Whenever you sit down and reflect on what is happening to Nigeria the only thing you can feel is sadness and pain. I sat down yesterday with one of those I consider as very influential in the North, I called him and said I want to come and see you and talk about Nigeria. He tweeted it (our discussion). He tweeted “I spent valuable time with Mr. Peter Obi this morning. I wish those who see him as an ethnic candidate should get to know him better, and those who seek to sell him tone down their ethnic undertone. I hope this nation will see and listen to this candidate. Revolution is coming.”
As I sat down with him I told him, you think this is issue of tribe or religion? No. Can you show me the roads that are paved for muslims to drive through so I can pass through it. Can you show me where Muslims buy bread cheap, can you show me where there is no poverty for muslims so we can go there and live. I said the President is from Katsina. I visited Katsina, the people are living in fear, even more fearful than my state. So it is not issue of religion, it is not issue of tribe. This is what we politicians use to continue the confusion called Nigeria.
There is no country in the world today which has this collection of people and are where we are that will not have the problems that we are facing. You have over 100 million people who live in poverty. From the World Bank Report just released two weeks ago (Mid June 2022), 7 million will be added to it, so soon we will have 110 million Nigerians living in poverty. We have more people living in poverty than the two biggest countries of the world combined, China and India with 2.8 billion population and we are just 200 million.
We have the highest unemployment rate in the world. We have 35% unemployment, combined with underemployment, because so many people today, the income they earn, it cannot do anything for them, so you have underemployment of about 25%, so that is 60% underemployment, out of which 70% are the young ones in their productive ages doing nothing. We have the highest drug prevalence in the world today, 14.8% when the global average is 5.7%. Young men are abusing drugs in this country. You have to have crisis, there is no way you wont have crisis. Businesses are collapsing, people don’t have what to do, so the only thing they can do is do something that is wrong, and nobody is doing anything, and the state is not working.
Now we have reached a crisis situation where our country borrows about a Trillion Naira every month to survive. In the first five months of last year (2021), Nigeria’s revenue was N1.847 trillion, but we used N1.802 trillion to service debts, that is 98% of our revenue used to service our debts, and we are borrowing more. By our last year’s budget we promised that our borrowing will be 30%, but we borrowed about 60%. This year our budget is about N18 trillion, out of which we said we are going to borrow only N6 trillion. I can assure you that there is no way we can generate more than N6 trillion so we are going to borrow N12 trillion, and you are servicing that. In the next one year 100% of our revenue will not be enough to service our debts because the entire money we borrowed was for consumption, so its not generating anything and that is the crisis we face as a nation. In the past one year Nigeria has not put a penny into the sinking fund for repayment even for the young ones. They don’t even know that the bonds being issued today are payable in 2045, 2050, and still issuing bonds for 2060. We will all be gone by then. Its their problem and we are not saving anything to pay it, and nobody seems to care.
Nigeria is moving like the Titanic. You know when Titanic was going under, the people on the top deck where they were playing music were busy dancing and thinking that they were still there until everything went under. That’s what is happening in this country.
People are going around as if things are still normal. It is not normal. You cannot move around in Nigeria today. You cant go from Kaduna to Abuja by road, by air, by rail. They will tell you, please don’t come.
We are living in a country that is totally unproductive. So when we talk of good governance we need to ask ourselves what do we need as a country. How do we start, what are we going to do? First is that our country is not productive. Every nation of the world that is making progress is productive. They are investing in the right areas that make production possible. All we do here is celebration and sharing and nobody cares about how we are going to do anything.
