Here they go again. African Development Bank President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has been in the news celebrating a $58 billion loan package for construction projects in the East and West of the African continent, the Abidjan/Lagos highway and a rail corridor connecting Tanzania, Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda. On the drawing board are other mega infrastructure projects such as the Mambilla dam that will require humongous quantities of construction materials. Should we proceed by putting the cart before the horse?
These projects are foreign loan-financed and creditors gladly give Africa these loans because they benefit more despite the projects being sited in Africa. A cost-benefit analysis reveals why they can’t lose. Usually, factories located in countries where the loans are sourced provide cement, iron rods and steel. They provide the bitumen and asphalt plants and, until lately, the cement. Engineers, pseudo-engineers, technicians and upgraded low-skilled builders from these countries will be engaged for years executing these projects. That is of the $60 billion fee, $55 billion will remain in the creditor country. Interest payments over a number of years in foreign currency is another benefit to the provider country. Meanwhile, the capital remains outstanding and must be paid in cash or in-kind, meaning long term expropriation of natural resources.
This writer is not anti-infrastructure, rather there are certain fundamentals that should be in place and there are questions to be answered before glossy projects are foisted on any country or continent. Questions as to how much trade is going on along the West African coast to justify a $15 billion expenditure? This leads to the egg-chicken question: should the trade come first, moving from potential trade to actual, or are proponents of the road saying the road will energise and stimulate the trade? Would the highway be tolled and would the payment be in convertible currency?
We should go to the ants and learn, the Chinese being the ANTS. How has China done so well for itself in delivering infrastructure so much that apart from being manufacturers to the world they have become preferred builders to the world? To throw light on the Chinese way, let us inquire into how they have moved from no bullet train 15 years ago to the nation with the widest high-speed train network. France commissioned its first high-speed train into service in 1964. Japan followed in 1983; for 30 years China hardly had any. However, beginning in the 2000s and 2008 to be precise, China began and in 15 years had surpassed Japan and France in operational bullet trains! What was happening in those lag years?
The Chinese did not go high speed till they perfected creating wealth and moved hundreds of millions into the middle class. The middle class use the trains and pay economic fees, no need for much subsidy like the Abuja-Kaduna route. We, in Africa, are yet to acquire the skills to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty into the middle class. In China it wasn’t infrastructure first, it was double-digit gross domestic product growth first, then massive infrastructure acquisition followed.
In the lag years, China also acquired in-country, the technology for building the rail tracks and building the bullet trains themselves. They now lead in the highest speeds obtained by bullet trains. They learned, and probably stole, patents from the forerunners, adding their own flavour. They don’t depend on the Japanese or French to proceed further. We in Africa and Nigeria are forever dependent on foreigners for building, maintaining and running mediaeval infrastructure.
Infrastructure projects require humongous quantities of heavy materials that cost a lot to ship so the Chinese produced them in large quantities and are the leading producers of steel and cement by more than a mile. China produces 2.5 billion tonnes of cement, followed by India with 330 million tonnes. Nigeria, thanks to the likes of Dangote and Samad Rabiu, produces about 40 million tonnes and should do more. Any country or continent that ships in these heavy materials for infrastructure ends up with more expensive infrastructure delivered at a slower pace. However, once production of these construction materials is in place then an infrastructure blitz can begin.
China has gone on a worldwide infrastructure blitz to consume excesses from its steel and cement plants. To further mop up and create demand, they have engaged in extensive investments in real estate, building several new towns and cities. They are pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative to re-enact the old silk trade routes to Europe. Yes, let’s go to the ants and learn.
The Chinese are making an impact in software provision for soft infrastructure as well. Chinese brands are taking over the haulage of goods over long distances in Nigeria, we are seeing fewer traditional brands like Mack and Volvo. Same will apply to the rolling stock and cabins for the rail tracks and haulage along Abidjan/Lagos coastal road. Who is winning the cost-benefit analysis?
History has something to teach us about this lopsided development. The Chinese have a millennia-long history of undertaking large scale construction projects. They never stopped after the construction of the Great Wall. Before the Great Wall, they also constructed networks of water canals for transportation across the middle kingdom. Africans stopped building after the pyramids and we seem to have lost the desire to build megastructures ourselves.
We have to address this lack of propensity to build. We invite the Chinese to build stadiums and label them national stadiums or national theatres. Until our nationals build our monuments, let us name them for what they are—Chinese National Stadium or Austrian National Theatre.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has in the pipeline a N15 trillion Infrastructure fund, specifically for infrastructure acquisition. Much of its modus operandi is unknown. Is it going to provide seed money or bulk money for AfDB type projects or is it addressing matters differently? Is the InfraCorp fund going to help put the horse before the cart or do we continue to have the cart pull the horse?
The Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria Limited should channel much of its initial investments not in finished infrastructure projects like Abidjan/Lagos highway but have in-country production of steel for rail tracks, iron rods, cement, quarries by investing in plants. Making bitumen for asphalt readily available locally. Each of these plants should be ready to engage in global trade from the onset, a good example set by Dangote Fertiliser. With only these in place will the infrastructure blitz begin in Nigeria and Africa. Only with this approach will infrastructure acquisition become a wealth creation vehicle rather than a wealth depletion vehicle as explained by John Perkins in his revealing book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman.
By: Olugbenga Jaiyesimi
Jaiyesimi writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Ideological Void In Nigerian Politics
Any worthy endeavour in life is supposed to be under pinned by sound principles and beliefs that drive action. In politics, those beliefs and principles are ideologies. They are the principles which guide the political behaviour aka character of political actors and determine the direction of political activities, ranging from internal party positioning, discipline, campaign, electioneering and ultimately governance.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria did not enjoy the luxury of evolving political parties with ideological grounding. The complete lack of ideology has made Nigeria to flounder sixty years after independence. Some leftist scholars attribute the poor governance culture in the country to fallout of dearth of ideology. The First Republic political parties emerged just to fill the vacuum created by the absence of the colonial master. Neither the National Party for the Nigerians and the Cameroons (NCNC) nor the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) ever considered governance in their principles. The avowed ideology of the NPC was to protect the interest of the monolithic North and the creed they profess. This is explicitly stated as a motto of the party.
During the 30-month fratricidal war, our leaders dallied with the two ideologies that ruled the world but socialism and capitalism did not take root until Nigeria joined the Non-Aligned Movement. There was no autochthonous ideology like the Ujama Philosophy as posited by Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania or Consciencism of the Osagiefo Kwame Nkrumah’s variety in Ghana.
Nyerere’s philosophy found expression in the field of education too. Ujama was an integral part of the socialist project, focused largely on self-reliance, total liberation and empowerment of the person and society, and the active integration of education throughout one’s life and in every aspect of human existence. This paid off.
Nkrumah defined his belief system as “the ideology of a New Africa, independent and absolutely free from imperialism, organised on a continental scale, founded upon the conception of one and united Africa. Consciencism became a foundation of Africa’s revolution and triggered reactions in the diaspora.
Nigeria never had a philosophy. Only the Action Group, AG, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo adopted welfarism as an ideological paradigm and this influenced its political actions especially in the area of education.
Even after the protracted military interregnum, the second Republic that emerged toed the same pattern of ideological hollowness. There was nothing concrete to influence discipline, internal democracy and the dialectics of who gets what. The curious interplay of money, religion and regional politics played a huge role in who controls power and allocates scarce resources.
It can be asserted without equivocation that since 1960, Nigeria has not evolved political parties with clear-cut ideology to drive change and development. This sad reality is what has defined political behaviour and actions.
One area where political actors have demonstrated ideological deficit in politics, is the deployment of money and religion in swaying votes. The rate at which some politicians decamp from one party to another is strange. While the constitution allows freedom of association, Nigerian politicians do not believe in building political structures on the long-term. If their political party fails to win elections, they defect to another which is assumed to be stronger-with mass appeal in the area. They are more guided by their stomach instead of principles. Like interlopers, they jump even though there is no viable option or platform for the articulation of any progressive agenda. In party politics, turnover is very high in Nigeria.
Another visible area that shows ideological deficiency is during electioneering.
The campaign of the 1960’s and those of the 2020’s have not changed much. The familiar campaign promises are hinged on the promises of physical and social infrastructure such as education, health, job creation, agriculture and security among others. No politician has mounted any innovative campaign such as the provision of social security, space policy, technology and biotechnology. By implication, most people canvass for power just for money and allocatable resources. They do not contest any election to transform society.
It is against this background that when they assume power, their administrations are characterised by non-adherence to transparency principles. They play politics with serious developmental issues such as basic education, healthcare, security and the welfare of the electorate. Politics is turned into a zero-sum game where the winners takes all and leaves nothing for the loser.
Understandably, the deployment of the instruments of thuggery creates a climate of fear during campaigns.
Elections are characterised by vote buying, indiscipline, pre-bendalism and violence. These symbolisms transmogrify into lootcracy when they assume power. Money is the real essence of politics in Nigeria. They are champions of ethnic, supremacy and sentiments. They forget too soon that they were elected on the platform of a Party.
Apart from looting, they abandon on-going projects or complete them at over-inflated costs. They deny even political appointees their lawful entitlements and rather use the looted money to bribe anti-graft agencies. They patronise native doctors in the night, neither sleep, dream nor see clearly the direction where their states are headed.
