Chief Ode Ochi Emmanuel is the Chairman, Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) in South West geo-political zone. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, spoke on Nigeria’s 58th Independence anniversary, implications of Chinese interest in the country, among other issues.
Nigeria recently celebrated its 58 years of Independence. How would you say the nation performed in 58 years, especially in the area of economic development?
Nigeria has performed well in the last 58 years, except that the nation’s wealth has been taken by the greedy people assigned to keep watch over us. The dividends of our natural resources are not being felt because of the actions of the greedy people.
Nigeria is blessed with human and material resources. But, due to the activities of corrupt leaders, we are far from where we should have been. Nigeria is second to none in terms of natural resource deposits. God has great plans for Nigeria. But, our leaders have missed the purpose of God. So, at 58, Nigerians are sober, thinking of the way out of this avoidable go-slow in development.
Was it like this at the beginning?
It was not like this from the beginning after independence. But, when the element of greed entered into the psyche of some of our leaders, it became pronounced. That has taken us to where we are now. It is very sad.
What do you think should be the solution?
The solution is for Nigerians to rise up and say ‘Enough is enough’ and team up in one in one spirit to overcome the current stagnancy. This should be in terms of leadership and the followership. The two can never be separated. The followers have been so docile. You cannot have a leader different from the followers.
So, the determining factor should be: Who are our leaders and the followers? Are they both committed genuinely to the growth of the country?
Nigerians should rise up and become more interested in the leadership of the country. That is the only way there will be development.
You are known to be a key player in the maritime sector. How did the sector perform within this 58 years?
Nigeria from inception, Nigeria was positioned to play major role in the development of maritime and maritime related economy of the West African dub-region. But, this laudable aspirations have been downplayed by the lack of will power by the successive governments. That in itself has brought underdevelopment and underutilisation of the equipment and programmes put in place.
In recent times, they have abandoned the development of the ports by not using the 7% ports development surcharge to develop the ports and the access ways. This has really brought to a standstill the forward movement of the Nigerian ports, which should have played leading role in the development of the sub-region. The players are therefore not getting enough from their activities and things have been so bad in the sector.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently warned that the nation might go back into recession. How do you see this warning?
Of course, it is imminent because governance has been relegated to the background. Politicking has taken over governance. Money that should have been released for capital projects are being ploughed into the propagation of political beliefs in order to outplay others contending power with them. The CBN is saying the obvious. What the CBN is saying is indirect indictment of the current federal administration. If the current government means well for the country, they should try to finish their tenure rather than abandoning governance to seek another tenure.
I am worried about this government. I do not know what they will tell Nigerians about their activities and the projects they have completed and commissioned. If they have embarked on several projects within four years, one or two should have been completed for the benefit of the citizens and accountability for their mandate before they are given another. If they have performed, they do not need to spend energy in campaigning. Their good works will give them leverage over any opposition. But, they are over working themselves trying to justify their lackof performance for over three and half years. That is making their campaign for re-election an uphill task. A good product does not need expensive marketing.
The attention of both the Federal and State governments seems to have shifted from USA and Britain, its traditional partners, to China. What is your take on this Chinese in-road into the Nigerian economy?
The developed world is fighting for colonies in other continents. Africa happens to be a fertile ground to colonise once again. That is why the Chinese are coming with banana and carrot to recolonise us again. It is not only Nigeria that is in their net. Almost all nations in Africa are being dangled with this banana and carrots and they have fallen for it because of underdevelopment caused by our greedy leaders who could not move their countries forward developmentally because of selfish ends. Do you think Chinese love Africa more than China that they decided to invest huge sums of money in Africa? No. Chinese cannot love Africa more than China. They have seen the benefits of what they are doing. But, our naïve leaders, because of greed, fall for them because of the booties, not known in that these are booby traps that our generations unborn cannot escape from. On the long run, the Chinese will come in large number to take over all those corporations being established with their money.
By the time we cannot pay, they will come to man these corporations and our people will be serving them as salves in our own land. It is unfortunate that this is happening in the 21st century when we thought we have outgrown the Stone Age.
United States of America and the United Kingdom, out traditional investment partners, are just laughing at us. After they had left us as Independent nation, they are laughing at us that we are still subjecting ourselves to another colonisation. God will never forgive Nigeria and our leaders because He has positioned Nigeria to lead the entire Africa out of the woods because of the unprecedented endowments given to this nation, which could be harnessed for the good of all Nigerians and Africa.
For Nigeria to be fallen on top of other African nations for the largesse from China calls for sober reflection and pity. All these Chinese investments are tied to loans. That is a booby trap.
For example, if I decided to build a mansion from myself in my village and say if I do not pay, you take over the estate, when I know I cannot pay and I agree, I have sold my inheritance to you. Chinese are just waiting for when they will take over our economy. They know that it is impossible for African countries to pay for these loans. On the long run, they will come and take over our economy. You will mourn when you see the terms of agreement being reached between our leaders and the Chinese people. You will begin to see our country as a dead nation.
With the prevailing economic situation in the country, would you say the Small and Middle Enterprises (SMEs) are living up to expectation?
The government is paying lip service to the activities of SMEs. When businesses are failing by the day, people are not renewing their rents and they cannot renew their stocks, where lies the SMEs? The government is not bothered that SMEs are in severe dents. The state, local governments and Community Development Authorities (CDAS) come with different taxes. What are these monies used for? No one can tell. The government is killing the SMEs.