IT was a stark reminder of the wastefulness of the nation’s leaders as former United States (U.S.) President Bill Clinton declared that Nigeria had failed to properly use her rich natural resources.
Clinton did not mince words as he told Nigeria: “You haven’t done well with your oil money.”
According to Clinton, Nigeria cannot afford to fail because if she does, the consequences for Africa would be disastrous. He challenged Nigerian leaders to create economic opportunities for the majority of the citizens.
The former U.S. president spoke while answering stakeholders’ questions at the 18th This Day Awards organised by the This Day Newspaper management to honour 18 teachers for their commitment to duty. The well-attended event was held at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta.
Clinton urged Nigeria to find a way of bringing home her intellectuals, who he said, were scattered all over the world, to assist in developing the country instead of using their talents to develop other nations.
Answering a question, the former American President said: “When I became President, my Secretary for Commerce did a lot of work in Africa before he was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1995. I told him to make the list of the 10 most important countries in the world for the 21st century and Nigeria was in the list. Imagine the future of the entire continent if Nigeria fails or South Africa fails. So, you are a country of great potential.”
He added: “I would say you have about three big challenges. First of all, like 90 per cent of the countries which have one big resource, you haven’t done well with your oil money.” He said that he expected Nigeria to reinvest it in different ways.
Noting the disparity in the ownership of wealth in Nigeria, Clinton said: “You have to somehow bring economic opportunities to the people who don’t have. This is not a problem specific to Nigeria. Almost every place in the world, prosperity is heavily concentrated in and around urban areas. So, you have all these political problems and now violence problems, religious differences, and all the rhetoric of Boko Haram, but the truth is that the poverty rate in the North is three times greater than what it is in the Lagos area and to deal with that, you have to have both powerful stake in the local councils and a national policy that work together.”
He expressed the view that “there has to be a way to take the staggering intellectual and organisational ability that Nigerians exhibit in every country in the world in which they are immigrant and bring it to bear here so that the country as a whole can rise. One of the people on my trip with me today who unfortunately could not come up here because he had to go to visit his family is a young Nigerian-American, named Nnamdi.”
He described Nnamdi as a wonderful man, saying: “He (Nnamdi) does great work in America for poor kids in Arkansas City and he became a friend of mine. Both his parents have Ph.Ds, his sister has a Ph.D. He often says ‘I’m the failure in my family and I only have a university degree and I play football. My point is there are Nigerians who are like this all over the world. What you have to figure out is how to keep those people in Nigeria and how to ensure their success leads on into the rest of the country. So, I think solving the economic divide that is in your country will help the political divide; making better use of your resources.”
The former American President compared Nigeria to India which he said “has unbelievable entrepreneurs but they are not very good at collecting capital and investing it in infrastructure so that they can unite the poor part of the country with the rich part. That’s what you have to do. And then, you have to empower people with education so they can succeed at home as well as around the world”.
The Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun commended the organisers of the event for bringing it to the state.
At the event, eight primary school teachers, four secondary school teachers and three university lecturers were honoured and given a cash reward of N2 million each.
Governor Amosun was also given an award for investing heavily in education.