It may also interest you to know that this individual, Malcolm Fabiyi, was selected in 2008 by the US National Academy of Engineering as one of the top 80 Young Engineers in the US. He probably still remains the only Students’ Union President of a Nigerian University to have bagged a First Class degree in Engineering, going to earn a PhD from Cambridge. This individual has over 12 gas industry-related patents to his name. Is this the person some of your people said Nigeria does not need? I must also point out that when the cops arrived, Malcolm calmly explained to the cops that the Nigerian government called a town hall meeting and would not allow him the opportunity to ask questions of the officials present. The cops were obviously surprised they were called in on such flimsy reason and left.
O. Victor Olapojoye
Last weekend in Chicago, USA, a town hall meeting was organised by the Nigerian Embassy in conjunction with the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) to brainstorm on the issue of fuel subsidy and the challenge posed by Boko Haram. In attendance was the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Viola Onwuli. The minister arrived at the event late and began her remarks during the question and answer session. “Two Nigerians, Dr. Malcolm Fabiyi, a former Student Union President of the University of Lagos, and Mr. Shegun Olapojoye protested that the minister’s speech was dragging too long and there would be no time for those who would want to ask question on the state of the nation” (This Day, 16 Jan. 2012).
“When are we going to ask questions when this place will soon be closed. You are preaching to the wrong choir,” they both shouted intermittently.
Below is an open letter from Mr Victor Olapojoye to AmbassadorAdebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, drawing attention to the questions Dr Malcolm Fabiliyi and Mr Olapojeye never had opportunity to ask. We hope that Mr Ambassador will make time to address the content of this important open letter. We believe it is in public interest that the questions be addressed. They are equally to the benefit of President Goodluck’s administration.
Editor, Openmind Foundation
20 January 2012
Dear Ambassador Adefuye,
I will want to start by expressing my appreciation to the Embassy of Nigeria for organizing a “town hall” meeting with Nigerians in Chicago on Saturday, January 14, 2012. The issues “discussed” during the town hall ranged from the Boko Haram threat to Oil Subsidy removal. I must also commend your initial approach at the meeting by ensuring it was participatory in nature.
However, I must add that the organizers had their agenda from the onset regarding who they were going to call to ask questions. I say this, because I realized that about 75% of the total of 18 or so questions asked, came from people who introduced themselves as either, a Chairman, Secretary or Board member of a Nigerian organization in the US, effectively shutting out those of us without any affiliation to these groups. I must also say that I did not have to get to me dropping the “F” bomb to get the organizers to issue me and my buddy at the event, a number, which was required to be called to ask a question, and when I checked, I realized that I was #39, and we were still at Questioner #9 at 8:45pm. At that point, I realized that I will not have the opportunity to ask my questions.
I must also place on record, that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof. Onwuliri, who reportedly flew out of Abuja on Friday, to be at the event, did a very bad job of selling the oil subsidy removal. She went on and on for almost an hour, talking to the audience, without any opportunity for a two-way exchange. To the point that some Nigerians present were so miffed by her condescending approach, they basically told her to shut up and listen to the views of Nigerians present. I must also point out that she basically ignored our calls and just kept on talking. We gave her the benefit of the doubt, she rambled on and on, played macossa with the microphone, and our patience wore thin. If she thought the voices of Nigerians would not be heard in Chicago, she was mistaken, a handful of patriots spoke up and shut down the charade that was being passed off as a “Town Hall” proceedings.
Needless to say, that I did not get the opportunity to ask my questions. As such, I am using this opportunity to ask the following questions and make the following comments.
First a comment, Mr. Ambassador, the Jonathan administration’s SURE program put together to cushion the effect of the oil subsidy faces two key risks, which makes it impossible for the program to succeed. The two key risks are leadership risk and civil service risk. Talking about the leadership risk, how on earth will the GEJ administration expect a 70-year old man to oversee the management of 1.3 trillion Naira or whatever figure the administration comes up with? Now, don’t get me wrong, Mr. Kolade is by every measure an accomplished Nigerian, who has contributed his expertise and knowledge in the service of country, but to be candid, Mr. Kolade does not have the energy, at his age, to effectively manage projects tied to this fund. Mr. Kolade should be allowed to enjoy his retirement in peace. I make this assertion because there is a precedent. In 2005, when the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), one of the most critical government agencies when it comes to infrastructure development, was created by the OBJ administration, Chief Ernest Shonekan, who was almost 70 years old at the time was tapped to be the Chairman of ICRC. I had asked myself in 2005, about the wisdom of appointing Shonekan to such a position. Looking back at ICRC’s achievement since 2005, you will agree with me that it is nothing to write home about. So, it begs the question, why make the same mistake? The current administration needs to stop trying to appear sincere, it needs to start acting sincere.
Second risk point is the Civil Service. The current administration has listed thousands of projects to be carried out under the program, and my question is this. Who are the people responsible for carrying out these projects from the government side? The answer is simple, civil servants.
Mr. Ambassador, anyone who thinks that the current civil service in Nigeria as currently constituted can be part of anything good for Nigeria, must either be ignorant of the rot in the civil service or just plain lying through their teeth. Some State Governors have complained in the past about how civil servants were sabotaging their efforts. I also remember you making the same point against the civil service during the event on Saturday. Mr. Ambassador, my question is this. What has changed in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service to indicate any difference in their attitudes?
Here is another question. What is the status of the US-Nigeria Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and is the Embassy looking at ideas aimed at integrating the agreement into the current US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission? The TIFA was signed by then VP, Abubakar Atiku, on behalf of Nigeria on February 16, 2000 in Washington DC. One of the key elements of the agreement is the setting up of a US-Nigeria Council on Trade and Investment. The last meeting under this agreement was held in March 2009 between US Trade Rep., Ron Kirk and the then Minister of Commerce and Industry, Achike Udenwa. Is the current Minister of Trade and Investment oblivious of the existence of this agreement? If so, can someone at the Embassy put him in the know? This in my opinion, is a very potent tool for accessing US Exim Bank financing, you spoke about at the event.
My next question is this. Is the Nigerian government not contradicting itself when it says it has deregulated a product, but still dictates prices to fuel stations through PPRA?
In ending, it is important to point out the action of some of the organizers of the event calling the Police on a fellow Nigerian, whose only question was asking when he would be allowed to ask a question, in order to render a contrary opinion to the one being presented by the Nigerian Embassy and Minister Onwuliri. It is very easy for the organizers and some Nigerians present to refer to us as disruptive people and that Nigeria does not need people like us, but we are only passionate in addressing the rot and double speak emanating from the Nigerian government. It may also interest you to know that this individual, Malcolm Fabiyi, was selected in 2008 by the US National Academy of Engineering as one of the top 80 Young Engineers in the US. He probably still remains the only Students’ Union President of a Nigerian University to have bagged a First Class degree in Engineering, going to earn a PhD from Cambridge. This individual has over 12 gas industry-related patents to his name. Is this the person some of your people said Nigeria does not need? I must also point out that when the cops arrived, Malcolm calmly explained to the cops that the Nigerian government called a town hall meeting and would not allow him the opportunity to ask questions of the officials present. The cops were obviously surprised they were called in on such flimsy reason and left.
I look forward to getting a response to my questions and your reaction to my comments.
O. Victor Olapojoye