By Adisa Adeleye

THE other day a friend gave me as Easter gift, a Chinese made Electric/Solar Lantern. After charging, the magical lantern could provide an uninterrupted brightness for at least eight hours.

I carefully examined this wonderful object but found little or no difference from the crude kerosene lamps which my late father and his late friend, Pius Chukwu were bringing from Onitsha in the 1940s and 1950s to Jos.

There was a thriving trade in manufactured items, though in crude form, between the Northern and the Eastern parts of the country before the civil war (1967 – 70), of which the ‘local lantern’ formed a significant part. If the manufacturing epic has continued to the present time, those crude manufactured items of the past by Awka Smiths could have been refined into admirable consumer commodities now imported into the country.

This brings me into the cleverness of the Chinese who have now dominated the Nigerian markets in all its ramifications. It is no exaggeration to say that there is no Nigerian home without the presence of Chinese items, either as kitchen appliances or electronic equipment. China has totally replaced Britain, Japan or Taiwan as Nigeria’s exporter of consumer goods. Unfortunately, those commodities could easily be provided locally under  a favorable atmosphere.

It was at the point of  crying ‘havoc’ on the onslaught of Chinese manufactured goods on our domestic market that I came upon  an article in ‘African Spotlight’ by our own, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank Governor, (son of a former Ambassador to China and grandson of a former Emir of Kano).

In his ‘Africa Must Get Real About Chinese Ties’, Mallam Sanusi notes that “Nigeria, a country with a large domestic market of more than 160m people spends huge resources importing consumer goods from China that should be produced locally.

We buy textile, fabric, barter goods, tomato paste, starch, furniture, electronics, building materials and plastic goods. I could go on. The Chinese, on the other hand, buy Nigeria’s crude oil. In much of Africa, they have set up huge mining operations. They have also built infrastructure. But with exceptions, they have done so using equipment and labour imported from home, without transferring skills to local communities. So China takes her primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism”.  Many analysts will agree, this is also another form of imperialism.

But having known the facts, what is the solution?  You can trust our bold but controversial Central Bank Governor. He notes that, ‘Africa must recognize that China – like the US, Russia, Britain, Brazil and the rest – is in Africa not for African  interest but its own’. The romance must be replaced by hard – nosed economic thinking’.

He advised also that ‘we must not only produce locally goods in which we  can build comparative advantage, but also actively fight off Chinese imports promoted by predatory policies’. It should be agreed that Lamido Sanusi’s logic is flawless on its face value.

It should also to be remembered that many economists have reminded us of economic exploitation embedded in colonialism and imperialism and have suggested forms of self-sufficiency in certain aspects of our economic life. The plaintive cries of many economic reformers have been drowned in the sorrows of neglect and irresponsibility of various governments.

However, it looks as things might change for the better if those thought to be at the corridors of power seem to be seeing clearer those things blocking avenues to development. But this was not the first time that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi would speak his mind on many issues of economic and political developments. His address at the 2nd General Dr. Yakubu Gowon Distinguished Annual Lecture, was an exhaustive examination of Leadership and its impact on economic development of the people.

In that Gowon Lecture, the Central Bank Governor, perhaps in the mood of his real personality – brave and outspoken – noted that, ‘you will agree with me that it is appalling to observe that five decades after Nigeria’s independence, our nation has remained beleaguered with the challenges of leadership, particularly those involved with selfless and unflinching desire to steer the course of development and national unity’.

Mallam Sanusi examined the impact of leaders of China, Malaysia, Singapore on the development of economic fortunes of their countries. They were able to introduce pro-poor, pro-growth and pro-employment policies and at the same time, maintained macro-economic stability which impacted positively on improved living standard of their people.

Mallam Sanusi was also unhappy that the huge inflows from oil have not been effectively harnessed to ensure a compressive diversification of the economy. Apart from the endemic disease of corruption which has not shown  any cure, the other problem is, ‘abuse and manipulation of ethnic  relationship by leaders in authority by way of nepotism, tribalism and religious bigotry’.

Whatever opinion one may have on the Central Bank Governor, one is bound to respect his courage and his attitude to bare his mind on crucial issues of the time. Most of his views on the Nigerian economy, though not strange to some of us, seem radical though his mind-set may be conservative. His radical mind seems to be cast in the conservative mould of  ‘classical economics’.

Nigeria needs to be able to feed herself, the country should be able to produce those gods whose comparative natural advantages are noted; the country should utilize its oil resources to grow its economy. Nigeria should start to think seriously about economic survival by adopting principles of economic nationalism, called common sense economics.

Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi called for ‘leadership that should be inspiringly creative and resolutely courageous’.

But such leadership should know that the growth of the economy could not be sustained in an atmosphere of tightened monetary policy of the Central Bank.

Disclaimer

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