Saturday, 26 February 2005
Debt Cancellation: Imbecilic Infantilism?
By Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
There seem to be a sort of confused consensus among some Nigerian Public Intellectuals and commentators on Nigeria’s public affairs, who have somehow confused and substituted Nigerian ephemeral leadership, past and present, albeit, aberrant leaders’ shortsighted and parochial personal interests as replacement for Nigeria’s national interests. Nigeria’s national interests are everlasting and are not to be confused, must never be confused for the individual interests of the graft and greed infested leaders!
Some Nigerians, on a permanent basis criticize everything Nigerian ceaselessly! Instead of criticizing policies and the morose leaders who are the initiators and implementers of such policies? Instead of proffering solutions, they just yap and yap about Nigeria!
Nigerian leadership selfish interests, individual interests, have been confused by many, for Nigeria’s national interests by some of these commentators, as these commentators equate the punishments that aberrant and criminal leaders deserve, to the collective hardship and abject that Nigerians have suffering as a result the mismanagement of the Nigerian economy, including the accumulation of billions of dollars in foreign debts, questionable and spurious debts!
Some Nigerian journalists and commentators are unable to separate and distinguish between the existence of country Nigeria, and the individuals past and present, who have imposed themselves on Nigeria, individuals who have for the most part mismanaged Nigeria’s national affairs; It is necessary to insist, that Nigeria’s interest is separate and distinct from the shortsighted parochial interests, of the leaders that Nigeria have had, even as we must be reminded that some of Nigeria’s leaders, past and present have been good.
A cursory reading of sundry commentaries by some Nigerians is apt to lead any undiscerning onlooker or observer, to conclude erroneously, that a majority of Nigerians have lost faith in the continued existence of Nigeria as one indivisible, united and strong country or even a remote possibility of that.
I am still reeling from the pain and disappointment caused by an article by Mr. Sonala Olumhense of The Guardian opinion page on the crucially important subject matter of debt overhang and debt cancellations being advocated for Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, several African countries and hordes of developing countries, but African countries are my particular concern and point of reference here.
The opening paragraphs of Mr. Olumhense’s article is very instructive and here it is reproduced verbatim “Nelson Mandela this week called for the arrest of poverty in Africa. At a "Make Poverty History" rally in London, reportedly attended by some 10,000 people, he described debt cancellation for African countries as an act of justice, not of charity.
"In this new century, millions of people in the world's poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains," the statesman said. "They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free." “I do not know who arranged the rally, but this, by far, is the most credible advocacy yet on this issue, as foreign debt emerges as Africa's new slavery. In the international economy, most African countries are left with no development funds after they have serviced their debts. Like Lazarus, they then turn their parched throats up to their benefactors for a drop or two of life-saving aid.”
Mr. Olumhense made mentions and comparisons of the response to tsunami tragedy with crises in Africa, but is not public knowledge that there have never been similar response to African crises, the way it was for the tsunami tragedy? Is it not also a fact that the African countries affected by the tsunami tragedy were completely ignored by the world? Is it not a fact that the world responds differently to genocide in the Sudan, Rwanda, than the world does in cases such as Yugoslavia, Sarajevo and Croatia?
Is it not a fact that food have been shot from 35,000 feet in the air for Afghans and peoples of the former Yugoslavia during crises in these places, whereas, nobody had shot food to Sierra Leoneans, Liberians, Congolese, Biafrans and all those Africans as they fought liberation wars in Southern Africa for years! I am not naïve to assume the generosity towards Africans by anyone and the tsunami example by Mr. Olumhense is contrary to the disparities and double standards that Africans have faced historically and continue to endure.
Until seeing the contents of Mr. Olumensehse article, I had assumed that most Nigerians, Africans and peoples of the developing nations, are all agreed on the debilitating and crushing effects of foreign debts, and the compulsion and impositions on Nigeria, Africans and developing nations, of these stifling conditions, through compulsion by creditors to the use of a high and disproportionate size of the national incomes and wealth of debtor nations into debt-servicing, which essentially removes crucially needed developmental resources from these debtor nations, nations where lives are already abject and miserly for the majority of citizens.
How could any rational person, especially a person from any debtor nation such as Mr. Olumhense, possibly permit himself to advocate the opposite of debt cancellation for Nigeria? When Entertainment Maestro Mr. Bono of U2 and US Treasury Secretary O’Neil and Prime Minister Tony Blair among others, have added their valuable voices to the debt cancellation and debt forgiveness efforts? Why now Mr. Olumhense, when there are appreciable understanding of debtors’ plight by notable Americans and Europeans creditor nations? Why?
