An open letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR

By

Nura Jibo

jibonura@yahoo.com

 

This letter is dedicated to innocent Nigerians who were victims of insecurity and lost their lives. It is dedicated to the 100 people who drowned in Niger State, Nigeria.

 

Dear Mr. President,

Courtesies. 

 

I write to wish you well for being sworn in as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Congratulations, Sir!

My name is Nura Jibo, MRICS.

Your Excellency, I, actually, do send to some select presidents this kind of message in an open manner, as I did long ago to your predecessor, which one of the Nigerian weekly newspapers published in 2015 (Weekly Trust, May 2, 2015, Page 42). I make it a habit to write to new presidents about my thoughts and the way I believe they can best use their time by making their countries better. The most recent one was the memo I sent to your African colleague, the Kenyan President, His Excellency, William Kipchirchir Samoei Arap Ruto.

As a nationalist, not a politician, I feel quite compelled to send my candid advice and thoughts to you on what, in my view, you can do to move Nigeria forward. I will try to be apolitical, even though I spent a significant part of my life telling the truth to political power.

It is no longer news that our country, Nigeria, has undergone all sorts of leadership traumas. It has experienced lots of local, national, and international governance challenges as litmus tests—all in an attempt to reach its fait accompli as the so-called giant of Africa!

Indeed, it is now time to borrow the words of a 93-year-old patient of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the CNN medical doctor and chief medical reporter. Dr. Sanjay, while delivering his keynote address to Harvard Medical School graduates, shared this medical practice story of his with the Harvard community. To Dr. Sanjay, the 93-year-old man who had bleeding in his brain as revealed by a CT scan was too old to be operated on! He got injured because he went on the roof trying to blow the leaves off his house using a leaf blower. Seemingly, the old patient appeared too old to Dr. Gupta to undergo any surgery. Just like most Nigerians think, the damage done to it is very grave, too old, and too big to get fixed. However, Dr. Gupta was then told the moral story of his old patient. The man was incredibly healthy. He even worked part-time as an accountant because he was a wizard with numbers, according to his 65-year-old son. The old man was an avid runner, even at the age of 93! Hence, after successfully operating on that man in a domestic accident, Dr. Gupta came back a few hours later to hear and confirm if the old man was back to his senses. Surprisingly, he found the old man lying on his bed with his head up, scrolling his smartphone! He was amazingly wearing his reading glasses, which he adjusted over his white bandage. The man was reading a newspaper! Gupta gently bent down before the old man and asked him, "How do you feel". The old man answered in the affirmative, and he said, "My dear doctor, I am following the recent elections in West Africa. The man continued to talk to Dr. Gupta by saying, "Doctor, you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!"

Mr. President, the moral lesson in this story is that Nigeria’s problems are not too old or too big to solve. They are going to heal just as quickly as that old man quickly recovered after having his brain decompressed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta! I strongly believe you can heal the old and new wounds of every Nigerian who feels he or she is being inflicted by the harsh economic and insecurity realities of Nigeria. I am confident that you will be successful, just as there are a good number of young and old Nigerians who have succeeded globally and are doing excellently by making Nigeria proud. I will mention a few of them to you just to make a case in point. Indeed, this is your time, sir, to shine and make Nigeria one of the best countries and wonders of the world. And I strongly believe you can do it. There are, of course, a huge number of hurdles and so many "steep" and very rough "bridges" to cross, but I am quite optimistic we will reach there eventually. Because, like I said, inter alia, there are a couple of young and old Nigerians that have and are making it proud.

Mr. President, let me use this golden opportunity, as golden as it may be, to succinctly explain where and in what areas I believe you can make quick changes to effect change so that Nigerians will see the seriousness in your leadership and governance. Nigerians, by our very nature, are eager and quicker to condemn or label someone as a sinner or a saint, provided he or she does not meet their "immediate" needs or expectations! Below are some of the areas in which I would like to advise you more succinctly: I will start with the soft sports. It appears not to be too serious to politicians because it is often taken lightly, but in the actual sense, it’s very rewarding to any nation for its healing and building if done rightly and correctly. I will eventually migrate to the most serious and pressing issues bedeviling Nigeria. And in the end, I believe we would have a ray of hope that our dear country has, indeed, started making its way to Uhuru!

