By Salisu Nuhu Muhammad [salisu_50@yahoo.com]

MODERN nations, as they exist today, are historical creations of ceaseless contestations that have, over the years, championed and promoted the enlightened self-interests of some technologically advanced and economically powerful imperial forces, striving to control and appropriate the human resources, the huge natural endowments and manifest destinies of other nations.

Usually, this ruthless contest is between unequal rivals that are always strategizing to attain national sovereignty, independence and freedom, on the one side, and the brutal imposition of imperial control, domination and global hegemony, on the other.

In this global web of structural entanglement, in which the strong constantly prey on the weak, weak nations’ chances of ensuring economic survival are underpinned by their ability to obediently follow the rules laid down by the strong, or more conversely, by developing their own capacity to successfully defy such unjust rules, and thus, courageously chart an independent and reliable pathway, in pursuit of their developmental aspirations.

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Since attaining political freedom and independence against British colonial rule nearly sixty years ago, Nigeria has striven with varying degrees of success to harness its enormous natural endowments, to accelerate and realise its goals of ambitious industrialisation and national social transformation.

In this context, it is good for us to acknowledge and appreciate that for nations, just like for individuals, the way to greatness is lined with daunting obstacles and seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

Consistent with the above clear understanding therefore, how a given nation is able to position itself and resolve to take advantage of the range of global opportunities available to it, in an efficient and timely manner is in reality, a function of its inherent qualities, type of authority and visionary outlook. All of these are the three important yardsticks with which the world will characterise and judge its ruling elites.

In addition, the trap of dependency on food importation was also experimented in other climes, prior to its introduction here, and oddly circumstanced by the steady flow of sudden wealth into the nation’s treasury, following the discovery of oil from the deep bowels of the oil rich creeks of the Niger Delta. Thanks in large measure to the corrupt nature of our ruling elites, the oil money that should have been a blessing for the nation ended up as a national curse.

At the core of Nigeria’s persistent failure to actualise its widely acknowledged enormous potentials is the issue of endemic corruption associated with its ruling class, in addition, of course, to its much advertised bane, the ostentatious life style of the leadership.

This failure has easily transformed into the complete crippling of the nation’s capacity to modernise its decaying infrastructure, revitalise the deleterious civil service sector and recalibrate the performance of the weak economy. In our efforts to quickly overcome this frightening national malaise, we have found ourselves repeatedly and embarrassingly moving from one fatal trap to another.

At independence, the first trap the nation encountered, and with which it had to contend for a very long period of time, was the cash crop agricultural system inherited from the British colonialists. This trap plunged the agriculturally endowed nation into a permanent state of food shortages and dependency on food import.

The successes in the imposition of cash crop farming also encouraged the colonialists to quietly destroy some native varieties of our wholesome grains and other crop seedlings that usually formed the bedrock of our staple production, thus endangering community nutritional requirements as well as food security for the ever growing population.

This anti-nativist colonial policy was equally noticeable in the open discouragement that went with the use of organic fertilizer by our rural farmers, who were made to switch over to the then newly marketed inorganic and chemically saturated and expensive imported fertilizers.

In addition, the trap of dependency on food importation was also experimented in other climes, prior to its introduction here, and oddly circumstanced by the steady flow of sudden wealth into the nation’s treasury, following the discovery of oil from the deep bowels of the oil rich creeks of the Niger Delta. Thanks in large measure to the corrupt nature of our ruling elites, the oil money that should have been a blessing for the nation ended up as a national curse.

Not done with the perpetual state of food deficits in which we found ourselves entrapped, the powerful forces in alliance with the notorious local corrupt ruling elites, enthusiastically set up a more sinister trap with a clear intention to permanently cripple and incapacitate the oil and gas sector of the nation’s economy.

From a rich country that had tasted the prestige of the oil boom of the 1970s, to the oil doom crisis that gripped the nation in the ensuing decade of the ’80s, the nation precipitously oscillated from prosperity to near bankruptcy, with no immediate hope of ever bouncing back to full scale national economic recovery.

Next, the oil importation trap turned out to be the deadliest, in terms of its devastating consequences on the future prospects of the nation. And in no time, all the four of the nation’s oil refineries that were set up by the federal government to produce refined petroleum and other oil derivatives, to cater to our large domestic consumption and the international markets, were left decrepit.

We have seen the large chunk of foreign exchange from the sales of crude oil being devoted to offsetting the mounting cost of mass food importation, seedlings and inorganic fertilizer that would further compound our economic woes, when you throw in the wholesale importation of refined petroleum products.

These two ruinous policies have combined to hold the national economy by the jugular, and their strangulating effect, has made the hope for any economic recovery, delusional and a fleeting illusion.

This writer is lucky to have witnessed first-hand, the unusual desperation of a former president of our beloved nation, who swallowed national pride to kneel down and beg the powerful cartel of international oil companies, otherwise known as the oil majors, and invite them to partner with Nigeria to build a new oil refinery. In response, they rose with a single resolution hardly seen in the history of corporate arrogance to help kill the good initiative, and frustrate the nation’s dream. Their argument is that “there was no profit in oil-refining!” What other evidence can one look for, to confirm that the oil trap is indeed largely a product of their own making?

