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Nigeria at 60: The Dialectic of a Failing Renaissance

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Standing elegantly before the visiting Princess Alexandra of Kent and Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, at the final lowering of the British Union Jack, in Lagos, in October 1960, Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa declared that, “… independence (for Nigerians) implies a great deal more than self-government.”

For the constituents of the new sovereign, it was the consummation of a struggle which only intensified with the termination of the World War II and the rise of Black Nationalism led by notable Pan-Africanists like Henry Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, to mention a few. Such was the enormity of the hope that Nigeria presents to Africa and the rest of the world in that era. The globe quickly took note of this potential power emerging from mother Africa, full of dynamic resources both human and minerals, with a firm promise to be a respected player at the international arena.

In the early days, Nigeria did not disappoint. Joining the United Nations as its 99th member in 1960, she stamped her readiness to provide the much-needed direction for Africa by making the continent the centre-piece of her foreign policy with the most important agenda of ending apartheid in South Africa and securing political independence for other African colonies at the time. In affirming her commitment to these goals; Nigeria was an active participant in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) in 1963, in Addis Ababa, and that of the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in 1975. Nigeria also became a part of the UN efforts to maintain global amity by contributing troops as part of the first UN Peacekeeping Mission to Congo (1960-64). Nigerian soldiers have so far adorned the blue berets in more than two dozen UN operations worldwide.

From Dream To Despair

For ordinary Nigerians, however, the honeymoon was short-lived as series of incidents drew a dagger at the heart of the young State which have continued to shape the fate of its political nay economy trajectory till date. To begin with, politicians (post-independence) exhibited gross lack of maturity which was most evident in the social disruption that erupted in the Western region between Premier Obafemi Awolowo and his estranged former ally, Samuel Akintola, in 1965. The killings, arson, and looting that accompanied the political rivalry between the two led to a severe loss of lives and property. Furthermore, the subsequent hijacking of political power by the military in January 1966 is considered an anathema especially since the coup d’état was perceived as ethnic-oriented in some quarters. Third in the chain of events was the devastating Biafra (civil) war that broke out after an attempt to secede by the mainly Igbo ethnic race in 1967. An estimated one million lives were sacrificed in the war which ended in January 1970.

Sandwiched amongst these events was the discovery of oil in commercial volume in the southern part of the country. Many historians have argued that oil is a poisoned chalice to Nigeria as it opened a vista of uncontrolled gluttony to the custodians of political authority and solidified unbridled corruption in the public service. So much was the level of profligacy within the system that then Military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, was quoted as saying Nigeria’s challenge isn’t how to make money ‘but how to spend it!’

Having reached its apotheosis a little too soon, Nigeria’s fortunes plummeted dramatically whilst the rest of the world watched in utter awe at the distasteful flatulence from the failing giant.

The Unanswered Question

Caught in the euphoria of shedding the toga of being a colony, the Nigerian state abinitio failed to answer a fundamental question: who owns Nigeria? This unfortunate oversight defines the colouration of what is termed ‘Nigerianess’ in/of Nigerians. It speaks to the dearth of a clear-cut structural identity; the vehicle which cascades a society into nationhood. It also, perhaps, explains the causal force behind the socio-political upheavals that appeared to have put the country in a state of perpetual sedation.

Many believe that the portmanteau: ‘Niger-area’ by the British through the 1914 amalgamation of the protectorates of the south and the north in the town of Sungeru is akin to what the Arabs called ‘Al-Nakbah’ – the Great Mistake. As was the case in many European colonies of Africa, the motivation for creating Nigeria was geared by administrative convenience without necessarily considering the cultural diversities of the ethnic components within the colony. That thus provides an understanding into Awolowo’s 1947 frustration in submitting that, “Nigeria isnot a nation, it is a mere geographical expression.”

A Broken Social Contract

For the mass Nigerian population, the state represents a creation of the oligarchs, fashioned to appropriate the collective patrimony at the expense of the weak majority. Morphed into a concert of zealous elites that turned into a neo-colonialist instrument of oppression and suppression, Nigeria’s social contract has – in the past sixty years – been desecrated, its trust abandoned, and the legitimacy of the political authority has become a subject of an interminable audit by different sections of the public.

The residual legacies of decades of leadership ineptitude, bastardized social institutions, wanton fleecing of common resources are far too unmistakable in vices such as sporadic ethnoreligious conflagrations, towering insecurity, kwashiorkor economy, youth restiveness caused by lack of access to western education and lack of job opportunities for able-bodied persons.

