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« No Power can Break Nigeria But Contentious Issues within in Collaboration with Foreign Corporate Interests, Part I | Main | Home for the Holidays: Uche Nworah gets Hitched »

July 28, 2005

No Power can Break Nigeria but Contentious Issues within in Collaboration with Foreign Corporate Interests, Part II

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- Part 2 It is not an Ethnic but a Class Thing There was this teacher of mine in the sixties who warned us about the dangers of both capitalism and communism. He described capitalism as the oppression of the poor by the rich, and communism as the oppression of the rich by the poor.

As I mentioned above, we will still have our differences if all Nigerians belonged to the same Ethnic Group. All these sentiments about who is Ijaw or Kanuri are used by bourgeoisie to gather political and economic support while the poor no matter which part of Nigeria they come from suffer. If we are fighting about money, most of it is gone before it reaches the poor man.

How many poor people do you think really care about imported goods like tooth picks, cheese, champagne, Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, BMW, marble and Barley shoes, jeans, apples, Evian water, uncle Benz rice, Swiss or French lace, Persian rugs, etc. All these take our foreign earnings. It has been suggested that if all these items were banned, the Nigerian Government would fall! We have a case where less than 20% of the population is enjoying the income of the whole Country, while the rest wallow in poverty!

Each time a rogue is caught in any part of the Country, even in the Niger Delta, men of “timber and caliber” would say he is our son ( and in Niger Delta, our money). Look at the investigative reports on oil bunkering, you see Nigerians of all tongue and ethnic varieties colluding to defraud the rest of us. Do you think this people are suffering or using the masses to fill their pockets?

Nigeria could not account for about 50% of its oil wealth before the present Government because of oil bunkering. That has only improved to a loss of about 30%. Russian crew and oil companies with unknown revenue are operating with impunity in spite of repeated admonishment by our law enforcers. No country can afford to loose so much of its resources without declaring war on perpetrators. The Nigerian Navy that was supposed to police the high sea became an accomplice. Most of the Admirals are from the South, making returns to their collaborators while Nigerians suffer. Did they ever think about ethnic groups while sharing their loot?

What are the advantages of 250 Ethnic Nations?
These days calling you a Nigerian can raise suspicion in some circles. It is reserve for looters who fear that break up of the Country may close the door to readily available oil money. If you are not lazy and you believe in your survival, why would you force the Country together, they asked.

If the rest of the Country can not sustain itself without oil money, it will not die a natural death. It may be the beginning of reality check – live free or die! Those who can not live will become illegal immigrants in Niger Delta or with stories of how they are related to the mother who was related to a grandfather in Warri or Port Harcourt. Who will protect the oil wealth of Niger Delta from what is left of Nigeria? Does Kuwait come to mind?

On the other hand, the rest of Nigeria, in whatever pieces may become resourceful and develop ideas in Arts and Sciences, Movies, power generation by hydro electric power, solar power, nuclear power and revitalization of old traditional products. That would be a blessing in disguise. These will mean unification of many States in the present Nigeria.

If we decide to separate and let one another go their separate ways, it might be North and South. No, it would be North, East and West. No, Biafra without Delta did not work neither did the West worked. It might be Bendel or Edo State. No. Niger Delta might work as one Country though. The Itsekiri might not like it and if they did, what about the Ijaw in Ondo State or Igbo in Asaba. Then we have to consider the Tiv and the Jakun or the Middle Belt. Hausa and Kanuri States or Fulani State might work?

Politically Balyelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom may want to align with their traditional Northern partner but not after rejecting their demand for resource allocation. Niger Delta might form Defense Agreement with the North-central to protect their oil from other Nigerians. I was just thinking loud, I think you get the picture now. At what point do we stop dividing like amoeba?

Others have made the point that we do not have to constitute ourselves into a big Country to be as viable as Luxembourg with a population of 0.04 million people or Denmark 5 million, Iceland 0.3 million, Sweden 9 million, Ireland 4 million, Finland 5 million Switzerland 8 million. The fact is a small country can not be viable unless it has a big protector and be accepted as a trading partner. It was Indira Gandhi, when she was the Prime Minister of India, who rejected foreign aide and asked to be made a trading partners of the rich countries. Israel, Kuwait or Taiwan can not stand as a Country without aide from USA. No Nigerian wish for what happened to Yugoslavia after Tito where every ethnic group turned on one another like cat and mouse or the daily massacre in Lebanon some years ago. Syria is out; seductive dance for old rival competitors are on.

