Professor Ehiedu Iweriebor of Hunter College, New York sees the so-called Nigeria's debt relief as no more than the payment for national servility and disempowerment
The alleged cancellation of 60% of Nigeria's debt by the concert of imperialism
is being touted as the good results of the globe-trotting supplicatory campaigns
of President Obasanjo of Nigeria over the past six years of his tenure as
Nigeria's leader, and also as payment for the "brilliance of his Economic Team"
including the ex-employee of the World Bank. But this celebration and
back-slapping needs to be deflated with a critical understanding of what this
means for Nigeria as a nation.
In the first place, the question of how much Nigeria has actually repaid over
the past 20 years from 1985 as the debt accumulated needs to be answered. As
the debt has ballooned over this time, it would not be surprising to realize that
Nigeria has paid the total amount of the debt relief at least once over.
Secondly, it can be assumed that as hard-headed capitalists the so-called
relief was not given out the kindness of their hearts. While the actual details
of the arrangements and concessions made by Nigeria are not clear since the
full details of the agreement are not yet published, it can be said that this
is payment for Obasanjo's dedicated and unflinching service to Western
interests in Nigeria since he became President.
This is in terms of his zealous and fanatical implementation of the the entire
dogmas of the World-IMF doctrine of the Structural Adjustment Program(SAP).
Obasanjo is without equal among all Nigerian leaders since 1986 when SAP was
first officially imposed by the Babangida administration, in his total ,
unbending commitment to the complete subjection of Nigeria to these dogmas
irrespective of their immediate destructive impact on the peoples living
standards and their long-term disempoweriing consequences on Nigeria's capacity
for self-development. Though not commonly used anymore as it was in the 1980s
and 1990s, SAP and its well known conditionalities such as devaluation, trade
liberalization, removal of subsidy, deregulation, privatization, and state
withdrawal from the promotion of national economic and social development, it
should be remembered that these are the dogmas of African disempowerment which
Obasanjo has implemented with millitant and unbending fidelity.
Although, a lot of African intelligentsia today speak as if SAP
conditionalities are gospel truths which have now being "naturalized" as
Africa's only possible response to the economic and scoial crises, it is
politically and psychologically important for free and conscious Africans never
to forget its origins and intentions. It is a dogma of disempowerment
fabricated by outsiders, the so-called neo-liberals for Africa and other
neocolonies and bought and used by slavish African leaderships.
By all indications the application for this dogma in Africa has led to
substantial decline in the formal sectors of African economies.
The impact has equally damaging politically as African countries have abandoned
their sovereignties and basic responsibilities to their peoples and now respond
to the West as their primary constituency. Thus while Nigerian and other African
countries are now democracies with elected officials, in fact the elected
officials, feel themselves more responsible to their Western masters for
implementing policies dictated to them in various reformatted and relabelled
packages of SAP. The servile African leaders announce their fidelity without
blinking their eyelids. As Obasanjo himself has said, the alleged debt relief
was probably because of Western appreciation of his government's faithful
implementation of the Western economic packages, especially the sale of public
property to foreign and local capitalists.
Furthermore to underscore their servility in thought and practice, Obasanjo
and his officials now proudly announce to their masters that Nigerians now "own"
the WorldBank-IMF "reform package". Is it that the irony is lost on the
leadership or is outright servility that makes it possible for African leaders
to crow publicly, that Africans now "own" these so-called 'reform packages"
fabricated by outsiders and imposed through black faces? In the event, one has
to accept that colonial psychological programming and mental colonization is
alive and well among significant components of Nigerian and African leaders and
Obasanjo's other main achievement for which he was rewarded by the
fabricators of his reform package, was to so effectively withdraw the state
from its responsibility to advance Nigeria, protect and promote the interest
its citizens, and through privatization to put Nigeria on the trajectory of
multilateral economic recolonization and long-term disempowernment.
For the majority of Nigerians Obasajo's legacy would include his consistent
hiking of fuel prices, the corresponding increase in transport, food costs and
other prices; in short for his expansion of inflation and the reduction of the
peoples purchasing power. He will also be remembered for his creation of
refugees by his disruption of settled pan-Nigeian communities in 1004 and Eric
Moore housing estates through the sale of these public properties to private
property speculators. Thus in terms of economic and social policies he has been
a disaster, no matter what statistics are made to say.
In terms of the prospects of genuine national economic development, that is
the nation's technological capacity for self-propelled development, Obasanjo has
agreed to effectively terminate that possibility. This he has done by the sale
of strategic national industries in the metal, machine tools, ship-building,
automobile and other such areas. Even in agriculture which is he is alleged to
be partial to as a gentry capitalist farmer, his most prominent action is
prepare the sale of the fertilizer plants. In all these areas, which serious
countries control so as to be in the driver's seat of their development, this
administration has sold out to foreigners. Clearly, this regime is militantly
committed to privatization as dictated to it by its Western master, even if it
means making Nigeria an economic colony of Indian, Chinese, South African and
The impact of the second leg of his globe-trotting campaign, that is the
obsessive quest for foreign investment should be seen light of the argument
here. That it is essentially a disempowering choice for an entire sovereign
nation to cede its economic motion to the choices made by foreigners to invest
or not invest in the particular country. Again, this administration which has
what is touted as a brilliant "Economic Team", must be understood as nothing
but the greatest advocate of Nigeria's developmental incapacitation. As is well
known from their investment patterns, the fruits of Obasanjo's global foreign
investments supplication campaigns has been to bring companies into the
traditional non-developmental such as consumer goods industries like cigarette
and beeer production, bottled water, hotels, soft drinks re-packaged imported
juices, and similar kinds of activities. These are economic activities which
can easily be undertaken by a well supported and groomed domestic small and
medium scale sector.
The sector which is touted by Obasanjo's supporter's as a success story
is communications. There is little question that the expansion of phone
services now facilitates greater economic and social communication and probably
has injected as yet unquantified efficiencies into public and private business
transactions. It has also generated employment at various levels from re-charge
card sellers, time re-sellers to direct employees of the mobile and other
telecommunication companies. All of these have happened.
But they represent the classic example of growth without development: that is
that apart from non-strategic labor and fuel procured there is nothing
Nigerian about the so-called telecommunication revolution. All the companies
import all components of their skilled labour, machine, equipment and plants.
The boom in the demand for equipment has seen Nigeria becoming a captive of
telecommunication vendors from the West and Asia. Thus even though it is claimed
that the telecommunication companies have invested about $5 billion, it is clear
that more than 70% of this has gone to foreign suppliers of all the necessary
goods. Thus as was seen from re-charge cards(until recently) to base radio
stations every item is imported. This is mean that since the present government
has no policy , program and desire for Nigeria's mastery of the
telecommunication engineering field or to foster its development, for the
foreseeable future, Nigeria will remain a captive of global communication
equipment vendors and suppliers. These are the substantive achievements and
legacies of this present Nigerian administration for which it is being rewarded
with the alleged "debt relief".
However, for those Nigerians and Africans who still believe that they have the
primary responsibility for the development, transformation and empowerment of
their countries and the continent; the path of servility and supplication;
state withdrawal and disempowerment; rampant poverty and social oppression
chosen by this generation African leaders has to be combatted, defeated, and
replaced with new visions, strategies and the will to self-development and