NIGERIA’s presidents since the return of democracy in 1999 have tended to model themselves as chief salesmen of the nation.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his incumbent counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, justified their numerous foreign trips on the need to secure credit, debt relief, foreign investors and arms to tackle our security challenges.
Many Nigerians believe that these elaborate presidential junkets are unnecessary and wasteful. They assert that all the country needs to achieve the same objectives, and possibly more, is for our leaders to stay at home and do the right things.
Once investors see we are doing the right things they will come. Investors are always hunting for fertile grounds for their investments, which Nigeria can be if the right things are done.
A number of Chinese experts came to Abuja to tell us to our face, some of the factors hindering the influx of Chinese investors to the Nigerian economy. At an event organised by the Centre for Chinese Studies, Abuja on November 2, 2019, with the theme: “Dialogue on China’s Governance Experience and the Opportunities of the Nigeria-China Cooperation”, a Chinese university teacher, Luo Jianbo, said: “China investors have worries about Nigeria and Africa over instability, terrorism and policy inconsistency, sometimes due to change of government”.
Perhaps out of courtesy, he refrained from naming the biggest monsters – corruption and ethno-religious considerations in making crucial developmental decisions. Jianbo also pointed out: “Nigeria must first build national solidarity to foster national consensus to create a new identity for Nigerians. Nigeria must get rid of rancorous and vicious political competition. Nigeria needs a benign and orderly competition and not vicious competition. It must promote unity and create a relationship between freedom and order”.
This says it all. It is not just foreign investors that our chaotic and corrupt system keeps at bay, it is also responsible for our inability to unlock our uncommon endowments and potentials which are so obvious and yet so out of our reach.
Nigeria has held numerous confabs and constitutional talks even before independence. Between 1960 when we secured our independence from colonial Britain and 2014 we held, at least, seven constitutional conferences, wrote five constitutions (1963, 1979, 1989, 1996 and 1999) and experienced many coups, all in the search for the elusive national consensus, solidarity and common national vision.
Today, the national questions of who is a Nigerian, and what is the basis for our unity have remained unanswered.
Every effort to get the correct answer (including the drive for restructuring) is firmly thwarted by those who feel that the current chaotic order which favours their sectional interest must be sustained.
Today, some foreigners are made to feel more Nigerian than indigenous Nigerians.
As long as this situation persists Nigeria will remain poor, backward, destitute, unstable and violence-prone.