Okello Oculi, Ph.D

Executive Director

The visit to Nigeria by China's President and his
large delegation of businessmen and scientists on 27
April,2006, raises more than a matter of oriental
tourism coming to Africa. The visit assumed immediate
high diplomatic value following threats, by the United
States Embassy, thrown with verbal and textual
violence at President Olusegun Obasanjo's alleged wish
to amend Nigeria's constitution to enhance his chances
of being re-elected in 2007. The American embassy
denounced the plot. President Putin, in turn, seems
to have sent out a rumour about not inviting Obasanjo
to a G-8 summit when it meets under the new presidency
of the Russian Republic.

The "troika" of the world's super powers had each
waved a tooth at Nigeria's diplomacy; with hostile
fangs flashing from Russia and the United States
almost certainly at the sight of China winning oil
wells in Nigeria's oil rich Niger Delta region,and on
the lower lips of Lake Chad. There were other benefits
to China including an announced partnership with
Nigeria to fly their tow countries's flags to the moon
and other corners of space,on joint efforts.

What is of interest here is, however, the matter of
governance. We can begin with 1966. It was a historic
year for both countries. Nigeria on January 15, 1966
killed two of its most visionary leaders: Abubakar
Tafawa Balewa, the federal prime minister, and Ahmadu
Bello, the prime minister of Northern Nigeria. British
officials had seen Ahmadu Bello as arrogant and
resentful of their power. He quickly translated this
"resentment" into inviting strings of prime ministers
and presidents of other African countries into
Northern Nigeria, suggesting that he had a wish to
resume the march of a Sokoto Caliphate to which he
laid some hereditary claims. Tafawa Balewa, on his
part, had disguised his own pan-African muscles under
a melodious way of speaking the English language. He
had, however, quickly joined Nehru of India and
Nyerere of Tanganyika, in demanding and achieving the
expulsion of apartheid South Africa out of the
Commonwealth on grounds of its racism as a principle
of governance. He was also dispatching brilliant and
energetic young men (including Leslie Harriman and
Muhammadu Sanusi), around African capitals and in 1963
achieving the formation of a continental governmental
promise called the "Organisation of African Unity,
OAU". Balewa had also talked publicly about building a
railway line from Maiduguri in Nigeria's northeast
corner, to Dakar on the Atlantic Ocean as an
alternative route to the colonial Kano to Lagos
railline. Such men of vision had to be terminated, and
gun wielding soldiers did just that.

In China 1966 was the year of the "Cultural
Revolution" in which Mao called out the dictum: "Let a
thousand flowers bloom!". To open skies for these
flowers, he set the Red Guards against bureaucrats and
party officials who wished to monopolise power and
centralise planning at the centre in Peking (now
Beijing). These central party officials and
bureaucrats were also reversing the goals and road to
building socialism in China by "taking the capitalist

The point of note was China's Mao, in 1966,
channelling its revovolution into dispersing power
from the central organs of the Chinese Communist Party
to towns and villages in "an experimental approach to
Party and State action"; by which party "cadres had to
use their own initiative". In concrete terms, village
and township administrators throughout China were
forced to face the challenge of finding and allocating
financial resources, finding capital goods "for
setting up furnaces and finding the raw materials for
producing steel". Village party officials allowed
chief executives of commercial enterprises,
cooperatives, banks, mines producing raw materials,
and other big enterprises "relatively high degree(s)
of operational autonomy".

The leadership was fired by a passionate desire for
fast economic growth and catching up with the United
States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan-- countries
which had exploited and humiliated China. Japan's
example of an Asian country catching up with Europeans
and Americans (or "barbarians"), as well as a backward
peasant-based pre-1917 Russian economy which had been
rapidly industrialised under communist rule, both had
significant influence on Chinese communist rulers. The
crucial issue here is that this commitment to national
economic growth was sent down to the villages and
towns all across China. Mao had, after all, won power
by riding on the political and military wills of
peasant converted into a guerilla war for their own
freedom by terminating both rural and urban feudalist

While China was convulsing under the leadership of a
single party, the Chinese Communist Party, Nigeria
from 1966 to 1999 was (except for a brief "malady"
from 1979-83) under centralised one-command military
rule. This militarised command structure, however,
stopped at the state level; dramaticall increased from
4 regions in 1966 to 37 power spaces in 1999; with
local governments and villages (or communities)
remaining under civilian non-official control. Unlike
China, the objective of catching up with the high
level of income in the United States and the European
Community, was not consciously and systematically
"diffused and decentralised to the lowest level of
government in the towns and villages". Nigeria,
therefore, missed the opportunity of reversing the
colonial legacy of taking to,and entrenching
impoverishment and exploitation in, the villages and
traditional towns.

Two lessons to be learnt from Japan appear to have
escaped Nigeria. One was the Mandarin tradition of
joining power with intensive high quality learning
and intellectual productivity in the each
office-holder.What John F. Kennedy's speech writers
would later call "the best and the brightest" became
central principal in manning Japan's civil service.
These are brewed with intensively competitive
examinations whose administration is streneously
protected against "corrupt" family and monetary
influences. For a nation that sought to protect its
independence and avoid the humiliation China had been
subjected to by foreigners, the character of its civil
service assumed the character of a war-fighting
machine. The failure by Nigeria, and Africa, to
decidedly borrow this strategy of governance from
Japan, has turned the continent's "mandarins" from
CIVIL SERVICES to, what others see as, EVIL MACHINES
for entrenching corruption and illiterate

The second lesson missed from Japan's experience is
that of infusing governance with brotherhood and ethic
of community. In the area of economic governance,
Africa may well have escaped the fatal cancer of
corruption by the device of turning adminstrators and
political party leaders into economic
entrepreneurs.The simple trick of giving collectively
saved capital to fund enterpises owned by such
individuals could do it. The price for such support in
Japan was owners of enterpises accepting intensive and
daily surveillance through having officials of the
ministries of Finance, Foreign Trade, and the Bank of
Japan, on management teams of these enterprises.

It could be said that Africa's bane has been that of
failing to domesticate core values of community ethics
into economic governance, while leaving them free to
run wild as the ethic of "tribalism". That
privatizations of public enterprise have been
vigorously resisted and resented all across the
continent, underlines the silent power of a silent,
unutilised and neglected but resilient ethic.

The administration of independence is in its infancy
in Nigeria and the rest of Africa outside of
Ethiopia,South Africa, Morocco and Egypt. It is a
season of experimentation which started with one-party
states, military coups and military-led ,
administrations, civil wars and armed revolutions
(including the terrible genocide in Rwanda), the
democracy storm, and contestations over constitutions
and their amendments. It is still a time for borrowing
from each other (including from other continents),
under the guidance of that proverb which says:"Even
co-wives in a polygamous marriage can make each other