Obasanjo’s Company, The Facts (Just The Facts)!
By Paul Adujie
Thursday, 25 January 2007
Nigerians In-Diaspora Organization this past Saturday concluded its 1st Nigeria Worldwide Diaspora Conference on Nigeria. It was held in Toronto Canada from January 18-20, 2007. The theme of the conference was, “The Role of the Diaspora in the Socio-economic Development of Nigeria” and sub themes tagged “Awakening The Tiger In The Heart Of Africa. Marketing the Nigeria brand: the Heart of Africa project; Socio-economic Development Reforms; Youth Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation, as well as, investment opportunities for Diaspora Nigerians.
Nigerians and friends of Nigeria, were agog in Nigeria’s name, during several days of these events in Toronto, Canada. It was a very well attended event. There were attendees from Nigeria, Brazil, and by Nigerians resident in various countries in Europe as well as many Nigerians from many American cities, such as Atlanta, Houston, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and Washington DC etc
High ranking Canadian and their Nigerian counterparts were in attendance. Canadian Premier for Ontario Province of which the city of Toronto is part presented a welcome address as did Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada.
NIDO’s chairman Dr. Ola Kassim led NIDO board in choreographing this hugely successful series of events. Professor Joseph Igietseme of Center for Disease Control (CDC) Jumoke Akin-Taylor of Chase Bank, Molly Uzor an information and communication expert from Califorina and Robert Ugwu, the fine gentleman from Minnesota. There were NIDO leaders and members from local chapters, in attendance from all over the world, but too numerous to mention. The Nigerian High Commissioner presented a wonderful welcome address that encapsulated the aims and objectives of NIDO and the aspirations of all Nigerians at home and abroad, particularly the role Diaspora Nigerians can play in Nigeria’s development, advancement and greatness.
There were of course several other Nigerian organizations in partnership and collaboration with NIDO. Such as Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) the Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists (CANPAD), the Medical Association of Nigerian Specialists and General Practioners in the British Isles (MANSAG) the Nigerian Association of Nurses (NAS), the Nigerian Canadian Association (NCA) the Nigerian Peoples Forum (NPF), the Young Nigerian Professionals (NIPRO), the Eko Club International, the Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM) as well as the Nigerian National Volunteer Services (NNVS).
Nigerians In-Diaspora Organization or NIDO was formed about six years ago and President Obasanjo it was, it is understood, the one who provided both the intellectual conception and the initial financial impetus for NIDO’s formation. The fact of the matter of NIDO is, it is the brainchild of President Obasanjo! He sent a good will message to the conference in Toronto.
It bears repeating that NIDO is an umbrella organization or a clearing house sorts, for all organizations of Nigerians outside the shores of Nigeria. NIDO is the apex organization of Nigerians abroad. NIDO’s objectives or mission statement paraphrased is, to improve and enhance the lives of Nigerians at home and abroad. Additionally, NIDO aims to facilitate the development, advancement and greatness of Nigeria.
The four day conference on Nigeria in Toronto Canada was a whirlwind of positive synergy replete with intensive and extensive activities and a plethora of events; amongst which were, policy formulations and implementations by the federal government of President Obasanjo of the Peoples’ Democratic Party or PDP.
All these, with a view of, and to fine-tuning these myriad public policies for their beneficial effects and desirable impact upon the lives of Nigerians, one and all, in the most meaningful way possible. The conference was divided into sections, segments with several sessions, some of which were simultaneously held.
There were a positive whirlwind of events; including presentations of position-papers by seasoned Nigerian experts and some non-Nigerian experts from various professional backgrounds and standpoints. It was a gathering of great minds of diverse intellectual adroitness that would make the American Enterprise Institute or the Brookings Institution jealous!
There were sundry analyses of the current reform programs by the federal government of Nigeria. Series of critical appraisals were made. Questions were asked and answers were proffered and supplied in the most profound of ways by Nigerian and non-Nigerian academics.
ON EDUCATION POLICY REFORMS:
Education Minister Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, was the star of the conference! The indomitable reformer-minister wowed Nigerians and non-Nigerians with her passionate presentations every time she spoke and she received accolade upon encomiums! She got frequent standing ovations from the unusually tough predominantly Nigerian audience at the conference.
Clearly, Madam Minister had a full and complete grasp of all the issues that Nigeria is contending with, past, present and future. He thorough familiarity with issues Nigerian, only rekindled my memory and experience with former Finance/Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Mallam El Rufai of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja and our very own Weapons of Mass Destruction against corruption in Nigeria, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the EFCC. Madam Minister Ezekwesili made the point of correcting those who addressed her with appellation of the “honorable minister”, an appellation which she insisted only befitted an office holder in a parliamentary system. She persisted on being addressed simply as herself by her given name, but if you must engage in politesse, just say-Madam Minister she advised. Those familiar with her gorgeous appearances in African attires received apologies from her as she explained her luggage was delayed or missing hence she appeared in attires that were American-Europeans types!
