The hot issue in Nigeria today is the government’s decision to import fuel from Niger Republic. It has summoned reactions. Many of the reactions are a repitition of each other. Listening to the radio this morning, there were basically two voices in the dialectic: the one wailing “shame!” and the other pushing for Nigerian Imperialism.
Shame Shame Shame
To the disappointment of Nigerians, it seems that prophecy of Nigeria being the Giant of Africa may never be fulfilled. It becomes more unclear whether it is a prophecy to be fulfilled or glorious past that is yet to be let go. It might be that it was a time anomaly in people’s minds where popular narratives skip from the “memories” of the past to aspirations of the future without being actualized in the present. Don’t get me started on the look-at-South-Africa Nigerian debate.
The radio show this morning. Majority of the callers echoed “Shame on Nigeria”. This is partly due to the high esteem they hold their country, partly the condescending sentiments they have for the “Backward” Niger and partly their sympathy for the unyielding “Giant of Africa”. One listener of the show sent an sms that said only “Shame! Shame! Shame!”.
Yes people may be frustrated about the issue, but can they go beyond their ego and romantic perception of their country? Ego has lost its progressive force. Such ego frowns at solutions because solutions might take part of its lime light. Shame has a powerful impact and hence its resonance with people, but this kind of shame is played out. Let go of ego and move further or do something else entirely.
The alternative argument in the show was that Nigeria can use this opportunity to extend her imperialist tentacles. The idea of Nigeria as imperialist stems from the doctrine of “Giant of Africa”. Nigeria has been playing big brother to many african (especially west africa) countries; helping out in military might, funds and (I hear) in stopping coups. From military expeditions in Liberia (early 1990s) to the 2011 education funds to three countries.
The radio-show’s advocate of imperialism sees the pattern and believes this is an oppotunity to get a tighter grip on Niger. His plan is that by importing fuel from Niger, Nigeria becomes a stakeholder in Niger’s economy and can gradually hold a stronger influence. His inspiration is (of course) the USA; how USA imports from its neighbors even though it has its reserves so that it can control economies of the neighbors. His citation of the USA situation was attacked by subsequent callers to the point that mentioning it here is like re-opening a grave.
Amidst the dichotomy of Shame VS Imperialism, a commentator on the show asked for answers that would shed light on the situation. Who owns (or is a shareholder in) the Niger refineries that will supply the Nigeria? If it is owned by the government, then we may look in to the usually ignored places for corruption. If, on the other hand, it is a private company then we may ask if there are Nigerians among the owners.
We can investigate whether the importation is truely a better alternative to the existing system; as it affects the nation’s economy. Let us expand the discussions to go beyond weeping at shame and pointing at the country. The country is ashamed enough, Oya lets move on and do something productive. Imperialism, at least, is something.