What has happened, Africa? This is the question a bright youth leader on a private forum asked when he learnt the Chinese have set up the 13th Chinese Police Station in South Africa. The answer is Nothing. Whether we base the question on fact, fiction or exaggeration is immaterial. Chinamen are coming and coming big to Africa. Continental tragedy was visible in African people who should have known better in advance, notably the intellectual/educated class, who were unwitting. “Bright lights” keenly supported the decadent misgovernance many of the post-colonial leaders foisted upon their citizens on the continent up to this day. Africans are now living with the harsher realities of such thoughtlessness and misfortune. The Chinese are now exploiting Africa’s naivete. Who will not?
Was the African elite asleep as China started taking over the continent or were they too drunk on money, rent-seeking, privilege and power? Or were they seized by leader-mania?
Patrimonial leadership soon swept Africa in the immediate post-colonial era and became the path-dependent reality for governance. Inexperienced, untalented, incapable, venal, mediocre heads of state became “father figures” to their nations despite their gross failures to take their nations forward. Or make life better for their citizens. These very father figures were constructions and objects of adulation, “messiahs”, “God sends”, “men of destiny”, “irreplaceables”, by intelligent indigenous men and women.
In reality, these leaders’ missions were to “steal, kill, and destroy” their nations as they ruled – Africa becoming a playground for Devil’s Incarnates as heads of state. Most citizens, including the intellectual/educated ones, followed the whims and perversions of these incompetent leaders as children and outright morons would. As Fela sought to highlight, using President Shagari as an example, when African leaders misrule no one tells them they did something wrong. It was a pun, a great pun. Many people thought Fela was being critical of the West, but he was charging the African elite who should have known better.
Today in Nigeria, we have the rages of Buharimania, Atikumania; we have also had Obasanjomania, Jonathamania, Abachamania and Babangidamania. Outside Nigeria, there has been Eyedemamania, Nkurmahmania, Biyamania, Mobutumania, Nguessomania, Kaundamania, Mugabemania. These manias are enduring creations put in place and enforced by the intellectual/educated class of Africans for personal gain; education had become the licence to entitlement to vast riches on the continent.
Under the tenure of a head of state, it does not matter how much corruption takes place, how many citizens witness impoverishment or immiseration. Or how many massacres occur, how low the life expectancy is, how insecure, unsafe, and unstable the society is. Or how backward the country is. What matters is power and the length of tenure. The mania for these terrible leaders continues unabated with ever-increasing persuasion and fervour.
Africans know the truth but most ignore it; for mania’s sake, for religion’s sake, for ethnicity’s sake, for personal gain sake and social acceptance sake. The prejudices of the Africans often oppresses them with ease.
Nigeria is a nation that has earned over $1 trillion in oil revenues since Independence,58 years ago. Where is it? Oil companies always exercise nonfeasance in paying the$1 billion per annum in penalties for gas-flaring ($4 billion per presidential tenure, if enforcement of institutions apply). Why more loans? The current Government of Nigeria claims to have broken records in the recovery of stolen public funds. How is the booty re-stolen? Oil revenues are still flowing into the national coffers, making it still a middle-income nation. Is that not only on paper?
Let us then ask, is that the nation that should seek foreign loans that places it under the servitude of the West and China? Well, Nigeria as with other African nations have an addiction to foreign aid – begging bowl politics is so easy to do.
China has been “casing” Africa since the 1950s and 60s using ruses such as Non-Alignment Movement cooperation, cultural exchanges and organising sporting fiestas to lure the African leadership into a colonial relationship. The ostensible neocolonialism of multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and IMF placed African nations under the servitude of the West by getting them into debt, then dictating how their economies can suit the profit aspirations of multinationals. It was strictly financial, and the West called it the magnanimous-sounding “foreign aid.”
Foreign aid turned out to be crippling odious debt and usurious loans given to self-seeking but dim-witted African leaders. Classic example: the $5billion loan taken out from the World Bank in 1972 to build Kainji Dam as of 2000 had generated interest payments of $16 billion while the principal of $5 billion remained intact. This is excluding the conditionalities attached to the loans such as currency devaluation, abysmal credit ratings, dumping of goods and technology, high domestic interest rates, high taxes, callous fiscal discipline inimical to economic development.
The Chinese give out loans differently. They do not use multilateral financial agreements to give loans to African nations; they use unorthodox bilateral barter agreements with renegotiable terms in favour of the creditor. With little hypocrisy, the main conditionality of the Chinese is that if African nations cannot pay back the loan as agreed they will take over their domestic assets.
The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) may fall into the hands of the Chinese if Nigeria cannot meet the debt obligations on loans it owes. NTA will help Nigerians learn Chinese on TV and the NNPC will create a foreign oil reserve for China. This is what Buhari and other African leaders have put their signatures to when they were taking “generous loans” from China, but they never told this part of the arrangement to their citizens. To the Chinese, trade agreements are only business, to the Africans…
So, do Buhari or Atiku or any other Nigerian or African leaders deserve the manic following of support and adulation they get?