… no country has been developed by outsiders. International relationships are simply not defined by sentimentalities but by cold, calculated self-interest. This is a lesson that African leaders refuse to learn. Outsiders might help, but it is the citizens of a country led by an intelligent leader with vision that develop nations.
Back in December the Vanguard published an editorial recording a conversation between Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information for Nigeria, and Venezuela’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell. There is much in Mr. Arrundell’s words that Ghanaians should take to heart.
Lessons from Venezuela
Dec. 4, 2009
VENEZUELAN Ambassador to Nigeria, Enerique Fernando Arrundell, could not have offered his advice on Nigeria’s management of its petroleum resources at a better time. The anchor of government’s argument is that higher prices would draw foreign investors to the down stream sector of the industry.
Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information had solicited Venezuelan investments for our refineries.
Mr. Arrundell’s response was without diplomatese. He launched a profound lecture on Nigeria’s oil and gas.
“In Venezuela, since 1999, we’ve never had a raise in fuel price. We only pay $1.02 to fill the tank. What I pay for with N12, 000 here (Nigeria), in Venezuela I’ll pay N400. What is happening is simple. Our President (Hugo Chavez) decided one day to control the industry, because it belongs to Venezuelans. If you don’t control the industry, your development will be in the hands of foreigners.
“You have to have your own country. The oil is your country’s. Sorry I am telling you this. I am giving you the experience of Venezuela. We have 12 refineries in the United States, 18,000 gas stations in the West Coast. All we are doing is in the hands of Venezuelans.
“Before 1999, we had three or four foreign companies working with us. That time they were taking 80 per cent, and giving us 20. Now, we have 90 per cent, and giving them 10. But now, we have 22 countries working with us in that condition.
It is the Venezuelan condition. You know why? It is because 60 per cent of the income goes to social programmes. That’s why we have 22,000 medical doctors assisting the people in the community. The people don’t go to the hospital; doctors go to their houses. This is because the money is handled by Venezuelans. How come
Nigeria that has more technical manpower than Venezuela, with 150 million people, and very intellectual people all around, not been able to get it right? The question is: If you are not handling your resources, how are you going to handle the country?
“So, it is important that Nigeria takes control of her resources. We have no illiterate people. We have over 17 new universities totally free. I graduated from the university without paying one cent, and take three meals every day, because we have the resources. We want the resources of the Nigerian people for the
Nigerians. It is enough! It is enough, Minister!
There are, however, some fundamental truths that we must begin to tell ourselves. First and foremost is the belief that we can continue to depend on other people’s (especially Western) charities for our development. I have said several times that no country has been developed by outsiders. International relationships are simply not defined by sentimentalities but by cold, calculated self-interest. This is a lesson that African leaders refuse to learn. Outsiders might help, but it is the citizens of a country led by an intelligent leader with vision that develop nations.
And as I have recounted several times in this very column, our five hundred or so years of “relationship” with the West has been to our utter detriment. We have nothing but slavery, colonialism, and the more pernicious neo-colonialism (aka imperialism) to show for it. We can also throw in the disease of rabid racism that still pervades the Western world.
And yet African leaders continue to parrot the same inanities about partnering with “developmental partners!”
In the name of “investment,” the Western multinationals will bring in ancient equipment (tax free) to come and set up shop to extract our resources. To attract their “investments,” they are given tax breaks and other packages that made them pay their expatriate staff out-of-this-world salaries and emoluments. They will employ the brute force of our compatriots whilst their planes and helicopters are waiting to ship out our gold and diamonds in their raw state. For this they pay us a pittance in royalty and employ the best PR outfits who will dazzle us with enough razzmatazz to make us dizzy. A few years down the road, the mines are depleted, our land and environment polluted, and our people’s lives wretched. The wily Westerner is already outta the country.
This is the very sad story that keeps repeating itself year in year out and like mindless children, we seem not to learn any lesson. Since the overthrow of President Kwame Nkrumah’s government in 1966, no government in Ghana has deemed it fit and proper to build a gold or diamond factory in order to add some value to them.
This has been our sad story and yet our leaders have stubbornly refused to learn a thing.
There is a law in this country against causing financial loss to the state and it is high time we start to use it seriously and effectively. How on earth can officials of our country, paid from the treasury of mother Ghana, and in this age and time, sign agreements with foreigners to cart away our crude oil unrefined for twenty years! What on earth informed that reckless decision? Who said that slavery is over? And please, what crime is that if not the criminal cause of financial loss to the state of Ghana?
There is a state-owned oil refinery at Tema that is in perennial struggle to get crude oil from Nigeria, and yet some unconscionable Ghanaians appended their signature to ship our oil to foreign refineries unrefined!