Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nigeria’s Jubilee

October 1st sees 50 years of independent Nigeria. I expect more celebrations than the passing of Nigeria’s centenary 10 years ago. Who wanted to mark a British colonial creation?

In fifty years Nigeria has had more years of military government than democracy, she has survived a civil war, built a new capital and had the blessing of wealth from oil. Her population has grown but so have civil disturbances.

But a jubilee is a time for celebration. The concept of jubilee comes from the law God gave to Israel. The Promised Land was divided among the 12 tribes. Everyone had a share of land but sometimes land was sold if people were poor, they even sold themselves into a form of slavery if they were in debt. But in the 50th year, the jubilee, land reverted to its first owner and slaves went free. God said the land was his. The people did not own it but they had certificates of occupancy. Every 50 years the land went back and people were free again.

I have heard it asked, what has Nigeria to celebrate after 50 years? I have a suggestion. It is that Nigeria’s wealth should revert to Nigeria.

In the early 70s, there was a government-enforced minimum wage, the Udoji award. It raised the incomes of many but not all. I recall a t-shirt with a sad face and the words, ‘O Brother. Udoji no reach me.’ Nigeria has had enormous wealth from oil but it has not reached ordinary people. Where has the money gone? It built Abuja but much of it has gone into the Swiss bank accounts of her various rulers.

In England Christians have has a campaign, ‘make poverty history’. Donations were sought to relieve developing world poverty. I did not give. My attitude is that the West should get the third world’s money out of the Swiss banks where corrupt rulers have creamed off the wealth. Only then will I donate to the campaign. Here is the jubilee I suggest for Nigeria. Get the corruption money back to Nigeria for the good of all.

Of course the problem is that turkeys do not vote for Christmas. Corrupt rulers are not going to direct their U.N. ambassadors to start making waves. In the West, politicians may not be so brazenly corrupt but too many of them are directors of banks and will not rock this financial vote. Banks in Switzerland and off shore havens are the Augean stables of the capitalist world and should be cleansed. End banking secrecy. Honest people have nothing to fear. Only the corrupt need this darkness to hide their sins.

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