Until Mr. Olumhense’s vexing article, I thought that the crushing effects of foreign debts overhang, was obvious to everyone! Everyone who bothered to analyze or to contemplate the phenomenon? I had reasoned that the hardship and excruciating sufferings induced by foreign debt servicing, in relation to its ratio to any national income and the obvious adverse consequences to developments in developing debtor nations? Can anyone imagine citizens of those countries who benefited from the Marshal Plan some fifty years ago, arguing against such bailout, because their leaders had mismanaged their economies, or lost a war, which in turn necessitated a rescue through Marshal Plan? I will rather save a drowning man, than debate him about how he got into the deep of the ocean waters!
I am grappling with the logic or its lack, that propels the anti debt cancellation brigade to publicly take opposite sides at a time when those in America and Europe, (the creditor nations) are actually publicly discussing debt forgiveness, perhaps meaningfully for the first time, why is it now, that the outside world have started to demonstrate some interests and understanding or support for debt cancellation, that we now have disingenuous arguments by some Nigerians in favor of paying the stifling debts? Mr. Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary recently publicly stated that Africa’s debt burden is impeding Africa’s development and Mrs. Linah Mohohlo the governor of Central Bank of Botswana made the most ignored fact of African crises, when she was quoted as saying:
“It is not enough to say Africans are corrupt. It is enough for us to find out those who are corrupting them. It is not enough to say African leaders are stealing the money. We may have to also do something about those whom are banking it for them”
Are these debts not spurious debts to begin with?
Mr. Olumhense and others must read the offensive and startling revelations contained in the book titled: Confessions of An Economic Hit-man authored by Mr. John Perkins who with others, were paid by the United States government to ruin the economies of many developing countries as some warped and twisted foreign policy strategy! Planned Obsolescence it is called, a grand plan to make certain societies breathless, because it benefits some other societies.
One also wonders where Mr. Olumhense has been? ThisDay, a Nigerian national newspaper, have for years had a debt forgiveness campaign message at its Internet web site, quite unlike Mr. Olumhense and The Guardian newspapers,
Here we have some Nigerian intellectuals with Mr. Olumhense as their leader, with their stated goals being the best interests of Nigeria and Nigerians, even as they engage in imbecilic infantilism, the act of willing and desiring one objective, but actively engaging in every other efforts that will defeat such objective, an imbecilic infantilism argument against debt cancellation centered essentially on their assessment of past and present crop of political leaders in Nigeria, as a basis for punishing Nigeria and Nigerians by condemning present and future generations of Nigerians to abject poverty and what amounts to eternal slavery through indentured debt payments, as strangulating as it has been for Nigeria and other debtor nations already? Debtor nation status is not peculiar to Nigeria! In case Mr. Olumhense did not know?
No arguments, nothing could be more unfair to the citizens of debtor nations, particularly Nigerians, for anyone to seek to punish whole country and generations of its citizens for the aberrant behaviors of leaders who imposed themselves on such country, racked up debt, in connivance and active collusions with creditor nations and their institutions!
It is grossly unfair to present day Nigerians and future generations of Nigerians for anyone to impede debt cancellation agitations or advocacies while arguing accountability and transparency as reasons to anchor their imbecilic infantilism.
Why would Mr. Olumhense and his brigade and bandwagon of anti debt cancellation league, confuse poverty of judgment and bankruptcies of ideas of and by some past and present leaders of Nigeria, with the well-deserve respite from the debilitating effects of the endless repayments of debts to the Paris and London Clubs of creditors? Why would some Nigerians or anyone at all, confuse the poverty of values of some past/present leaders of Nigeria, who were for the most part not elected, with attempts by well meaning persons to defang the evil python foreign debt strangulation and anvil and vice grips of creditors?
Why would anyone confuse genuine national interests of all Nigerians and Nigeria in overcoming debt overhang, with the passing parochial interests of some Nigerians who imposed themselves as Nigeria’s leadership elite?
How can anyone gloss over the pains, the acute death defying sufferings that Nigerians have been enduring and continue to endure? The immeasurable abject poverty that have been induced mostly, by the fact that Nigeria have been compelled to use a great portion and percent of our country’s national income to pay endless debt? The ever-multiplying debts!
Nigeria’s national income and wealth is channeled into payments of debts or debt-servicing, in complete obeisance to London/Paris clubs of creditors/
There are always persons like Mr. Olumhense and his fellow travelers, who are quick to trivialize issues of such enormous importance such as debt cancellation, reparations and Marshal Plan for Nigeria, African debtor nations and other debtors! When are will Nigeria deserve the power of Mr. Olumhense’s power of advocacy?
