by Farouk Martins Aresa
There is no doubt whatsoever that we have ingenuity, brains and prowess all over Africa. It is in the history, anthropology and science of man. The greatest enemies we face now are unexpired suicide bombers that take us two steps backwards for one step of progress. Adored rats invite bush rats to clog smooth machinery of progress. A colleague bitter observation at international conference still haunts: if Africans do not get their house in order, who will do it for them?
Asking for divine intervention is a signs of defeat. Some Africans gave up trying to rescue Africa; others have been defeated as innocent victims perished. But we know it’s those that get up on their feet after each defeat that overcomes. Since Independence, each African country had blue prints of rosy roads ahead, only to be betrayed. From steel to petrol industries, Africa built with European, American and Asian expertise inefficiently. If overwhelmed chose a battle at a time.
Haba, before each of these industries becomes effective and productive they were outdated. No matter how you take the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Ibe Kachikwu revelation, that right now, it is cheaper to import some PMS than refine locally or that it is reality as Nigeria struggles to be self-sufficient in about eighteen months. An ugly truth of what has been going on for about 50 yrs. Man proposes monkey wrench thrower disposes petroleum independence.
This is not in defense of Ibe Kachikwu, a mere messenger of reality: take it any way you want. At the same time, dejected, abused and frustrated folks wonder what else is cheaper to import: cars, garri, rice, vegetable, tomato, water, nylon, pencils, cement, gin or the air we breathe in. After Obasanjo planned mini independent power stations all over the Country to be supplied by gas plant, implementation failed because gas supply was not ready. Generator importers were!
The amount of brains, manpower and skills needed to police intentionally built-in inadequacy into the system from the initial phase of planning and acquisition is not as great as at the end when cancer in the system has spread beyond maintenance. Even if Ike Kachikwu is a scientist in petroleum science, he cannot rectify a system that was scantily implemented at the source. Since foreigners know that a small initial kickbacks to wrench throwers, can stall our machinery.
Maintenance of our refineries, turnaround time and petrol production is limited to a couple of octane range around 87. No provision or adaptation for higher 91, 95 range after kickbacks. We must import 90s PMS for new cars. Our sweet crude with low sulfur content already overtaken by modern refineries that can take sulfur out cheaper while our inefficient stagnant refineries become old jalopies that need repairs just as discarded Toronto subway trains we negotiated.
Any plans for electric cars? Indignation of people in reaction to imported goods and services as solution is in a way an indication that finally we are waking up to the injurious effect of imports depressing the local economy by pricing homemade products out of market. In the case of the imported petroleum products, it is also a major drain on foreign reserve. Acceptance of cheaper imports than local goods killed our textile industries as it may kill our food and vegetable farms.
Why is it that most of the industries in Africa are either established with old technologies that result in short lifespan trouble-free productions or second hand machineries that break down too often to be reliable? Some of us still remember the imported used Scandinavian buses that broke down on Lagos streets. The greed and colo-mentalities behind ready-mades goods satisfy instant gratification, instead of “practice made perfect “ goods from our manufacturing plants.
We read about those looking for forex to buy machineries and create employment. They were discouraged and asked to import. By importing, you crease the hands of Central Bank officers and bank branch that would take cuts. You save time or the hassle of opening new plant, hiring employees and managing them before making a profit. Many people do not want to go through jobs creation problem when you can make fifty percent profit by round tripping with the banks.
Ajaokuta Steel is still in limbo. Yet, it has produced many kickback billionaires abroad from one generation of glorified monkey wrench throwers to another. We struggled with telephone for so many years while M. K. O Abiola and the military destroyed few usable roads planting cables. Then came Bola Ige lambasting inefficiency in NEPA while deriding phone users as the privilege of the rich though market ladies in Benin Republic (a stone throw away) enjoyed cell phones.
Bola Ige gave a timetable like Fashola when NEPA would start supplying power to businesses and homes. He did not even say goodbye before he was demoted and they later snuffed life out of the Mr. Too-Know. Anyone that remembers Audu Ogbeh, the young Minister under Shagari that cut off power to NPN (his party) headquarters for none payment, knew he went back to his village poor and back as a lecturer. Even OBJ went broke after he left as military President.
When OBJ and Ogbeh came back into the government, they swore: never again! They became filthy rich. For each of those mentioned in this article, there are other Nigerians and Africans more dedicated, honest with a burning desire to serve and see Africans and Nigerians progress. Nigerians are well aware that if angels were sent to change and clean up corruption, the angels would become corrupt ending up on the other side of heaven: hell! We reward kakistocracy!
There is another factor that government business is nobody’s business while private enterprises are more efficient because they are driven by profit. This sounds right but nobody must excuse inefficiency anywhere. Even in the capitalist countries where basic infrastructure and health care are run by governments, corruption is high crime. In African countries, corruption becomes synonymous with obsession to gain adoration, throwing monkey wrench into running machine.
It is like schoolboys that altered their school fee bills in order to defraud their fathers, sharing their fathers’ sweat in the cocoa field fifty-fifty with the bursar. That is what those that would defraud their father do to their country. In those days, fathers disown those children. The same politicians colluding with foreigners, foreign portfolio investors, grabbing our foreign reserves, land and cornering our diamond, gold and oil resources should face deterrents as in China?
You do not have to be fatalists to save staved, neglected generation of Africans begging, dying to run away from home, retire outside, prostitutes worldwide or be armed robbers at home.