The next frontier to attack was the financial sector. With their rapacious minds squarely fixated on controlling the sector they moved in to impose some draconian and harsh “conditionalities”, as an institutional desiderata, to lay the ground for the much talked about guarantee they hurriedly cobbled together to help us to obtain the needed loans to revamp the economy. 

The financial insolvency in which the nation had become, corralled us into the full embrace of another trap, in the guise of debt peonage. With Nigeria’s economy enveloped in a serious crisis, manifesting some disturbing signs of possible full scale stagflation, the desperation to acquire more foreign loans became inevitable. 

In agreeing to swallow the bitter pills administered by the marauding sharks, who survive by continuously sucking the blood of weaker nations, we sheepishly allowed our insatiable greed to railroad us into the unbearable circumstances that brought us to the present national debt trap.

To pay or service the huge debts burden, Nigeria began to move in vicious circle. And to get off the debt trap, Nigeria embarked on yet another perilous road to economic perdition: the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), Trap.

Under the pretext of implementing the sad policy of SAP, some booby traps were laid by the same raging ravenous wolves, thus successfully entrapping the already highly indebted Nigerian nation. The country had to accept the dictated recipes of;

* deregulation of the nation’s economy, aimed at auctioning the strategic and publicly-owned companies and parastatals,

* to make the private sector assume the important role of becoming the so-called growth engine for the nation’s economy;

* national currency debasing or devaluation, 

* subsidy removal in the pump price of petroleum products,

* subsidy removal in agriculture,

* subsidy removal and high increase in the costs of healthcare, education and other essential services.

Another disturbing aspect of the detected flaws in the German Power contract is the project’s heavy concentration on “low hanging fruits;” that is, some noticeable engineering quick-fix problems and challenges, the solution to which could give a shot in the arm, to the prevailing deleterious electricity services in the country.

The faithful execution of these austerity measures has today unfortunately resulted in the pauperization and immiseration of large sections of the nation’s population; it accentuated the disturbing phenomenon of mass unemployment and joblessness, especially among the teeming youths; it crippled the education and healthcare systems; as it has also derailed the ambitious march to the nation’s economic growth and rapid industrialization.

With all these plethora of wicked plans and designs, being woven and sponsored repeatedly to undermine Nigeria’s’ developmental strides, it baffles imagination that the country’s ruling elites could still blindly continue to walk into these traps spawned by these same group of unrestrained adversaries who still confidently loiter and parade the corridors of power.

The latest case of this slavish approach of our illiterate elites, to the serious business of choosing a workable independent path to our development goals, is another painful confirmation of our leaders’ incurable incredulity.

More pointedly, I am openly using this auspicious medium, to invite all our compatriots to kindly devote more than a passing interest in the much lauded and vociferously marketed Power Contract that was recently signed between Nigeria and Siemens, Germany, ostensibly to rescue the battered sector from imminent collapse.

For those of us who might be so acquainted with the debauchery inherent in laying booby traps for nations, which has become second nature to the hegemonic powers, a quick glance at the detailed content of this highly trumpeted but lousy Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) would reveal obvious fundamental lapses, conceptual errors and technical inadequacies, which if left unattended, are really capable of compounding the open wounds, they had set out to cure.

It is a fundamental defect for a project of this magnitude, to be allowed to go through its life cycle, without a designated dedicated champion. It is even problematic, if not chaotic, when one observes, that the implementation that goes with rigorous supervision is, in this case, left in the hands of politicians, who too, possess no clue or any background knowledge of the complexities that normally come with managing such engineering technicalities necessary to pilot the project to a successful execution.

The idea of entrusting the late Malam Abba Kyari, the former chief of staff to the president, who was a lawyer and a banker, to champion this gigantic power project, instead of assigning such role to a seasoned and tested professional engineer detracts from the excellent merit the government pontificates about.

Another disturbing aspect of the detected flaws in the German Power contract is the project’s heavy concentration on “low hanging fruits;” that is, some noticeable engineering quick-fix problems and challenges, the solution to which could give a shot in the arm, to the prevailing deleterious electricity services in the country.

But, any candid, honest or sincere appraisal of the epileptic state of electricity supply in the country would have to start or rather, would be hopelessly incomplete, without summoning the needed courage to recommend an urgent injection of power growth enablers and rapid expansion, into the entire national power equation.

The power growth arrangements as contained in the German Contract categorically stated the two parties’ commitment to jack up the nation’s grid capacity from 11k MW to 25k MW in the 2nd phase of the project.

Against the background of all that has transpired since the commencement of this all important project, it would be safe for us at this stage to confidently conclude that this target is as unrealistic as it is a tall order.

To conclude, perhaps it wouldn’t be out of place to strongly restate that the abysmal failure of our ruling elites to undertake a holistic, far-reaching and decisive structural disengagement from those imperial powers has sadly and calamitously condemned our beloved nation to a perpetual state of developmental retardation and slavish entrapment.

Comrade Salisu Nuhu Muhammad was a former Acting General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

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