Indeed, the richest and the most powerful Countries emerging today or ever have always been those with large population and large areas. As examples, China with a population of 1.3 billion people with 9.6 km sq. area, India 1.08bn with 3.0 km sq; USA 296m with 901km sq; Russia 144m with 17km sq; Japan 128m.

There are other countries not too far behind in the same situation as Nigeria – Brazil 186m with 8.5 km sq; Indonesia 242m, Pakistan 163m; Bangladesh 144m. The point here is that there is power in population and area if placed in the hand of people like Pa Imoudu, Kenyatta, Nyerere or Nkrumah. Our leaders have not displayed their worth yet. Could we have lost the zeal and indulged in self aggrandizement after independence?

We have to remember that Ghana, Mali and Songhai Empires were not based on fractionized ethnicities but on trade and big loyal population. The days of keeping countries together by force are gone. Arms are on the market for professional arm traders and battles these days are fought to a stand still. No clear winners but carnage and collateral damage on both sides. Pity!

Niger Delta as a case in point
Some of us may still remember Patricia Harris, President Carter Housing Secretary, who said she did not stop being a white man’s slave in order to become a black man’s slave.

Isaac Boro did not join Nigerian Army against Biafra so that he could become Hausa or Yoruba slave. Indeed, he wanted justice or his own country.

Ken Saro Wiwa made the point that all the money milked from oil in the Delta States might not be enough to repair all the environmental damage to the area. The oil corporate companies always take advantage of developing countries anyway. They could have cleaned up as soon as they made a mess, in order to minimize any degradation of the environment. But that would cut into their profit.

If we consider Abuja important strategically and economically for Nigeria and pour money into its development, the question is how much are we willing to pour into the environmental pollution in Niger Delta? We can do better in Nigeria. Put all opportunists, oil bunker collaborators and militants to shame by putting money where our sympathy is. It is not enough to sympathize or empathize after a tour of the area, how much we are willing to commit needs an answer.

There are many Niger Delta intellectuals from universities all over the world including Nigerian University of Ibadan, Nsuka and Ahmadu Bello who will plan the future of Niger Delta and probably make it an example of how to plan a Country. They know that oil may run out in about 40 years. So if they have 100% of the money from oil, will that end the problem?

Multinational Corporations
I have been told that the cross in front of the Mercedes Benz is not for charity. All corporations play hard even in their own countries where there are laws and regulations for fair play. They support political parties and help elect their own candidates. So you may not be able to tell the difference between Country and corporation, Paris Club or banks or IMF. They have now been exposed on how they milk developing countries by Corporate Watch, Friends of the Earth, OXFAM, etc.

It must be noted that what determines a good or bad corporation depends on how well and honestly they are monitored. It is unwise to replace individual entrepreneurial spirit with that of government knows it all. We can get much more out of these corporations if they are not negotiating with their African accomplices. Business deals are always negotiable. You get what you negotiate for, not what you deserve. Agreement must be negotiated for mutual benefit, not take or leave it.

The greedy corporations are the explorers, colonizers and the missionaries of yesterday. If we can not agree to live together, they will come to our aid and “civilize” us again! It may be the second or third coming of the “liberators”. All they need is a few “good” men within who can supply them with their foreign bank accounts or well schooled in International “thief thief” like ITT, IMF, WTO, World Bank and the deal is done. Some years ago, I could swear that Nigerians do not steal in their own villages, not today.

It is Professor Peter Ekeh who noted that irony during slave trade, when they ran out of people to capture, they turned on one another and powerful chiefs started selling other chiefs into slavery. One of the common slaves could not believe his eyes when he saw his chief arrived at the plantation in chains.

In California, Enron subdued the Government and the people, throwing them into darkness, not to mention developing countries where they refused to subject themselves to jurisdiction. In India, Dabhol Power Company, a subsidiary of Enron, used everything they could including Energy Secretary in the United States, their Ambassador and international financing bodies to secure their way. Similar scenario happened with Bujagali Hydroelectric Project in Uganda and International Finance Corporation of the World Bank. Well, well, well, Russia is still building steel in Ajaokuta, when the world market is saturated, and durable plastic is replacing steel.

