Things Are Not Falling Apart


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Things Are Not Falling Apart

  Frank Nweke Jnr

Minister of Information and National Orientation
  Federal Republic of Nigeria 

March 30, 2006

We have noted the sustained interest of The New York Times in the affairs of Nigeria in recent times. Since January this year, the newspaper has run more than 60 items of news, editorials and comments on Nigeria. Regrettably, most of its comments are largely ill-informed and unjustified. The New York Times editorial of March 26, 2006, entitled In Nigeria, Things Fall Apart is a case in point.
Not only is this title a cruel play upon the title of a book written by one of Nigeria’s most illustrious sons, it is grossly unfair as it is an exaggerated, biased and un-researched portrayal of Nigeria and its people. It is capable of sending the wrong signal, creating unnecessary panic, inducing emotional strain and fostering a feeling of insecurity in Nigerian citizens as well as citizens of other countries resident in Nigeria.
Indeed, neither the reality on the ground nor America’s expanding economic interests in Nigeria on the platform of its multinational companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil and Conoco Phillips would suggest that Nigeria is falling apart. American interests in Nigeria which translate to billions of U.S. dollars secure American jobs and create new ones for Nigerians.
Nigeria’s telecommunications sector is Africa’s fastest growing. Nigeria is now an investors’ haven posting an overall 35 percent rate of return on investment. The current construction of 19 integrated power projects in Nigeria is reputed to be the largest of its kind in the world.          
Could the Paris Club decision in forgiving at least 60 percent of Nigeria’s external debts be based on the whim that Nigeria’s fortunes are on the decline? Could the recent BB rating by Fitch and Fitch and Standards and Poors be based on some incorrect judgment?
Like any other country, Nigeria has its fair share of challenges but I can tell you authoritatively that Nigeria is not falling apart and it will never fall apart. Far from your claim that Nigeria is deteriorating fast, Nigeria is most certainly growing in leaps and bounds in all sectors due largely to the pragmatic and visionary leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and a resourceful citizenry.
The comment on the unfortunate death of the wife of the Kano politician, Abubakar Rimi, creates the misleading impression that her death was politically motivated and that the blame should be laid at the doorstep of the Federal Government of Nigeria or President Obasanjo whose family has also suffered losses that could have been lamely explained as politically motivated.
His daughter barely escaped death in the hands of armed attackers in 2003. Not so the two children of her close friend and a security operative. Investigations later revealed the attack was masterminded by an international criminal ring led by Ahmad Tidjani, a national of neighbouring Niger Republic. Tidjani and his cohorts are currently being tried.
The allusion, therefore, to a political motive in the demise of Mrs. Rimi is to say the least pedestrian, cruel, tendentious and actionable. Indeed, about 20 suspects have been arrested in connection with that dastardly act and curiously, some of the suspects are members of the Rimi household.    
The rich pedigree of The New York Times should expectedly lend itself to ample research for a weighty input like the editorial of the newspaper.  Such expectation is dashed in the face of the lack of rigorous consideration that is apparent in this editorial piece. Had thoroughness attended this effort, the newspaper would have concluded that the anti-graft war in Nigeria has affinity for friend and foe.
It bears restating therefore that the anti-corruption war has coveted trophies in the police chief, the head of the national assembly, ministers, senior judges, state governors and key functionaries of government. Economic crimes are being fought with un-paralleled courage and vigour, a development commended by our development partners, the United States inclusive.
In the matter of the Nigerian Constitution, the point about the separation of powers of the arms of government appears lost on the newspaper. The review of the Nigerian constitution is intrinsically the schedule of the two houses of the National Assembly comprising 469 elected representatives of the people. The job of any such Assembly is to make and amend laws including the Constitution.
Had a rigorous examination of the Nigerian situation been done, the authors of the editorial would have been educated on the fact that there are at least 118 amendments proposed for the 1999 Constitution seen largely by the Nigerian people as a heritage of the preceding military government. The amendments include more money for the oil rich Niger Delta for development and the removal of the immunity clause in criminal cases for serving public officials.  A reduction of the laborious exercise that brought us this far and the long painstaking process ahead to the issue of the elongation of tenure misses the point entirely and smacks of a script written by those who contributed to Nigeria’s former sorry state.
The New York Times appears to have been ensnared by the allure of casting the estimated 150 million Nigerians, their elected representatives and their President in a mode only reminiscent of the typecast given colonies of the slave trade era. The people of Nigeria remain capable of handling their affairs, playing their important role in Africa creditably without the collective castigation by a newspaper that should act its part as an unbiased witness to history.
The patronage of our President certainly does not diminish the import of your lack of faith in the Nigerian people to handle their affairs.
There is no doubt that The New York Times has decidedly adopted an anti-Nigerian stance even as President Obasanjo visits the US this week to discuss with his American counterpart on ways of seeking greater bilateral partnership to combat terrorism, illicit drug trade, corruption, effectively respond to issues of development and conflict in Africa, and other issues of mutual concern to both countries.
Could it be that as in the case of the ‘man in the hood’ at Abu Ghraib that The New York Times has yet again fallen into the hands of naysayers and misinformers? The truth is simply that Nigerians have taken a leap of faith with the President and are working hard to make Nigeria great again.


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