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« Man of the Year 2005 | Main | Obasanjo's War on Corruption: Casualties Galore! »

November 29, 2005

Why the Paris Club Relishes the Pound of African Flesh

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- One may wonder about the benefit of 12 billion dollars to developed countries from an African Continent that is well endowed but rife with famine, poverty, corruption, lacking the basic structural necessities to provide a fraction of comfortable life others enjoy and take for granted.

It is not by accident that minority of world population consumes majority of world resources. The more the rich have, the more they want. If it does not come from the working poor or exploited natural resources in care of naive natives, where else is it going to come from? It is the law of international trickle down economics.

Where else can Paris Club make so much fast money by creative financing if not from poor staving African Country as Nigeria? How many hard working people will part with a hundred, a thousand, a million or a billion naira or dollars without a fight, except Nigeria or a Nigerian? Yet Nigeria still stands. It is actually a toss up between Paris Club and Kleptomaniacs. Most Nigerians just figure that if we do not pay now, it would just create opportunistic billionaires later. Moreover, how much say do they have? As much as they had during structural adjustment period – an academic diarrhea in futility. Just think about how much money Africans walk away from without a fight.

Dariye walked away and Alamieyeseigha walked away without putting up a vigorous defense, forfeiting millions in bail bonds while thumbing their noses at the British law as an ass. Other innocent respectable Nigerians, not VIPs (VagabondsIn Power) will pay dearly for it. Even the local law could not catch up with Makanjuola and his millions. Tafa Balogun got six months in jail but wanted a deal to keep the millions that has not been discovered. After all, Abacha’s son got a deal! Other Africans forgot their account numbers or die without passing on their secrete savings in Paris Club Countries. Indeed, we stand a better chance of recuperating some of our money by exposing hypocrisy of Paris Club than from our (Alamcos, A king does no wrong) kleptomaniacs.

How else can one explain the mentality of Abubakar who was a head of State for a few months running to the US for awards in return for establishing largesse in a university in far away Chicago, and buying foreign vacation mansion on a soldier’s salary? Luckily, Nigerians were there to embarrass him and his hosts. Which of the evidence against him made a dent or that against Babagida in Okigbo report? If I was a gambler, it is much easier to go after Paris Club than a Nigerian leader.

I have to congratulate some of those Countries like Canada, Italy, France, etc whose conscience allow them to forgive Nigerian loans as others bury their hearts in their alter egos named Paris Club. In essence, they grabbed black gold without paying, as they had done in the past and would continue to do in the future if we obliged.

The logic lies in “international standard” by which odious debts are paid. It is so “complicated” that only their accomplices who are trained and employed in their doctrine would understand. In Yoruba, we have owo ele. In other cultures, they call it usury, extortion by shylocks. It all boils down to odious debts. Do not be fooled by technicalities in the magnitude of rocket sciences, it is better called suckers, ass kissers, diplomacy or favoritism in the field of politics. Two countries can owe the same amounts and get different terms of repayment or loan forgiveness. What is scientific or technical about it?

The Finance Minister made that point by partly crediting United States Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleeza Rice who was linked to her by another Ms. Kruker of IMF, as she got to a sticky point during negotiation. It took who and who during that lousy negotiation.

If Japan or China decide to cash in their investment in the US today, there will be World recession or war. That is what is called leverage or clout in international market. Our ability to negotiate is not even proportional to that of Saudi Arabia taking their vast supply of oil to the US into consideration. During the oil embargo in the seventies, Nigeria was more important source of oil than Saudi Arabia. It boils down to: if you rub my back, I will rub your back, if you scratch my face, I will scratch your face.

Nigeria has nothing to show for all the money we made on crude oil but to go with calabash in hand asking Paris Club for money we know we were going to pay through our nose. I look at Venezuela and the way they carry their oil clout in the Americas with envy. They offered subsidized oil during Hurricane Katrina and to the poor in Massachusetts. In return, the gain respect, clout and score political points worth billions.

There are two Obasanjo. The one that philosophies during Babagida is OBJ I and the one that rules now is OBJ II. OBJ I recognized that structural adjustment should have had human face and condemned messengers of World Bank. OBJ II actually paid them in foreign currency while in the Nigerian cabinet. The reason for this lies with international acceptance and recognition at the expense of Africa. I do not think it is malicious. It has to do with our complexes. We are too eager to be part of the “civilized world”.

This problem starts with each of us right from primary school. Take the case of a kid who came back home from school asking the parent when they are going to take him on vacation to London. Why? One of his classmates was giving an account in class about how he spent his holidays. In my days, we were proud of excursions to different parts of Nigeria. What do you think they teach in the thousand or million naira or any currency private primary and high schools in Nigeria?

Some of the studies done in the US in the sixties among Black children showed that they prefer white dolls to black dolls. As a result of this study, a variety of beautiful black dolls hit the market, including dolls from many parts of Africa. Some of our leaders are still playing with white dolls, which was all they had or aspired for in their childhood.

