By Owei Lakemfa
Nigeria is in dire financial straits. Nothing better typifies this than the free fall of the Naira in an import- dependent country. Between 2013 and 2014, the currency was quite stable at N160 to the dollar. Then came 2015, the year American soothsayers had predicted will experience the demise of the most populous black nation in the world. It was also the year of general elections in which more falsehood was peddled than the truth. The uncertainty saw the country slip form the strongest economy on the continent.
By the time power changed hands, the Naira had plummeted to N240 and the thought of many of us was that once the polity stabilized, the currency will steadily regain its health. But this has not been so; rather than resurgence, the decline had been steady with the currency sinking to N465 to the dollar. Clearly, the country needs help to rescue its drowning currency and fight hyper-inflation. It is in these times of economic pain and sorrow when factories are shutting down, wages unpaid and hunger is strutting the land like a conquering Field Marshall, that we need the assistance of our friends. Some help was promised by the African Development Bank.
As usual, the European Union (EU) has tried to take the centre stage; in line with its unethical medical practice which prescribes poison for all African ailments, its prescription for Nigeria’s problem is a further devaluation of the Naira. Mr. Fillippo Amato , Counsellor, Head of Trade and Economics Section of EU, told the Nigerian Government that “To come out of recession, the country has to take brave decisions, regardless of how unpopular they may be such as fully and effectively devaluing the Naira ” He did not say how such “brave decisions” successive Nigerian governments have taken in the last thirty years, has helped the country.
In regurgitating the same inanities the EU and its International Monetary Fund (IMF) arm have been peddling for decades, Mr. Amato claimed that “ Devaluing the Naira is a measure, which will finally reassure investors and attract new capital to the country. At the same time, it will further reduce imports, thereby removing artificial forex restrictions, and removing any potential waste of scarce resources such as the fuel subsidy. ”
It was such silly arguments and advise from Europe that convinced former Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to one evening, decree the 100 percent devaluation of the Naira from N9 to N18 to the dollar.
Apart from their history as the slave masters and colonialists in Africa, Europe has continuously played the role of an undertaker in post-colonial Africa. It saw, and sees Africa as a war booty to be shared and exploited. Europe’s unenviable history in Africa is to make the continent dependent and beggarly.
The ‘development’ model for Africa Europe champions, includes cuts in social spending, withdrawal of subsidies, trade liberalization, currency devaluation, enthronement of the private sector as the so called engine room of the economy, less government presence and placement of profit above human lives. The so-called ‘growth’ it promotes, has no positive effect on the lives of the people. The prosperity it preaches does not translate to more jobs, better and wider social protection. In all these, or what President Barack Obama calls “souless capitalism” the people are mere figures, just objects with no life of their own.
When these policies were first imposed on Nigerians in the late 1970s, they were labeled Austerity or Belt-Tightening Measures. For this policy, the General Obasanjo regime in 1978 shot dead protesting students. From the mid 1980s, the policies were repackaged as Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) When SAP became an undeniable tragedy, even the IMF and its sister World Bank expressed regrets, but asked the victim- countries to write long country essays called Poverty Reduction Strategic Papers. Today, we are back to the SAP era which is called different names; from Globalisation to Market Forces.
These policies have resulted in more poverty and dependence on the industrialized countries, and led some Africans to watery graves in Lampedusa and other parts of Europe and Australia.
Africa cannot continue in this dehumanizing Western model of development that has worldwide, minted 210 million willing but unemployed persons.
The Western Development Model is no doubt attractive to many of our leaders, but we should heed the advice of the Pan Africanist, Franz Fanon who cautioned Africa at the onset of independence not to seek to catch up with Europe , but rather, to set our sights on our own development model which should be human-centred.
As we know, China did not set out to catch up with Europe; but today, it has surpassed that continent. China in ensuring its development, rejected the key theories of the World Bank and IMF which include ‘’floating” its currency and allowing so called market forces to determine its value. It also did not allow the mythical market forces to determine its interest rates. Despite these, Foreign Direct Investment, flowed into that country like a water fall. Yet Africa is told that for it to get foreign investment, it must kill its local industries and drown its local currencies. In fact, the World Bank in the early 1990s told Nigeria that it does not need universities; that technical schools are its requirements!
All peoples should evolve their own development model based on their peculiarities, culture and world view. If there is a Western Model and A Chinese Model, there is no reason why we cannot create the African Development Model. The African conscience has a soul; its social system has compassion for the young and elderly, the disadvantaged and the weak. We have the family system as a given, and a communal spirit. We can develop on these humanists’ values, rather than follow the rote learning from the IMF, World Bank and the dysfunctional World Trade Organisation (WTO) and seek to create another Europe in Africa.
In any case, if Europe can prey on its own, as it is doing to Greece, what will it not do to African countries? As for its prescription of further currency devaluation in Nigeria, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce has a graphic response “If the European Union wants Nigeria to devalue our currency, which is already at ₦475 to $1, further, then they should supply coffins for Nigerians that will die as a result.”
It is the duty of government to prevent this suicide; is this not why President Muhammadu Buhari asked Nigerians to think outside the box?