As some Nigerians are engaging in these platitudes money has been wasted by other countries, including the country where Mr. Olumhense, is resident alien, the United States! During the preceding twenty-four months, the USA has spent more than $300 billion dollars in wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, needless wars, and as far as most are concerned, particularly regarding Iraq invasion and occupation.
This $300 billion dollars wasted in two years, would have been enough to pay off the debts of all developing countries, find a cure for AIDS and eliminate hunger from the face of the earth! Imagine! World hunger eliminated! For Mr. Olumhense, I guess America has money and can afford to waste $300 billion in two years?
The question that I ask is, when is he and are some Nigerians waking up to use their strident and vociferous eloquence to advocate Nigeria’s cause and course? When are they going to enlist in the service of Nigeria? The Jews of the world have done this for Israel since before 1948 and ever since! Effective advocates for the cause of the motherland!
Baroness Chalker spoke my mind and then some when she stated that Nigerians are the purveyors of bad news and hostility to Nigeria’s national interests, by always harping on the negative in hyperbolic exaggerations! How can we in the Diaspora lay claim to wishing Nigeria and Nigerians, in Nigeria well, when we constantly and ceaselessly portray Nigeria as irredeemably disgusting?
I frequently wonder why the folks in Nigeria’s Central Bank for instance, are not having sleepless nights over the free-falling national currency the Naira, even while they continue to implement fiscal policies that are foreign to local circumstances in Nigeria?
Why are the folks at NNPC and OPEC more worried about high petroleum prices the implications for the world, Why would Nigerians at NNPC be more worried about the end product users of our export, than the end-users themselves, such as the Americans and Europeans? Especially the Americans who are addicted to and would rather drive petroleum guzzling cars, Sports Utility Vehicles or SUVs of 4X4 Jeeps types?
When I read comments from OPEC, CBN and NNPC, I am always forced to ask myself, whether they really work for Nigeria or some foreign interests? OPEC and NNPC keeps agonizing and moaning about world economic growth or stability in the world, and the possible negative impact on the world, from high petroleum prices, but as it turns out, the rest of world, America and Europe in particular, are happily oblivious of Nigeria’s concerns, whether while and when they fix prices for their own goods and services, such as their cars, their computers and other assortments of manufactured products emanating from America and Europe to consumers outside of American and European borders, American producers are not the least concerned with the feelings of “old Europe, the Americans are not concerned with their brethrens in Europe, and most of them do not know where to find Nigeria in the world map! While Nigerians at NNPC are worried sick with their concerns for the health wealth and happiness of Americans! Some Nigerians are the strangers that cry more than the bereaved?
Conversely, most of the world do not shed tears for Nigeria or Africa, as they fix prices for their goods and services, from cars to computers to grains etc and Americans and Europeans could not be bothered with the effects of the prices of their goods and services on Africans, just as most of them are bothered by the crushing effects of debt servicing and overhang on Nigeria and other developing country from Argentina to Brazil to Nigeria and in-between. It is strictly business even with their brethrens in old Europe!
How did Mr. Olumhense and his band of other Nigerians who are opposed to debt cancellations for Nigeria, arrive at their twisted and warped logic? The illogic of demanding and insisting that Nigeria’s creditors, insist on debt repayments by Nigeria? How could they logically justify their demands, that Nigeria continue to be compelled to pay these foreign debts in the face of the crippling effects? Has Nigeria not been crippled enough? Has Nigeria not been under the overbearing weight, of the costs of our debt servicing and its consequences to our development monies?
I wonder if some of these Nigerians have even heard of the some of these debts being described as spurious and purposefully inflicted on debtor nations through economic hit-men? I also wonder if some these Nigerians have heard of how the penalties and recurring extraordinarily usurious interests rates has created situations where these penalties and interest rates are now more in billions of dollars over and above the original principal of the “borrowed” monies? These penalties/interests are now a hundred times the size of original debts
Mr. Olumhenbse and his league gloatingly and giddily ignored these factors as he re-published some his sentiments through a listed names of a bandwagon that is support of his irascible notion why we deserve the debts, despite their effect on Nigerians and the average Nigerian, not past and current bad leaders, continue to bear the crushing effects of our national foreign debt burden, has Nigerians not endured the gobbling of our national resources enough?
How can any Nigerian who truly love Nigeria and claim to wish Nigerians well, argue and possibly insist that Nigeria and Nigerians continue to endure the abject poverty created and fostered by the continued impact of wads of our developmental monies continuing to be consumed by debt servicing penalties and usurious interests rates? What happy lessons can Nigerians and the world possibly learn from the compelled payments of these endless debts and their obnoxious consequences? What is the benefit to Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad as a highly disproportionate portion of our national wealth is carted overseas to pay London/Paris Clubs these questionable debts?
