An open letter to President Jonathan Goodluck on Ajaokuta Steel Project by Joseph Ozigis Akomodi
I have written intensively on Ajaokuta Steel Project. I, as a Metallurgical Engineer and as an Educator, I have in-depth knowledge about the state of Ajaokuta and what we need to do to ensure that the steel project bounce back to the production stage. Joe Isah as a sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Project if the entire youths of Nigeria do not give him supporting hands to ensure the project becomes a reality, then we would not go too far with such quest to ensure that Ajaokuta is up and running with strength and vibrancy that it demands. I am absolutely sure under Joseph Isah’s watch, with the right budget in place, Ajaokuta would get back on its feet. With this in mind, the idea that Ajaokuta should be contracted out for companies all over the planet to buy into the share of production cannot go too far. I would later give analysis of why such move would not work.
A Steel Industry is one of the major backbones of any progressive nation or industrialized nation. Steel production is in high demands as we move into new technological age. I have read lots of distorted findings by Nigerian writers about Ajaokuta steel project, why the steel plants failed. Some of those articles have criticized the western world for tampering with Nigerian development. I would categorically kicked against such assertions, because the western world is not our problems. Our problems are within us. Those of you who have been long in Ajaokuta, would agree with me that the Russians used to call Nigerians “Ali Babas” What does this quote meant to average Nigerians? It meant nothing to us. When the Russians came to Nigeria in late 70s, Nigerians were fond of breaking into the Russian homes to steal their personal belongings. As a result of this stealing, the Russians called all Nigerians “Ali Babas” which means thieves. Those of you who are still in Ajaokuta today, you would find out all the places Russians leaved before are well secured with well-protected iron doors even on their ceilings to ensure no Nigerians could break into their homes when they are at work.
Another distorted article about Nigerian writers when it comes to Ajaokuta was that when Russians came to Nigeria they brought their technology that where outdated or more than 50 years old to installed in Ajaokuta. The Nigerians that studied Metallurgy in Russia and have been to Ajaokuta knows for fact that was just a pure lie. The equipments then were up to date because it was the same types of equipments Russians used in their own Metallurgical factories. The same technology the Russians used in India. The Russians updates their technology as the world move towards technological advancement. The idea of nano-technology changed the entire steel industries, which Indians and other Countries have to also modernize their technology to meet with the challenges of 21st century.
The former President Shehu Shagari had the right vision, to ensure Ajaokuta steel project starts on the right footing. Since he was ousted from power by the greedy military regime, Ajaokuta has taken a back seat by our concurrent leaders. Nigeria as a Nation has not really embarked in any meaningful project since the birth of its’ independent. The oil sectors in Nigeria came to realistic functioning stage, by the effort of the British. The first major project Nigerians would have called a successful project would have been Ajaokuta Steel Project. Trillions of Naira has been budgeted for the steel plant to take off. A fraction of that money never made it to the doorstep of the steel project in the first place. Due to high corruption rate in Nigeria and the greedy leaders we have in our Nation, it is practically impossible to find a genuine true Nigerians who are committed to be patriotic to our nation, those who are bent on been patriotic are frustrated to the point that they either quite or join the bad wagons. Nigerians are well known as consumers not producers. The idea of patriotism and love for our nation has been lost from generation to generations. An average Nigerians only think how they can make money fast either by crook or by gentle. That is because the leaders have structured the society that way. In this article, I would address five major issues that confront our nation’s industrial ineptitude and ways such ineptitude can be eradicated from our system.
The first issue I would address in this article, is the idea that Ajaokuta should be contracted out for investors to buy into its functionality, Nigerian youths must kicked against such idea. No true investors in the west are interested to invest in Nigeria; one, Nigeria is still a fragile Country and the fact that we have no true democracy in our system of governing makes it practically impossible to see a genuine investors. The truth is, we are known all over the world as the most corrupt nation on earth and our leaders are proud of that. The only investors we are going to get are those dubious investors who would like to capitalize on Nigerian sickness of corruption to loot us more. As a result, all our efforts would be in vain. To curb such ineptitude, we would have to start nation building from Nigerians themselves. That is how the Japanese and Chinese did it. This indiscipline in Nigeria must start from top-down approach. I would suggest that it should be enacted into law that all political leaders should give up all their allowances and allocations for their constituencies for the duration of two years where no political leaders would get anything other than basic salary including the President except on a rear cases where they have to traveled out of the Country as our Nation demands. A clear process of accountability must be in place so that every Nigerians are accountable to ensure that Ajaokuta is up and running within those two years where the entire nation would have to forfeit their ridiculous allowances and allocations to their constituencies so that we can focus on nation building.
At this junction, the primary responsibility of the President is to ensure that Ajaokuta Steel project begins and finish within that two years duration where every constituency have to give up something for nation building. Just like what the United States went through in the 60s during the leadership of John F. Kennedy. When he charged the United States Scientists to do all it can to ensure that Americans lunch their space shuttle, after Russians lunch their sputnik in space. The President JFK gave an ultimatum to American Scientists then to ensure such project was successful and they did. I would like President Jonathan to embark on such enthusiasm and rigor to drive Ajaokuta Steel Project. If that were only achievement he did for the nation, he would ever be remembered as one of the best leader Nigerians ever hard as he goes down in history as the sole President that completed Ajaokuta Steel. He would affix his fingerprints in the blue print of Ajaokuta Steel realization effort.
