Wednesday, 12 May 2021 19:28

[OPINION] Just thinking aloud (II) - Bola Bolawole

 

“As we were saying, Awo’s legacies have been left to rot: The cattle ranches, farm settlements, Liberty Stadium, Cocoa House (one of the tallest buildings in Africa in those days), the first television station in Africa (beating some European countries to it), the Government Reservation Areas and the industrial estates, solid road network constructed by indigenous construction companies like Oni and Sons, etc.”

“The fate that has befallen cocoa is the most appalling. We used to be one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa! Awo financed his laudable free education and other programmes with cocoa money but, today, the cocoa trees as well as the cocoa farmers are old and tired! Once crude oil was discovered, everyone abandoned the farms and the rural areas. The drift to the urban centres have turned the rural areas to a ghost of their former selves”

“I visited my home town recently. Many of the places that used to be vibrant looked desolate. Able-bodied men have migrated to the cities. Our parents who toiled to build the towns and villages in the 1950s and 1960s are remembered today by their graves and the decrepit buildings housing their remains”.

“Yet, these were bubbling towns and villages in times past and the houses that lay waste today were the pride of those days. Strange faces have taken over the entire space. When I, too, visited a couple of weeks ago, I had to rely on residual knowledge to find my way around places that I used to know like the palm of my hand!”

“But things cannot remain like this! Something drastic has to be done to redress the situation”

“I have three suggestions. The first is that the rural-urban drift must not only be arrested but also reversed...”

“That’s a tall order! Day-dreaming, if I may say! How will people move from the cities where there are a semblance of amenities and better job opportunities to the rural areas where most people still live as if in the Stone Age?”

“The answer is simply: Provide in the rural areas the same facilities drawing people to the cities. Move the cheese, if I may say. Have you read the book “Who moved my cheese”?

“No”! But these ideas are easier said than done! Providing modern amenities in the rural areas won't come easy. It will gulp a lot of money, which we don't have”

“Where there is the will, there is a way. We only need to put our money where our mouth is. I have three proposals if our government will listen”

“They should! Is that not why we elected them?”

“If only we elected them! But that is not the issue right now! The first thing is, connect the towns and villages with the cities through fast-moving trains, not the medieval millipedes they are constructing all over the place! On my first trip to Germany, I made a friend who worked in Berlin but lived 200 kilometres away in a village. Daily, he shuttled to and fro by train. Imagine if that were possible in Nigeria. I will work in Lagos and retire daily to my village”

“I can immediately see the advantages. We will no longer live cramped up in apartments where we also pay through the nose. No nerve-wrenching traffic; rather, a wholesome environment, fresh air, enough leg room, free accommodation and we will be able to take good care of the property rotting away in the rural areas now as well as contribute to the development of our local communities in many other ways”

“In addition, we would have helped to decongest the cities. House rents will crash as more people move to better accommodation facilities in the rural areas, most of it free of charge. People will enjoy healthier living and cost of living will drop drastically. That is number one. Number two is that we should go back to the land. In scriptural parlance, we should return to our first love, which is agriculture. This is one occupation with the scope to engage our teeming army of unemployed youths...”

“Food becomes cheaper; backward and forward linkages or integration will see to our rapid economic development. We will no longer be net importers of food and scare foreign exchange so conserved can be invested in other critical areas”

“Not only that, we shall return to the golden era when cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, groundnuts, palm produce, etc were our foreign exchange earners. Our over-dependence on crude oil with the attendant dire consequences of the volatility of the product in the international market will cease. Number three is our leaders’ love for white elephant projects. If a project is not counted in billions, they will not be interested; whereas the examples of India and China teach that cottage or family/small-scale industries is the right place to start. That is how millions of our people can be quickly taken out of poverty”

“Some of our leaders are garrulous and, so, love grandiose projects. The corruption of kick-backs cannot be ruled out in some instances”

“Our leaders should shift their attention to these three areas as they also revive abandoned Awo projects; before long, we shall see the multiplier effects on the entire economic, social and political life of our people. But I doubt if factors beyond their control will let them”

“They swore on oath to serve us diligently and to the best of their ability. They also promised heaven and earth when seeking our mandate”

“The first instinct of man is survival. If a man and his child get engulfed by fire, the man will first help himself before attending to the child”

“That is wickedness! What kind of loving father does that?”

“It is not wickedness. It is practical reality! When you board an aircraft, haven’t you heard the air hostess say ‘In case of sudden loss of oxygen in this cabin...’? Were you not always advised to first wear your own oxygen mask before helping the infant/child travelling with you?”

“Stop speaking in parables! How has masks or fire got to do here?”

“The rich also cry! Governors, too, have problems. It may not be our own mill-of-the-run problems. For instance...”

“Sorry for interjecting! I was going to ask what a governor’s problems could be; especially our governors in the South-west; that they have not been as vociferous as Benue’s Samuel Ortom in speaking out for their own beleaguered people”

“Ortom is a different kettle of fish. For instance, Akeredolu of Ondo state has his fate still hanging in the balance. With the abracadabra that we witnessed in Kogi, Osun and Imo states, the impossible can still become possible in Ondo”

“The Yoruba are a complex people. Why can't the elders prevail on the people who are in court against Akeredolu in the greater Yoruba interest to withdraw so that the governor can breathe? That way, he can escape the blackmail of the Fulani-cum-Presidency and face this Yoruba matter squarely?”

“The collective wisdom of the Yoruba says where there are elders; evil does not strut stark naked in broad daylight. Do rats still act like rats and birds like birds in Yoruba land? The Ekiti governor is blighted by vaulting ambition. Having been governor twice and Minister once, the next likely port of call for him is the Presidency. So, he must bend his back for Miyetti Allah to ride! The Osun governor is an “Ajele” or “Adele” who must touch base before he does anything. Remember President Muhammadu Buhari saying the ruling party used “remote control” to win the last election for him? He is also neck-deep in the politics of second-term in office. His Oyo state counterpart has had his thunder stolen by God-knows-what. He started well but now...The situation is not different in Ogun and Lagos where the politics of second term in office – and of 2023 - is also on the front burner. Aside Oyo, the other South-west states are APC. Sanwo-Olu’s condition appears like Chief Ernest Shonekan’s predicaments. Remember Shonekan and his “Fidihe” (sitting with half buttock) government?”

“You have just painted a scary picture! Is that why our leaders are mute in the face of undisguised enemy onslaught? What of the VP, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Asiwaju? Like biblical Jephthah and Queen Esther, is this not the hour when these men are expected to come to the rescue?”

“Yes, but what if circumstances beyond their control have blinded them in both eyes and seared their conscience? What if, like Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo confessed as he sentenced Awo, their hands are tied?”

“Who, then, helps the South-west? It appears the answer is blowing in the wind”

"The answer is not blowing anywhere! Because the times are unnatural and unnatural things are happening, it is time for the people themselves to reverse the natural order of things. As they say, if the mountain will not go to... It is time the people compel their leaders to do the needful. Bob Marley has told us: GET UP! STAND UP! STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT! It is time for the ordinary people to take their destiny in their own hands! Heaven helps those who help themselves”

Published in the "Treasures" column (Back page) in the New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

 

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