The cost of Nigeria’s yearly debts servicing outstrips Nigeria’s combined annual budget for education and national infrastructures or developmental activities expenditures.
How does such action of making us pay debts that we can ill-afford, become some sorts of punishments for past and present aberrant leaders in Nigeria? How do these past and present leaders, the avowed objects of those brigades agitating against debt cancellation, suffer their justly deserved punishments, if the creditors adamantly insist on our continuing payments of debts that Nigeria have been paying for more than twenty years since?
How do these cruel punishments for the innocent citizens of Nigeria, who are deprived of social infrastructural facilities and social amenities, somehow have effects on past and present leaders? Leaders who never cared and still do not care? Why are some Nigerians insisting that we cut our noses to send a warning to our own faces? Cut own nose to spite own face is wayward logic!
The other day, some foreign governments insisted that they control, monitor and vet expenditure by Nigeria of Nigeria’s recovered looted monies, looted by Nigerian public officials, monies that were in the process of being retrieved from foreign banks and other financial institutions; Foreign governments exhibited these shameless and unbridled audacities, even though Nigeria is a sovereign nation with political independence and territorial integrity! Sadly enough though, some Nigerians actually hailed such moves by foreign governments’ conditions and attempts to supervise Nigeria as a colonialist would of a colony, protectorate or province and part of its empire? Is Nigeria suddenly a colony, protectorate or province of some foreign colonial power again? Hello, Switzerland?
Setting the record straight require that it is stated here that Switzerland and other countries, whose institutions shamelessly brazenly colluded and connived, to serve as safe-haven and as receivers of Nigeria’s stolen public wealth, received and stored, stolen wealth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Could any Nigerian or anyone for that matter, imagine the illogic of someone who knowingly received stolen properties and participated in money laundering, money connected with corruption or terrorism or some other crimes that America and Europe consider important to their national security?
And then upon such persons being discovered and caught, the receiver of such proceeds of crimes, who is an accessory and an accomplice as these Swiss banks and other foreign banks who are always willing recipients, always ready to harbor, conceal and sequester and secrets away monies they are quite clearly aware of as proceeds of public looting and high crimes… these foreign banks with the help of their governments have been protected from any criminal and civil liabilities for being in cahoots with corrupt public officials, who were not known for being engaged in manufacturing or some other productive ventures, and yet deliver lodgments of monies in the millions and billions of dollars, no questions asked by these foreign banks and their governments?
When the monies are finally grudgingly dislodged from the crooked banks, their governments, such as the Swiss government actually exhibit remarkable audacities by insisting on supervising, monitoring, how the recovered loots from Nigeria’s treasury is spent by Nigeria? Nigeria the rightful owner! Swiss government insists on monitoring how the legitimate government in Nigeria may expend recovered loot from Swiss banks! Here we must remember that we are talking about Nigeria’s monies, stolen by Nigeria’s prodigal sons public officials, secreted away for them by their conniving and colluding foreign banks-partners-in-crime, even if we focus on blaming the Nigerian prodigal sons, it must mean that we ignore the roles played by these foreign banks and their governments, it is impossible to exonerate these banks and their governments, as they have often facilitated the sequestering of resources pillaged from public wealth which rightly belong to the citizenry
Could we further imagine African making similar demands of Americans and Europeans? Americans and Europeans after September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, resorted to extra-judicial processes, negating any pretenses to due process and the rule of law, in a hurry to confiscate in forfeiture swoops on billions of dollars in assets of Islamic charities based on real and imagined suspicions having connections, even in the remotest of possibilities, in pursuing these policies, America and Europe acted with lighting speeds and in unison, while local laws and processes were speedily disregarded or summarily amended, the so-called Patriot Act arose in these circumstances.
We ought to also remember that Bank of Commerce and Credit International or BCCI was compelled into bankruptcy in a summary manner many years ago, based on accusation of illegalities; Compare the snail-pace with which America and Europe tackle the gargantuan illegalities that arises from the siphoning of Nigeria’s public wealth and hidden in these foreign banks, banks that have not been punished, disciplined or chastised for their roles and participations in the bankrupting of our nation
Nigeria loot recovery efforts in America and Europe have been through the use of lawyers in private practice, hired by Nigeria at extraordinary costs, while the governments in America and Europe, whose banks are in the putrid web of the looting and safe-keeping of monies that are proceeds fraud, corruption and criminal enterprises, or sundry wrongdoings, that these banks and their foreign governments are clearly aware of; Same foreign institutions and governments that are quick to proclaim, why all Nigerians need to be labeled as corrupt? And yet, they are ever ready to receive and keep these monies, because it helps their economies at our expense! These are the sorts of questions Nigerians ought to be asking, questions that were asked of Americans and Europeans recently, by Mrs. Linah Mohohlo, the governor of Botswana Central Bank.