  • Sports: The likes of Victor Osimhen, for example, a Nigerian striker who recently became the first celebrated African player in the Serie A Italian top football league, are the African GOAT (Greatest of All-Time). He is the only highest goal scorer to beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s record by becoming the highest vertical leap header (258 cm) in the Serie A Italian League tournament.

Your Excellency, with this caliber of Nigerian player and the types of Bukayo Saka, Nigeria will definitely emerge again as a football czar. Certainly, with Saka, the Arsenal and England winger (one of the most valuable wingers in the world), and Haruna Babangida (who was at one point in time adjudged by the current Arsenal coach, Mikel Arteta, as one of the best players in the world during their time at Lamasia Academy in Barcelona), one would have expected much from the Nigerian Football Federation. But what is happening to Nigeria’s international football selection and teaming today is an issue that must be addressed because the level of national and international shame in the local and international players’ recruitment at the NFF has already reached its nadir.

Mr. President, Nigeria is known globally as a footballing nation. In faraway Katowice, a European woman stopped me on the street because she had seen a "black man" from Africa. I was shocked by what she asked me. Hear her: "Hello, my dear! Where are you from?" I couldn’t hesitate for a second. I said, "Nigeria". The woman went further to ask me, "Where is Jay-Jay Ukocha?" She came and embraced my hand to tell me more about Jay-Jay Okocha and Daniel Amokachi. Ditto Dubai!

In Dubai, a very beautiful-looking Arab woman that attended to my relocation documents asked me at first glance, "Where are you from?" I did not hesitate to reveal my identity to her. I told her that I was from Nigeria. She then swiftly asked me, "Where is Ahmed Musa?" I told her that he was doing well and was hearty.

The point is that nobody asks us often about the Nigerian political leaders because the whole modern world only knows Nigeria through football. And this is due to the corrupt tendencies that have eaten deep into the fabric of Nigerian political leadership.

To revive the national football team, Mr. President, the national technical crew needs a complete overhaul. You may wish to ask Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu Nwanko to take charge. Task them with bringing the African Cup of Nations home and qualifying Nigeria for the next World Cup. I am sure the duo of Kanu and Okocha can’t afford to fail, because the whole world would look down upon them!

  • Healthcare: To build confidence in nation-building, there is a need to look for extraordinary Nigerians who have made their mark, especially in the areas of health or medicine, and seek their advice on how to move the Nigerian health system forward. Nigeria is blessed worldwide with the best brains, and if we put our acts together, the country will be home to a global medical tourist. With the likes of Dr. Arabo Ibrahim Bayo, a world-renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, at Nigeria’s disposal, we can do much to change the face of Medicare and healthcare delivery in Nigeria. This gentleman pioneered a new surgical technique, the first of its kind in the world, for the management of morbidly adherent placentas. In layman’s language, Dr. Arabo, a Nigerian, is today the only known living creature in the world of medicine to have performed the first uterus reconstruction. It was a ground-breaking surgery because it was the first time that uterine reconstructive surgery was done. He has rekindled so many women’s rays of hope and survival by giving them the ability to maintain a regular menstrual cycle after an operation.

Mr. President, this kind of hope must be brought home. As the saying goes, the "chicken" must be brought home to roast! This man must be listened to keenly on how to revive our hospitals and health centers in Nigeria.

  • Corruption and insecurity: Mr. President, Singapore was not built on mediocrity. The late honorable Sir Lee Kuan Yew sanitized the entire corrupt Singaporean system by getting rid of the corrupt elements in the land. He never took it lightly in making Singapore leapfrog from the third to the first world. Lee Kuan Yew said, and I quote: "Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. I have spent a whole lifetime building this; as long as I am in charge, nobody is going to knock it down".

