People & Politics

August 11, 2021

Forget Maradi, focus on Nigeria

Nigerian Flag

I only listen to what President Muhammadu Buhari has to say because as a journalist, I have no choice. The difference between him and General Ibrahim Babangida is that when Babangida talks, his words mean several things at the same time. He can escape through one of the routes and still claim he did not deceive you. If you know how to read Babangida’s lips, he won’t be able to deceive you.

But Buhari’s is a case of sometimes saying one thing and doing another, and sometimes doing what he says. This second attribute gave the “Buharideen” the opportunity to brand him as Mai Gaskiya or man of his word. This branding was used to deceive millions of gullible Nigerians in 2015. We warned Nigerians to beware, but the Buharideen called us “wailers”. Now, look who is wailing!

Buhari had said he belonged to everyone and no one. Later, he contradicted himself by saying he would especially favour those who voted for him – his proverbial 12 million, Northern voters. Then, he flip-flopped again with these words: “You are all my people; I will treat all of you as mine. I will work for those who voted for me, voted against me and those who did not vote”. Out of these three public undertakings, he has unpretentiously pursued extreme nepotism with missionary zest.

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I remember one of the first catchy phrases that Buhari used to position himself as a “superpatriot” military ruler in 1984. He said: “This generation of Nigerians and, indeed the future generation, have no other country than Nigeria; we shall stay and salvage it together!”

In the past six years as president, he has shown that he loves Niger Republic.

Under Buhari, our international border with Niger is of no effect. When he announced the closure of borders in August 2019, illegal goods and arms continued to flow in through the Northern borders into Nigeria uninterrupted. Buhari admitted as much in March this year. He blamed Libya. Someone else, not Buhari, is always to blame. Many Nigeriens possess Nigeria’s voter’s cards and have been issued the Nigerian Identity Numbers, NINs.

The one that concerns us the most is Buhari’s unwavering commitment to build a railway line from Kano through his hometown, Daura, to Maradi in Niger Republic. Nigeria is to cough out $2 billion, mostly borrowed from China, to carry out that expensive joke of a project. When he was recently asked why he was doing that, he simply said his family members lived there. During the groundbreaking ceremony on February 9, 2021, he extolled the virtues of the project and how it would service 80 million people, including people of Niger Republic.

So, now, it is no longer about indulging the needs of his “12 million” Northern voters. The economic need of another country comes before that of Southern Nigeria where the bulk of the revenue of the country is derived from. Buhari’s priority is to build a standard gauge rail from Lagos through Kano to Maradi. He will later look for another foreign loan to “revive” the archaic colonial narrow gauge rail line from Port Harcourt through Enugu to the Nguru in Yobe State. This will service over 80 million people within Nigerian territory.

Third in Buhari’s priority list is the Coastal Rail Network, which will traverse 12 Southern states from Lagos to Cross River. The following cities will be covered: Lagos, Shagamu, Ijebu Ode, Ore, Benin City, Sapele, Warri, Yenagoa, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo, Calabar, Akamkpa, Ikom, Obudu, Agbor, Ogwashiuku, Asaba, Onitsha and Onne. This project will service at least 120 million people through densely populated Nigerian territory. It will cost over $11 billion.

A true patriot would seek to build on the foundation laid by the British colonial masters by reviving the East to North and West to North networks. These were built purposely to unite the country and boost economic intercourse across the various geopolitical, ethnic and religious divides. A Nigerian president would, from Day One, flag off the Southern rail network while further extending the Northern networks into new areas.

These projects would create employment opportunities for millions of currently idle Nigerians and enable our economy to leverage on our huge population for growth.

With this, Nigerians would be in a much better position to pay back the huge loans and prevent a potential Chinese takeover of the country due to loan default. We would be happy to pay because we are enjoying the service. Our highways would last longer. Nigerians would rediscover the joys of economic and social interdependence. Our collective sense of commitment to the unity of our country would be deepened. The uniting and wealth creating powers of railways would be unleashed among us.

By putting Niger ahead of Nigeria, Buhari is negating his word that he has no other country. He is drawing a new map which unites Northern Nigeria with Niger Republic, a kind of “New Arewa”. The South is merely the revenue hunting ground with access to the sea to service Buhari’s “New Arewa”.

We indigenous Nigerians should not accept this. We are being exploited by a president whose loyalties lie in an area beyond our constitutional jurisdiction. The rulers of Niger Republic have already mortgaged their country to China. Let them build their own railways and leave us to build ours.

Mounting debts: Undue emphasis on capital investments

By Francis Ogbimi

I AM usually embarrassed

            listening to leaders  in government, business men and  women, lawyers, intellectuals, others, beg and cry for capital investments, especially Foreign Direct Investments, FDIs, every hour, every day, in Nigeria. Some state governors travel to Europe, America and Asia to beg Europeans, Americans and Asians to come and invest in their states. I wonder why adults should behave the way Nigerian leaders in government do in relation to seeking capital investments.

This article is written to demonstrate that Nigeria’s suffocating debts are consequences of lack of understanding of the science of the development of a nation and undue emphasis on capital investment – the erection of infrastructure, using historical and logico-mathematical evidence.