But instead, too many Nigerians with low self-esteemed, are quick to recoil, and retreat into their siege mentalities, as soon as these foreign institutions and their governments, who are invariably, the direct beneficiaries of Nigeria’s looted wealth, (albeit, looted by Nigeria’s prodigal sons) these Nigerians never question the audacities of these foreign institutions and governments who are in essence, partners in crime with the looters!
Crimes committed against Nigeria by foreign governments and their institutions, have more dramatic and more long lasting effects on Nigeria over and above, and worse than the pittance which is what 419 and other petty criminality and fraud by a few Nigerians, are on foreign governments, their institutions and citizens… And yet, some Nigerians are quick to want to jump out of their skins or bury their heads in eternal shame or damnation, as soon as 419 or Nigerian criminals are mentioned! Billions of dollars belonging to Nigeria are looted, these monies are known to be looted, American and European banks keep these monies for looters and criminals, and they complain about pittance and petty 419 frauds? And Nigerians are supposed to lose sleep?
Billions of dollars in looted public wealth have dramatically and high disproportionate effect on our economy compared with the few coins lost by foreign greedy nationals who are looking to reap where they have not sown? The 419 crooks and their greedy gullible patrons who have no interests in dealing with banks, lawyers, chambers of commerce or pursuing business through commercial attaches, consulates and embassies?
While Nigeria’s loot recovery efforts have been moving at a grinding slow pace, as it made to grinds along in a snail-pace speed, most probably because, sudden withdrawals of such huge amounts of recovered looted monies by Nigeria, from these American and European banks, would induce and cause financial institutions collapses!
Nigerian loot in foreign hands and lands are the fault of some Nigerians, but that certainly does not change the facts of the origins of these loots, a lootings are high crimes, proceeds of crimes remains part of a criminal enterprises, and receivers and keepers of loots, when such the receipt and keeping, is with full keen knowledge, of the sources of the loots, loots from public treasury and public wealth, loots that are stolen properties! Those who harbor thieves and those who assists in the keeping of stolen properties, properties they know are stolen are themselves thieves! Those who aid, abet, act as accomplices and accessories before and after the fact of such pillaging and thieveries, are themselves thieves!
Why are the keepers of stolen properties from Nigeria not made liable or accountable? Why are stolen properties from Nigeria that are known as such, by foreign banks and these foreign governments, to be stolen from Nigeria not speedily repatriated? Why are those who receive them for safe keeping on the behalves of our prodigal thieving sons, not made liable and answerable for receiving stolen goods properties? Why are looted funds from Nigeria not treated with the same types of speeds the Americans and Europeans usually bring to bear, when the pursue real and imagined terrorists or narcotics traffickers and money, properties or proceeds from these illegal enterprises? Why do the Americans and Europeans go into overdrive when they pursue money laundering?
Why is Nigeria’s stolen wealth not treated with seriousness, priority or treated with speed and the dispatch, the same way America and Europe react to monies even remotely connected to or suspected to be, with drugs or narcotics-trade, terrorism, money-laundering etc. Proceeds of crime remains, just that! Public treasuries looting by some Nigerians or Americans, Europeans or Russian organized crime gangs or the genre of mafia or narcotics traffickers, are same difference without distinction!
But here, we find some Nigerians, including Mr. Olumhensse and his anti debt cancellation brigade of Nigerians, are the only debtors in the whole wide world and in the history the human race, ever to advocate the position of their creditors! Even these creditors of arguably unjust debts at that! This makes me think of those Nigerians at OPEC, NNPC and CBN, and Mr. Olumhense who now qualifies to work for OPEC, NNPC or CBN, with bountiful and infinite opportunities to advocate the interests of everyone else, but Nigerians and Nigeria
Those Nigerians who fail to realize that leadership imperfections are a universal phenomenon, and critics, good critics that is, are the ones who are generous with criticisms and praises for their targets subjects, who deserve such, the Nigerian critics and commentators are a different breed. A great numbers of them will never, under any circumstance, give credit to any Nigerian leader for any policy success or responsiveness to public yearnings. But why must this be so?
What and whose side are some Nigerians on, regarding Nigeria‘s national interests?