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Onu: Come all ye faithful, come to the land flowing with billions of naira

Ogbonnaya Onu and the billion naira question

Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister for Science and Technology, has called on Nigerians in the Diaspora to return home and take advantage of opportunities to make billions of naira.

Onu spoke at an investment forum in New York saying: “We are asking you to come and be billionaires. That is what we are asking you, not millionaires”.

The minister seems to be forming a habit of making ridiculous claims.  He announced last year that Nigeria will start pencil production in two years’ time and this will create 400,000 jobs.

Ogbonnaya Onu and Nigerian pencils

Onu, according to those that knew him at the College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu, was a very brilliant student – the best in his class.  He went on to graduate from the University of Lagos with a First in Chemical Engineering and a PhD from the  University of California, Berkeley.  So it is a tad disappointing to observe him making outlandish claims.

The latest on opportunities to make billions in Nigeria echoes comments former president Goodluck Jonathan made in New Jersey (why do they always have to go abroad and embarrass themselves?) last year in reference to Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote: “In 2009 the richest Nigerian was the fifth richest man in Africa, but I handed over a Nigeria that produced the richest man in Africa”.

Goodluck to Dangote

Why the obsession with creating billionaires?  It is a clear sign of how politricksters have got things twisted in Nigeria.   Franklin Delano Roosevelt said: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little”.

Onu, a apparently very clever man, should concentrate on how science and technology could be galvanised for the benefit of the majority of Nigerians and not for the business of creating a handful of billionaires.  He should know that an ocean of poverty and despair is not the right climate for investment.  It makes no sense to run sustainable businesses where very few can afford the goods and services and chronic poverty and inequality creates instability.

The minister would serve Nigeria better if he spent his time looking at how science and technology could be better deployed to solving age-old problems in Nigeria such as inadequate power supply, the majority living without pipe-borne water and the fact that after nearly 60 years following the discovery of oil, the country still lacks the expertise to drill and process the black gold into petroleum products and has to rely, at heavy cost, on foreign expertise.

That’s what Nigerians need to hear from a Minister of Science and Technology.  People with billions to invest do not need a politician to tell them where to invest their money.  They employ experts with enough knowledge about the relevant areas to help with investment decisions.


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