It is obvious that European, American and some Asian nations are industrialised whereas African nations are pre-industrialised. If Nigerian leaders were wise, they would try to find out how the non-African nations became industrialised. No, that is not for the Nigerian leader. Nigerian leaders assume that knowledge about what other nations did in the past is not important.

Also, Nigerian leaders think that Nigeria does not need to understand the industrialisation process before embarking on it. They believe that seeking FDIs in a most ridiculous manner and awarding inflated contracts for erecting structures is the sure way to achieving rapid industrialisation. They are very wrong.

Africans unwisely talk of technology transfer, especially FDIs. Which nation developed through FDIs? Who transferred technology to Britain – the first nation to achieve the modern Industrial Revolution, IR? Britain, like all other industrialised European nations, was an agricultural nation for about 2000 years.

When Britain became the manufacturer of innumerable scientific and technological products, she must have acquired the capabilities for manufacturing the products. How are capabilities (competences) acquired?

All persons are born as crying babies. The baby soon begins to babble (learns how to talk), acquires the competences to talk and talks (Ogbimi,1990). The baby who could not babble grows up to be a dumb-adult. Talking or speaking is a skill (Hurlock, 1972). The child must also learn how to read and write, otherwise, it grows up to be an illiterate. No one or nation is born with the skills to produce. All knowledge, skills and competences are acquired through learning (education, training, employment and research). One who wishes to be a good dancer must learn how to dance. A nation which hopes to manufacture many products must develop the people to manufacture them. The talented pianist must play the ordinary tunes before using his talents to compose extra-ordinary tunes (Ogbimi,1990a). 

Learning and acquiring new knowledge, skills and competences and applying these in solving problems, including production, are the primary sources of achieving sustainable economic growth and industrialisation, SEGI (Ogbimi,1991). Learning results in relatively permanent changes in knowledge, skills, experience and other behaviours (Klausmeier,1985). Learning progresses from the novice position to the expert’s position (Stahl,1990).

The intrinsic values of the learning-man and learning-woman appreciate in a compound fashion with learning intensity and time. Thus, when a person commences an educational or apprenticeship scheme, he or she begins from the lowest or novice position.

Usually, at the end of the first year of learning, the learning-person is promoted to the second level, having learnt the things scheduled for level one. At the end of the second year, the learning-person again, is moved to level three. The growth achieved this way is sustainable. The learning person builds-up capabilities or competences. That means, his/her ability to do things, including production increases as long as he/she continues to learn. So it is too for a nation. A learning-nation achieves SEGI, not GDP-growth, not growth without development, GWD.

The intrinsic value of the learning-person can be expressed in a quantitative manner. A nation which emphasises learning continuously builds-up knowledge, skills and competences, KSCs. As the learning process continues, a point is reached where each type of KSCs begins to enjoy the supportive impact of all others and all of them form an invisible KSCs-network, a sort of problem-attacking front. The nation at that point achieves Industrial Revolution, – a technological puberty. Productivity improves dramatically, the nation achieves economic diversification – various sectors of the economy begin to perform efficiently and effectively. The economic transformation described as IR, may be likened to what the spider achieves when it combines many of its silk-threads to make its web. The single silk-thread which the spider spins is a relatively weak structural material which fails readily under any stress regime.

However, the web which it makes from the combination of many of the weak silk-threads catches the small creatures on which the spider feeds. In a like manner, no individual solves the problems of a nation, but a combination of many millions of knowledgeable, skilled and competent people transforms an agricultural nation into an industrialised one.

Our quantitative analyses showed that the variables for planning for industrialisation are: 1) N – the number of people involved in learning/productive work and employment in a nation; 2) M  – the level of education/training of those involved in productive activities in the economy and of the people of the nation; 3) L – the linkages among the knowledge, skills, competences and sectors of an economy; 4) r– the learning rates or intensity in the economy and especially among the workforce; and 5) n – the experience of the workforce and the learning history of the society. All the variables are related to the learning-man and learning-woman. Moreover, the higher the values of the variables, the better is the economy. A national growth measurement based on some or all of these variables would reflect the true economic situation in the nation. Those who do not understand the science of industrialisation measure GDP-growth or GWD. 

The research works of Charles Cobb (a mathematician) and Paul Douglas (economist) in 1928, Douglas (1948), Abramowitz (1956) and Solow (1957) showed that capital investment contributes very little to achieving SEGI. Gerschenkron (1966) examined the Western industrialisation experience and concluded that capital investment was not a prerequisite to it.

Our scientific research using equations and graphs (Ogbimi, 2003) also showed that mere capital investment does not promote SEGI. All capital assets – roads and telecommunication networks, electricity generating and distributing plants, railways, stadia, machinery and equipment, real estate, furniture, etc., experience depreciation, hence they are Depreciating Assets, DAs.

A young nation emphasising capital investments is investing on a decreasing investment function. Thus, the strong emphasis at the state and federal levels to erect infrastructure in agricultural/artisan Nigeria is tantamount to attempting to fill a profusely leaking water-tank with water. To that calamity we can add the haemorrhage of inflated contracts. Why would Nigeria not accumulate local and foreign debts and stagnate/stagflate?

Prof. Ogbimi, an economic analyst and author

Vanguard News Nigeria