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‘They’ should do something…. who are ‘they’? (2)

By Pini Jason
I ended the first part of this article on how Ghanaians helped rebuild their broken country. The foundation for Ghana’s rebirth was laid by Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings, a military dictator who used strong arms, including the execution of three former Heads of State, to sound the death knell for corruption in Ghana.

We certainly would not, and I do not, endorse Rawlings’ method, even though some Nigerians sometime call for it in moments of extreme frustration.

The nearest we came to an autocratic rule was during the Buhari/Idiagbon era and Abacha’s maximum rule. Many still hold it against Buhari today, and use his tenure as military ruler to question his democratic credentials even while we deride President Jonathan as “weak”.

Ghana was once what many of us described as a guinea pig for IMF/World Bank reforms. We scoffed at Ghana and World Bank while its citizens endured the pains of the IMF/World Bank “conditionalities”.

In January 1977, I was returning from Christmas holiday in Accra, Ghana. I had 40 Cedi in my wallet. At Kotoka International airport, a Ghanaian customs officer asked why I was going to Nigeria with 40 Cedi. I told him it was souvenir. His eyes popped out and he screamed: “40 Cedi? Souvenir?” Subsequently the Cedi became toilet paper during the restructuring.

Today it is nearly equivalent to one dollar, thanks to a re-denomination we could not carry out here! With oil find, Ghana immediately vowed not to make the same mistake of Nigeria and embarked on the removal of subsidy on petrol!

Here every armchair economic expert thinks that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Olusegun Agagu and the IMF/World Bank are the problem.

Every policy, no matter the local content is seen as “IMF/World Bank prescription”. And once we utter such garrulity our job is done! But what such mindset does is to make it difficult for us to go through with any reform. It is one step forward and ten backwards with dire consequences. Of course, nobody is denying that IMF/World Bank models may never work in Nigeria.

After all, economic postulations have the caveat “all things being equal”, meaning if people react rationally. In Nigeria things are never equal! For example, the government has raised the duty on imported rice to boost local production.

All things being equal, Nigerians would avoid the now expensive imported rice and look for cheaper local alternative.

But what if we choose to patronise smuggled rice or steal public fund to satiate our taste for imported rice? So, in effect, reform may not work here, unless of course there is a regime of unquestioned authority under which the Asian Tigers witnessed rapid economic growth. So we should be circumspect when we cite the Asian Tigers’ examples.

Today Chinese wear designer suits simply because, for many years, they wore nothing but Chairman Mao’s tunic! That is deferred gratification at work!

While we make excuses for profligate behaviour here, the same IMF/World Bank models have worked elsewhere, where all things were equal. Our own nationals were among the experts responsible for helping other nations, including Asian and African nations, to successfully implement these reforms.

IMF/World Bank model is working in Angola, Mozambique and Rwanda, all of them nations that recently came out of war. Our own Oby Ezekwesili, is revered in Rwanda because of the reforms she implemented in the country during her tenure as World Bank Vice President for Africa.

Rwanda benefited because President Kagame and Rwandans cooperated and bore the brunt of the reforms. The policies could not have worked if every Rwandan became adept at how the model would not work.

All said and done, Nigeria is an interesting place! My point is that there is always something we, as individuals, can do to bring change to our country, no matter how small.

After 52 years we are not where we ought to be. We should be part of finding solution to our national malaise beyond dismissing our country as failed or failing.

If Nigeria depended heavily on tourism we would have destroyed it by de-marketing our country. We must never abandon hope even in the face of our disappointment. The challenge before us is to show more commitment and take more responsibility for our collective actions!

When did we lose Bakassi?

The few days leading to the October 10, 2012 deadline for Nigeria to apply for a review of the International Court of Justice verdict that awarded Bakassi to Cameroon was frenetic with huffing and puffing, typical of Nigeria’s culture of last minute.

Suddenly people started weeping as if we lost Bakassi on 10 October 10! But I ask, when really did we lose Bakassi? Was it during the February 1961 plebiscite when John Ngu Foncha was backed by some elements in Nigeria to lead his people back to Cameroon, against E.M.L Endeley’s preference to remain part of Eastern Region?

Was it during the civil war when the territory was gifted to President Ahmadu Ahidjo by General Gowon for closing the Cameroonian border to Biafrans? Was it in 1971 when Gen. Gowon ratified that exchange without expert advice?

Was it when we submitted ourselves to ICJ jurisdiction over the matter? Was it when in 2002 the ICJ ruled on the matter? Why are we now weeping over Bakassi 10 years after? I am not surprised by the actions of the Federal Government. A nation that can slice off Igbo territory after the civil war and give away to other states just to excise oil-bearing Igboland and deny Igbo access to the sea will not bat an eyelid to give away Bakassi!

The diminution of a debate

Since Dele Momodu’s “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” (Thisday 6 Oct. 2012) in response to my “The Mugging of Sanusi” (Vanguard Oct. 2, 2012) many readers have urged me to fire back. Fact is, he did not make any point that deserved my reply.

In the first place I am sure that Dele knows that I do not come to this business with a glass chin! But far more important is that the issue at hand is too important to be reduced to a brickbat between us. Secondly, a fallacy remains a fallacy even if dressed in the most highfalutin vocabulary.

When he chose to “ignore other writers” to “concentrate on just these two” (Ethel Okere and myself), it was a well known deliberate ploy to obfuscate issues in the tradition of Nigerian debate and drag it to where the substance will be lost to sentiments unrelated to the subject matter.

And before long people would be asking what the debate was all about in the first place! His main thesis was that no one had the right to react to the improvised explosive device he unleashed on a public servant trying his best to wrestle with a national problem. Well, if his quarrel with Sanusi were over a girlfriend I would not have intervened.

To go to Google to serve readers cut-and-paste sentences taken from almost a decade old articles without putting them in context with what the other parties did or said was a perfect flimflam! Moreover, he did not need to enlist others to help him fight a non-existence battle.

The debate is still out there. Someone wrote that CBN should have opted for N10,000 note instead of N5,000! Others insist that higher denomination per se could not have caused inflation. Whenever my aburo, Dele Momodu, is ready to debate issues and not someone’s aftershave, he is welcome!



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