Mr. President, kindly take a cue from the late Lee Kuan Yew. He was as determined as you are, as you made it clear to Nigerians in your inaugural speech that you are determined to develop Nigeria. If Lee decided to do something good for Singapore, he never bothered about criticism. He pursued it even if the whole world was against him. The beauty of imbibing Lee Kuan Yewism in your leadership is just to convince yourself that what you are doing is right, and then you go ahead and do it.

The corrupt elements in leadership must be dealt with squarely, Mr. President, if at all we want to build the new Nigeria that so many believe is possible amidst impossibilities. I am of the view that the EFCC is a waste of time and Nigeria’s resources. Ditto ICPC!

Scrap all of them and come up with a new unified serious punishment body such as the Nigeria Ministry of Anti-Corruption and Transparency that has the power to prosecute and make public all the monies that it can confiscate from public fund looters. Mr. President, establish an Act in the Ministry of Anti-Corruption that could allow the establishment of an emergency or mobile court that has the power to prosecute individuals by giving life imprisonment to high-profile corrupt government officials. This will go a long way toward ameliorating the endemic corruption in the country.

I am often bemused by the way insecurity is mishandled by the Nigerian military, police, and other government security agencies. The arm banditry and kidnappings that are often perpetrated by miscreants could one day be solved very easily in this globalized world. My Indian friend and working colleague took time to show me exactly his house in Chennai, India, including the house of his neighbors on Google Earth! I saw the street and the house where he lives on Google Earth, including the roof coverings. How could arm bandits commit crime and disappear into thin air, out of the blue, or be at large to Nigeria’s security apparatchiks? I haven’t the vaguest idea.

  • Fuel subsidies, clean energy, and climate change: The euphoria over the fuel subsidy and its consequential effect on the citizenry may not be in line with our national growth and development savvy. However, the question is: Why are the world’s biggest oil-producing countries not crying about this fuel subsidy removal? Why are they doing excellently in their oil and gas production, and why are Nigeria and other countries in Africa grappling with this fuel subsidy issue? These cardinal questions find answers in the way countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE are fairing very well and are doing excellently in their oil subsidies and gas refining policies and methodologies. The simple answer to their excellent performance in gas and energy has to do with the state’s ownership of their refineries. Qatar Energy, for example, has been wholly owned by the Qatari government since 1954. Its refinery in Mesaieed Industrial City had the capacity to refine more than 100,000 barrels of fuel per day. Now contrast this with the NNPC’s four (4) comatose refineries, for which a $2 billion contract was awarded for their rehabilitation, and yet they remain inoperative and incapacitated due, largely, to the NNPC’s corrupt staff and their modus operandi in hoodwinking the Nigerian masses. Mr. President, Qatar built the world’s largest gas-to-liquid plant, which converts 1.6 billion cubic feet of wellhead gas from 22 offshore wells per day. It refines it into hydrocarbon liquids and turns them into a finished product. As it is, Qatar’s natural gas produces propane, butane, and condensate that it exports in large quantities. It remarkably develops its citizens with its oil and gas proceeds. My dear President, I strongly advise you to kindly take a working visit tour to Qatar and sit down with the great leader and king of Qatar, who could give you more ideas and tips on how Qatar became a world leader in the oil and gas business. In 2021, Qatar Energy had a revenue of well over $35 billion. Indeed, Qatar was the first Persian Gulf state to build its own petrochemical industry. Courtesy of its very apt, charismatic, diplomatic, and highly respected leader. Mr. President, in Qatar, I saw a king with extraordinary vision, passion, and personal and professional temerity that developed his country to the zenith of international envy. I saw a king with amazing international diplomatic leadership, cuisine, and hospitality that is unparalled! Indeed, I saw a king like no other, embracing and carrying his entire nation. Certainly, I saw a king with a persona that embraced all and sundry by giving every nation and its citizens a chance to live and survive freely in Qatar. Within a very short time, the Qatari king transformed the entire country and the Qatari people into global citizens. Everybody in Qatar is working diligently with professional temerity, grandeur, and passion to develop Qatar. Ditto Dubai!

