Russia-Ukraine war and biting realities in Nigeria
The so-called ‘fraternal squabble’ between two neighbours, as President Vladimir Putin profiled it, is nestling an overarching effect on the global community.
Besides the devious geopolitical dynamics that triggered the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the first place, countries several miles away can feel the pinch on local economies. It is for this reason that Nigeria should show more pragmatic interests in the crisis, know where it stands in the power dynamics and with foresight, begin to make preparations to address emerging fallouts of the war.
It is a fact that Russia is regarded as Nigeria’s sixth-largest trade partner in terms of imports. Apart from oil and gas, agricultural products, Nigeria imports potash, a primary ingredient for fertiliser, from Russia. So far, the disruption in global shipment occasioned by imposed sanctions against Russia as well as its aftermath has led to a surging increase in diesel and supply of petroleum to Nigeria.
From Ukraine, Nigeria imports iron ore for the production of steel and primary manufacturing hardware. Both Russia and Ukraine are the largest exporters of durum wheat to Nigeria. Durum wheat is used in the production of flour for bread and noodles.
Apart from this, Russia exports seafood such as mackerel, herring and other fish types to Nigeria, while Ukraine exports dairy and agricultural products to Nigeria.
As with every mishap that takes Nigeria unawares, the war has revealed Nigeria’s dependence on the outside world for even subsistence. According to informed analysts, the impact of the war will see a steady rise in the price of staple foods such as bread and noodles. Agricultural products are likely to be affected since the demand for fertiliser will increase worldwide. Nigeria which also produces fertiliser, as a petroleum by-product, may want to cash in on the global demand to the detriment of local consumption.
Because Nigeria will suffer serious socio-economic hardships should the war escalate and last longer, this is the time to give a boost to the Nigerian National Development Plan (NDP) 2021– 2025 inaugurated last year. In the spirit of the NDP, well-meaning Nigerians and economic teams should encourage and develop pockets of economic initiatives not only to feed this plan but also to put the country in a manageable state of preparedness to tackle situations like this. A central feature of the NDP is the diversification of the economy to reflect the optimal value chain in all our products. Now is the time to look inward to activate a result-oriented diversification agenda. Already, bread being Nigeria’s most popular pastry has been fingered as a possible staple food to be taken off the shelves as the weeks go by. How can Nigerians withstand this?
It would be recalled that during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with a well-known consumer trading concern, made a jamboree of cassava bread, and even show-cased a specially baked one for the president. However, politics rather than science made the initiative a still birth. In times like this, it is pertinent to ask: how would Nigeria have fared had the science of cassava bread been refined to address the need for proper nutritional staples? The same reflection is also directed at fossil fuel consumption in Nigeria. Fuel, another casualty in the ongoing crisis, also demands the search for alternatives. Barring the futile attempt to establish functional modular refineries, this is the time to direct technology towards alternative sources of energy such as solar amongst others.
Nigerians should view this war as an opportunity to learn the lessons of global power play. As war-beaten Ukrainians and Russians face existential challenges, it has become clear that states are more concerned about interests rather than about persons, even as the more powerful nations are apprehensive about their power. For instance, whereas the European Union has thrown sanctions against Russian products, many of its member countries still depend on Russia for oil, gas and bread. Just as the hypocritical stance of its European members, the United Nations (UN) is a parody of its watchdog status because the President of the General Assembly is the Russian permanent representative to the UN. The European Union is being hypocritical; they impose sanctions and yet depend on Russia for oil, gas and bread.
In situations such as this, when major actors in the crisis are soliciting support, Nigeria should desist from taking sides. Our leaders and people should be wary of smear campaigns and propaganda machines that elicit sympathy. Despite the sordid existential plight faced by victims of this war, Nigerians should note that this war is a western creation and as widely explained, it is a European tragedy. Nigerians in particular and African in general should be wise enough to understand that the politics behind this war is inimical to African interests. As the incidences of racist treatment meted on Africans have shown, Nigerians need not be told that when the chips are down, they are on their own. We need not be told that this is the time also to tell Africans to sit up on rational and realistic management of international relations.
Consequently, it is grossly naïve and foolhardy for ignorant Nigerians with no sense of history to drag themselves into the war. Whilst we empathise with victims of the war, expressing our repugnance to the grave violations of rights of innocent civilians and the perpetuation of sufferings of helpless human beings, especially women and children, we urge Nigerians to look out for themselves in the searing politics of power play and supremacy.