Second, Nigerian Government must take full responsibility of the Ajaokuta Steel production, were by the sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Project reports directly to the President. We must get rid of all the Ministers we have in Nigeria because they are ineffective. They are just there embezzling the national cake. Those loop holes must be close for realistic discipline bounded upon all Nigerians. Anyone found in any shape or form in the misappropriation of the budget should be sentence to 20 years in jail without possibility of parole or bail. The various Managing Directors of all Industries should report to the President. The President can set a team of experts in those fields to coordinate the smooth running of each industry. The workers should have a forum where they can report any illegality without the fear of being dismissed from the job. They should be accorded with whistle blower status. The President must promote transparency in every industry to ensure that there is check and balances in the governance of the steel project. The President should have no mercy for any one caught siphoning the budget of the steel project. Such person should face the judicial system and be brought to book. If guilty of the offence, such person or persons must face jail time with no possibility of bail out or parole. The President must make it clear to the sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Project that the nation would provide every resources necessary for Ajaokuta’s completion but he is given an ultimatum to have the project completed within two years to be up and running just like other advance Countries Steel plants.
Third, the Russians must be called back to complete the job under the supervision of the sole Administrator of the steel project. They must also equipped and trained technicians and Engineers on the changes with nano-technology in the steel production. The blast furnace, oxygen converter, electric steal making, foundry workshops, rolling mills and all the furnaces in the steel plants must be modernize to the current world standard. The raw materials that is needed for the production of rolling mills must be up and running such as billets until that time when we are producing the billets ourselves as a result of Itakpe iron ore. Itakpe iron ore must run concurrently with Ajaokuta steel project so that these two sole Administrators are charged with the same responsibilities. There must be connectivity between Ajaokuta and Itakpe Iron ore by rail for effective transportation of the raw materials to Ajaokuta Steel plant. We also must ensure that an institution for higher learning is cited in the vicinity for technical training for the workforce. We have so many steel experts in Nigeria who are either lecturing in the Universities just because they have nothing to do or they have been retrenched from the Ajaokuta Steel plant. All of these experts would have keen interest to learn new changes in the steel production and serves as a guide for technical manpower.
Fourth, President Jonathan Ebele Goodluck must focus one primary goal for the entire Nigeria for the realization of Ajaokuta Steel Project during his tenure; such effort would be the first in African continent to realize such goals by African leadership. It would be one of the major barriers that we as Nigerians would be able to defeat. As the progress of Ajaokuta is in full swing, the President of Nigeria can create a forum where experts trained in Nigeria and those leaving in abroad can volunteer their time ones in every five years during their vacations or holidays to give back to their Country Nigeria regardless of where they resides. This process would enhance the patriotic nature of Nigerians. This request would be on voluntary bases. I am sure a lot of Nigerians experts in Nigeria and abroad would welcome such idea. They can create seminars on their fields to their other counterparts in Nigeria and share knowledge, which I called as skills empowerments. That is how we would diversify our knowledge and our horizon for true knowledge and love for our nation. Nigerians are one of the most learned people in Africa and yet we are trailing behind every other nation, because those who went to school to learn all the skills they needed to be productive in their Country by the time they finish would realize that Nigeria is not ready for his or her skills. So they seek to go places where their talent could be utilize to earn a leaving.
Finally, Ajaokuta must be linked to all the other steel producing Countries to ensure there exist a dialogue among Nigerian experts and other nations in the field of steel production. We must welcome experts to visit our nation to learn about our methods and to also discuss the problems we face and how to better tackle such problems for better advancement. We must also be ready to send our experts to other nation for more skill-training if need be. In doing so, learning about steel production would become a global village. If this analysis I elaborated above is strictly followed I am so sure that Nigeria would be one of the greatest nation on earth we would gradually remove the plague that has eaten deep into Nigerian veins. This would help in eradicating corruption; it would improve the idea of oneness; it would ensure that Nigeria is back on its’ feet again where all Nigerians would view each other, as we need each other to make a better Nigeria with a motto we either sink or swim together.
In summation, in this write ups, it addresses the importance of steel production in Nigeria and why it is important for Nigerian Government to do all it takes to embark on steel production and how we must all sacrifice to ensure that this project takes place. This single project would create avenues for other industries to take shape in Nigeria and would generate millions and millions of jobs for the youths of our nation, which leads to technological advancement. There is a saying that an idle mind is a devils workshop. Therefore, we must weed out corruptions out of our system before any other nation can take us seriously. The Russians must be called back with a renewed mind of completing the steel project and updating the new technology for steel production. Engineers and technicians must be retrained to effectively take up responsibilities of steel production. Our president must make Ajaokuta as the primary national goal to ensure all attentions are focus in this area of development.
We must ensure that as the steel productions progresses our experts must engage in an on going training and learning with other experts of other steel producing nations. We must understand that there is no development without sacrifice and we must all stop in pointing fingers about the wrong and the kind of money that was wasted in Ajaokuta before, let us all be committed in ensuring that Ajaokuta steel production jump stand now, not tomorrow. I would like to reminds us that their would be some bumps on the road but we must be determined and ready to face it and realize it. I would like to end these lengthy write-ups by saying Ajaokuta Steel Project now for all Nigerians that is the future of real advancement of our nation with the idea that we would be more economically buoyant for all Nigerians.
Nigeria would be a Country that all other Countries all over the world would like to visit and leave in. Let us make Nigeria great again. We must all wake up to screamed out loud for Ajaokuta now to our leaders and our constituent representatives that we all want it now and yearning for its’ development. Thank you my esteemed Nigerian citizens. Nigeria would one day be great!
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