• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why Nigeria is not a pariahdom

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It is no news that some Western countries, notably the United States of America and the United Kingdom, have been warning their citizens over the dangers that lurk in many troubled parts of the world, Nigeria included. No one begrudges them for that, as it is absolutely within their prerogative to so do.

The implication, however, is obvious. The warnings, issued and periodically updated, are sufficient to scare even the most audacious amongst their citizens. Many a time, the situation is exaggerated but it often does not fail to caution. In today’s world where investors’ and tourists’ dollars are fiercely competed for, these warnings only help to squash investment and tourism opportunities in countries against which they are issued. They also lower the appetite and curiosity of foreigners who want to venture out into such countries.

If only the relevant folk are able to track it, they would find how these warnings have diverted investors and their investments from Nigeria’s economy, unmindful of Nigeria’s status as an emerging economy with a potential for higher profits. They have cast the country as an outcast amongst nations from the reaction of foreigners at the mere mention of Nigeria by name.

As investment and tourism opportunities are receding, so are job opportunities contracting and the security outlook further deteriorating out of sheer youth joblessness. The country thus faces a vicious cycle from which it is very difficult to get out. Continuing inability to timely stabilise the situation not only affects the epicentre of the trouble (Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe States; and some parts of the riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States; with the cities of Warri, Kano and Okene specially also delineated) but the whole country. A point could soon arrive, a very troubling point indeed, if not already reached, where even indigenous investors and visitors would shy away from these troubled areas and contiguous areas. But wait, aren’t we already warning against posting our children and wards on National Youth Service to the violence-prone areas?

Foreigners, therefore, should not be expected to be bullish on a country when its citizens are shying away. It is normal for foreign investment to recoil at the faintest sign of social or political turbulence. Capital will remain only in activities where profit is huge enough to make up for the high risk. The premium the country pays for using such residual capital has an opportunity cost that is reflected in the low general well-being and self-esteem of many citizens and that cost is borne by all.

In terms of development on both human and physical planes, unless a “Marshall Plan” is instituted, future generations of Nigerians will not forgive this generation for the lopsidedness they will see between sections of the country. The imbalance will be so distant and difficult to correct that it will launch the country into a different set of problems or exacerbate existing ones, in education, for instance.

Meanwhile, the size of government is continuing to burgeon because of the various security and allied organisations birthed to help solve insecurity problem alone; cost thereto is increasing and crowding out other areas of need; and corruption out of sheer absence of accountability rules the day. The solution currently being applied does not seem to be working too well – and fast enough – and discussion on alternatives seems caught in fruitless debate about merits and demerits.

Yet, Nigeria is not a pariahdom. Unlike many known pariah states – Iran, Zimbabwe and North Korea – it is the recalcitrance of the states and their leaders that is at issue. On the other hand, Pakistan currently lives with terrorism and remains a respected member of the community of nations. Its efforts to crush terrorism are what set it apart from those pariah states, some of which are known to habour terrorists and encourage terrorism. Pakistan continues to enjoy a flow of investment from outside its borders and receives aid from the US government, while it is not relenting in its pursuit of the Taliban in its Waziristan district.

Nigeria is like Pakistan. The world similarly notes the committed efforts it is taking to defeat terrorism within and outside its borders. Despite the spate of terrorist activities, Nigeria still promises extraordinary profits to its investors. And for that reason alone, the risk notwithstanding, many investors are willing to stick around, while they take a little more trouble investing in their personal protection.

The issue of terrorism is not going away soon or in the near future. Nigerians and their foreign friends will learn to live with it. Living with it is to accept tight security as a norm. The Jewish state of Israel already knows this as a fact of life and this may be the new way forward for Nigeria.

Guns give people a feeling of power. Regardless of whether amnesty is given or not, some of those who have felt that power will continually crave it and, with the right environment, will want to keep it. The only counter force remains that of the state – and the eternal vigilance of all Nigerians.

 

EGHE ISIAKA GUOBADIA

Guobadia, economist, banker, who was special assistant to former finance minister Chu Okongwu, now works in New York.

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