WorldCom has network in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa and each of these corporation can secure favors from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization to the detriment of these developing countries. They ask us to privatize, deregulate and trust the market forces while they perform their magic. They supervised Indonesia economy while Suharto family owned most of the companies. Is Ghana better off today than when World Bank made them the postal Country? Didn’t they apologize recently for forcing wrong policies on the developing countries?

They invade and dictate the terms of the agreement – take it or leave it. As a caveat, they also have the mighty power of their home Countries in case the neighbors want to invade the smaller countries. But then, Niger Deltans may import Nigeria immigrants to do jobs they do not want to do, that would be an invasion. Would it?

If they had taken the same responsibility in the Niger Delta that they took when the disaster of Valdez oil spill happened, some of the militants we have today will be put to rest and many of them would have something constructive to work on.

These corporations and their countries also know how to drop these developing countries like a hot cake when the well runs dry. In Nigeria and in Niger Delta in particular other source of income would be developed before the oil ran out, I hope.

AFRICA – Wake Up
Some Africans forget that Nkrumah invested a great deal of Ghana’s money on freedom fighters in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique before they could bear those African names with pride. Pa Imoudu fought colonialism and neocolonialism, that he died at 103 years is a miracle. Kenyatta and mau mau days are passé. If Nigeria breaks, those investments would be in vain. While we are being distracted by resource allocation, our foreign reserve is creating jobs and businesses overseas!

Those hungry Africans, for whatever reason, begging for aides, will never be respected. We pay billions in penalties on interest and millions is given back to us as aides, but some of us can not connect the two together. Some of our children are more confident than us because they know their history as Africans and also educate their friends. Those images on television, makes it harder for them. Just as hard, as Biafran jokes made it hard on us then.

While people argue about the size of loan forgiveness to African countries and that of Nigeria, I wonder what Obasanjo would do with the foreign reserve. As Stephen Fajemirokun warned us – you can only redistribute wealth, not poverty.

Suggestion: Invest some in the clean up of the Niger Delta for agricultural investment. Some of the money can also be used in the abandoned desert of the North for reforestation and agricultural investment. Call upon all Nigerians on how to spend the rest but do not wait until you leave in 2007. Remember Okigbo report on how easy it was to spend money set aside. Then, the list given to you at the G8 meeting; I agree with you that they are not stupid, but were you surprised at the names on the list or embarrassed?

Anyone familiar with my views already knows about working harder and harder to pay for each imported tractor in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 with double and triple tons of cocoa until cocoa lost its value. While the price of tractor doubles, the price of cocoa is cut in half. Another product is fish caught and sold, only to be packaged and sold back to you as sardine for twice the price they bought our fish. Before then, mirrors were shown as part of secrete religious ritual until the Europeans made theirs available to whoever could exchange it for gold. I bet those who exchanged gold for mirrors celebrated the deal then.

There is a new one. It is called loan deals from Paris Club. That foreign reserve is like honey attracting both local and foreign killer bees. By the time we know it, it will be gone AGAIN.

Thank God, something has been worked out. They are falling over one another to take credit. From Mr. President, the Finance Minister, the House who voted to stop payment to Mr. Sachs, Live 8 Sir Bob Geldof, G8 Mr. Blair etc. Please AWARD, AWARD, AWARD, NOMINATIONS.

It was Jeffrey Sachs, the United Nation envoy, who said it was callous to expect a Country like Nigeria to pay out $12 billion as part of loan agreement when the yearly budget was $3– 4 billion. I say, thank you Mr. President for your effort. How are you going to spend the rest of the reserve before leaving office?

According to a neutral voice, Lex Rieffle, a Visiting Fellow with the prestigious, Brookings Institution: The problem has to do with a flaw in Paris Club debt restructuring than Nigeria’s ability to pay. Nigeria loan ballooned by 23 billion because of interest arrears, interest charged on those arrears and penalties. But one of the core principles of the Club is that creditors can not profit from rescheduling once in the hands of the Club?

Nigeria’s commercial bank creditors gave a Brandy Bond exchange in 1992 of the same 60 percent that they are now jubilating over in 2005 from Paris Club. African Union signed agreement that they will not accept any deal less than 67%. What should those countries with total loan forgiveness do for celebration then?

