Ejike E. Okpa II, a Nigerian real estate entrepreneur in Dallas and a regular columnist in The African Executive engagesVictor in a dialogue that reveals the contradiction that is Nigeria.
Ejike E. Okpa II: See where the poor folks live. See the development in high income rich folks area--Lekki – Lagos. The houses are so close that they look like concentration camps. But look at the front – open drainage gutter that drains nowhere such that they constitute breeding grounds for killer mosquitoes. So, apart from the fancy difference, the poor and rich are subjected to the same environmental condition – no water and wastewater systems – boreholes and septic tanks litter and dot the area.
For more than sixty five years, Nigeria has been producing oil. There is however no sector of Nigeria that is a glaring example of where the money has gone. The world’s most populous black nation (with Lagos alone having a population of 17 million people) has no water and wastewater systems. Just imagine the public health challenges of the people.
Airplanes that land at MMIA – Ikeja, Nigeria’s busiest – all the solid waste discharged are emptied into open creeks. Mark you, the original plan for Hong Kong, was copied from Lagos. Look at Hong Kong today and look at Lagos – you be the judge. Nigerians jump and down about their education, degrees and how rich some of their folks are but unfortunately, those have not led to positive outcomes.
Victor: I try not to dwell only on the negatives. Blanket condemnation does not help anyone. Criticisms of a country, state and or system is not complete without recommendations of plausible interventions and identification of areas that have and are working.
I acknowledge that Nigeria isn’t where it’s supposed to be with all its inherent potentials, but the constant bashing and stereotyping of Nigeria from afar, by folks who, Nigeria was/is their homeland is acerbic and is becoming part of the problem. There are still folks like me here, who are thorough bred professionals, doing their bit to grow the country.
If we all can get past our self-adulation and roll up our sleeves, more could be done for our beloved country. I am Nigerian. No shame in that…..and I believe in incremental progress. I have chosen, not to dwell only on the problems but to identify solutions, to do my bit and with time the critical mass required to effect legislative changes for sustained progress will be achieved.
I do not shy away from nor dislike criticisms. You still do not get my position on these “facts” you paint so eloquently. All I ask of you is to suggest measures or interventions that can help this sordid situation you paint. It’s easy to stay afar and reel out statistics and comparative to make the argument less of a “beer Parlor” chant/discuss.
Ejike: As we speak, I have an open and standing invitation from one of the Ministries to come in any day I am in Nigeria to discuss a concept on issues I wrote to them about and they love the idea. Anyone thinking I will offer my solutions on this medium is naïve. I earn a living solving problems and have records to show what I have done since living in US – papers I have presented on specific issues in Nigeria. I don’t talk for talking sake. Had I wanted I would have returned to Nigeria in 1996, when my brother in-law served as Governor of Gombe State and my older first lady. Given that it was a military rule and I am vocal in certain issues, I stayed away. I don’t need any introduction in Nigeria. I have friends in government and business but not ready for the style of dealing. So if you want to hear what solutions I am proposing to this ministry, I will notify you when I get to Nigeria.
Victor: How do we get people like you in the diaspora, to apply your education, skills and wealth of experience in nation building to reset Nigeria and not just criticizing and insulting people for acquiring doctorate degree and building mansions. A past time of your 1%.
Ejike: In early 1990s, when NDIC which is like US FDIC was having bank failures, I wrote to then MD of NDIC, went to Lagos and presented my thoughts. I headed US FDIC as Receiver Central Regional Office Appraisal Department covering 8 states as the first and only black ever in that position. I wrote the first policy on how to liquidate failed bank assets. This was less than four years in US. Given that experience, I approached NDIC and they loved my ideas. I was promised that their Chairman a Yorubaman, would follow up with me. I am still waiting.
In 2000, when Tafa Balogun was Nigeria Inspector General of Police, I wrote him about community policing to bolster NPF and curb crimes. He took my idea and awarded a contract to a former Houston Police Chief. Policing in US is different from Nigeria, because Nigeria is centralized and US is local control – I know the difference.
When Ogbonnia Onovo, was IG; first and only Igboman to serve in that position since the war ended, and kidnapping was beginning to become an issue in Nigeria, I approached him and offered solutions having consulted with some of my contacts in US law enforcement. Onovo came to Dallas and met with us. Guess what, they dropped the ball. One of my suggestions was to designate Enugu Police College as Center for Kidnapping and Terrorism Training, which I have already aligned US support and resource including oil companies. He botched the move.
I have all the paperwork. Since I have been through both Dallas Police and Dallas FBI CA programs, as a native Nigerian, I know what could work, and I have relationships with key US people in law enforcement. I attended Law and Order Out of Order symposium in July 19-21, Aspen Colorado. I was the only foreign born in attendance and my contributions were very significant. No prophet has honor in their village and Nigerians prefer listening to foreigners who may not understand the issues, they get less than desirable outcomes.
Victor: You have facts on the level of our misery in Nigeria, you mix your writings with discourteous innuendoes, but you proffer no solutions or plans so we can take up and direct our attention to positive outcomes. Would you want me and people like me to just give up because things are bad? Can that even be an option?
Ejike: I earn good living solving problems as a consultant. This is the reason two African countries are sending their delegations to me this month. I just conducted a conference call with a major US investor and a financial institution on doing business in Africa. Doctors and healthcare experts alert us to illnesses but if one wants to get well, they go see the doctor and they pay. Two ways I provide service: Volunteer or Get Paid. I prefer the latter. A friend who was just appointed a Commissioner in one of the Igbo states reached me and is setting appointment with the governor for me to visit and share my thoughts on economic development . They will fly me in and take care of all expenses. NO FREE LUNCHES. If you want solutions – PAY FOR IT. Until then, deal with the knowledge of the afflictions and diseases. From awareness, those who are serious recruit and woo talents for solutions; that is the American way or better yet, my way.