It is one articulated by Ms Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne Cable Company in a Guests’ Comment Register at the breakfast meeting by CEO members of ATCON for Engr Victor Haffner’s 92nd birthday last September. Therein, she wrote:
‘Very informative about the history of accomplishment that previously existed in the telecoms sector in the country. How did we totally loose the way?’.
Most people of reasonable intellect let alone someone of such prominence in the industry will be left scratching their heads how, in a relative short period, things have degenerated so far and so fast. Funke Opeke, along with others, must have listened with sheer incredulity when she heard me say in a welcome address that less than 50 years ago, in 1963 precisely, the first telecom company in Nigeria provided the needed communication resources for the inaugural satellite launch by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA) into space from the Lagos Marina, back to Goddard Space Flight centre in USA; and that some 10 years later, Engr Haffner and his team of Nigerians who provided the resources also conceived the NECOM House, the pioneering architectural feat of a rotating restaurant at the summit of a functional telecom building designed to be 37 levels above the ground floor.
For answers, a semblance of understanding or some comparative analysis, I put the question ‘How did we totally loose the way?’ to Google Search but that venture yielded nothing.
But to pretend to be ignorant of the root causes of this degeneration is simply burying one’s head in the sand. The issue is whether one wants to found solutions or meet the problem(s) with the customary shrug of despondency.
The few people who write our history depict different era by those who have had the misfortune to rule us hence we chart our historical path by the ‘Obasanjo’s regime’, ‘Shagari’s era’, ‘Gowon’s days’, Abacha’s period, Babangida’s time, Obasanjo’s second time second term, etc.
The difference between those heady days when Mr. Haffner worked and today is that back then, the states were not going to Federal Government routinely with a begging bowl to collect dues but rather, through ingenuous means, they generated revenue and contributed agreed sums to the central Government. This ‘funnel like’ system was effective and its reversal put the gearstick of progress in reverse. To understand the moment that precipitated this regression, we need to go back – as far back as 1966.
The fellow who had the misfortune of implementing that retrogressive decision, is no other than the distinguished elder-statesman and prayer-warrior, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd.), who will have us believe that the only solution he thinks can be employed to solve our problems is ‘prayer’.
If the only solution that the distinguished elder statesman can offer in the face of a multitude of problems is prayer then we should ask him to look at the issue more closely. One can say with a level of certainty that that solution does not work as I can think of no people that pray more than Nigerians. The share number of billionaires we have produced through prayer-companies and empires attest to this. I also can think of no more morally bereft set of people than these people who package hopelessness and sell it to our people as hope. This is because if prayer is the thing, it is a deferral to a superior being for the manifestation of the good decisions that we take to protect ourselves given all the intellect the Almighty has endowed us with. It is difficult to rely solely on prayer when we deliberately depart from the original and efficient position where the states were self- sufficient and truly confederal. Is it difficult to know that?
A President goes to church routinely to make pronouncements on affairs of state and to give more impression of hopelessness than hope. What signal is that capable of sending to infantile minds of religion fanaticism? What really is leadership about, if we may ask? Wearing different national dresses?
And to imagine that those young ‘brilliant economists’ (economic team indeed) who surround to impress on him that economic indices are more important and more respectable than the wishes and true feelings of Nigerians. And that our economy regarding fuel consumption is being threatened by small countries who share border with us and whose total population, consumption, and corruption quotient are only very insignificant fraction of Nigeria’s.
A newspaper revealed that the 37-Story NECOM House which Mr. Haffner conceived and constructed when he was 44 years old had actually been converted by a top official of today ( also in his forties) to augment his family harem of loots. And for a fee of N4 billion. And nobody exists to tell us what has happened to the obscene purchase of our commonwealth? How many subsidies will Nigerians have to get removed to save themselves from today’s leaders.
The good story is that Nigerians now appear united to say No to all this nonsense.
What I find more galling is that no one sees it fit to challenge the respected General Gowon or indeed the success factor of his panacea. To be brutally honest I don’t think even he actually believes in the sacrosanct of prayer and perhaps, just perhaps, a lack of leadership, aspiration and will might have something to do with the prevailing situation.
Our failure to challenge orthodoxy cripples us. For our best moments come from discomfort and dissatisfaction because in those moments we are propelled to step out of what rubbish we are standing in and search for better solutions. A lack of aspiration means we are unable to truly judge a system either by its operations or manifestation.
Quite frankly we do not need an Army General to tell us what has gone wrong or how to solve them , we simply need anyone who works like a General – essentially a courageous leader.