Paris Club needs to be at par with multilateral and commercial creditors by slashing the loan by 80% over three years, a buyback of half of the remaining amount. Anything else is callousness as noted by Mr. Sachs; and another form of exploitation as Africans know. Only a dying man knows the pinch of death.

Even our World Bank Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala blamed Abacha years of none payment. I can not believe that I will find myself in a position where I will take the side of Abacha, against the World Bank Finance Minister who claimed that Simon Kolawole’s argument against the deal lacked common sense. But a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. In Yoruba, it means – Owo olowo, ati ti eni, ki mejeji ma won wa.

They can keep their million dollars aides and we can keep our billions dollars. In fact, I am rather persuaded by the reasoning of our former Finance Minister, Chu S. P. Okongwu that it is too early to celebrate since they want our money based on mere invitation to negotiate. He also warned against this precedent for developing countries. Those Latin American countries are watching us, saying – Africans, here they go again!

If we do not pay up, our credit rating will fall and we will not be able to borrow money again! How many billionaires go borrowing? I have written about the difficult situation we find ourselves but I never realized we can afford to pay that much money, who would? The rich will always find creative ways to remain rich as long as there are poor Countries like Nigeria willing to pay through the nose.

Indeed, those who get the most favorable loans are those with money in millions, not to mention billions. Those without money do not get invitation to borrow. As the saying goes the banks like to borrow money to those who already have. So they give them low interest rate as inducement to use “Other Peoples Money, OPM”.

When I was in primary school, I read it in one of my brother’s book that – the most desirable is not the easiest attainable. Someone once turned to me and said – I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. What? Of Nigeria’s problem?

There is more at stake than Nigeria, there is Africa and there is the Black race. Paying $12 billion is not the only cruelty or many obstacles Blackman confronts. That type of money coming into any club or corporation will make one instant Senior Partner or the Chief Executive. Our biggest threat is within. In Yoruba – Ti ota ile ko ba pani, ti ita kole pani. In Latin – Et tu Brutus? In English – with friends like this, who needs enemies?

Many black writers, scholars and thinkers have advocated a means by which black race can defend itself. Some of them were brought up in an article, Chinweizu: Reconstruction of Nigeria – Four Delusions on our Strategic Horizon.

Even when we are tired of being sick and tired, we have to keep our eyes on the prize. Our goals remain the same – Self Sufficiency and Respect. We are not in a position to confront the whole world. Everyone celebrates Martin Luther King but it took, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Black Panthers, Thurgood Marshall and many others before they decided to deal with “moderates”, as the voice of reason.

Priorities are very important. Nigeria needs to be able to feed itself first and foremost. Turn water into land for agriculture, turn desert into vegetation for agriculture. How did they construct that transatlantic pipe or Tran Alaska pipe line or oil pipes from Southern Nigeria? Put engineers together to devise ways of constructing pipes of water from the ocean if too many boreholes will create faults. Others may learn and buy the novelty from us. Nigeria needs to feed the whole of West Africa or ECOWAS, and the rest of Africa will follow.

As much as I agree that the best defense is a deterrent to save the black world, we have higher priority. We need to work with people of goodwill all over the world to solidify our position. Live Aide and G8 will not be there each time we are in need. We must work on empathy not sympathy. We can only get back crumbs from exploitation of our resources to satisfy their conscience.

We do not need nuclear power to fight. We need it for peaceful means. Canada developed Candu reactors for India. We do not need to rediscover that, we can move on to new technologies. We can put some of our scientist in a camp with part of our foreign reserve and let them brainstorm until they come up with something. If they can live in Saudi Arabia in a compound far from home, camp them in Nigeria away from detractors. If any of them demand remuneration in foreign dollars or some super treatment, he can not be conscientious. Most of the people who do these are ready to serve for little, nevertheless they and their families must be taken care of.

Unfortunately, many people would die for their Ethnic group but not for Nigeria. Ethnic propaganda is not our fight. We will just destroy one another for those who will watch us and cheer. We need to think deep about our status in this world. All the education in the world will not help us if we do not like ourselves but think about ME. There is no you or me without us.

See also No Power can Break Nigeria but Contentious Issues within in Collaboration with Foreign Corporate Interests, Part I

Posted by Administrator at July 28, 2005 09:58 PM


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