Nigeria + China: Till debts do us part! And…Tears for Salome Abuh
China became independent in 1949, 11 years before Nigeria and for a while, both countries had a lot in common: they belonged to the league of underdeveloped countries, they housed the poorest of the poor, were regional powers in size and might, generally classified as economically backwards. But even though both were underdeveloped, Nigeria’s economy was more buoyant than that of China and as at 1964, the per capita income (PCI) for China was $84.4 but $113 for Nigeria.
October 1 also happens to be the Independence Day of both countries. That was purely coincidental. Over the years however, both countries have “parted ways” as they drifted apart, positively for China but negatively for Nigeria. The gap has so widened as those things that held them together are no more. China is now a global power while Nigeria, which was the force behind African liberation, is now begging Chad et al to liberate it from the clutches of Boko Haram et al.
Economically, China, with a PCI of $10,000 gets worried whenever its growth rate goes towards 10 percent while Nigeria, with a PCI of $2,033 is celebrating a mythical growth rate of 2 percent. Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world with 47 percent of its population living in poverty (a number more than the poor in China & India), against 0.2 percent in Chana. Because birds of the same feather flock together and China now “flocks” with its fellow “big-men”, Nigeria, struggling on all dimensions is flocking with its fellow poor and distressed countries.
However, they still have October 1 as a rallying pointy and it appears that the two countries under their present leaderships, have resolved to go beyond the mere coincidence of October 1 to a relationship as deep as the Catholic Marriage, a covenantal relationship.
All legally binding relationships are contractual in nature and all or any of the parties can say easily “I no do again!” The only exception is the Catholic marriage, which spells “till death do us part”. That is why it is a covenant, not a contract. While the marriage covenant is a union of equals and “till death do us part”, the China-Nigeria marriage is a union of unequal’s and it is Till DEBTS Do Us Part!
Nations, organisations and individuals do borrow, despite the injunction of neither a borrower nor a lender be. But the key issue in lending, beyond the bankers’ 3Cs (Character, Collateral and Competence) is that the loan be self-liquidating. Nigeria was battling with a suffocating debt burden until the Obasanjo led government achieved the miraculous feat of debt write-off. Debts have however returned to the front-burner of economic discourse in Nigeria. It has moved from N12.6 trillion in December 2015 to N25 trillion in June 2019 in June 2019; more than 25 percent of our GDP goes to debt servicing and greater than our capital expenditure, and China, with a debt-hold of $2.5 billion on Nigeria, is our highest country-creditor.
But while national debt has become a key issue of concern for Nigerians, our government is not worried, as it continuously assures us: “no cause for alarm”, comparing our debt records with other debt-harassed countries. The government is behaving like that pupil who was harassed by his father for coming 51st in a class of 53 and he retorted “at least I did better than 2 others and they are also peoples’ children!”
All this is happening as the IMF just warned that 40 percent of African countries are in debt crises; when some countries have had their critical assets seized by China and when Chinese loans are becoming more toxic and addictive and encourage acute dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth. I recall in January, the CBN had warned the government about external borrowing even though I don’t know its stand on the current ballooning of our debt stock.
While the marriage covenant is a union of equals and till death do us part, the China-Nigeria marriage is a union of unequal’s and it is Till DEBTS Do Us Part
Why do Chinese loans hold such attraction to us and why are they so suspiciously generous with these loans even when repayment capability is being gradually impaired? What is the impact of these and other loans on our long-term economic growth and what do we do to escape the looming debt trap? Are we under China-debt stranglehold peonage or are people just crying wolves? What is Chinese agenda, hidden or open? Questions, questions and more questions… later.
Other matters: Kogi; tears for Salome Abuh et al
The national elections are almost over with the incisive judgment on Atiku’s appeal, which was delivered with automatic alacrity within 24 hours of the appointment of new supreme court justices. I decided not to make any direct political commentaries after my analysis of the last presidential elections. But now that the supreme court has ruled, I believe that the elections are over apart from a few cases hanging here and there.
I will get back to these election-related matters but certain things cannot wait and one of them is the superlative performance of our security forces during the Kogi elections as indicated by the gruesome roasting of Abuh by a crowd bloodthirsty celebratory thug. The woman who had earlier been battered was recuperating when the jubilant crowd set her house on fire, ensured that she did not escape and waited till the house was completely razed. Just imagine how long this deadly process would have lasted! Many others were also sacrificed on the altar of inordinate quest for political control.
The police had deployed 35000 personnel for Kogi, including Police Mobile Force, Special Protection Unit and Counter-terrorism Unit and other security outfits. I learnt that customs officers were included, probably to ensure that nobody was compromising voters with foreign rice. Where were these security men, who had been doing a “show of force” around town, when this gruesome act was being perpetrated? Sadly, our dear IGP told us that this intimidating, force supported by helicopters and attack dogs was overpowered by “fake policemen”. How could he openly say that? Anyway, during the Rivers governorship elections, there were fake APCs, fake police dogs and fake police guns! Yes, PMB had ordered an investigation.
So, without a presidential order, the police were not planning to do anything? I was not in Kogi but I believe the testimony of Rev. Fr Emehel Executive Director, Justice and Peace Development Initiative, JDPC, Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, who said that “The election fell short of everything an election should stand for and should be considered an outright war. The battle was not won with the ballot papers but by bullets. Bullets exchanged for ballots in many places”
With security men like those assigned to Kogi (and even Bayelsa), we don’t need no security. However, with the sterling performance of thugs, starting with the show of shame at Okota, I move and it is hereby moved that our police force be disbanded and a new one constituted, made up of tested and trusted THUGS. Since it takes a thief to catch a thief and since the thugs have always overwhelmed the security forces, we cannot have any better security outfit. The new force, by whatever name, should be headed by the Thug-in-chief from Lagos!