For many foreign policy observers like this writer, there is no gainsaying that Nigeria is fast losing touch with realities in international diplomatic circles. This assertion is factual if one looks at the use of our diplomatic intrigues during the Libyan uprising when Nigeria swiftly supported the Libyan Transitional Government despite apprehension from their South-African neighbour. Nigeria’s support for the opposition only came when it seemed NATO and the US were hell bent on cutting off the headache called Muammar Gadaffi. Other examples abound like those of the Egyptian uprising and that of Ivory Coast, where Laurent Gbagbo went berserk all in a bid to hold on to power. Despite Nigeria’s foreign policy insisting on pursuing a true course in continental and regional security, the triumph of freedom and democracy in these countries owe so much to the West as against whatever Nigeria preached or preaches.
The problem, however, is that in as much as we try to show the international community that we are a nation with the big brother status, we remain a laughing stock among them because our leaders cannot stop making incautious statements abroad which does not reflect the true state of things to within our territory.
The reason for this forthright statement could be seen in the just concluded World Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, where President Jonathan was at the opening of the Nigeria-Korea Investment Forum on Infastructure and Energy Development at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul, South Korea. He, alongside 52 world leaders and international organisation attended the summit.
The President, after the summit spoke to the Nigerian community where he promised that his administration would replicate the Asian Tiger economy before his tenure elapsed. He also promised that his administration would do everything possible to woo investors into the country while investors would be encouraged to do business in Nigeria.
For those who are not in the know, the term Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) according to economic historians refers to the first group of developing countries to successfully transform themselves between the early 1960s and 1990s from economic crawlers to cutting-edge global financial and economic powerhouses. Today, the original Asian Tigers (as new Tigers have emerged in the last one decade) have become substantial global economies on their own with South Korea boasting a GDP of $929 billion; Taiwan $699 billion; Hong Kong$215 billion; and Singapore $182 billion. Combined together, the Asian Tigers boast of an economy worth more than $2 trillion, making the the eight largest economy in the world.
Any curious mind would have asked how these four Asian countries brought about an economic miracle, growing at a steady rate annualy, even as economic crunch bites Europe? Theirs was no rocket science as for about four decades, salient issues that would bring prosperity and a basic understanding of how the world economy worked coupled with a determined and strong leadership with the political will to step on the toes of faceless cabals in whatever shades and lights led these nations to economic triumph. Aside these, the pursuit of intelligent neo-liberal policies, standard education for the people, a committed and hardworking work force and strong reliance on export were some of the policies embarked upon by these Asian Tigers, making them to be at par economically with countries like the U.S, Canada and France.
From the look of his speech, it is not hard to conclude that the President was not in the know of the Nigerian realities when he told the international community how, within two years left for his administration to end, he intends to replicate the success of the Asian Tigers in Nigeria when as a leader, he could not confront the so called oil cabal that had milked dry the vast majority of the people for decades. It is simply a misplaced speech and this writer wondered where the President’s diplomatic details, speech writers and foreign policy advisers were when the President was making that speech.
It took the Asian Tiger countries decades to achieve their economic and socio-political feats, yet our president went ahead to tell a stunned international community he wished to do same within two years. It is quite unfortunate that all our leaders do is to talk and talk carelessly abroad without weighing the implication on the nation. In a country where life expectancy is 47 years, how does the president intend to raise the mortality bar within two years to 72 years which the Asian Tigers enjoy in abundance? Nigeria is solely dependent on oil and for more than four decades, she has not been able to transform the nation into a developed giant, yet the president wishes to replicate what happened in the Asian Tiger countries. Did he forget that these countries hardly enjoy abundant natural resources like ours, yet went ahead to use the little they had to transform their countries?
A country where one can hardly find state of the art roads and efficient transportation system, a growing and super education system where every child is mandated to get cheap education, a strong and efficient work force dedicated to the development of the nation, a leader who is willing to listen to the yearnings and aspirations of the people, a patriotic citizen or a nation with efficient power supply is not a nation whose president can transform within two years, replicating other nations success upon.
In a country where corruption is a norm and celebrated even in the house of the Lord is not a country that can go the way of the Asian Tigers within two years. If the Asian Tigers had rode on the ‘goodluck’ train by voting in leaders who claimed had no shoes while growing up and then appeared volteface when power had been given, nobody would be talking about replicating some Asian Tiger economies. A country whose ruling party does nothing but share money at the centre and middle, without any clue on how to make the country one of envy and pride cannot replicate another nation’s economic success story.
President Jonathan with his speech has made mockery of his administration and should in a matter of days begin a process of making things clearer. We do not need the success stories of some Asian Tigers or Asian Zebras to transform our country. We know what to do and should do it. Nigeria should begin a process of re-orientation where every citizen puts his loyalty first to the nation before family, friends and political feudal lords. If we all see Nigeria as one without bias or sentiments, then Nigeria would be our priority for greatness. If it is only oil our leaders have to transform Nigeria, let them begin using it to bring about development and social justice, while the big brother status we claim to be would always be the envy of others.
Havin said this, it is a well known fact that no organisation would invest in a country where violence, crisis, religious intolerance, power failure and corruption are in high demand. Investors are not father christmas and would not throw money where such investments would be hit by national disgrace. This writer wonders how the president wishes to encourage and woo investors into the country when virtually nothing works in the country? The example of the telecoms sector the president used as a yardstick is quite faulty because Nigerians pay one of the highest bills to keep pace with the telecoms world. Aside these, these telecoms companies find it quite hard to operate in a harsh environment like ours, majorly because of epileptic power and insecurity. Even if we must decieve ourselves, we should not try to place the wool in the eyes of foreigners because they know to a large extent the challlenges we are facing as a nation.
Nigeria has the wherewithal to be more than the Asian Tigers and it is all about doing the right things. Our greatness can only be achieved when we as a nation is economically sound. The Asian Tigers had achieved this feat and for that reason, let president Jonathan and his ilk seek yea that economic powerhouse and kingdom (through thinking leaders) and all other things shall follow.
Written By RAHEEM OLUWAFUNMINIYI