Steve Nwabuzor comments on the creation of the Ibori Center (No. )Steve holds a Ph.D. degree in Engineering Hydrology and serves as the President and CEO of Earth Engineers and Scientists, Inc., (EES) a geotechnical/environmental consulting firm based in Michigan.
Inevitably the sense of priority of some Nigerians, especially those in elective positions, is warped. Traveling abroad is the norm and appears a feather in the cap of these officials. The President, Olusegun Obasanjo, leads the pack in this pastime so much that President Bush has lost count of the number of visits made, so far, to the US, as contradictory figures were announced by the duo during the last visit. Now state governors along with a number of their commissioners are towing the travel abroad syndrome, whose purposes are selfish and ludicrous.
Sometime last year one observed how a governor traveled to Chicago in the company of at least three state commissioners, a newly crowned Oba and his retinue of Chiefs. The purpose was to attend a birthday party of a state indigene based in Chicago. These elected officials took turns with fanfare to address the guests, which were overflowing the Harambee Hall venue, in south-side Chicago. Outside the Hall were two limousines, ostensibly packed to call attention to the questionable affluence and importance of the visiting Nigerians. As one sat as an invitee of a former presidential aspirant, thoughts of the conspicuous consumption mystique of elected officials agitated the mind that one had to exit the venue barely an hour after arriving!
If the above was to be assumed as an aberration, then the latest in the series of unpatriotic acts concerns Governor James Ibori of Delta State, who has been in the headlines recently regarding an ex-convict case that called into question the legitimacy of the mandate given him by the people of Delta State. The governor has since been acquitted judicially, although not many Nigerians doubt that there was no moral victory won in that case. In the aftermath of the discharge, a one-day holiday was virtually declared in Delta State. The latter can only take place in an ill-informed polity where braggadocio and sycophancy are cherished in order to get a pie of the cake.
Not long after this acquittal Governor Ibori visited the state of Wisconsin to inaugurate a James Onanefe Ibori Center for Policy Studies, which is to be coordinated by a Nigerian Professor of Economics and Lawyer in one of the satellite campuses of the University of Wisconsin. It is suggested that the UW has something to do with the Center but in actual fact is a private initiative of the Governor, as UW has nothing to do with the project. A former Internal Revenue Service Building in Madison, we are told, is to be purchased to accommodate the Policy Center.
This visit generated so much heated debate on the Nigeriavillagesquare messageboard about the wisdom of locating a Center for Policy Studies in rural Wisconsin rather than in Nigeria. In the process, concerned Nigerians in Diaspora are torn between challenging this profligate wastage of resources or to work with the proposed center in achieving its wooly objectives.
It is now about three weeks since the Ibori Center for Policy Studies in Wisconsin was opened. As at the time of writing this, no single Nigerian paper or Nigerian website has reported this 'momentous' launching aimed at shaping governmental policies in Delta State, Nigeria and the world at large! What lofty goal for a 'struggling State' that cannot supply books and desks to schools? At least, no policy articulation is needed to achieve such fundamental provision.
Delta State is probably the richest state in the federation in terms of revenue allocations. This is so as it's the largest producer of oil and natural gas in Nigeria. Yet, the indigenes of the state are pleading with the government to attend to roads that crisscross the state capital? Charity begins at home is a worn out cliché but relevant in personal and public pursuits. A Delta State University that is still developing was not deemed fit to accommodate this Policy Center? How about the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru? What is the role of the latter in policy formulation in Nigeria? Honestly, the rationale for opening this type of Center in the US beats the imagination.
Further, the issue of financing the Center becomes salient. Where did Governor Ibori get the money to fund this project which undoubtedly would run into millions of dollars? Has it become so easy to transfer such large funds from a developing economy to a developed one? What is the role of the CBN in approving this type of transfer? The rate at which Nigerian officials travel abroad, stay in 5-star hotels, buy exotic cars, houses and state-of-the art electronics to be used in a country where power supply is as erratic as the Michigan weather cannot be surpassed by any nation save, probably, for Saudi Arabia.
It is agonizing when writing about Nigeria. Tons of essays are turned out daily on the need for Nigerian leaders to get their act together. What is observed is the direct opposite of people's expectations. The latter then asks: what type of humans rule Nigeria? Why are Nigerians so apathetic to their sufferings? Clearly the brazen display of insensitivity has dampened the will of hitherto concerned Nigerians in Diaspora. In fact, some are abdicating the tenet of seeking accountability and are willing to take over the role of government in supplying desks, books and second-hand medical equipment to the people back home. Needless to say the latter is a defeatist and immoral stance that would allow for further looting of the treasury.
Nigeria is gradually turning into a state where patriotism is just a vocabulary that makes no sense. National interest center on oil and gas production, and states that cry the most about increase in revenue allocations are saddled with leaders who bribe their way through protests and judicial systems, and who use intimidating tactics. These leaders settle prominent citizens within such states so much that information about the colossal fraud being perpetrated are often not reported. As a friend once said 'Diasporic Cronyism' is now a new frontier for elected officials and the Ibori Center for Policy Studies in rural Wisconsin is a case in question. There is no national interest but personal interests.