The year 2020 has been described with several adjectives, notable amongst several; “a horror movie” As the year unfolds and rightly so considering the series and sequence of events, the COVID-19 pandemic is unanimously recognized as the standout performer in a local Wuhan play that has successfully been franchised for a global audience. The media is awash with so much data, opinions and most of all, fake news on its origin, impact and of course remedies not to mention the varying conspiracy theories.
On the 6th of April, a particular opinion struck me which necessitated this piece. It is the opinion of a global analyst. In summary, it predicted that the certain nations especially Africans will spill into a string of economic and political chaos as a fall out of the crashing global economy fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. It made a beautiful albeit limited prediction of the economic/political fortunes and futures of several nations. The African proverb, ‘Dreams are related to the past but connected to the future’ sets the tone for what really lays in wait. History proves that Nigerians and indeed Africans are a resilient people with a unique way of doing things. Kudos to Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Nnamdi Azikiwe/Obafemi Awolowo, and several other great African leaders for their heroic attempt at uplifting the lot of their people before the ultimate sabotage. Africa’s history for centuries has been a tale of repression by Western powers and It is no news that economic engagement with the west precipitously and revolutionarily damaged the placid pre-sixteenth century order. The current reality of Africa is not squarely a product of Africa’s self-undoing but prolonged subjection to the demands of the world system. Africa’s instability is undoubtedly not due to lack of endemic or global economic crisis; but due to invasion by foreign interests to illegally seize African wealth by artificially creating disconnections and invoking tribal and religious division as well as numerous coups. What does Libya’s oil, Sierra Leone’s diamond, Zimbabwe’s farm land, Angola’s oil, diamond, timber and ivory, Rwanda’s coffee and land have in common? They are all-natural resources sought after by foreign interests and hitherto prompted conflict. Practical studies also assert that ‘countries whose wealth is predominantly reliant on the exportation of basic commodities (agricultural produce and natural resources) are highly prone to civil disorder.
The United Nations (UN) reports that within the last sixty years at least 40 per cent of civil wars in the African continent have been connected with natural resources. There has never been armed conflict or hostility in Nigeria on account of poor global economic fortunes; because approximately 80% of Nigerians do not rely on foreign import for their sustenance. They source their needs from their immediate environment and have no incentive to become belligerents except of course fingered by foreign interests. These ordinary Nigerians deserve the most respect because they continue to push and fight even though nothing is given to them freely. This is the basis of the conviction that Nigeria will come out of this challenge even stronger.
Although, it’s a great challenge for developing countries to cope with the human capital, financial and infrastructural demands of combating COVID-19; but does this suffice as credible basis to predict war, economic depreciation, disease and advancement of terrorism?
While it is true that the Nigerian economy is dependent on Oil which accounts for over 95% of export earnings and 40% of government revenues coupled with the current gloomy oil market outlook, fortunes prima facie looks grotesque. Please do not interpret this as a denial but an opportunity to amplify the optimism that this “Achilles heel may yet become our Excalibur sword”. Objectively speaking, the fall in price of oil could just be another great incentive for Nigeria to transition from an Oil dependent Economy to other great untapped industries driven by our large and active population. Low oil price relatively has no effect on the peace and prosperity of Nigeria, it will rather help to drive Nigeria to a stronger country economically and politically. With low oil price, the leadership will become more creative because it will also bolster the Government’s fight on the corruption challenge. This will actually open the curtains and let the lights of progress and prosperity. Nigeria’s import bill which is approximately 40% petroleum products will drop sharply considering the extinction of Government subsidy on refined petroleum products as a consequence of the global decline in crude oil prices. This, in turn, will impact goods and services across the world. Transportation cost will drop as well as manufacturing and the general cost of doing business; especially small businesses. The slump of oil is not the end of Nigeria’s “golden era” but simply the dawn of a new one and the key is knowing how to take advantage of this advantage.
World renowned play writer and Nigerian literary icon Chinua Achebe states that the headache with Nigeria is that of leadership. According to the great African scholar, “The Nigerian complication is the unwillingness, or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, and the challenges of personal examples, which are the hallmarks of true leadership” Nigeria’s foremost challenge could be said to be ‘slothful political structure’ that has been effectively exploited by both local and external parties. Prior and post colonization, different tribes existed and coexisted, tribes had disputes and solved those disputes like all societies throughout evolution. We have continued to improve on our dispute resolution options despite the negative inputs of foreign interests that have constantly reinforced barbaric alternatives of resolving disputes during times of prosperity in the African continent; I hope you remember how the good work of Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso was unjustly aborted.
Nigeria is blessed with arguably the best of creative minds and natural resources that will rise to the occasion and seize the opportunities to look inward to develop African solution to African challenges. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy is arguably the last thing that will spur the spread of refugees, disease and terrorism; the first of course will be the foreign propaganda and conflict machinery. While we are far from perfecting conflict resolution, it is tremendously clear that there has been a massive improvement in the management of our religious, ethnic, political differences as all hands are on deck to preserve the strings that bind us. The funds and shared data from the richest countries are appreciated and will indeed speed up the arrival of treatments and vaccines against the COVID -19, but the solutions that will keep Nigeria and indeed several other African nations in these trying times will also be African. And I urge us to change our mindsets with respect to the decline of the price of oil as perhaps the curse has unknowingly become the blessing. Let us all seize the advantage of this Advantage.