Madam Minister Ezekwesili is a very enthusiastic and very animated presenter! She infectiously kept our audiences spellbound each time she spoke; both on her own behalf, and when she presented a position paper for Minister El Rufai who was unable to come to Toronto, Canada in person due to some other engagements. Madam Minister was as engaging as she was seized of a delightful sense of humor which made her presentations clear and precise and very interesting, informational and even entertaining as well!
She discussed public policies and she does not bore you or put you to sleep! Amazing!
There were those Nigerians who she described as the Reform Resistance Army! She explained that some Nigerians, who had benefited from the old era ways of doing things, have become so entrenched in perfidy for profit and as such, there have been resistance to reform by those who profited from the old pillaging and plundering ways.
Panel Discussion: A Progressive Approach to Education Reforms, Policies and Programs
There were several panels and series of panelists, including, a panel on Education with the participation by Professor Attahiru Jega the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University Kano or BUK, Professor Jega, you will recall, is the former leader of Association Academic Staff Union or ASUU, there was Professor Abba Gumel, a professor of mathematics at a Canadian university. The Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) was ably represented by Professor Peter Adeniyi who stood in for Professor Julius Okogie of the NUC. Dr. Phillip Abode of Imana Consulting, California also made a presentation. The Consul General of Nigeria in New York Mallam Ibrahim Awalu attended the conference in Toronto, Canada; he came in excited from Detroit Michigan where he attended an auto show during which a Nigerian A Nigerian, Jelani Aliyu, won laurels in automotive designs and creations.
Professor Bolaji Aluko, who is a consultant to Nigeria’s federal government on education, acted as a moderator. Professor Aluko is as a well a high-ranking member of NIDO. He is a professor of chemical engineering at Howard University in Washington DC. Professor Aluko, a frequent commentator on Nigeria public affairs, is known for his display of great doses of skepticism every policy Nigerian! He is a member of the opposition, the Action Congress political party, one of Nigeria nearly fifty political parties. Professor Aluko is a quintessential juggler of multiple, even competing and conflicting hats! Wouldn’t you say? The Professor proved to be a good dancer as well, as he wowed the dance floor in Toronto Double Tree Hotel with sassy steps dancing with Ms. Paula Ajisefin an accountant/auditor with KPMG in Washington DC.
The debate on education reform policies was most vibrant and vigorous! The main speaker came prepared she demonstrated a thorough familiarity with her subject. She knew, in its entirety, the challenges and prospects. The education minister strongly believes that God has reserved the most severest of punishments and extreme retributions for those who pillage and plunder Nigeria and deprive Nigerians and Nigeria of resources, in particular, those resources that are earmarked for health and education. Madam Minister stated that it was purely extremely unconscionable for anyone to constitute impediments and obstacles to public health and education!
I am sure that some may be tempted to say theft is theft; but such persons must be reminded of the uniquely egregious context and nature in which those who pillage and plunder resources budgeted and intended to enhance health care and education of fellow citizens, should be examined. These are just crimes beyond descriptions in written words.
Madam Minister is passionate, passionate, passionate! about Nigeria! Her enthusiasm is spotless and crystal clear. She made excellent presentation on education reforms and another on brain drain on the behalf of Mallam El Rufai who she had only sweet words to describe as her brother and friend. She repeatedly reminded those of us abroad of the importance of our country Nigeria. She advised us not to wait to do our best for Nigeria and she urged us to lets go home! I am always ecstatic when Nigeria is effectively represented. Madam Minister Oby Ezekwesili is a superb advocate of Nigeria’s worthy causes!
ON ENERGY POLICY REFORMS:
Professor Sylvanus Osamusali, a nuclear energy expert, with specialization in nuclear energy safety, presented and excellent paper on the cost efficiencies of nuclear energy generation, transmission and distribution and he concluded that nuclear energy is safer and cheaper that traditional hydro-thermal power, and even modern day alternatives, such as solar energy. Solar energy was also discussed by an American expert from California Mr. John Bannen of Bay Solar Inc. He examined solar options for the Nigerian environment. Dr. Emanuel Onyebuchi of Manitoba Hydro-Electrics. In an engaging discussion, the panelists dissected alternative renewable energy systems, including nuclear, solar, hydro thermal, wind etc as they examined policies, incentives and opportunities in the Nigerian landscape.
ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION POLICY REFORMS:
There were several Nigerians and Americans presenters; prominent among the Nigerians were Dr. Odumaku Wilson and Mr. Kome Ajise who focused on creating a world-class transportation system in Nigeria or transportation as a catalyst for strengthening Nigeria
ON TRADE AND ECONOMIC REFORM POLICIES
Mrs. Irene Chigue, the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) was the keynote speaker. She reiterated economic and reform policies now in place, including the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) led by Engineer Mustapha Bello. NIPC has created a one-stop shop for incorporation and documentations of business activities. Bureaucratic bottlenecks have been eliminated to ensure hassle-free dealings for investors in Nigeria by Nigerians and Foreign Direct Investments
Mr. Richard Soyombo, Director of California Center for International Trade
(CITID) presented an exciting paper, titled, Ingredients of International Trade, Challenges and Opportunities. (California, reader should bear in mind, is the fifth largest economy worldwide)!
ESTABLISHING A SUCCESSFUL DIASPORA COMMUNITY; THE JEWISH EXAMPLE: American Jewish Committee, AJC, a veritable NIDO partner, was represented by Mr. Eliseo Neuman and Mr. Michael Weintraub of the African Institute
ON TOURISM & AFRICAN ARTS & ARTEFACTS: Minister for Culture and Tourism was represented and Mr. Edie Bergman, of African Tourism Association made presentations which noted and emphasized the bountiful opportunities in tourism in Nigeria. There were presentations of position papers on Nigerian artifacts that are now outside of Nigerian shores due to thefts. A panel discussion, then followed by questions and answers sessions on modalities for reclaiming Nigerian artifacts currently stowed abroad. Dr. Eborime, Director Generalm National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM) and Anastasia Telesesky Esq. a lawyer and cultural anthropologist, Professor Shylon Professor of Law at the University of Ibadan made presentations
ON NIGERIA’S IMAGE POLICY REFORMS:
Minister Frank Nweke Jr. did a great job reminding the audience of product marketing and the before and after of various countries, products at different times in human history, such as Apartheid South’s image and South Africa’s image post Apartheid. Then, there is the image of Germany during Hitler and post-Hitler years. The minister also gave examples of names of products that are with household familiarity, because of aggressive marketing.
The assemblage of these superb ministers and other federal government employees from Nigeria led me to think of President Obasanjo as a company with these ministers other heads of federal agencies as products of Obasanjo’s company. Obasanjo is a company that makes good products, products that are renowned with excellent attributes, superb qualities and absolute durability! And yet! Company Obasanjo is vilified while his products (his employees) are loved!
In my analogy here therefore, Obasanjo is the company that has given Nigeria the celebrated forthright technocrat formerly of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who led the team that has ensured the elimination of Nigeria’s foreign debt overhang.
As well as Minister El Rufai, the Mallam who says “let us stick to the original Abuja Master-Plan” Obasanjo is the company, which produced the excellent product which Mallam Nuhu Ribadu encompasses. Nigeria’s very own Weapons of Mass Destruction against corruption! Obasanjo’s company also has the product named Madam Minister for Education Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, and Professor Soludo the let us recapitalize and consolidate banking guru. Obasanjo it is, whose product includes Engineer Mustapha Bello the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, the one stop-shop for all documentations and paper-work for doing business in Nigeria!
And yet! Obasanjo is the company that produces all these excellent and exemplary products but, Obasanjo does not get any credits? Not even for his foresight and vision in appointing the right persons! Obasanjo has appointed Nigeria’s brightest daughters and sons who are working tirelessly to lead our motherland, fatherland to the path of development, advancement and greatness. Courtesy of these bright stars, Nigeria is beginning to dazzle and sparkle. But what does anyone make of the due credit that is denied Obasanjo? What does anyone make of that?
Is it possible that Obasanjo will be another son Nigeria, particularly, as in the past, another son of Ogun state like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo or even the late Chief Abiola? Is it the case that Obasanjo like his predecessors would not be appreciated by some, until several after his service and his physical life?
These ministers and heads of government departments have clearly done very well here in Toronto in delivering the reform news to our audiences. Reform policies were explained to the minute details for thorough examination and analyses by sundry experts.
President Obasanjo is therefore clearly the manager, the astute and adroit manager, who has had the vision, foresight and the good fortune of hiring capable hands
After the grand finale of the formal activities and events of the NIDO Worldwide Diaspora Nigerian Conference, there was time to unwind while promoting and basking in our wondrous diversities of foods, songs and dances. We danced, Nigerians and non-Nigerians danced to Nigerian songs in music from live bands. There was this Nigerian band that rendered songs in Benin - Edo Language, Hausa Language, Igbo Language, Ijaw Language and Yoruba etc. It was an exemplification of the Nigeria that I want! I cried and danced with joy! http://www.africanvip.com/january/NIDO07/