Ultimately, the enterprise of governance is reduced to a joke or at best a pool side party. They give politics a bad name and with their anti-people policies sentence millions to untimely death. They use policies, to strangulate people and dance on the graves of the down trodden hoi polloi.
In Nigeria, the character of politicians is dictated by the ideological hollowness in the system. The purveyors of new-breedism have become dreamers of social utopia. Whether our political parties will initiate and nurture some fringe ideology is yet to be determined. Not today and certainly not tomorrow. It may occur only when there is some requisite political engineer.
By: John Idumange
Idumange is a public intellectual.
On The Brink Of Failed State?
The most critical problem I have identified plaguing democratic governance in Nigeria is lack of quality and selfless leaders. Many leaders lack passion for the people and the nation whose resources they hold in trust.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike aptly captured the sordid security situation in the country when he said, if there is a proper Commander-In-Chief, bandits and insurgent groups will not be allowed to drag the country to the level of unrestrained killing of innocent Nigerians.
This is unassialable truth because the country truly needs a strong Commander, In Chief-at the helm of affairs today; a President who knows his onions, in terms of tackling all forms of criminality in the land headlong.
After all, security of lives and property is a litmus test for and parameter to determine the effectiveness of any government. It is the primary obligation of any government to protect the lives and property of the people. If a government lacks the capacity and capability to discharge this constitutional responsibility to the people, then, such a government has failed woefully. This is because security is a critical national asset which serves as a springboard for growth and development to thrive. The absence of peace and security, no doubt, will elicit unnecessary tensions and apprehension that are capable of preventing people and corporate organisations from committing their hard-earned resources into a presumptuously unstable economy as a result of insecurity.
Insecurity is therefore, a major cause of job loss, underemployment and unemployment. It also orchestrates capital flight and hoarding. Security remains the pivot of development at all levels-community, local government, state and national.
That is why I can appreciate Chief Wike’s grouse and uncompromising stance over the spate of insecurity that now beclouds certain parts of Nigeria.
Wike was unequivocal when in an emotion-laden voice he said, “A proper Commander-in-Chief will never allow this country to go down like this. What is President Buhari doing with the service chiefs? Their business is to protect Nigeria and Nigerians. Look at the country, every day the only project we get is people have died. The only project Nigerians continue to get is killing…”
Is any person or group angry over Governor Wike’s swipes? Then, I urge them to be dispassionate.
The cases of incessant security breaches, leading to destruction of lives and property with impunity, are strong and negative testimonial that Nigeria is tottering on the brink of a Failed State.
I pray that the precarious security situation in Nigeria should not snowball to expression of the Hobbesian theory of state where life was viewed as short and brutish, might becomes right.
Rather than criticising Chief Nyesom Wike, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) should restrategise and work out modalities on how to bring out the country from the doldrums of insecurity before it speculatively, exits the reins of power.
The president and de facto Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, has given his word to Nigerians that he will leave Nigeria better than he met it. This is heart-gladening for every person who is passing through the unpopular economic policies of Buhari administration.
However, since this is not a prophecy, or word spoken by God through him, I wonder how Mr President can achieve this feat of not just restoring the economy, security and other facets of national growth and development, to their friendly states, prior to the inception of his administration in 2015 but to surpass the successes and achievements of his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
That would be a miracle of the century indeed.
Mr President’s position on the state of the nation is like a man building castles in the air. Is it really possible? Is it one of the bogus promises, comical pranks and lullaby to soothe frayed nerves while the maladministration thrives?
The Buhari administration has barely one year to leave office, what is the dollar-naira exchange rate? What is the level of security? What is the per capita income? How are civil servants faring? and what is the state of small and medium scale enterprises or businesses?
If Mr President had spoken as an oracle of God, I would have believed because of the dictates of my faith, but since he spoke for himself, only May 29, 2023 will tell.
By: Igbiki Benibo
Why Kill Deborah For Prophet Mohammed?
The murder of Deborah Samuel, a 200 – level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, has made it incumbent upon me to write a sequel to my last week’s piece, titled, “Was the Agege-bread Easter message a mistake?”.
In that article, I laid out in very clear terms the state of mind of a Muslim that could give room for the trivialising of such a historic event as the resurrection. Today, even though the death of Deborah feels like a knife in my heart, I am glad that at least the reading public can knowledgeably compare the Easter incident and last week’s barbaric murder and judge for themselves.
During Easter, the whole of Christendom was ridiculed, when the resurrection of Christ was likened to the rising of Agege-bread. Christians of all stripes reacted in various ways; some called for the total boycott of Sterling Bank, while the Christian Association of Nigeria called for the resignation of the CEO. However, no Christian, to the knowledge of this writer, called for the death of Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, or for the burning of Sterling Bank branches across the country.