The Emirates National Oil Company, for the past 30 years, has evolved into a wholly owned company of the Government of Dubai. Today, it serves more than 60 markets globally. Ditto Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) in Dhahran is primarily a state-owned company. The Saudi government owns 95%, with a total asset value of well over $664.78 billion in 2022! In that same year, Aramco made a profit that was three times more than Exxon’s $56 billion and four times more than that of Shell Oil’s $39.9 billion and Chevron’s $36.5 billion! Saudi Aramco has already recorded a profit of $161 billion in 2022 alone. And this is the largest profit recorded ever in the history of any oil and gas company.

Mr. President, all these nations that I listed are by no means exhaustive. The irony is that Nigeria’s oil and gas production is perhaps 10 times greater than that of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE. But these countries have fixed their oil and gas issues long ago because they are not corrupt. The leaders in these countries have a fear of Allah SWT, and they have inculcated an attitude of nationalism and patriotism in all their citizens. For instance, an Arab man from Qatar is Qatari first! An Arab man from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah ad infinitum is an Emirati first! But a Nigerian puts ethnicity and tribalism first! And we can't go on like this!

Your Excellency, the point I am trying to make here is that any country that privatizes its oil and gas to oil marketers or international oil companies has already opened its gateway to hell! Because that country has already mortgaged its future and the future of its citizens. It is just like killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer. I haven't the vaguest idea why your predecessor allowed that to happen!

Indeed, any country that relies on oil subsidies is a very lazy country. Because it exposes itself, it can’t build its own refinery or process its oil. Of course, I am of the opinion that oil subsidy removal at this trying moment of our national life is a task that must be done because the entire oil and gas sector, including NNPC, has been compromised by unpatriotic Nigerians whose hope and aspirations are undue enrichment in perpetuity!

Nonetheless, I am in support of the provision of subsidies on food items, housing, electricity, and water! Mr. President, the removal of government subsidies on basic needs such as food, shelter, water, fuel, and electricity cannot work for developing nations such as Nigeria. Stiglitz, along with many other observers, points out that "a decade after the Uruguay Round, more than two-thirds of farm income in Norway and Switzerland came from subsidies, more than half in Japan, and one-third in the EU. For some crops, like sugar and rice, the subsidies amounted to as much as 80 percent of farm income. The aggregate agricultural subsidies of the United States, EU, and Japan, for example, including hidden subsidies on water, if they do not actually exceed the total income of sub-Saharan Africa, amount to at least 75 percent of the region’s income, making it almost impossible for African farmers to compete in world markets. The average European cow gets a subsidy of $2 a day (the World Bank’s measure of poverty)". More than sixty percent of the people living in Nigeria today live on less than $1 per day. This means it is better to be a cow in Europe than to be a poor person in a developing country like Nigeria. The Nigerian farmer lives on an average annual income of probably N50,000 per year. He ekes out a living on a small plot of semi-arid or marshy land. There is no money for irrigation, and he is too poor to afford fertilizer, a tractor, or high-quality seeds, unlike his colleagues in California, who can farm a huge tract of hundreds of acres using all the technology of modern farming. Nonetheless, the California farmer simply couldn’t compete in a fair global marketplace were it not for further direct government subsidies that provide half or more of his income.

In one of the Nigerian media outfits, that is, Arise News, I heard one of your recently appointed Special Adviser (SA) on Energy referring to Australia’s ownership of less than 40% of its gas reserves, but it earns $56 billion in LNGs. The gentlewoman ought to have understood that Australia’s case is not sustainable, especially in the continuous production of clean energy development mechanisms. This is a little bit diametrically opposed to Goal 7 of the SDGs, which encourages the production of affordable and clean energy. And the Australian example that your SA gave is not in reality Nigeria’s national oil and gas situation, because in Australia the system is working and devoid of corruption and other corrupt tendencies.