We exude this behavior inadvertently. If we rebel against it, we are labeled radicals or extremist for trying to adhere to our culture. I was amused by the alarm raised in Abuja recently about pagan festival on behalf of ninety percent of Nigerians who are either Muslims or Christians. Who baptized us as Christians or Muslims in the first place and gave us names like mine?

I do not think they know that those who baptized us celebrate Halloween and Potato festivals in America. I would not dare ask the Arabs why they beat and mutilate themselves into frenzy during festivals, for the fear of being called culture-phobic.

As I point other fingers at myself, how many of us spoke pure Efik, Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba without English or American slang in Lagos? Two Nigerian parents would apologize that their children could not speak Yoruba in Nigeria! I was disappointed that neither Americans nor the English could understand my impeccable Queen’s English when I got out of Nigeria! I felt insulted when it was suggested I could change my accent by registering for the laboratory as I did for my introductory French. I was saved by my omo Campos Square pride (sakara). But wait, that got me out of Lagos to high school at Ondo. Yes ke. Our hearts were never far from Campos, even when we were living at Ikoyi, my dear Uncle brought us downtown a couple hours most nights. Campos and Ondo became useful anywhere, anytime. That was in the days Campos produced professionals.

So the problem is ingrained in us, that is why we seek international acceptance. Nkrumah wanted to be respected as an African, not loved. In the seventies outside Africa, we were respected as children of Nkrumah that were hard working and educated. Today, we are hardly tolerated, even on holidays, because they know we are economic refugees. It is some of the same refugees that go back home telling wild attractive lies about London, while others work hard to send more money directly to needed sources at home than either the so called foreign aid or loan Africans hardly benefit from.

Corporate Watch, Friends of the Earth, OXFAM, UNICEF and others have been trying to open our eyes to creative financing and economic injustice. Now former Presidents or former Head of States are now spending the rest of their life correcting injustice. What do they know now that they did not know when they were Presidents; could they have changed their system from within or from the outside?

Africans have been warning us even before international non-profit organizations. Out of many were Professor Bade Onimode who warned us about the evil deeds of World Bank and IMF; and Walter Rodney who wrote about how Europe underdeveloped Africa. Awolowo, forget your differences with him for now, warned us only to be dismissed as prophet of doom.

World resources are adequately distributed and Africa has been blessed with ours. But like a million dollar, if everyone has it, by the end of six months to a year, some would have billions and others would be poor based on individual decisions in life. Even religious books told stories of those who refused to use their talent. It was taken and given to those who made use of it.

The simplest way to make my point is by the neighborhood convenient store seller of coke. If two liters cost a dollar or100 naira in the market and 125 at the neighborhood store, 35-55ml in a can at 125 naira would sell faster. Poor people would go to that nearby store ten times a day to buy 55ml can for 125 naira. It is portable, sexy and easily payable. The same is true about some of the children of the rich who never worked for the money anyway.

However, the rich will go to the market and buy 2 liters for 100 naira, store it and drink it four or five times in the cup. The same is true in the black neighborhoods in America. They wonder how the owners of these convenient stores who are foreigners become rich.
As one person answered in that movie, Do The Right Thing - open your own store.

We can argue for the poor that he has no money to buy in bulk or enough space for cold storage facilities. One may even become thirsty in the Lagos traffic. After all, the can of coke looks sexy as the advertisements on TV. Or we can say he spends foolishly and live from one day to another hoping that heavens will provide for another day.

But Nigerian businesswomen or men work hard and know how to generate customers. They work from dawn to dusk advertising their products in Nigeria and combine two or three jobs outside Nigeria with school. Yet, these are the ones that never made it to the top in Nigeria of get into politics. They are the faceless Nigerians nobody heard about.

At some point we have to ask ourselves if our salvation lies with ourselves, outsiders or with heavens to deliver us from ourselves. We can never be like others if we follow their ways, their modernization, their products, establish in their domain blindly while forsaking ours. They will always tell us we are maturing democracy, still at infancy and developing progressively. Patronizing us like a babe. How can this be when we invented the philosophy, the Arts and Sciences they build on?

Russia, Japan, China and lately India that were starving a few decades ago had to throw out their bourgeoisie before they could even think of competing with Britain or US. Indeed, Gandhi and Nehru were well trained in world diplomacy before changing to robes in behavior and methodology. When are we going to wake up?

Acceptance of Paris Club doctrine is a dangerous hypothesis our leaders fell for in the eyes of those who are looking for their next victim. This obsequiousness has blinded our African consciousness.

Our Chi, Ifa, Allah or God will only help us if we learn how to build our confidence up on substance. Those people we negotiate with across the table are the same ones we went to universities with and probably copied our home work to pass. I always remember Bob who deserted our group in mathematics tutorial once and copied from another group. When he got seven out of ten, he ran back to us claiming he must have copied from a dummy.

Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa

Posted by Administrator at November 29, 2005 07:18 AM


Very good piece.Will they listen?

Posted by: Jaju at November 29, 2005 04:11 PM

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