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Olusegun Aganga was the President of the volleyball club of the University of Ibadan in the mid 70s. Together with Bayo, Oseni, Pinnick, Otubanjo and yours sincerely Emmanuel Yawe, we formed a strong volley ball team for Nigeria’s premier university.I remember our tours on the West African Coast, playing with the universities of Benin and our counterpart, the University of Ghana in Legon. Our President with his trademark tooth gap and funny juvenile beard was an easy going likable leader. We called him Segee. Prof ObaroIkime, the accomplished historian was our chairman.
We were lucky devils. The camping food was good – much better than what the members of the National Conference are fed with and for which they are complaining loudly today. The West African tour was fun – all paid for by the Nigerian government.The last I met Segee was in Durbar Hotel Kaduna, 1984. I was then in this profession and I cannot count how man jobs I had changed already, just a couple of years after graduation. Jobs were two for a penny. He came in from Lagos and I was amazed to discover he had read some of my articles.
These days I see Mr. Aganga on television with the trade mark tooth gap but without the funny beard. Often he reels out fantastic figures: our economy growing at supersonic speed, jobs that are been created and many other economic miracles taking place.I was pretty exited the first time I saw him churning out these statistics. Great Uites take exceeding pride when one of us gets a job and makes success out of it. Here is our Segee as Minister of Trade and Investment luring many, many investors to our shores. Under him, Nigeria has become the number one investment destination country in Africa. We are also often given statistics that say we are the fastest growing economy in Africa and may soon become one of the fastest growing in the world.
Strangely enough, the more government Ministers announce that the economy is growing, jobs are being created, foreign investors are falling over each other to come here, the more the unemployment problem stares us in the face.I am no economist. But by my simple yeo-mans understanding, if an economy that is growing so fast as our own, attracting so many foreign investors, it should be creating millions of job every year. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case. As a newspaper man, I have had to open a file for job applicants even when I have no job to give. The number of people soliciting my help to get them jobs is just unbelievable. During the last recruitment exercise into immigration, I had twenty applicants seeking my help. I knew the whole thing was an organized fraud; but if I demoralized them by telling them the truth, where else could I direct them to get hope?
The unemployment situation in Nigeria has reached such a point that all kinds of employment agencies have sprung up. They hardly provide jobs. Their specialty is to add to the misery of our unfortunate youth by swindling them. It is strange enough that government itself which has created this environment of unemployment has added a second injury to it. Government jobs are up for sale – some for as much as N500,000 per slot. It all depends on how lucrative the position at stake is. We all know that these things are going on but hardly did we expect that the government will even be remotely connected with the mass deception and even murder of youths in the name of recruitment into immigration services.That was it. The figures often given to us as new jobs in the market are fabricated. Those young men trampled to death on that day are martyrs. They gave their lives to drum into our heads the fact that we have a time bomb we have on our hands.
We often humour ourselves in Nigeria with the belief that we are a rich country. But as the World Bank keeps telling us, we are not. Or to put it in the words of Prof. Assisie Assobie, former Chairman of NEITI, we are “a rich country with poor people”. Today, we have created a corrupt apparatchik class with excesses that will finally pull all of us down.The President can easily avoid this and save all of us if only he follows me on my next trip to Havana. Cuba`s most important achievement is indubitably to have freed itself from US tutelage. We readily forget the condition of the average Cuban worker before the revolution. Havana was the brothel of the Caribbean in the hands of the US Mafia. Land ownership was shared between big US corporations and a handful of Cuban terratenientes while the country was run by the dictator Fulgencio Batista and his cronies. Human rights violations, torture and physical elimination of political opponents were condoned by the US as long as their puppet remained subservient to them. When Fidel Castro came he did not talk of foreign investment. He in fact expropriated US investments in Cuba and nationalized them without compensation.
In Cuba, nobody treats corruption with kid gloves. The death sentence of general Ochoa along with 3 other corrupt officials in `89, confirmed the Cuban government`s position on corruption. The country has successfully established free medical services. The system`s success, evidenced by a reduction of infantile mortality from over 60 per thousand to 7.2 and by an increase of life expectancy from 62.6 to 76.1 is undisputedly a remarkable achievement. As poor as we think Cuba is, they have been training many of our Nigerian doctors – free.Cuba`s public education system is free at all levels and accessible to everyone. It has raised the level of literacy from 76.4% to 98.1%, the highest in Latin America.
The revolution achieved its goal of providing jobs and improving the lot of the poor. The bottom line of these achievements is the improvement of health and abilities of Cuba`s human resources which constitute its greatest asset.My President, let’s go to Havana.