Nigeria: Expecting a Whiff of the

No Comments » August 26th, 2009 posted by // Categories: General Articles

The unsettling euphoria around Hillary Clinton at Abuja underlined dimmed expectations that the United States could somehow turn Nigeria around. The diplomatic rhetoric used resonated a clear message ‘Nigeria must change its own fortune’- a fact we all know we must do and ‘can’ do being one of the leading six oil producers. Activities around the Foreign Secretary somehow betrayed this. I would want to play down the glaring irony- petrol / petroleum products shortages- which to a degree make a mockery of our vast oil reserves. These reserves and revenues- themselves, sources of unrest and political struggles in the Niger Delta: An ugly side of the oil story in Nigeria and a reminder of Sarowiwa’s ultimate sacrifice. Whilst in support of the Niger Delta struggle for development, my sceptism creeps in with the backdrop of the recent amnesty- suffice to say that the end result remains to be seen.

Audience with Hillary Clinton made a good viewing on AIT (African Independent Television). The excitement of the gathering could be seen- questions asked were laden with expectations that could be heard through the laborious emphasis on syntax and the ensuing animation. It was not clear if Hillary Clinton was expected to rid Nigeria of corruption in public offices, rebuild the crumbled (not crumbling) infrastructure, build schools or stabilise the epileptic power supply. Or perhaps the expectation was that at her ‘say so’ and ‘stroke of a pen’ more Dollars will be thrown our way! Surely recent loan forgiveness and debt cancellations should stand the country in a good stead to combat the ‘gremlins’ in the way of our development! The sub-text of her script was ‘you lack the right leadership and vision and have wasted your oil wealth over the years’. And also, there are global economic problems which America is at the centre of, while we (America) will support you- effectively you are on your own’. The message could not be clearer! The talk about our potential to be part of the G20 was a sweetener. Our national pastimes are ‘celebrations’ and ‘extravagance’ which probably originate from individual selfishness.

The typical psyché is centred on ‘me and my family’! It is worth noting however that this is just one school of thought. Another strand suggests that probably all America has to offer at the moment is ‘tea and biscuit’ for the reason mentioned earlier- (its own domestic problems), its reputation (as a result of its foreign policy until now) can only be likened to a ‘dirty bomb’ and the weakening ‘dollar’. The dollar once represented the United State’s ‘global dominance’ its main bait for willing allies. It is no surprise then that at a recent gathering of some developing economies there was a call to scrap the weakened dollar as a global currency. Hillary Clinton’s visit to Nigeria then was probably just a disguised public relations project tied to introductory visits to all US Diplomatic Missions in West Africa. An alternative viewpoint would however promote greater focus on domestic politics in order to meet the need of the electorate. There is ofcourse a need of foreign cooperation through providing enabling policies that will support domestic growth.

The European Union shows how this works among member states be it as it may not without criticisms in respect of over-regulation and red-tape. Countries (including United States, Britain etc.) need to be inward looking- there are domestic issues like over-taxation, the burden of Social Security, unemployment, poverty (yes, poverty!) to grapple with. The challenges are just as great in advance economies as they are in the third world! The Nigerian ‘issue’ is unique by the way identified ‘solutions’ continue to be recycled and frustrated by the ‘Nigerian System’; this has left the country in a state of flux where only ‘words’ reign supreme. The energy probe and subsequent involvement of the EFCC in the probing of the panel in charge of probing the energy contracts- is classic. With the best of intentions and good will if the system remains as putrid as it is, the scope for onward development is limited.

Hillary Clinton’s message is poignant reminder that ‘we are all alone’. Nigeria should stop searching for a foreign messiah for deliverance from the problems within. We do not need more dollars, we do not need any aid, we do not need more loans! Nigeria needs to put its house in order. Economic, political, social and (lately religious issues) affecting the country need to be addressed. Sharia law, Gboko Haram and Nigeria’s membership of the organisation of Islamic Countries should be food for thought!

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