To establish an LNG industry like that of Australia, we must build a system and provide an enabling environment that is sustainable and climate-friendly. As it is, Nigeria is far behind in the areas of sustainable development, climate adaptation, and mitigation strategies. Courtesies of very unserious states and federal government ministries of the environment So many states’ resources were spent on frivolous projects on climate change and clean energy, but whenever we go to the United Nations Conference of Parties (UN-COPs) on climate change, the national shame is always vivid. Nigeria hardly shows or displays its climate change efforts in a pavilion. So many years passed without Nigeria having a UN-COP pavilion. This national shame must stop instantly, Mr. President. I invite you, Mr. President, to spare your time and attend one of our programs in Dubai during the UN-COP 28 summit in December 2023. I hope to charge you through the African Climate Change Research Center’s projects that we have achieved in Nigeria and globally. I will then outline my intention to assist your government free of charge. I feel it is high time we put all sentiments, regionalization, and other national groveling absurdities aside and work towards making Nigeria a better place for our children.

Your Excellency, this is your time, my time, and everyone else's time to come along and put Nigeria on the global map. The difference between you and your predecessor, your Excellency, is just the way we are trained. While we civilians are trained to think it, your predecessor and his likes are taught to do it! That’s why the country kept on revolving around the status quo ante.

 

Solutions:

Mr. President, for Nigeria to emerge out of its extreme insecurity, poverty, and other groveling absurdities, you must embark on the total rejuvenation of the entire country’s Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). I served in one of Nigeria’s public offices for 10 years. But I willingly resigned, left the system, and eventually traced my fatherland. And I am now living in one. In view of this, therefore, there is a need to rid the country of corruption without using the so-called slogan "change begins with me", as lots of Nigerians used this adage, especially the ones at the previous corridors of power, and enriched themselves. That’s where we saw the grave danger of "change beginning with me". It really began with them. Yours, Mr. President, in my view, should be: Love Nigeria first! Nigeria now! In order to achieve a complete overhaul of the country, the following need to be carefully looked at by your government:

  • Complete overhaul of Nigerian embassies abroad: Here, I would like to express my displeasure over the way the majority of Nigerian ambassadors run the Nigerian embassies and their affairs abroad. Most of these embassies are a national disgrace and embarrassment. By way of experience, Mr. President, I have traveled to at least 23 countries in my life without any taxpayer money, and I am still counting. The rot I saw in certain Nigerian embassies in the countries that I visited and the level of service are quite unwholesome for Nigeria’s diplomatic savvy. The majority of the Nigerian ambassadors are not discharging their duties the way they should. It is well known that part of an ambassador's primary responsibilities is to protect their citizens in another country. They are also to make sure that they support the national prosperity of the country that they serve. They are expected to promote bilateral trade, trade negotiations, and trade agreements between Nigeria and other countries. Besides their primary duties of maintaining diplomatic relations between Nigeria and other countries, they are also to facilitate trade and commerce and promote cultural and educational exchange programs. Unfortunately, a few of them are discharging this responsibility to the core.

 

Mr. President, back in 2006, I had the privilege of meeting a Nigerian ambassador in Dakar, Senegal. He was quite accommodating and very helpful. However, the rest of the ambassadors that I visited and came across are not doing their work the way they should. They hardly promote any serious international engagement. The current Nigerian Ambassadors, who are holding both political and diplomatic offices, must be reoriented by your government. Your government needs to convene a holistic national ambassador conference in Abuja. Everyone of them holding office must report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation what he or she has achieved throughout his or her stewardship as an Ambassador. It is only by doing this stocktaking that you can retire those who are not performing their duties the way they should. In one of the GCC countries, I was taken aback when I saw a huge building with the following inscription: "Integrated Indian Community under the Aegis of the Embassy of India". This Indian Community building houses every Indian that is interested in promoting Indian businesses, culture, peace, and love for India. The fact that something like this is not being organized by most of our embassies and ambassadors in Nigeria abroad is quite sad and unfortunate. Virtually all the Nigerian Ambassadors have this office duty mentality, and after their normal daily routine, they go back to their diplomatic houses and never care to promote or initiate any trade or international partnership for development on behalf of Nigeria. Mr. President, this ambassadorial indolent attitude and office sit-tight mentality are over. If they are not ready to project a new Nigeria and get the deserved diplomatic credentials that our country needs at this moment of a new Nigeria and national rejuvenation, they should give way.