The structural insolvency in Nigeria is further pronounced with the distrust which has characterized the interactions between the government and the governed since independence. For renowned literary icon, Prof.  Wole Soyinka, the relationship between the leaders and the led in Nigeria is based on deceit and at best lacking in “frankness.”

A study from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the current inflation rate at a two-year high 13% while the unemployment rate is 27.1%. Combine that with the just-released Global Terrorism Index 2018 report which sits Nigeria in third place globally among countries most ravaged by terrorism, one then begins to see an unglossy picture of the exact stance of Nigeria at the moment. In those statistics exist a deluge of ingredients for socio combustion which has come to the fore in recent years, especially since the return to civilian governance in 1999 after decades of military interregnum.

Self-Determination or Self-Destruct?

Unattended to for years, the dissatisfaction of the oppressed has germinated into a chorus of clamour for an equitable and just society that now manifests as calls for self-determination by various ethnic spheres in the country. To coincide with the diamond jubilee celebration of Nigeria, a group of citizens of Yoruba origin took over major streets of capitals of the world in demand for a breakaway homogeneous sovereign to be christened Oduduwa Republic. The Yoruba call for separation is just the latest as the Igbo – through the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by exiled Nnamdi Kanu – remain resolute in their quest for self-determination.

Negotiating Co-habitation

To survive the existential threat throbbing Nigeria’s soul at the moment, a few suggestions would suffice. First, there is a need for a national document that truly reflects the wishes of the people to live together. The notion that the indivisibility of Nigeria is ‘non-negotiable’ is a farce and should be discarded in search of a template for peaceful co-existence. Second, a return to regional autonomy in place of the subsisting quasi-federation is long overdue; the system is yearning for deconstruction to help redress its many conspicuous contradictions and the attendant deficient outcomes. This would afford the regional components opportunity to develop from within without necessarily being dictated to by the federal authority. Third, the ‘gentlemen agreement’ for rotational Head of Government should be constitutionally sanctioned to avoid making such a privilege an exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group at the expense of others.

Unity in Diversity

As the drums of apocalypse sound louder in Nigeria, it is germane to say that, despite its intractable challenges, the strategic nature of the country makes it more appealing to remain one. The strength of its huge population is one reason which has over the decades made Nigeria a place of choice for trade and economic interests by many foreigners. For IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu the song remains ‘to your tents, O Israel’ due to “… mutual suspicion, mutual hatred, (and) mutual resentment (in the body polity of Nigeria).” In contrary, octogenarian politician, Bisi Akande views the ongoing development with some reservations even as he warns that dismembering Nigeria is a whirlwind that would only lead to further intra-ethno balkanization and depletion.

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The challenge of COVID-19 in Africa

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Migrant women and their children quarantine at a site in Niamey, Niger. © UNICEF/Juan Haro

Since its emergence in December last year, covid-19 has spread rapidly around the world, flooding the health system and weakening the global economy. As a result of the epidemic, the virus has spread across the African continent. So far, nearly 48 countries have been affected, but the impact has been felt from the beginning of the crisis. With the spread of covid-19 on the African continent, Africa has responded rapidly to the epidemic, and the number of cases reported so far has been lower than people had feared. The experience of past epidemics, that is, age structure, certainly works, and so does the response of all actors: the state, civil society, regional organizations… However, the economic and financial impact of the epidemic is enormous. Nevertheless, the challenges are still great due to the strategy adopted by the government, public support for the measures taken, the resilience of the health system, economic impact, cross-border cooperation, etc… In recent years, African countries have done a lot to improve the well-being of the people on the continent. Economic growth is strong. The digital revolution has begun. The free trade zone has been decided. But the epidemic threatens progress in Africa. It will exacerbate existing inequalities, hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease. Demand for African goods, tourism and remittances have declined. The opening of the free trade zone has been delayed, and millions of people may fall into abject poverty.

The African continent has some advantages

However, the continent’s unique demographic structure suggests that it may not be as affected by the epidemic as the rest of the world. In fact, globally, people over the age of 65 are the age group most likely to be complicated by the epidemic. In Africa, a very young continent, only 4% of the population belongs to this age group (20% in France, 16% in the United States and 11% in China). This will make Africa’s experience different from that of its aging European and Asian neighbors. Another factor of hope that has been repeatedly mentioned is the climate of the African continent, which will not be conducive to the spread of the virus. However, so far, this theory has not been supported by any data.

Moreover, the health crisis we are facing is not the only one that has affected the African continent in recent years. For example, since 2013, the Ebola epidemic has killed tens of thousands of Africans, providing crisis management experience for the affected countries. After discovering that Asia, Europe and the United States have been seriously affected by the virus, this may partly explain why many countries on the African continent have taken swift and severe measures, such as checking airport temperature, closing borders, closing airports, closing airports, closing airports, etc. Suspension of international flights or isolation measures. The virus spread rapidly in Europe before it really affected Africa, which is why some African governments responded highly to the crisis.

