Bill Gates - The Wailing Wailer Of Nigeria

By Reuben Abati

The Microsoft founder, friend of Nigeria, Bill Gates and one of the richest men in the world was in Nigeria recently, but he ended up violating the official interpretation of “table manners” in Nigeria’s corridors of power. When you are a guest in people’s home, you don’t count their nine toes one by one. It is an essential part of African tradition and culture that when people host you in their homes, treat you with courtesy, open their doors to you, even if the dinner they serve you is the worst you have ever had, you are still required to say nice words. Mr Gates’ recent visit to Nigeria was like a special treat.

He echoed  I do not enjoy speaking to you this bluntly when you have been gracious enough to invite me here…”

He had a special audience with the President. He was also a special guest at one of the most memorable weddings on the Nigerian social calendar: the wedding of Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s daughter to the son of a former Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar - from Kano to Abuja, to Lagos. Mr. Gates was also invited as a Special Guest to the meeting of Nigeria’s National Economic Council, and was given the opportunity to make a speech and he simply proceeded to tell Nigerian leaders that they are not doing enough to help their people.

This was a collection of Nigeria’s biggest men, the same guys who currently call the shots- so powerful they can demolish anybody’s house, lock anybody up and classify any critical statement as “hate speech.” In fact, one of these big men didn’t waste time in reminding Bill Gates of expected “table manners”.
Bill Gates and President Muhammadu Buhari
The only problem is that Bill Gates chose to determine his own table manners. He did not come to Nigeria to “eat”. He is not a contractor; he is not looking for an oil bloc, and he obviously has no plans to take a Nigerian wife. He was in a manner of speaking, putting his mouth where his money is. “I have been coming here regularly since 2006”, Gates told his audience.

He defined his bona fide further: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent about $1.6 billion in Nigeria’s health sector trying to make the lives of Nigerians better - that’s more than 500 billion Naira and that’s Mr. Gates’ hard-earned money.  His words: “…With the money I’d been lucky enough to earn at Microsoft, we started working toward a different goal: a healthy and productive life for everyone.

That’s why I come to Nigeria, and that’s why Melinda and I will continue coming for as long as we are able. Our foundation’s biggest office in Africa is here. We have committed over $1.6 billion in Nigeria so far, and we plan to increase our commitment. We have strong relationships with the federal government, state governments, businesses, NGOs, and civil society organizations. We are eager to support you as you work to make Nigeria a global economic powerhouse that provides an opportunity for all its citizens—as you strive to fulfill this country’s immense promise.”

In the world of the internet, he must have read or heard about the shocking wealth of some Nigerians, and wonder why these same Nigerians cannot join him, an outsider, to invest in human capital in Nigeria and Africa. He knows Aliko Dangote who is supporting philanthropic causes and touching lives. He probably also knows Tony Elumelu who is promoting Afro-optimism and developing entrepreneurship in 33 countries across Africa.

But he probably has seen many more privileged Nigerians who can make a difference but who do not seem to care. He may have in fact attended one or two Nigerian “owambe” parties: he would have been shocked at the elaborate dressing of Nigerian women: the rich ones among them looking like they are decked in a million dollars per party, from “N40 million hair attachments” to designer make-up, shoes, jewelry, handbag and a haughty attitude on top.

He must be similarly intrigued by our flowing agbada and babariga, and neck-beads and golden walking sticks, and the lavish parties we throw, in a country where the poor can barely feed or pay hospital bills. Hence:  “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth…”, he announced.

Bill Gates’s core message is that Nigeria must get its priorities right, and make governance more people-oriented. If Nigeria must grow its potential and make its people happy, Nigerian leaders must develop a sustainable plan for progress, do more for their people and encourage youth development, promote transparency and accountability and reduce alienation.

That certainly is not “hate speech.” It is so simple; it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand. We should listen, lest Mr. Gates finds a more deserving environment and turns his back on Nigeria.

The Buhari Administration should listen and do the needful for the good of all Nigerians.

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Bill Gates - The Wailing Wailer Of Nigeria Bill Gates - The Wailing Wailer Of Nigeria Reviewed by E.A Olatoye on March 29, 2018 Rating: 5

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