By Obi Nwakanma
The question this column wishes to ask today is: are Nigerians asleep? Are they under some kind of spell that makes them unwilling or incapable of rising to confront the dangerous excesses of this administration and its rubber-stamp National Assembly?
Where are the youth of this nation – the age-old catalysts for change? Is the nation’s youth so far gone, buried in the virtual world of social media that they can no longer organise to save themselves, their nation, and their future from a dangerous government intent on enslaving them to perpetual debt?
My Igbo ancestors would say, E ji kwam ogu o! I want the Nigerian youth to understand this: at every juncture of Nigeria’s journey through nationhood, it has always fallen to the youth of each generation to rally and give impetus to the change that would save the next generation.
Whether it was the Nigerian Youth Movement, or the Zikists in the anti-colonial Nationalist phase, or the Students Movement of the 1970s and ‘80s that fought military dictatorships, young Nigerians have always led the street fights. Sometimes with blood on those streets.
Olu Oguibe’s very passionate poem, “I am bound to this land by Blood,” is a paean not only to the land but also to its young revolutionary spirit. It ought to be read by every Nigerian child from the primary schools to the university campuses all over Nigeria. It ought to be the anthem of the Nigerian youth.
The Nigerian youth today must rise above their foolish, clannish, ethnocentric ghettoes and meet on the question of their future, because frankly, under the borrowing plans approved last week by the senate of this 9th Assembly for $22.7 billion and $5 billion in loans for this administration, there may be no future for them.
I do not want to sound very alarmist, but every indication is that this National Assembly, in approving this loan has signed the documents for the economic slavery of ten generations of Nigerians. 70 per cent of this loan is to be sourced from the China Exim Bank, while the rest will come from the multilateral facilities of the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the German Development Bank, and the French Development Agency.
Nigeria will most likely default in the loan’s repayment, and China will pounce and take possession of Nigeria’s sovereign wealth, her infrastructure, and as in the case of some African nations already, her police force and Judiciary. And then, a new phase of settler colonialism which Nigerians never ever suffered, even in the past under the British will commence.
This generation of Nigerians currently take the freedom which they now enjoy, won for them by the anti-colonial Nationalist movement for granted. But if they cast their glances back to the past, and to history, they would see that colonisation is a bitch!
There was once when Africans, including Nigerians, could not aspire beyond being Chief Clerks in the colonial civil service. In the middle of the 19th century, Africans in Freetown, the Gold Coast, and a few in what MJC Echeruo called “Victorian Lagos” had been educated in the leading universities of the empire – people like Femi Fani-Kayode’s grandfather, who was Dr Azikiwe’s teacher at the Methodist Boys High School in Lagos, for instance, had gone to Cambridge.
He is just one example. But they could never be employed, at least on equal terms in the Colonial Service. They found jobs as teachers in Missionary schools, or as charge and bail lawyers. With one colonial edict, educated Africans lost their place in the colonial society.
Those who were employed as Assistants to Europeans, irrespective of the
he Europeans built residential reservations for themselves under segregation policies that confined Africans to the ghettoes of the new townships. The only Africans who stepped into the so-called “European clubs” were the stewards, cooks and bartenders whom they called, “boy” or “Kaffir.” If you were an African and saw a white man on the streets, you stepped aside.
It was so until Azikiwe launched the militant phase of the anti-colonial movement from 1934 in Ghana, and from 1937 in Nigeria. Colonialism in Africa was presaged by slavery which had weakened the capacity of Africans to resist intrusion.
If the young Nigerians whose heads are in the clouds ever manage to look back at history, they would see exactly a replay of the slave compacts by which white slavers had armed African middlemen, much like the current generation of Nigeria’spolitical leadership, to kidnap and capture their African brethren and sell them into slavery for short term gratification.
This is exactly what President Buhari and the National Assembly under the leadership of Mr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila have done with the loans approved last week, after the shortest possible debate, without the full legislative procedure, and passed almost in total secrecy.
For short term gratification, and for political expediency, they want to mortgage the future of Nigerians. This is not a patriotic senate, or a National Assembly desirous to provide serious legislative oversight against possible presidential folly. The issue is as much in fact, the depth of patriotism that drives this loan, as with its use: it is not in the long, and short term interest of Nigeria to borrow this money.
The 8th National Assembly, particularly under the last senate led by Mr Saraki, rejected the loan and demanded clear probity of its use from the president who failed to outline a convincing plan for the loan. This loan is not driven by a patriotic need. Of course, this president does not often act like a Nigerian patriot.
He is more the president of Northern Nigeria as far as is evident. He does not give squat to the concept of Nigeria. There is not a single patriotic bone in this president’s body, and this was as much affirmed in Colonel Dangiwa Umar’s open letter last week to the Nigerian president.
In that letter, Umar warned him that his very regionalist and ethnocentric policies and conducts, against both constitutional and conventional practice, would destroy not only his presidency but the federation of Nigeria.
The items for which Mr Buhari has sought this loan which has been approved for him, in the most scandalous of any legislative process anywhere in the world bears out Colonel Umar’s concerns. It is not in the general interest of Nigeria.
Indeed, as the senators from the South East in the earlier debate on the loan made clear, there were no provisions in the loan for infrastructural investment in the South East. There is also, in general, a massive unequal concentration of loan benefits to the North of Nigeria against the economic interest of the South of Nigeria.
That much is clear. Aside from the fact that there should be regional spread in the development of national economic infrastructure from any loans procured by a federal government of Nigeria, the use of this loan as approved is another example of the embezzlement of pure reason by a government elected to manage and shepherd Nigeria towards development and general prosperity.
With lickspittles now installed in the leadership of the National Assembly, this administration has acquired a very malleable legislature. This is alarming because it spells serious danger to the democratic and constitutional development of Nigeria.
A National Assembly whose leadership whips through every request of the president, and which fails to investigate the presidents spending plans, and which abdicates its power of the purse over the executive, insults parliamentary independence and subverts the power of the legislator as the voice of this republic.
They compromise legislative autonomy. Lap-dog parliaments are a danger to democracy, and Nigerians should picket this Assembly if for that alone. Now, let’s look at the more vexatious aspects of this loan as approved: from it would come $500 million to digitize the National Television Authority (NTA). Did I hear a gasp that says, “what the eff?”
Well, think about this: there is $500 million for what it calls the “National Safety Net programme” under its Social Investment heading for this loan. Basically, it would take the same amount to digitize the NTA as it would take to provide a basic safety net to poor Nigerians.
Somebody has not got their priorities right! N27 billion is earmarked in the loan for the rehabilitation of the National Assembly Complex. Fellow Nigerians, imagine that the combined annual federal budget for Education and Health in Nigeria is much lower than what is sought just to touch up the building of the National Assembly complex.
There is much more; some of the same items are just given different names for the same project item. I do think Nigerians must rise and reject this loan. Nigerians should flood letters to the government of China disavowing any obligation to pay back this loan if they ever grant it to this government.
The South East governments should write to theNational Assembly, the Presidency, and all the loan institutions disavowing any obligations to the repayment of the loan. Above all, the Nigerian youth whose future is being mortgaged by this irresponsible government must picket the National Assembly until they reverse authorization for this ridiculous loan, otherwise, they will have nobody to blame in future when the chickens of this loan, come home to roost. Buhari would long have been gone. Nigerians, Ro Nu!