Some concerns

However, some inherent factors in the African continent hinder the implementation of certain preventive measures, which are of the same scale as those in Europe, Asia or the United States. Social distance is complex in a continent where nearly 200 million people live in crowded shantytowns or are used to living in harmony with their families. In addition, some Africans live in a water shortage environment, especially in remote urban areas, which makes simple (effective) gestures (such as washing hands regularly) difficult.

Finally, measures to limit the employment of citizens may endanger the survival of many people, since half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, has no savings or wealth, and the informal sector accounts for 85.8% of employment. It should also be noted that the large-scale spread on the continent is worrisome because it is estimated that the health systems of African countries are at different levels, but most of them are not able to cope. They lack not only medical staff, but also equipment, especially for the treatment of people living with HIV. Respirators are not enough for patients. The African continent, in particular, still faces treatable but in many cases fatal diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The burden of covid-19 on the medical system often hinders the treatment of these other diseases.

Economic issues

What is the impact on African economy? It’s hard to say. However, the impact was felt even before the first pollution case was announced. In fact, intra African trade currently accounts for less than 18% of the continent’s trade, which means that Africa’s economy is heavily dependent on trade with the rest of the world. In addition, the industry of the African continent is mainly concentrated in raw materials. Due to the crisis, the prices of raw materials have been seriously affected. Some of Africa’s major economies are still heavily dependent on exports of resources such as oil or minerals. The global crisis has led to a collapse in the prices and demand for these raw materials, although their exports account for more than a quarter of the total exports of 25 countries and 55% of Africa’s GDP.

Border closures also make it impossible for these countries to rely on tourists to restore their economic health. The epidemic may help to redefine the relationship between African countries and external actors. Finally, most of these countries do not have the capacity to deploy economic support or stimulus plans on a scale comparable to that of western countries to limit the impact of the crisis. In this regard, we understand that despite the collapse of tourism, Egypt is one of the most resilient economies on the African continent. Thanks to “strong domestic markets and the authorities’ strong response to fiscal and monetary policy”, the country even feels luxurious to be one of the few countries to achieve positive growth (+ 3.5%) in 2020.

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SADC Counts on EU and US for Security Funding in Mozambique

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The 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) is counting funding from the United States and European Union (EU) to support its proposed military deployment (3,000 troops) in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, according to Andre Thomashausen, professor emeritus of international law at the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Thomashausen said that Pretoria “is desperately seeking” ways to strengthen and rehabilitate its military operational capabilities through the intervention in northern Mozambique and “SADC wants this entire operation to be funded by support from the European Union and, to some extent, the United States. SADC is envisaging a role for the European Union of financial rather than logistical or human resources support.”

SADC technical assessment mission has proposed sending a military intervention force of 3,000 troops as part of its response to help fight the militant insurgency in Mozambique. In terms of military assets, the SADC assessment team proposes that 16 be sent to Mozambique, namely two patrol ships, a submarine, a maritime surveillance plane, six helicopters, two drones and four transport planes.

On April 28, Southern African ministers have agreed to deploy a regional force in Mozambique. But the Southern African leaders meeting that was scheduled for April 29 to assess the security situation and offer the final approval for deployment of SADC military force was postponed due to unavailability of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Botswana is the current chair of the SADC division, which is tasked with promoting peace and security in the region. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is quarantined due to Covid-19. Ramaphosa was busy giving testimony to an inquiry into corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

Botswana and South Africa along with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, are the current members of the SADC security organ troika. The three would have met Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi at the summit to decide whether to accept the proposed intervention plan.

The insurgency broke out in Mozambique’s northeast in 2017 and the rebels have stepped up attacks in the past years, with the latest March 24 heinous attack left more than 2,800 deaths, according to several reports, and about 714,000 people displaced, according to government sources.

The worsening security situation is a major setback for Mozambique. While it hopes to reap nearly US$100 billion in revenue over 25 years from LNG projects, the state failed its pledge to maintain and enforce security after several warnings. Now French energy group Total declared force majeure on its €20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project following the insurgent attacks. The gas project located about six kilometers from the city that suffered the armed attack in March.

In an official release, the Paris based Total officials said considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure. The suspension of work arising from the “Declaration of Force Majeure” will remain in force until the government restores security in a verifiable and sustainable manner.

