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Nigeria has a war boat, but it raises numerous questions in the minds of the inquisitive.

Congratulations Nigeria. Your war boat has arrived. I have always known that carving a war boat would be your first achievement in your march towards prominence in the technology and manufacturing world. I knew this years ago, when you killed your iron and steel company that would have made you a manufacturer of civil equipment instead of war vessels. I knew it many years ago when in my village, local intelligent men carved war canoes against hunger and poverty as they used them for transportation of local agricultural produce. The boats had smaller versions of canoes used, even today for fishing and other ventures.

Hello Nigeria, the story of your success came to me with excitement and disappointment altogether. Can I ask you where you got the Engine to mount the war boat? What about the other parts? What percentage of imported materials do you have on it? What is your dream about the industry? Becoming an exporter of war vessels? Or an exporter of marine vessels to other countries? More boats to serve civilian populations on the shorelines? To answer the first question, you probably need to contact your sibling in a Nigeria University where the first Nigerian-made car was reported a couple of weeks ago. I also asked about where the manufacturer got the Engine?

To answer the second question, you need to consider which will be more profitable in the short and long term, fixing the marine transportation gap or the celebration of a war vessel to serve more than 160 million people? Think about where in Africa the risk of war is most likely in recent times? Like many European countries specializing in searching for war prone zones to sell guns and war machines to. What about jet fighters? Needed to fight terrorists from the air? What about long- range missiles? Needed to tackle them from convenient and safe positions.

Congratulations Nigeria. Surely you need to invest more in the manufacturing of war equipment. I was thinking about likely errors in your trail blazing entry into the war-boat manufacturing world. Is it actually a war boat if it is not different from the ones carved in my village and others in the Niger Delta? The error is in your failure to consult those who have been doing this job since Adam in Ijawland. They-mostly Ijaw youths -are not engineers but have the skills that match those of trained engineers, at least at the level of vocational cognition. Their boats can travel as far as the Bakassi Pennisula. What about establishing a boat building company that can provide employment for these people?

Congratulations Nigeria. Will your war boat be able to fight existing corruption near you? Corruption has got many constituencies around you. It has reproduced its kind such that several points of abode and maintenance have been created. Check, the story of your success may also be connected to it. Hello Nigeria, not that I am pessimistic and paranoid. I am optimistic that you will move beyond war-making tools to poverty alleviating tools. I am hopeful, that celebration of minor achievements will not blindfold you from the real challenges facing your constituencies. I am optimistic that your members soon should be able to say that you have stopped collecting oil rents for sharing. I am optimistic that someday soon, oil rents would have been converted to productive concerns that can provide employment for your teaming members.

Congratulations Nigeria. Your war boat can only carry guns and uniformed men and women. They will protect the oil facilities in the coastal and offshore areas. They will sail for recovery of oil company properties and oppress. They will carry oil giants or provide security for effective development of new fields. Hello Nigeria, make sure the boat is not used to protect stolen oil and their owners. It can be used to attack young people trying to cope with the pain of living and seeing an oil industry that does care about their water, air and farmlands. But only conditions that such attacks will not result in the same offense by the attacker.

Congratulations Nigeria. Can I ask you some more questions? Have you considered manufacturing civilian transport boats that can travel from Port Harcourt to Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Maidugiri, Kebbi, Jos and so on? Is anything not possible in Nigeria? Dear Nigeria, what more can I say? Your achievement is glorious. Can the boat serve the interest of all or a few? Can the boat remove tears from the eyes of those stranded on the other side of life? Can the helpless majority 99 percent of Nigerians have a chance of a ferry across the side of succour? I will wait for the next boat if your answers to these questions are in the negative.

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* Fidelis Allen, Ph.D is currently with the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus, Durban.

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