Is Africa's Giant About Rising?

by Odilim Enwegbara

After more than five decades of an oil dependent economy, Nigerians have now come to the painful realization that their country is embarrassingly among the poorest countries in the world – not just in per capita income, but also in gross domestic product. But making Nigeria’s story more appalling is the fact that all the countries that once looked up Nigeria are all today not only far behind Nigeria, but are now among the world’s leading industrial economies.

More discomforting about the entire story is that while the whole world laughs at this rundown giant, in their pursuit the shadow, Nigerian leaders seem more content longing for awards and titles. This shamelessness is now all over the pages of national newspapers, filling them not with debates on critical national and international issues, but countless images of our leaders in congratulatory and counter congratulatory messages – you congratulate me today in all the newspapers and I in return congratulate you in all tomorrow’s.

Why my heart bleeds profusely is not because these never-ending celebrations take place in a country where more than two-thirds of citizens live in awfully demeaning economic and social conditions, but because these celebrations are going on while the African giant itself is on the verge of collapse. In the meantime, while our merrymaking lasts, those nations that count their gains have aggressively flooded the country with expensive fun toys and other frivolous products thanks to our petrodollar.

Little wonder as the fun capital of the world, Nigerians were recently rated as the happiest people in the world. But happy for what world achievements – for leading the world’s scientific and technological frontiers, for leading the world in environmental cleanness, or for being the safest nation in the world, for having the world’s best functioning schools and hospitals, in fact, really for what? Maybe, for trying to have our cake and eat it! For these reasons, it is understandable why notwithstanding being hugely endowed the country stubbornly refuses to either rise from its deep-sleep or to exit from its backwardness.

This tragedy we call the African giant can’t stop attracting special attention from the thinking world. But none of these mental voyages has discovered why such greatly gifted country with greatly gifted people has been witnessing unending economic and social somersaults! Difficulty to find the right explanations for all the whys, hows, whens, and whats Nigeria, the supposed redeemer of not just Africa but the entire black race is in such hopelessness.

No doubt, decades of military dictatorship legitimized corruption and deep bastardized the economy, but, then, after more than a decade of civilian rule, why has Nigeria remained every nation’s ridicule? What is it that has stopped its post military leaders from boldly and aggressively initiating an unprecedented economic transformation, driven by Chinese, or India or Brazilian kind of industrialization? In other words, why rather than championing the country’s industrial transformation and prosperity, politicians have ended in the same military highest bidder mentality? Why is it that most of the western antidevelopment economic and social conditions imposed on the country during military years are still intact?

But making the whole situation more and more desperate without hope of the way is this celebratory culture that has overnight gained mainstream position. No wonder what is being seen around are dreams and exportation of responsibilities to so-called foreign investors as if they too sought our investment during their own industrial takeoffs. Why shouldn’t we in our celebratory mood abandon patriotic hard-work and selflessness? Why promoting and protecting domestic industries – which would have been creating millions manufacturing and agricultural jobs as they recently did in China, India, and Brazil – when that would go contrary to our insatiable craze for foreign goods that make us shred whooping five million jobs annually because sticking to WTO requires us to subject our infant industries to aggressive foreign adult ones?

Pleasing those whose interest is to ensure we remain economically backward, remains unexplainable to a no stupid mind. But embracing the same free trade their leaders had to oppose during their industrialization? In other words, why should we practice this western imposed free trade, which was ferociously opposed at various times by their own economic leaders, including King Henry VII of Britain in 1489, Alexander Hamilton of America in 1791, Frederick List of Germany in 1841, Emperor Meiji in of Japan in 1868, and Den Xiaoping of China in 1978?

If in his opposition to free trade President Lincoln in 1862 had to send this warning Americans: ”If we buy what is not made in America, we get the goods and lose the money and jobs. But when we buy made in America, we get the goods, the money, as well as the jobs,” why shouldn’t our own President Jonathan in 2012 warn Nigerians that without blocking foreign made goods we should never hope to promote and protect our infant industries enough to guarantee Nigeria own industrialization? As soon as they became nuclear powers they banned us not from becoming nuclear powers but also not to benefit from nuclear electricity generation; and we accepted.

What did the Chinese premier and his Japanese counterpart announcement on December 26, 2011, where the two countries have decided to start bilateral trade by barter? Even though that is a serious violation of WTO set of rules, didn’t they care? Of course, why should they displease themselves because they have to obey some strange WTO rules? The message can’t be clearer; if we too want to industrialize like them, we should ignore whatever they tell us, knowing that without industrialization there is no way we could move millions of citizens out poverty, which we have to start from 2012 the same way Britain started in 1489, the US in 1791, Germany in 1834, Japan in 1868, and China in 1978. If once they believed it was their right, we too should make it clear to them that there is no reason to stop us from exercising this same right.

Having political independence is a tragedy if economic independence is denied. Nigeria’s sovereignty will be nonsense if we cannot protect our economic sovereignty. Our right to setting in motion infant and downstream industry safeguards, including: closing our economic space; excluding foreign investors from our downstream industrial activities; making it illegal to advertize in Nigeria both banned and 100 per cent tariffed goods; banning foreign retailers since rather than promoting locally made goods they only promote their homemade goods; and enacting a law that will in a ten-year time fully exclude non-indigenous companies from contracts paid with taxpayers money.

The recent no-nonsense probing of Bureau of Public Enterprise by the Seventh Senate is encouraging, especially given how without fear or favor they exposed the mind-boggling frauds and sabotages that went on during the past decade in the name of privatization. Started this way is already pointing to the rebirth of Nigeria, a new Nigeria that is not only not afraid to stand up but now ready to aggressively begin our infant industry-led industrialization.

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1 comment

Mike Ibezim January 8, 2012 - 1:55 pm

Usually excellent.


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