Besides that, Mozambique is rocked with frequent kidnappings. In a recent interview with Lusa, the president of Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA), the largest employers’ association in the country, Agostinho Vuma, said that kidnappings targeting entrepreneurs and their relatives are a negative feature of the country’s business environment.

In addition, a report by ratings agency Standard & Poor Global also said militant attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province still pose a “significant threat” to production facilities associated with one the biggest natural gas discoveries in the world.

S&P, which ranks Mozambique’s foreign debt at CCC+, seven rungs below investment grade, said it expected economic growth in the country to recover in 2021 on higher mining output, especially linked to liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

But that rebound was subject to completion of the gas projects in the face of mounting security risks, as well as risks of droughts and flooding. Mozambique was battered by two massive cyclones in 2019, and another hit its shores in this year.

“If this project comes on stream as expected by 2024-2025, it will benefit Mozambique’s economic outlook, and support wealth levels that are currently very low by global comparison,” said S&P. But most benefits will materialize beyond our current forecast horizon as gas production will likely come on stream in 2025 given the delays experienced in 2021.”

The ratings firm project gross domestic product (GDP) to expand 2.5% in 2021 after last year’s 1.25% contraction. It however sees economic growth to average 5.5% from 2022 onwards.

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources, but remains as one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with collective responsibility to promote socio-economic and political and security cooperation, within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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Mozambique: Total Halts Gas Project, Parliamentary Opposition Parties Demand Accountability

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(image: Mitsui)

The French energy giant Total has finally announced suspension of its gas project and that will leave an unmeasurable impact on the economy of Mozambique.

The Mozambican government has largely failed with its security policy and ignored experts’ advice on security after several warning issued after militant bloody attacks bloody in 2017 by a group known locally as al-Shabab. Experts also attributed attacks to governance deficit and disparity in development in northern Mozambique.

Its scale raised doubts over the viability of the biggest single investment in Africa even before the latest raid. March’s attack on Palma took place just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the gas project’s nerve center, despite a government commitment to set up a 25-kilometre security radius around the site.

French energy giant Total has a massive multi-billion gas project in northern Mozambique, but has now declared a “force majeure” situation beyond its control, a legal concept meaning it can suspend fulfilling contractual obligations.

The declaration “will remain in effect until the Government of Mozambique has restored security and stability in the province… in a verifiable and sustainable manner,” the company said in its official release on April 26.

Meanwhile, the Mozambican parliamentary opposition parties have demanded “scrutiny” of the cost of war in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, accusing the government of “failure” and warning of the risk of the conflict being used for the “illicit enrichment of the elites.”

The requirement was made during the second and last day of questions to the government session in the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique.

“The defense and security sector must be scrutinized, because elites in times of war use this sector for their illicit enrichment,” said Deputy Fernando Bismarque of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM), Mozambique’s third-largest parliamentary party.

Insisting on a reply to the question that the MDM had already posed about the costs of the fight against “terrorists” and the use of “mercenaries” in Cabo Delgado, Fernando Bismarque accused the government of making “a secret” of expenditure on the conflict in the north of the country.

“It is the Government’s role to render accounts to the Assembly of the Republic. It is not and should not be any state secret, because it is this House that approved the State Budget and we are within the scope of our constitutional and regimental powers to oversee government action,” the MDM deputy said.

Last week, the Confederation of Economic Associations of Mozambique (CTA) said Total had already suspended contracts with a series of businesses indirectly involved in the gas project.

The National Petroleum Institute (INP), a Mozambique government body that governs energy projects, similarly said that Total “may not fulfil contractual obligations and could suspend or cancel further contracts, depending how long the halt (to construction) lasts.”

The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, through the National Petroleum Institute (INP) gave an assurance in a statement that the Mozambican authorities are continuing to work towards the restoration of “normal security conditions” and ensuring that enterprise activities can resume “as soon as possible.”

The suspension of work arising from the “Declaration of Force Majeure” on Total’s LNG project in Mozambique will remain in force until the Government has restored security in the province in a verifiable and sustainable manner.

In the release, the Paris based Total officials said that considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of the Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique LNG project personnel from the Afungi site. This situation leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure.

That however, Total expresses its solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique and wishes that the actions carried out by the government of Mozambique and its regional and international partners will enable the restoration of security and stability in Cabo Delgado province in a sustained manner. Valued at €20 billion, it is the largest ongoing private investment in Africa.

About Total: Total is a broad energy company that produces and markets fuels, natural gas and electricity. Our 100,000 employees are committed to better energy that is more affordable, more reliable, cleaner and accessible to as many people as possible. Active in more than 130 countries, our ambition is to become the responsible energy major.

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