For seven days Mr President and his high priests were at Mount China beseeching the Great Dragon of development funds. For our country, it is a ritual that comes every four or eight years. And it is a serious business.
Just like the worshipers of Baal in ancient lsrael, we wail and cut ourselves while appealing to this god of development. Come save us we plead. Build our roads, airports, refineries. Give us dollars, plenty of dollars so that we may build temples of development across our country.
At elaborate ceremonies we sign piles of documents and come back home to declare good tidings to the people: The Chinese have graciously assented to our demands. They are coming. This time you people shall see wonders and signs.
But as soon as the Chinese and their dollars (now renamed yuan) get here we recreate them in our own image. They forget how business is done in their country and quickly learn how it is done in Nigeria. What takes them two years to build in their country would take twenty years to complete here (if ever) at a cost unheard of anywhere in the world.
That has been the story until last week when we started another round of supplication before the Chinese. It appears we have matured a little bit. This time we told them:
Give us cash and swap our currency with the yuan so that we can put a leash on the almighty dollars. At least that was our understanding until the recent clarification which is yet to be clear to Nigerians. Unbelievably, we even asked the Chinese to stop dumping their products on us and do something about our trade imbalance with them.
The fire spitting dragon humbly acknowledged our complaints and put a whopping six billion dollars on the table for us to use on whatever out hearts desire. “Show us the project and the money will come” they declared as they waved President Buhari goodbye.
Of the two dozen trips the President has made after the 2015 elections, the trip to China stands out. China remains one country that we could do a lot with. But we must acknowledge that transnational development relationships come with very nutty issues. What looks good today may not look so good down the road. It takes a lot for any country to walk between rain drops to get exactly what is in its own interest from other countries. The problems are usually at three levels. They are the intrigues of international politics and alignments, the absoptive capacity of the local economy and the strength of local economic saboteurs.
The development culture and rugged determination that propelled China into an economic gaint does not exist in Nigeria. Whether it will come into play in the next three years remains to be seen.
Therefore, the big test for this administration is yet to come. Going to China to shop for funds is the easy part. That country has so much money that anyone can go there and get something to take back home. What will happen when we get to the draw down stage? Those who have been attempting to sabotage the budget may already be moving their battle formation into the implementation stage. Those who feel boxed in by the Treasury Single Account may want their pound of flesh as soon as projects get under way.
I hear a monitoring and evaluation team has been set up to see the budget through the implementation stage. I hope that the team clearly understands the onerous task ahead and that they will commit to a 100% implementation of the controversial budget.
Let it be that as Nigerians wake up each day after the budget is passed, there would be evidence that the railway lines are emerging kilometre after kilometre. That the power transmission and distribution lines are emerging kilometre after kilometre. That power generation and distribution are steadily increasing. That the refineries are increasing production and the importation of petroleum products and fuel queues are diminishing.
If we do not see these makers over the next 18 months, Nigerians will completely lose faith in this administration.
Nevertheless, let it be out on record that we can not keep going around the world asking other countries to come to our aid. It is an act which brings shame to Nigerians. Besides, what we need to build Nigeria is in Nigeria not out there. Let us set forth this time and never go back to our old ways. I wish President Buhari the best of luck.
By Philemon Adjekuko
Mr Adjekuko, an Economist wrote in from Abuja
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