Having established the merits of borrowing at a time like this (and also emphasizing the need for something drastic to be done about the wastage of public resources), I must confess that I am slightly biased towards Chinese loans.
I must have mentioned this story here but permit me to repeat it.
In the year 2010 while President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua writhed in deathly pains in Saudi Arabia, the trio of George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Condoleeza Rice, were in Abuja on the invitation of the Thisday chief, Nduka Obaigbena.
I was also there at Thisday Dome. Condoleeza interviewed the two ex-Presidents.
Someone slipped through a question about China’s activities in Africa and Blair answered that they had noticed that each time an African country approaches China about building a road, the Chinese people show up the next day with a digger, but when we go to them in the West, they give us a huge sheaf of people with fine print that we could never read (or weren’t bothered to read like Amaechi advocated), and they ask us for all sorts of conditionalities (such as to devalue our currency, increase interest rate, lay off half of our civil service, and on a few occasions, they call for change of government).
At that point, Bush, who had been distracted, snatched the phone from Blair and went on to tell us how China is polluting African environment.
I was there in the hall, literally 10 metres away from them. Blair had spoken in a moment of British simplicity and honesty.
Bush had put on a typical, condescending American bullshit spin.
I came off learning a lot.
In truth, the Chinese deliver on tangibles; we actually see what infrastructure they say they want to build.
Before the Chinese came on the scene, the West had totally lost respect for us, and played with us, thinking we were stuck with them.
They had seen that we were a bunch of time and money-wasters and getting any real tangible financing from them had become incredibly hard.
They were just running rings around us and took us for granted.
The Chinese made them sit up and take notice.
Part of the clamor against Chinese loans stems from the need for some sort of Western comeback.
However, the ‘West’ is not ready for a simple, development-based comeback to Africa.
They are more interested in the political mileage they could get.
I recall that in 2006 just as Nigeria jostled for debt cancelation, some Nigerian newspapers published the details of the loans that Nigeria had obtained from the London and Paris Clubs of lenders.
Most of the projects did not simply exist even though most had been drawn down. Some states claimed they had installed trams and cable cars.
Others had collected loans for metro lines, and even underground rail systems.
How could these have happened if the westerners had adopted a hands-on approach like the Chinese are presently doing?
They must have simply disbursed some of the loans to our 2nd Republic leaders and looked away.
Money would also have changed hands.
Nobody should say westerners don’t collect bribes.
In other instances, Nigeria paid for breaches of contract as a result of military takeover of governments.
Some of the loans also accrued punitive interest rates as high as 14% and before the debt forgiveness came, according to President Obasanjo, we had paid $38billion in cash, on a loan of $12billion, while we had a debit balance of $35billion. Imagine the abracadabra!
At least for China, we know where the rails are, and the airports, and whatever else it is they intend to build for us.
It is true that they have so many of their own peasants and so, they try to use their interventions in Africa to create jobs for their own people, and of course their transactions are more susceptible to opacity and corruption and so the deals are sweet for our leaders and politicians.
Nigeria must struggle against such practices.
In Ghana some years back, it was reported that the Chinese released some of their prisoners to come and work as contractors on a project, while their salaries were paid in China.
As per the clause in contention, my opinion is that it sounds rather omnibus and like some commentators have opined, I would rather the clause is more specific as to what asset is claimable per loan.
I have read a number of highly respected lawyers on this and from my understanding of international finance, fair is fair and we must give some sort of comfort to lenders.
Everything is however subject to innovation, and so the House of Reps is doing the right thing, calling for clarifications to what it is unsure of.
Nigerians are also afforded the opportunity to learn.
I do not agree with Amaechi that we sign those deals with scant regard and enquiry.
We also don’t have to adopt an anti-China stance whereby we begin to spew racist slurs and try to denigrate the Chinese as has been going on.
I would however suggest that we are pragmatic.
We should be pro-Nigerian always. Kishore Mahbubani gave an expose about how Singapore was able to pull away from underdevelopment in a simple speech.
He called the acronym MPH – Meritocracy, Pragmatism and Honesty.
Singapore was pragmatist in choosing ideas from capitalism and socialism that worked for her people.
PM Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia also spoke about how a country should not blindly collect loans, but insist on tangibles for her people in terms of finance, employment, and training.
Investments should not be sought blindly just because…
Nigeria is in deep economic trouble.
All who have benefited immensely from the corruption and stealing that defines this country must be very worried because this country can snap any day.
A handful of people are sitting on so much ill-gotten wealth while the country is forced to borrow some more.
Well, except we are ready to face the evil day, we will continue to borrow especially in these sad, scary times which society and economy must somehow be sustained.
I prefer the Chinese model, because beyond politics of puritanism by which another country dictates who leads and how we run the country, we really need to see what we are borrowing for.
It occurred to me that those foreigners who intervene in the politics of this country have never helped install anyone who will add true value.
It is also most important that we get worried that we are still on feeding bottle even though this country is 60 years old today.
We cannot do anything on our own.
We even speak of borrowing as if it’s an achievement.
We have no hand in the construction of the infrastructure that our governments list as accomplishments, and our youths still graduate from university, only conversant with expired theory and no practicals.
The university staff union abandons students in the public university for years and most of the lecturers are only interested in victimisng students when the schools are on.
We are not yet ready for the great sacrifices and exertions that result in real nationhood.
We borrow, because it is the easiest thing to do.
We are oblivious of the dangers ahead, and the fact that we have mortgaged the existence of 5 generations unborn.
We max out our enjoyments today, and strut about thinking we were specially made, when indeed we are just being thoughtless.
We are ready to replace one oppressor with another, based on exigency. Yesterday it was the West. Today it is the Chinese.
Already, we are even looking at Turkey.
Someone tried to interest me in their citizenship just days ago.
Are we born to be so helpless?