know that having lived above the biblical three scores and ten years, he has a responsibility to speak the truth for a better Nigeria), “I dey laff”. I will continue to hold this government accountable for the huge deceit that played out in March 2011, in the run up to the first term elections. There was a fanfare launch of what was a gas revolution described to be transformational. Please read below a news report from the launch:

    “Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Oando Nigeria Plc are to jointly build a $3-billion Central Gas Processing Facility (CPF) in Nigeria, as President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday unfolded plans to attract $25 billion worth of investment into developing the country’s gas infrastructure and create about 600,000 new jobs.

    “The CPF project, which will be sited in Obiaruku, Delta State, is billed to be completed in 2012.

    “The president made government’s plan known during the unveiling of its gas revolution agenda at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja.

    This is part of Federal Government’s ambitious agenda to fast-track Nigeria’s industrial rebirth through a gas revolution programme that would raise domestic gas supply to over 10 billion cubic feet per day by 2020 from the current level of 1.0 billion cubic feet per day, as well as end gas flaring.

    “The government also announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saudi Arabia’s Xenel Industries Limited to construct a world scale petrochemical plant also in Koko Free Trade Zone (FTZ), Warri Delta State with an output capacity of about 1.3 million tonnes per annum.

    “The domestic gas utilisation drive would also see Indian firm, Nagarjuna Fertilisers and Chemical Limited, team up with United States oil major, Chevron Nigeria Limited, to build five fertiliser blending factories across the geo-political zones of the country.

    “The factories, according to the facilitators, would utilise a substantial volume of the country’s huge gas resources.

    “In his remarks, Jonathan said the proposed gas initiative would generate over 100,000 engineering design-related jobs, as well as about 500,000 direct and indirect jobs in construction, logistics fabrication and agriculture.

    “Today’s event marks the beginning of a fulfilling journey for Nigeria to move into the league of nations which have successfully leveraged on the advantage derivable from their abundant natural gas to positively impact on the lives of their citizens.

    “Based on the agenda, it is our expectation that by 2014, we would have positioned Nigeria as the regional hub for gas-based industries of fertilisers, petrochemicals and methanol.

    “The focus is to catalyse the industrialisation of the country by seeding in a few investments that have the highest potential of far-reaching multiplier effect on the economy. This agenda is expected to bring an end to gas flaring as we hope to monetise this. By 2014, we expect to have placed Nigeria on the pedestal as a regional hub for gas based industry,” the president said.

    This should send anyone keen on holding government, it’s officials accountable on a frenzy of real, deep thinking. The point is: things can’t continue to be the same. People can’t bandy words around that they don’t understand or don’t really mean. Is gas not one of the biggest problems of the power generating companies in Nigeria today? Yet there was a revolution. And so much for it! What those Facebook, Twitter, BBM types will simply use “phew” to describe. Nigeria deserves to be transformed no doubt. But it must be transformation that drives right into the hearts of the people. Transformation, in the context that it is used in social engineering makes such a huge impact on society that citizens are often compelled by the impact to see those who bring them about as though they were ‘gods’. In private meetings with government officials and those close to government, I have often argued that transformation must not be equated with government officials doing routine things.

    Building of roads is routine. What is transformational is the type and locations of roads that built, not the number, not the amount of money spent (a lot of which is stolen, in any case). What looks like a transformational road, which I have been told is a road that connects a number of states in the south south sub region, is the East-West road. It was started in 2006, and you would have expected a transformational government to have completed it by now. This government has given excuses after excuses as to why it has not been completed, yet it is in the President back yard.

    But the main thing is how we get citizens to understand, despite the fact that political elite’s manipulation of governance instruments continues to deny them access to quality education and information that could enable them read between the lines. With education they could be able to ask for a justification of the use of the word transformation to describe rehabilitation of railway lines or even the reviving of lines which once existed but became dead due to incompetent and purposeless governance. In a century that is brimming with new ideas, where electric trains operate in many parts of the world and transformation is seen more in terms of the capacity that you are able to provide and the speed at which you are able to take passengers from one place to the other. Railway transformation requires a government to sit down and say, “our population is growing such that we must bring to reality a world class mass transit system (railway) to carry people, in reasonable and efficient time. We must reduce the number of cars on the road by putting in place an efficient, world class rail system; and we must build a high speed rail line, running from Lagos to Kano, reducing the time spent on the road by a majority of our citizens traveling these distances.” Our government officials do not talk like this, yet they talk about transformation.

    Transformation often involves government rising from the ashes of the despair of its people to doing things that get citizens out of their despair. If after such a long time, a majority of Nigerians is still trying to come to terms with this word in relation to government action, then something is seriously wrong. For what would you call the turning of deserts to oases of oceans and water reservoirs that is common in the Middle East, and for which Libya under Gaddafi received accolades? We have a long way to go, but let us not be deceived. We need greater clarity through explanations about the things that have happened so far. Some progress has been made, but it is time to tell the truth. And truth does not include the use of the word TRANSFORMATION, because we haven’t moved that fast!

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