FrankTalk With Frank Ofili: The Critic As The Moral Compass

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Just as I was about driving home yesterday, a friend called me from Canada.
 
"Frank. Why is there so much praise of government in Nigeria" he asked.
 
Which government, I enquired; to which he answered "just about any government, be it federal, state or local judging from what I have been reading of developments back home”, he said (by the way he is a Nigerian)
 
If the governments are being praised, it means they are doing well at all levels.
 
“Really?”, he asked. “Have the kidnapped girls been released”? He asked, to which I answered no.
 
“Has the $20.9 billion missing from government account been recovered?”
 
The money was not missing; it was not remitted by NNPC, that is all
 
“What is the difference”? He asked
 
If you say something is missing, it means it is either stolen or you misplaced it.
 
“Ok, which one was it? – stolen or misplaced”
 
Neither. It was not remitted, that is all
 
“Has it been remitted now”?
 
The government confirmed $16 billion of it has been remitted
 
“And the balance?”
 
I don’t know
 
“What is the National Assembly saying about it?”
 
I don’t know
 
“Frank, how could you not know? You of all people”?
My friend, there are times when you choose what to talk about
 
“Ok, are the refineries working now”?
 
They are to be sold to private investors in line with government economic policy. Government is not interested in repairing them
 
“Then why did government put so much in repairing them”?
 
It was not President Jonathan’s government that spent money to repair them. It was governments before Jonathan
 
“Frank you know that is a lie. I can tell you how much President Jonathan’s government said they spent on some phantom repair of the refineries. After the Occupy Nigeria protests, the government announced that Warri Refinery had been repaired and it was then producing, though not enough”
 
I am not aware of that
 
“Frank what is the matter with you? Are you alright?”
 
Nothing is wrong with me, I am okay
 
“What about the Farouk Lawan and Otedola bribe money, how far with the case”?
 
I think it is in court
 
“For how long? Is Farouk still a member of the House of Reps”
 
I wouldn’t know, I hardly hear of him these days, though I can’t say he was recalled either
 
“What is the exchange rate now”
 
Last time I checked it was N178 to the Dollar. The government can’t be blamed for that. You know that
 
“Really”? Ok is there regular power supply now”?
 
People generally agree the power situation has improved
 
“From your own judgment, has it improved”?
 
It has not improved in my area, but my views don’t matter in these matters. Besides, electricity is just one index in the whole mix. So my experience in this area is not enough to judge the judge.
 
“What about security? Have things improved there”?
 
There is still insurgency, armed robbery and the like”
 
“Has EFCC been scrapped? I don’t get to read about them any more”.
 
A government agency established by an Act of the National Assembly does not just vanish like that. EFCC is still intact
 
“Who have they prosecuted in the past two years”?
 
They prosecute only when there is a proven case of corruption or economic crime against someone.
 
“You mean there is no more corruption in Nigeria?”
 
I don’t know anyone who is corrupt. Do you? If you do, then I suggest you petition EFCC
 
“Frank something has gone wrong somewhere. This is not the Frank I knew”
 
I am still the same person
 
“Then you have been settled”
 
You haven’t been reading me then.
 
“I have been reading you Frank, but it just seems your criticisms have been droned by the praises of government, and what you are telling me now contradicts what your articles. So it is either you were wrong or something is wrong with the country. Before calling you I spoke with two other friends and my cousin Jude. What they told me was different from what you are telling me now. What has happened, Frank? Have you been bought over or threatened?”
 
Neither has happened to me. I told you my views don’t matter. Besides in the past 48 hours I have been thinking that may be, I was wrong all along. I want to take a period of introspection to see things from praise singers’ perspective. Perhaps am missing something.
 
“Frank, it is greater honour to criticize bad leadership than to praise it. Stick to it. It is to the critic that society ultimately turns for the moral compass”
 
“By the way,I hear Reverend Fr Mbaka’s life is being threatened over his comment on Jonathan”.
 
I seek no honour Dan, you know that, but if the praises of government are well-founded then why not agree? As for the threat on Mbaka, I don’t think it is true. Our President is not that kind of person.
 
“Frank you and I know that singing the praises of anybody in leadership in Nigeria is predicated on four factors. The first is ethnic/tribal factor; the second is religious factor; the third political factor, and the last selfish factor (what you guys call stomach infrastructure)”
 
There is a fifth, sixth and seventh. These are genuine performance factor, national interest factor and cultural factor. A leader may be praised and encouraged to do more in the interest of the nation, moreso when there is no alternative. That is what TAN is doing. Also, Nigerians by tradition have the culture of praise and worship to higher authority regardless of whether he is right or wrong. It is a cultural thing. So what is wrong with that? The problems of the country were caused by bad leadership since independence. You don’t expect President Jonathan to solve them in just five or six years
 
“Frank thanks for the sermon. May I remind you that it took the President 5 years to clear out the $62 billion Obasanjo left for the country? Add the $20 billion stolen, unremitted or withheld and other sundry items. Where is the of evidence of all these money? What has been done with it?”
 
Fighting insurgency takes a lot Dan.
 
“Bullshit Frank! Something is definitely wrong with the country”
 
I don’t  think so.
 
"How could things be so wrong with the country and the people are looking and even praising the government? They should use their power, their vote to effect change"
 
Perhaps your long sojourn abroad has blinded you to the fact that in Nigeria votes don't count.
 
"Then people should rise up, get on the street and stay there until government changes its ways"
 
We tried it three years ago but nothing positive came out it. Would you like to come and lead it this time?
 
“I participated in the sit out here in Canada. Why did it fail by the way?"
 
It didn’t fail. The organisers found out that truly the government was right
 
“Then am sorry for the country”
 
And am sorry for ever raising my voice against a performing government.
 
“Good bye Frank”
 
Good bye Dan
 
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