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From Russia with love and FG’s poverty rhetoric

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Don’t be carried away by the title of this article and conclude that it is a review of James Bond 007, the British secret service agents’ scintillating epic movie. However, the Krelim came to a huge surprise as well as a welcome relief to the tedium of indebtedness associated with African governments.

Over the years, Africa’s political leaders have chosen to maintain a parasitic style of politics locked in a desperate desire to seek loans without any distinctive people-oriented plan for them. Even when a fantastic plan is drawn for which the loan will be utilised, it often usually ends up on corrupt white elephant projects.

The other day, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin announced that up to 20 billion dollars of African country’s debt, owed his country, has been written off as part of an initiative to ease the debt burden of the continent. President Putin made it clear for anyone and indeed the world to believe that Russia’s benevolent act to the African continent is not a ‘Greek’ gift, nor is it borne out of subterfuge. To this effect and to push back against the narrative that Russia’s main export to Africa are mainly arms and ammunition drive only.

President Putin argued that “Russia is one of the top ten largest suppliers of food to the African market. We export more agricultural products to the markets of third world countries than weapons…” It is indeed an irony to hear President Putin say that food is indeed exported from Russia and of course from other developed countries of the world to a continent called Africa. Yet, Africa is known to be blessed with abundant natural resources and one that has the most fertile soil in the world. This, of course, reveals that many African leaders do not think outside the box. Many among Africa’s leaders don’t see the need to dirty their fingers in search of wealth on its fertile land that flows with ‘milk and honey’.

Rather, they prefer a soft landing by relying mainly on easy and stress-free cash through borrowing or mortgaging their country’s natural resources to the shylock lenders and benevolent ‘Father Christmas’ developed nations to exploit. Thereby make the future look bleak for the younger generations.

It is, however, disheartening to note that despite the debt forgiveness, the African continent remains highly underdeveloped due to corruption and extremely poor leadership of its political leaders. Africa’s political leaders find it very difficult to stand on their feet without calling on developed countries to help exploit their country’s natural resources. A case in point is the Egyptian partnership with Russia to develop the country through projects like the El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant and the Russian industrial zone. The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi does not mind to clear any stumbling blocks on the way to get the Russians into Egypt and exploit the country’s resources. He recently said, “Regarding the Russian industrial zone, we are very interested in finding solutions to all unresolved issues surrounding this project so that the Russian companies and businesses can come, get registered and start operating in this zone”. Such privileges are hard to come by for African companies and businesses in Europe and America.

That brings into focus that today’s politics in Africa has no heroes. Nowadays politics is a sorry saga as politicians emerge with little or no credit and exit the scene with negative attributions occasioned from stains of corruption and indices of poor leadership. However, let us take a moment to salute Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for having the courage to unveil the truth and come out from the shadow of denials by admitting that the majority of Nigerians are languishing in extreme poverty.

The other day, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq said that the federal government planned to lift 90 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty. This is coming from a frightening statistics where the minister revealed that, “… relatively high poverty, nearly half (90 million) of the country’s 198 million population, live in extreme poverty, relatively high unemployment at 23.2 per cent with over 40 million unemployed or underemployed citizens, high number of persons of concern, including over two million Internally Displaced Persons, 230,000 Nigerian refugees in Niger, Chad and Cameroun and 45,000 refugees in Nigeria, over 22 million persons with disabilities, over 14 million persons in one form of drug and substance abuse or the other and the growing needs of the elderly and other vulnerable groups”. It is unclear how the minister came about the aforementioned shocking statistics of discomfort though it is undisputable because Nigerians know how the economy hurts.

On the other hand, it is difficult to understand why poverty is still ravaging Nigerians like wild harmattan fire when over the years, previous governments through programmes such as Better life, DIFFRI, SAP among others claimed to have solved the issue of poverty. One hopes that the Buhari administration’s drive to lift 90 million Nigerians out of poverty will not end up as a pipe dream. In a way, the Buhari’s government has been blessed with the most extraordinary political event in the history of our dear nation. More than four years after the ruling government was welcomed with fanfare as a game-changer, with regards to its then-campaign slogan “Change”, the Buhari government is coming to terms with the reality that there is poverty in the land. Again, judging by Buhari’s first term, and his government’s trajectory in the early months of his second, the coast is not that clear for a sound economy.

Notwithstanding a great deal of hype that accompanied Buhari’s first four years, he was promoted as the right person for the job being a no-nonsense man. Therefore, he can successfully drive the following agenda without any hitch, shape Nigeria for the better, wipe out corruption and make business as usual a thing of the past in the civil service among others. But sadly, it has proved in many ways that it has been a wasted opportunity.

Perhaps with a second chance at hand on his ‘next level’ platform, the difference may prove critics and the opposition wrong at the end of the second tenure. Nevertheless, Nigerians may find it hard to forget if at the end of the day, the ruling government blames its inefficiency and poor leadership on the lack of adequate time will the ruling party argue that eight years is too short a time to make good progress of its campaign promises? Politicians should be mindful that democracy and good governance do not work outside the stipulated time of four years.


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