  • Formation of a national think-tank: As we move towards building a new Nigeria, Mr. President, I urge you to take advantage of developed nations and global international organizations such as the United Nations. Under the UN, where I serve as one of its focal persons on climate change, there is an international think-tank on climate change called the COP Bureau, or the Bureau of the Conference of Parties, CMP, and CMA, whose existence not everybody knows of until one cares to find out. They are people with amazing expertise who are secretly and carefully elected from representatives of parties nominated by each of the five United Nations regional groups and small island developing states. There are not more than 11 members. They consist of the president, vice president, chairs of the subsidiary bodies, and the rapporteur. Members of the Bureau are elected for an initial term of one year, and they may serve for not more than two consecutive terms of one year each. Mr. President, their sole responsibility is to determine the UN climate change activities by deciding which country can host the UN-COP meeting and which cannot. The UN-COP Bureau’s primary responsibility is to question UN process management. It assists the president in the performance of his duties by providing genuine advice. Indeed, the Bureau is responsible for examining the credentials of about 196 countries governments (parties) and reviewing the list of IGOs and NGOs seeking accreditation with the UNFCCC and the United Nations. This kind of UN international think-tank is necessary in addition to your recently constituted National Economic Council. However, the Nigerian national think-tank that I propose to you here is largely different from the kind of economic team that you formed. The national think-tank is not supposed to be vividly seen partaking in any political discourse or media briefings. Their activities should be done secretly. They will determine for you the actual performance and direction that our country will take. The national think tank will stay in the background, watching every move of your government, and its members will meet secretly to review the national plans that are made by the Presidency and advise Mr. President accordingly. The composition of this national think-tank in developed countries is not more than 6–7 people. And they give direction to any government that is on course or tries to derail it. They are just like the people in the CIA in the US, and their activities may also be likened to those of people in homeland security in the United States.

Mr. President, every responsible nation has this kind of secret national think-tank distinct from our own NIA. Their activities far exceed those of the NIA because they are carefully selected by an incorruptible jury.

Finally, Mr. President, I may wish to conclude this short but timely advice by urging all Nigerians to imbibe a new culture of patriotism. A new culture of nationalism that will place Nigeria at the loftiest of heights. As we move to salvage Nigeria together, I urge all Nigerians living within it and those that are in diaspora to kindly spare time and do something good for Nigeria. As for me, I have contributed my little bit of patriotism by writing a book on how to make Nigeria better. My book, Redefining Moments for Project Nigeria in the Twenty-First Century, that I wrote and published thirteen years ago caught the attention of former Katsina State Governor Shema, who ordered that his commissioner of education buy it in bulk and distribute all copies to all the higher education institutions in Katsina State. While I appreciate Shema for this kind gesture that was not actualized, I wish you and Nigeria well, Mr. President.

As you discharge your duties, I urge you to continue with this meticulous way of establishing an all-encompassing and all-inclusive government by carefully selecting the best for Nigeria. Success only comes with careful planning and thinking. And for any uncareful mopping-up exercise, as one writer puts it, there will always be threatening leftover interludes.

Sincerely,

Nura Jibo, MRICS

Lifetime member, West African Research Association (WARA), African Studies Centre, Boston University, United States. E-mail: jibonura@yahoo.com