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10 Lessons I Learnt From PI&D And Nigeria’s Contract Fallout

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Already, September has started off wobbly for Nigeria. First, we get slammed with a 25 per cent of our budget fine (the one that we are struggling to fund). My people say, wanda bai zai ji bari ba, ya ji ho-ho/sannu (he who will not hear stop it, will hear sorry). And ho-ho is exactly what the Irish/English are saying to us. There couldn’t have been a better time to take a stab at the amount of lessons to be learnt from the $9bn award to PI&D which will resonate with us for a long time.

The problem with us is that most times we fail to look at the flip side of the coin; you know, taking the bitter with the sweet. It will be good if we apply these lessons to our everyday lives and negotiations we might find ourselves in.

  1. We need a new crop of leaders!!
  2. There are always three sides to a story; the two perspectives and the truth. What/who determines the truth?
  3. Focus on the heart of the matter. We often allow sentiments, negativity, revenge, individualism and intellectual laziness take precedence and we lose sight of the main thing. The main thing here was to get off our high horse and practice humility and get a reprieve. We are not in any position to negotiate in the real sense of the word. We need to be emotionally intelligent about our way to a more bearable settlement. At this stage, fine we must pay, it is the quantum that has been and will be in contention. We have Nigerians protesting outside the British High Commission, why? Why not demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s office and demand for what we have come to realise was the lackadaisical response to this gargantuan problem that is before us? We could extend the march and quarrel about a whole lot of issues ravaging us. We can even get mad say that this is also an outcome of the President not swearing in his cabinet till half a year later!!
  4. A business takes its business serious. A government should take its responsibilities serious; very serious.
  5. There needs to be continuum in leadership devoid of sentiments. This has proven to be a herculean task but it is true nonetheless. My mum always said to me, “there’s no word like ‘can’t’ in the English dictionary.’’ This situation might just prove her wrong-that we cannot have a continuum in government that is citizen-centric.
  6. The fact that the law is toyed with, compromised, ‘arranged’ and rendered a toothless bulldog (except in exceptional and rare courageous moments) in Nigeria, doesn’t mean by any means that it is so anywhere else in the world.
  7. If you leave your flank open, be almost certain that you will be taken advantage of. It is not the business of the other party to protect you or look out for you.
  8. Agreements do have a life of their own and they can come back to haunt you; in this case wound you terribly. Be very careful what type of agreements and contracts you get into.
  9. Bureaucracy is dangerous to health and can kill, literally!
  10. Pay attention to the unseen details.

 

The Hunted Nigerian

Once again Nigerians were the brunt of South Africans wrath for the same reasons we have been at their receiving end. It seems like the Nigerian has become a hunted animal. In our land, if the kidnappers don’t get you, the herdsmen could and if they don’t, bandits, foreign mercenaries, cultists, ritualists or yahoo plus just might.

There was a time that the most feared bad human being was the armed robber. The thought of you retired to bed after a long day as a Nigerian and some ne’er-do-wells burst into your home and terrorised you for your hard-earned goods. Not to talk of the humiliation they meted; that’s if they didn’t kill or rape was all so psychologically crippling. People created all forms of coping mechanisms to avoid an encounter with them and if there was an encounter; mitigate it so that their visit would not be as traumatic and short. A couple of stories had it that some victims would have a feast set before them complete with brown envelopes for the intruders! Nowadays they don’t even come to mind when listing the evil besetting Nigerians.

The attacks on Nigerians and foreigners is clearly a reflection of deep-seated issues that stem from the Apartheid days; this can be the only logical explanation. Xenophobia was coined to colour the facet of the issue. The issue being the takeover of South Africa by the Dutch white minority. When we don’t call a spade a spade and correct injustices, this is what happens; it festers and mutates. If you don’t take care of the root cause of a cancer and only deal with the symptoms, the cancer will come back. That is the South Africa situation in a nutshell.

In 2017, during a press conference, after a similar incident, the then Deputy Minister of Police, justified the attacks on a logic clearly borne out of his reality which barely officially ended about 30 years ago. He said 80 per cent of a South African town was occupied by foreigners and if the trend was allowed to continue, 80 per cent of the country would be controlled by foreigners and one day, the president of the country could end up being a foreigner! And he would be damned, if he was going to sit back and watch that happen.

His brief was uncannily based on history. The white South African minority have most power irrespective of what the front-facing policies show. This is in large part due to the Land Acts (1954,55) and the Group Acts (1950) which vested 80 per cent of South African lands in their hands leaving the Black South Africa to grapple with 20 per cent of their ancestral land where they live in Bantustans or ethnic communities. If we put ourselves in their shoes, what they see is that this is another foreigner invasion and incursion of the 20 per cent that they currently hold. And this foreigner is even his ‘brother’ even if this brother helped him get some form of freedom, and we don’t have to go far into history to remember the hardship, poverty, cruelty, killings and struggle they had to go through.  I am not holding brief for the South Africans, but getting to the root of this problem will have to be about understanding and deciding what to do with the knowledge.

 

However, Nigerians have not reacted better either. Attacking the businesses of South Africans in Nigeria is very counterproductive and the circle of violence will only bring in more actors and reprisal attacks. The interesting thing is that the attacks on these businesses doesn’t affect the attackers because these businesses are owned by the white ‘South Africans.’  Unless of course, we understand the underlying reasons and we are being our brother’s keeper (which I doubt).

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