*THE WAY FORWARD*
This is what we need to do. Our total exports, including oil that will soon go, for last year was under $30 billion, from a country of 200 million people is totally unacceptable. I have been going to countries. Morocco with population of 36 million, total exports last year was over $50 billion; Vietnam with a population of 100 million had total export of $312 billion last year. Vietnam is occupying a total land space of 331,000 square kilometres, with 100 million population. So in terms of land space they are one-third of Nigeria. Nigeria is 923,000 square kilometres of land space. Out of the $312 billion exports, natural resources accounts for less that 2%. What are they exporting? Manufactured goods. First is electronics, number two is clothing which accounts for $32 billion, twice what we earn from oil; number three is footwear from which they earn $23 billion more than what we earn from oil, and we have people here who can do all that. It’s the same with so many other countries doing the same thing, but Nigeria is not doing anything. I travelled everywhere in the North. I went to Niger state, half of Niger state is occupied by terrorists, they call them bandits, so nothing is working in Niger state. But Niger state is sitting on 76,300 square kilometres of land, fertile land yet you cant feed yourselves and that shows how unproductive Nigeria is. Netherlands with 33,000 square kilometres of land did export of food and agricultural produce of $125 billion in one year, yet we cant feed ourselves talk less of export. I went to Taraba state. If you go to Taraba and see the Mambilla plateau with its vegetation and I told the governor that you can do flower, coffee, tea here, but they are waiting for sharing, to go and collect money. Kenya exported last year over $500 million worth of flowers. I went to the fields and watched young boys and girls picking flowers and they are being paid least salary of $100 (N42,000), just picking flowers. I was in Ethiopia and the young men working in tea farms are paid about the same amount. Last year they exported $1.1 billion worth of tea. With all the problem in Sri Lanka their tea export last year was $1.4 billion. So these three items can give $3 billion annually. If Taraba with 54,400 square kilometres decides to do it and earn 10%, its $300 million which is almost twice their budget, but they are waiting to share from oil. Its an unproductive country. So we must move this country from consumption to production immediately, and we have what it takes to do it, the talents, the resources, the environment, except that we have gangsters all over the place.
*THE CHURCH AND FOLLOWERS ARE ALSO COMPLICIT*
Nigeria is a case of a place where lunatics took over the asylum and are running it like gangsters and everybody is guilty of it. All of us here.
I have been a governor. This is the only country where we celebrate criminality, everybody, including the church, they are not exempted. This is the only country where you vote ‘Peter Obi’ in and everbody knew he didn’t have a house in Ikoyi when we voted him in, he was living in FESTAC, so everybody knew where he was living, but suddenly he buys a mighty house in Ikoyi running into billions of Naira, decorates and furnishes the house tastefully and invites the church for housewarming. The church comes in and they are praying for him, wishing him that wherever he got his wealth they want him to build more. The church people are all over the place waiting to eat and drink and are praising him. They know where the money came from, its known to everybody, but instead of calling the Police and telling them that this man stole our money, they are the ones celebrating it. This is the country where I was governor, and you come late to church, church, yet they keep an empty seat in front for you, for somebody who is not in the church, the seat is empty, and he comes in the middle of the church, and he is walking to the front, yet nobody cares, if possible the priest will stop talking and they will be welcoming him for coming late, and the church people will be clapping, and will be calling his nickname, like me, Okwutee,(rock), but this man came late to church. Late comers stay at the back, but we refuse to do it. And I tell people that you cant go to the front because you are late.
So our churches and society have become a place where impunity, rascality and bad behavior have become a measure of success and power. You cant use it because it is a wrong measure. This man came late. We have young ones growing up who are learning what this man is doing and think that is how to live, so you have to come late. There are so many things we can stop. Unfortunately rascality is being allowed. You are queuing up, and people say come to the front, you can queue behind, governor we don’t want you to stay there come to the front. These are the little things that are missing here that makes our country the opposite of what it should be.
Today, those we voted into power who have no means of earning Dollars are sharing dollars, they are owing lecturers but you are negotiating with bandits, you see governors going to negotiate with bandits but they are not negotiating with lecturers and everybody is keeping quiet because it is not important.
The global average for admission of higher school intakes is 38%. In the western world it is 38%, but in Nigeria it is 9%, so we are not even achieving a quarter of the global average and that is the problem, because you don’t care for those areas you need to care.
*THE COMPELLING CASE FOR POWER SUPPLY*
We are talking about power. Everybody in Nigeria knows the amount of power being generated, everybody knows about national grid, everybody knows everything about power, but you don’t hear it in any other country, you just put on your switch and there is light, but here we know everything about the operations yet we don’t have power. In the sixties this country used to generate over a thousand megawatts of electricity. The first time this country borrowed money was in 1964, when we borrowed money from World Bank, $82 million to build Kainji Dam. You need to see the letter written by the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa that he is going to generate 762 megawatts of electricity, but almost 60 years after we cant generate 4000 megawatts of electricity. The second biggest economy in Africa, South Africa is generating 54,000 megawatts of electricity and they are 60 million population but we cant generate 4000 megawatts of electricity. The third biggest economy in Africa, Egypt is generating 58,000 megawatts of electricity.
In Egypt, at all times they must hold 50% excess power of what they need. Its there and it is recorded. Total need for power in Egypt is 30,000 megawatts but total production is 58,000 megawatts. I went through the system, from the plant to the companies that built it, to every of the operation and everything that is happening, and how it is detailed because they watch it and monitor what is happening. And you ask yourself, what is wrong with us here, what did we do wrong, is it prayers, what do we need to do to solve this problem.
