How Buhari’s Politics Under-develops Nigeria, By Mbasekei Martin Obono
If INTELS pulls out of Nigeria, how many jobs can Buhari’s administration create for the teeming population? Everything should not be about politics.
In the 70s, a strong wind of Pan-Africanism blew across the African continent, borderlines drawn by colonialism began to fade and the continent shrank even further. Proponents of Pan-Africanism held a strong belief that the economic, social and political progress of ‘one Africa’ would unify and uplift people of African descent.
As a result of the proposed economic and infrastructural integration, there was an agreement to construct railways that would traverse North, East, West and Southern Africa.
President Shehu Shagari, who was then president of Nigeria saw the opportunities in a united Africa and decided to build the Ajaokuta steel company. As the giant of Africa, Nigeria was poised to use Ajaokuta steel company to supply the required steel, needed for the construction of the railway.
The railway was already a huge market for the company. Also, Ajaokuta was projected to employ 500,000 people, with annual revenue running into billions of dollars. It was envisioned that the project would provide materials for infrastructural development, technological acquisition, human capacity building, income distribution, regional development, among many other achievements. Ajaokuta was more than sixty percent completed by the Shagari administration.
Despite the promise of a glorious future, a booming economy and a promising democracy, General Muhammadu Buhari and his military colleagues plotted a coup and overthrew Shagari’s government. After the ouster, Ajaokuta was abandoned with no further investment made into it. Even if the sin of overthrowing a democratically elected president is forgivable, how do we forgive the sin of the deliberate impoverishment of our people?
Let’s fast forward to his second coming in 2015. The National Bureau of Statistics in August 2016 revealed that 4.58 million Nigerians lost their jobs during Buhari’s first year in office. The unemployment rate has not dropped, but has rather increased. Many companies have wound up. Fortune 500 organisations and other multinationals have been quite concerned about the state of affairs in Nigeria. Portfolio investors, including Aberdeen Asset Management Plc and Ashmore Group Plc, which together oversee about $450 billion of asset, have retreated from Nigerian markets. Nigeria became even less attractive as the country fell from first to fourth, behind Ivory Coast, Kenya and Tanzania in the ranking of business prospects by the research unit of Nielsen Holdings Plc.
To make matters worse, the government recently revoked the contract of INTELS Services. INTELS Services moved to Onne in 1982, which was an almost empty field, only partially built. But INTELS refurbished Onne Port and transformed it to the largest oil and gas free zone in the world. The government has been struggling hard to convince keen observers that the revocation was not done on the basis of INTELS’ affiliation with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Atiku has been critical of both the economy and structure of Nigeria and in the same vein, shown that he is interested in running for president in 2019.
For the avoidance of doubts, more than 15,000 families depend on INTELS Services for their daily bread, clothing and shelter. The question is what would happen to these 15,000 people? Should they all suffer because of the ambition of one man?
For a government that detests the voice of dissent and would stop at nothing to clamp down on anyone, Atiku’s INTELS was an easy target. Before Atiku, the government tried to muzzle the opposition by introducing a social media regulation bill. After the bill failed, it introduced the NGO regulation bill to clampdown on organisations who may oppose government policies. This bill will also fail.
A government should be creating jobs instead of destroying them. INTELS also has a multi-billion dollar investment at the Badagry deep seaport in Lagos, the investment in Lagos would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians. If INTELS pulls out of Nigeria, how many jobs can Buhari’s administration create for the teeming population? Everything should not be about politics.
Mbasekei Martin Obono tweets @martobono