Truly, Nigeria has no business with global warming (2)
I continue with my theory from last week, that whereas global warming and climate change are genuine global problems, many countries in Africa – especially Nigeria – have not shown enough attention to the details of their own natural environments, and have seen too many decades of administrative incapability and inefficiency, to feign concern with the matter. In truth, we just open ourselves to ridicule, because the people we go there to meet know us more than we know ourselves, and usually marvel at our attempts to show that we ‘belong’. Our problems are basic. They don’t even require us going round the world seeking for handouts. All we have to do is look inwards and be humble about it.
By God, what is a country where 50 million (or almost 30%) of its citizens defecate outside (see http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/11/shame-over-50m-nigerians-defecate-ope…), and perhaps 120 million out of 170 million of its people defecate in unhygienic circumstances (including the use of pit latrines) doing in a ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ conference? Perhaps if anything is warming our part of the globe, it is this tons of human faeces that our people are freely discharging without regulation! Even in built up ‘modern’ cities like Abuja, the situation is dire. Neighbours quarrel daily because most people do ‘short put’; defecating on paper and lobbing it across the fence! The gutters along every highway in Abuja are open toilet to thousands of people who could be seen doing their businesses even in broad daylight. Urinating anywhere is no big deal. Cows walk along the highways and add to the menace. If this could happen in a seat of government, we have no business attending global warming conferences in France or elsewhere.
I recall writing on this page about how Narendra Modi of India mobilized his 1.3billion people to ‘clean India’, and how he went convincing even peasants to sell some of their gold (Indians love gold a lot), to build toilets across the country. He launched a no-nonsense program around this. Modi could be seen joining the poorest of his people in hoeing refuse dumpsites and showing a most-needed example. He had a problem with how dirty India was and built his agenda for change around the issue. He has been partly successful, but the world has taken notice all the same.
But back here, our own presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu slagged him off for being a ‘micromanager’ – himself and Lee Kwan Yew – as against our big-picture, big-dreaming boss. He wrote, on the anniversary of Buhari’s 100 Days in Office; “President Muhammadu Buhari will turn out to be a leader in the tradition of Lee Kuan-Yew and India’s current reform-minded Prime Minister Modi with strong and clear emphasis on detail and execution. He may however differ with them by not micro-managing things”. I have never met Garba one-on-one, but coming 100 days after the inauguration of this government, I had cause to believe that he is someone whose approach will tick me off in the wrong places. The latest of his statement concerns an upcoming famine in Nigeria, which DV, Inshaa Allah I will write about next week.
Back to India. Today, that country is the world’s fastest-growing economy, thanks to the ‘micromanager’ called Narendra, while we know where Nigeria has found itself. We also know where Singapore is; a country led for almost three decades by Lee, the micromanager who banned Chewing Gum sales on the streets of that country, and proceeded to establish a stern regime of discipline and patriotism by example, which has endured in that country to date. Our myopia blinded us to how this simple initiative of cleaning up Nigeria can unleash great productivity, great new investments, jobs, a new ethos, discipline, a drastically reduced health bill across the country, and several sundry benefits. Look at us today, we are looking for $30 billion to borrow? I have written about this issue for way too many times and I will continue to write some more because it is the way forward for Nigeria.
Many people talk about building infrastructure but I look at how we can positively affect the mind of the average Nigerian in a way that they see the value of things. If we are able to do that – and it is a never-ending process – and in the same breath put money in the pockets of Nigerians, then we can commence this idea of massive infrastructure projects. It is fairly wrong-headed to plunge the country into a huge debt crisis even if we could, in a bid to building infrastructure without starting from the beginning; the minds of our people. They say ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’, and only godly minds can understand the value of infrastructure and refrain from destroying them.
There is also trillions of Naira that can be unleashed from nothing with this initiative. Imagine a revolution of sanitation, construction and reconstruction of houses across the nation in a way that makes them more habitable, less costly on the health of our citizens and that confers less burden on our health sector. We could do that all year, for many years to come. Like Google will say of its strategy, this strategy is INSANELY SIMPLE. But here we have complicated minds. We have wasted away 18 months talking theory and achieving nothing. We merely frittered away goodwill while Nigerians fell deeper into poverty and penury. The pain in the country increased several notches.
Going to a climate change conference is like a country without a local airline attending the conference on aeronautics and how to conquer planet Mars. Even if we don’t want to start by tidying up after ourselves in the way I have suggested, let us find a way of building our manufacturing companies so that they too can ‘pollute’ the air – not gas-flaring – so that the world can complain and then we can be properly invited to the table. It may sound crude, but our problems are crude, not sophisticated. We have to create work for our people. We have catching up to do. We should not jump the gun. I hear that Nigeria went to beg moneybags for money to reclaim Lake Chad or something of that sort. Still I don’t believe we should be begging anyone for money, because what we lose in respect can never be bought with money. I pray for a change in approach.
I was at the last African Development Bank annual meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, when an argument broke out at one of the sessions between the AfDB President Akinwunmi Adesina and a certain white lady whose name I do not know. It is a bitter fight and it centered around the use of coal or not. Adesina was of the opinion that Africa be allowed to tap into all its energy sources – including and especially coal – and that the idea of stymying these energy sources by coaxing us towards ‘clean energy’, was unfair. I have heard our current Minister of Finance repeat the same argument at the IMF meetings. These are some of the politics that come out of attending these meetings. Can we not localize our solutions? Must we be permanently led by the nose?