How Dangote Refinery is feat and shame for Nigeria, by former presidential aide

Laolu Akande during his live programme on Channels TV

By Marvellous Nyang

June 21, 2024

In a scathing critique, a former presidential aide, Laolu Akande, has highlighted the Dangote Refinery as both a testament to Nigerian capability and a stark example of governmental failure.

Drawing attention to the refinery’s completion in record time and at a fraction of the cost $6 billion as Dangote disclosed while speaking during his appearance at the recent Afrexmbank’s AGM in The Bahamas, compared to $25 billion said to have been spent on the turnaround management (TAM) of failed state-owned refineries, Akande lamented Nigeria’s chronic mismanagement in public sectors such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

Speaking during his latest edition of “Inside Sources with Laolu Akande” on Channels TV on Friday, the veteran journalist in his analysis titled “What a Nigerian can do versus the Striving of our statehood,” highlighted the stark contrast between Nigeria’s potential, showcased by achievements abroad, and its domestic challenges.

Akande pointed out Nigeria’s export of highly skilled professionals in fields like medicine and literature, juxtaposed against dismal domestic services and educational standards, mentioning acclaimed figures like Dr. Olayinka Oluloye and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, underscoring the irony of their global success amidst local neglect.

In his widely circulated talk show, Akande passionately criticised Nigeria’s systemic failures that prevent the country from replicating the sterling achievements of Nigerians abroad at home, as has commended Aliko Dangote for his unwavering commitment that culminated in the successful completion of his refinery project.

He began by illustrating Nigeria’s global contributions, stating, “Let’s take the doctors for instance, doctors from Nigeria are part of an outstanding healthcare delivery system in many countries abroad. We have names like Dr. Olayinka Oluloye, who achieved the rare surgical feat operating successfully on a fetus in Texas, and Dr. Phil Osua, who leads one of the biggest healthcare organizations in New York, both of them in the US.”

He highlighted the acknowledgment from a former US president, emphasising how Nigerian professionals abroad significantly contribute to global healthcare systems, contrasting sharply with the struggles of Nigeria’s local healthcare delivery.

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“There was in fact an acknowledgement by former US president who said that Chicago healthcare can’t possibly be what it is today were it not for the Nigerian doctors. But what is the situation with our healthcare delivery at home? At best, it’s a massive struggle. On the literary front,” Akande said.

“On the literary front,” Akande continued, “There are at least two Nigerian writers Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, not to mention the more recent Chimamanda Adichie. They lead the literary world. In fact, Achebe’s book, ‘Things Fall Apart,’ has been translated into several foreign languages and is considered among the top 100 books of the last century.”

He lamented the state of public education in Nigeria, noting the disparity between the international acclaim of Nigerian literary giants and the millions of Nigerian children currently out of school.

“Now, there are tons and tons of Nigerians with similar outstanding records at home and abroad in various fields of human endeavor,” Akande remarked.

“Take another example, Bayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian who rose to the top of global investment banking and is now a part-owner of Gatwick Airport,” Akande said.

He then turned his attention to Nigeria’s governance, criticising past leaders for grandiose yet unfulfilled projects such as Nigeria Air, contrasting sharply with the success of individuals like Aliko Dangote.

“So, we see one of the most definitive collective indictments of our existence, in how we govern ourselves and the mediocrity that we have tolerated in many facets of our public life,” Akande observed.

He said, “Let’s take a recent example, the way we run down publicly procured oil refineries in the country and bungled every effort and attempt to rehabilitate them in the last two decades.”

Akande underscored the contrast between the struggling state-owned refineries and Dangote’s private initiative, saying, “While we all watch our refineries go to nought in the last two decades, especially just one of us, Aliko Dangote, has built the world’s largest refinery in this country. He did it with less than $6 billion, according to him.”

“Compare that to how much we spent on turnaround maintenance of the refineries that are not working in the last two decades, over ($)25 billion according to the House of Reps, yet, not all of our refineries are working right now. But the private Dangote refinery built at less cost in less time is now up and running.

“So we can congratulate ourselves, but just a shame. It comes together, ironically. So as we celebrate the Dangote refinery as a proof that Nigerians are well and able to do great things, and as we encourage ourselves that Nigeria can’t possibly fail, with citizens made up of such stellar stuff, like Dangote, Let us also realize that we can no longer leave politics in the hands of our politicians anymore,” Akande said.

He informed as Dangote revealed, “International bankers tried and told Dangote no more funding, mafias at home and abroad try to frustrate him, yet, he was on face, but it’s just one Nigeria billionaire who has a sense of mission and commitment. And he had the support of other Nigerians like Benedict Orama and the late Herbert Wigwe. And there he has completed the refinery. But our government can’t even fix one refinery as yet.”

As a result to hasten development from within, Akande called for increased citizen participation in governance and transparency, urging Nigerians to take proactive roles in shaping the nation’s future.

“Imagine how much we can do if we only sought out our politics,” Akande implored.

“Imagine how quickly we can resolve the problems and many of our challenges if and when we get the critical mass of well-meaning Nigerians involved in our public life and our national life. Just imagine there’s only one way to change this,” Akande said.

The former presidential aide concluded with a call to action, stressing the need to combat corruption and promote accountability in Nigeria’s public institutions.

“No more sidon look, no more political apathy, especially from people in the middle class,” Akande asserted.

“We must oil our politics with accountability and transparency. We must take the fight against corruption seriously. EFCC must remain fired up, ICPC too, and all of our enforcement agencies, we must end the impunity which continues to deny us the righteousness that exalts a nation. We must start doing it now,” Akande charged.

Akande in his impassioned address on “Inside Sources” highlighted the urgency of comprehensive reforms to harness Nigeria’s potential and overcome longstanding governance challenges.