It must be understood that in christendom, the greatest blasphemy, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; and if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was an act of the Holy Spirit, then Sterling Bank committed the greatest blasphemy against the Christian Faith. Are Christians ignorant of this? No. What then should have been the response of Christians? Exactly what CAN has done, forgive; and, follow peace with all men, as much as it is within your power.
One major thought from last week’s article was that if the script were to be flipped, and Prophet Mohammed or any pillar of Islam was the target of ridicule, people would be killed and places would be burnt. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Deborah Samuel.
My rational mind is compelling me to ask my Muslim brothers why they fight and kill for Prophet Mohammed if he is the messenger of Allah when we are thought by the Holy Quran that Allah is all-powerful. Is it that Allah is now weak? I think not. There might be a myriad of differences between Christianity and Islam, however, there are also points of convergence, and the almightiness of God or Allah is one of such. Hence my confusion.
I am compelled to assert that the global killings committed by Muslim fanatics for alleged blasphemy are a form of extreme paganism which has no place in modern society. More than 3000 years ago, a mob, like the one that murdered Deborah, gathered to kill Gideon because he destroyed the altar of Baal. They asked his father to bring him out, but his father, Joash said, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? … If he is a god, let him contend for himself because his altar has been broken down”. What is the difference between those who murdered Deborah and the pagans? Nothing, except that they were wise enough to allow Baal to prove himself as God.
Therefore, since we know that the Islamic religion is monotheistic, we should interrogate the source of these pagan tendencies. Especially, given the fact that some Islamic clerics are the ones calling for violence, sowing seeds against religious tolerance, national integration, and cohesion. In the past, much violence was perpetrated after Jumat prayers. In fact, before Deborah was killed, an Imam in Sokoto, in a video that has now gone viral on social media, was calling for the killing of a boy who allegedly has blasphemed Prophet Muhammad. He has not been arrested yet.
After seeing on YouTube, how these Muslim college students hunted down and murdered Deborah like an animal while shouting Allahu Akbar, it is hard to reconcile to the Muslim peace greeting: “Salem aleku”.
The Sultanate Council was very quick to condemn Deborah’s murder, reaffirming its stance on religious violence. But is this enough? Nigerians would want to know what portion of Islamic theology, as espoused by Imams in Jumat prayers, and Quranic verses responsible for this kind of insane behaviour. As a person, I will like to know the position of the Quaran on Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed and the position of the Islamic religion in relation to contemporary Nigeria?
Already, it is apparent, that these youths have the tacit support of the Northern elite, considering how former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was attacked, so much that he had to delete his twit condemning Deborah’s murder. For instance, a Twitter user who calls himself Otunba of Sokoto, declared the former vice president has lost a million votes in Sokoto. Yet, another user retorted, saying “ we are waiting for him to come to Sokoto for campaign”.
We must all bear in mind that, Deborah was executed by her coursemates. These students are not ignorant; they are informed, motivated, and they did what they felt obligated to do, based on an idea or teaching. But was the murder of Deborah alien to the North? Unfortunately, it is not. There have been several cases when christians have been murdered by irate Muslim youth in the North. In fact, in June 2016, a 74-year-old Christian trader, Bridget Agbahime was beaten to death by a Muslim mob outside her shop in Kano after accusing her of insulting the prophet. The suspects were arrested but were later released when the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kano State declared that the state has no case against them. Her only crime was asking a Muslim youth performing ablution in front of her shop to move away.
On Friday, two students were arrested; but on Saturday, Muslim youths in Sokoto went on rampage, demanding their unconditional release. In the mayhem that ensued, two Catholic Churches under the administration of Bishop Mathew Kuka, some ECWA Churches, and the shops owned by South Easterners have been touched. Even the way about Bishop Kuka is kept under wraps for his safety. Consequently, a 24-hour curfew was placed in Sokoto metropolis. In the same vein, Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai has placed a ban on any form of religious protest in Kaduna.
Deborah has been buried in her hometown, Tungan Magajiya, in Rijau Local Government Area of Niger State on Saturday, after her corpse was brought from Sokoto in very controversial circumstances.
The story continues to evolve, but one thing is clear, the North is a conservative Muslim country in Nigeria. If this is not so, the burden is on the Federal Government, as well as the state governments in the north to prove me wrong. Maybe, Deborah’s murder might be the ‘proverbial last straw’ that would break the back of religious bigotry in this country. In the interim, while we wait for answers from the Muslim community, Christians across the country must remain calm.
By: Raphael Pepple
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