More than three weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to the United States, it has become necessary to remind African leaders of the near futility of thinking that economic salvation could come from developed nations, however benevolent they may be. African leaders who are in the habit of heading to Europe and America or other developed countries with their begging bowls must now wake up to the reality that freebies from donor nations are becoming increasingly hard to obtain.
Apart from the arm-twisting and blackmail that go with aid begging, a number of the benefactor nations are themselves no longer in a position to dole out anything meaningful. Time has therefore come for hard thinking on the part of African leaders for home-grown solution to their country’s economic challenges. If they have the political will, they will find that there is a way within.
But of course there is no easy way out. Economies the world over are in a downward spin. As it is Europe, so is it in North America and parts of Asia. Nations are becoming increasingly frugal with foreign aids, if not downright selfcentred. Borders are being tightened against immigrants in a bid to protect jobs at home. Most nations are devising home-grown solutions to economic and social problems. Africa must not be different. African leaders must therefore reduce their penchant for jetting out to overseas countries in search of elusive development aids from abroad. That practice is becoming counterproductive. All the money and manhours squandered in such trips sometimes yield little or nothing in return. What is our evidence?
Here it is! Within his first one hundred days in office, former President Goodluck Jonathan jetted out to the United States apparently in search of external support for his administration and economic assistance. During the diplomatic platitudes that usually characterise such visits, President Barack Obama made promises to offer assistance and military aid to Nigeria in her fight against the bloody insurgency in parts of the country. Four years down the line, it became obvious that not much assistance had come from the US. Instead, all Nigeria received from the country was an embarrassing refusal to offer or even sell needed military hardware. All kinds of pretexts were given by the US for its action. But it seemed obvious that the real reason was that the US was not happy with the Jonathan administration for enacting a legislation against same-sex marriage. That early trip in the life of the Jonathan administration would then seem like a futile exercise.
Like his predecessor, President Buhari rushed off to Washington D.C. less than two months after assuming office. He couldn’t wait, it seemed, to curry Washington’s favour and endorsement. Such neo-colonial attitude offends all self-respecting Africans. While he was there he behaved like a typical African head of government. He was annoyingly fulsome in his praise for his host, indeed almost obsequious. The U.S. government, he claimed, was to be commended for making the Nigerian general election the success that it was. How, you want to ask? Such self-abnegation was absolutely unnecessary. After four days in the US, and millions of dollars in travel expenses, it is not clear to any Nigerian what the gain from that trip is. As usual the American president made glib assistance promises that are neither here nor there. Which leads us to the conclusion that such trips have no real benefit to the Nigerian people. And where or if they have any at all, they are highly exaggerated.
The lesson then is that African leaders must discard the habit of thinking that the continent’s problems will be solved by outsiders. In truth, because most of these problems are precipitated by Africans themselves, they are in the best position to solve them if they would be more sincere and disciplined. With greater co-operation among African nations in every area of human endeavour, but especially in trade and commerce as well as security, so much will be different on the continent today. What the continent needs most now is higher levels of self-confidence and a curtailing of undue dependence on developed countries for aids. Let us develop our industries and improve on intra-Africa trade. The jump that this would bring to the economic health of the continent will be unimaginable. The Nollywood (Nigeria’s movie industry) is a good example of what can happen when African nations encourage home-grown development. Until the emergence of Nollywood, Nigerians were addicted to foreign movies but not any more. Today, Nigerian movies are sold everywhere in the world and they are competing well with so-called foreign movies. That can be replicated in every sector, including armament and weaponry. African leaders must change their orientation, and begin to look more inward than outward in the search for solution to the continent’s many challenges.