What is shocking is that Egypt is one of the three countries that recorded the fastest growth in building power plants across the globe in the past five years – Egypt, Vietnam and India. That’s why I decided to go to Egypt because they built the fastest one. They were able to double their power in five years from 20,000 megawatts to 58,000 megawatts. And what did they do? They found out in their study that power was one of the causes of the riots, uprising in 2012/2013 because small businesses had no power and they collapsed and they joined the riots. So they decided that we must get power, and so it became part of national security. Vietnam has doubled from 36,000 megawatts to 76,000 megawatts, that’s why they are doing manufacturing.
In Egypt, I went to the companies that built the power stations, from the companies I talked to the financiers, and all of them are willing to do the same thing for us here. I asked one of the companies because they are talking to Nigeria, and I asked them that I thought you are talking to the Nigerian government, but they told me that they have been having meetings with the Nigerian government for the past THREE YEARS, and that every time that they come it is meeting, and they come and go. THEY TOLD ME THAT IN EGYPT THAT IT TOOK THEM ONE MONTH FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE TALK TO CONCLUSION OF THE TALK AND THAT THE HIGHEST PERSON IN THE LAND WAS INVOLVED IN THE TALKS AND HIS POSITION WAS TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED, I DON’T WANT TO GO VIA ANY COMPANY, I WANT TO DEAL DIRECTLY WITH YOU SIEMENS IN GERMANY, I AM GOING TO GIVE A SOVEREIGN GUARANTEE, NO VARIATION. But they said that in Nigeria it is meeting upon meeting, committee upon committee, and in each of those committees they collect money, buy house in Ikoyi, and then invite us as church members, and we say that the man is doing well.
We have borrowed money. When Obasanjo left office Nigeria was owing N3 trillion but today our debt is N60 trillion, without anything to show for it. You saw the publication they released and the publication said it is N41.9 trillion but they did not include the ways and means from CBN so if they include it it will come to N60 trillion so our total debts today is about $120 billion, which is over 30% of our GDP without anything to show for it. There is nothing wrong in borrowing, every country of the world borrows, America which we celebrate is owing 100% of their GDP, people refer to Singapore but their debt to GDP is over 130%, Japan is 230%, and even Norway that has the highest sovereign wealth fund of $1.4 trillion, they are still owing 50% of their GDP, but what you do with borrowing is what makes the difference. That is why our debt service ratio to revenue is very high. South Africa is owing, its debt to GDP is over 75% but their debt servicing ratio to revenue is only 20%, Egypt is 40%, but ours is 90% because we threw away the money. Nobody can find where that money is. From my experience from Egypt if we had spent out of the $120 billion we are owing, and committed just $20 billion in power, we will be generating about 30,000 megawatts of electricity.
*TIME TO TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY*
My dear people it is time for all of us to decide that we must have a country, that we must take back our country, and that will start from the recruitment process. Today we have people who want to be President, who want to be governors, who want to be senators. It is time to start scrutinizing. This Mr. Obi who is he? Don’t say he is a Catholic, there’s no Catholic in it. I have not seen where Catholics buy bread cheaper, if you know where, show me, neither have I seen where Pentecostals buy things cheaper, buy rice or anything cheaper, so lets remove church from it. The issue is, don’t look at his tribe for those who think Mr. Obi is contesting because he is an Igbo man, its an Igbo turn. There is no turn here. The turn here is who will fix this problem. Its not anybody’s turn. So lets put Mr. Obi on the scale, where is he coming from, this thing he’s saying (because we have people who can speak good English, who can talk well) where did he do it before, do we know him, lets interrogate him, his family, and everything about him, lets start from there. This man who says he is going to be governor, do not measure him based on what you are going to benefit. All of us have benefitted, but all of us are going down everyday, things are worsening everyday. I know people who cant go to their villages yet they are big men in Lagos but your territory has been taken away and you say you are a big man, you are just waiting for them to come here and chase you out of here because that’s how they go from one territory to the other. If you think this place is safe today, quote me it wont be safe next year because they capture this one you run to the next one, and finally they chase you away.
So let those who want to serve us now come and tell us what they want to do, lets engage them. The last people we didn’t engage them. Let them come and tell us what they want to do. It is not a difficult thing.
Mr. Peter Obi is the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party