On March 29th, 2018 the TakeItBack Movement called the Buhari government to task for its shambolic approach to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Nigeria failed to sign that agreement largely because the business sector, which had not been included in the negotiations, pushed back against the Buhari administration. It was a failure not to have included the business community in those critical and complex discussions from the start.
Recent events continue to raise our concerns that this government is not only lifeless, but it is also clueless and ill prepared to provide the dynamic and transformative leadership that Nigeria needs. The short sightedness of this administration is costing Nigeria greatly. We are gravely concerned that the Buhari government is still not alive to its responsibilities on the trade negotiation and economic front. We will outline two key areas of concern.
Concern 1: Gross Negligence in preparing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
Over the past decade, China has aggressively courted trade and investment partnerships with African nations. China’s strategic motives have been both economic and geopolitical. African nations must be alive to the reality that China is approaching Africa with a clear end goal in mind – the emergence of China as a global and military superpower. In dealing with China, African nations must therefore be clear headed about how their nations benefit from any bilateral or multilateral agreements with China.
President Buhari is attending the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation holding between September 3 and 4 with a delegation of government officials and no business delegates. While countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Cameroon and Ghana are attending the summit with high powered delegations comprising of the leaders of the major business organisations and economic sectors in their nations, Nigeria’s official delegation comprises of 9 ministers, 4 governors and 4 senators.
South Africa’s preparation for the summit is a study in contrasts. Several preparatory meetings were held prior to the departure for Beijing to harmonise the positions of the government and business sectors, and to set a target level of investment outcomes from the summit. The South African delegation includes industry captains from various sectors including media, mining, technology and agro-processing. A target of $ 7Billion of investments was set as the desired outcomes for trade agreements that would emerge from the trip.
We are unaware of any similar preparations by the Nigerian delegation. The only investment targets announced by the Nigerian government is the planned signing of an agreement on the $328m loan facility provided by the Chinese EXIM Bank, for the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase 2 project being undertaken by Galaxy Backbone Limited and Huawei Technologies Limited.
Concern 2: Buhari’s government is failing to recognise that the world order is shifting
In 2018 alone, leaders of Europe’s largest economies (France, Germany and Great Britain) have all visited Nigeria. The Presidency boasted over the weekend that the high level of interest in Nigeria is because of world leaders respect President Buhari. It is extreme naïveté to believe that leaders like Macron, Merkel and Theresa May are coming to Nigeria because they are in search of new chat friends.
Given America’s more insular trade policies, China’s economic ascendancy and the fracturing of the European Union by Brexit, a major realignment in economic and geopolitical alignments is taking place. What Buhari and his cabinet imagine to be social visits are highly strategic manoeuvrings by these global superpowers. Nigeria is at risk of becoming a pawn in a complex game of chess. The economic and policy team of the TakeItBack Movement is concerned that while other countries are playing 3-dimensional chess, the Nigerian government is playing a simplistic game of roadside draughts.
Sounding the alarm – Nigeria Must be Vigilant
We are sounding the alarm so that the Buhari government can awaken to its responsibilities. As world leaders continue to troop into Africa in general and Nigeria in particular in various bids to establish bilateral trade agreements and create deals that are beneficial for their countries, a clear headed strategy for maximizing the benefits of these new alignments for Nigeria must be pursued.
Again – we sound the alarm that in two short months, Nigeria has been visited by three of Europe’s largest economies – Macron ((July), Theresa May (August) and Angela Merkel (August). That the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, should try to spin this, as Buhari gaining favour with the Western world as opposed to what it actually is – world leaders jostling to make the most of the Nigerian pie as quickly and as totally as they can – is worrying and points to this Movement’s greatest fear: that Nigeria will be mortgaged off wholesale in deals that further bind us in shackles of debt, deprivation and dependence.
Theresa May’s entourage leaves no discerning mind in any doubt as to what she was in Nigeria to discuss. A delegation of 29 business leaders to promote “the breadth and depth of British expertise in technology, infrastructure, and financial and professional services” followed the prime minister. Britain’s goal is clearly to seek new pastures and more amenable deals as Brexit looms ahead of the United Kingdom.
The head of the German economic powerhouse, Angela Merkel, made it abundantly clear that her main goals for visiting Nigeria are to discuss and sign MoUs on security and economic deals as her entourage chiefly comprises the German business delegation.
Again, we reiterate that the strategic choice of delegates on these crucial trips sits in stark contrast to President Buhari’s trip to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) – as he is accompanied only by governors, senators and ministers with little or no experience in the kind of business and economic policies and processes that will be discussed at a commercial and economic summit.
While all of these governments are rushing to cash in on the clueless Buhari government, we wish to warn them that in 6 months, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect a new government. A government led by our leader, Omoyele Sowore under the banner of the African Action Congress (AAC) will vigorously reassess all agreements entered into by the Buhari government. Any and all agreements that mortgage Nigeria’s future and exploits our people and/or resources will not be honoured.
Take It Back Movement is immovable in its belief that Nigerians will no longer be sold for a few bright trinkets. We will only agree to and abide by agreements that further the nation and our cause as the Giant of Africa.
In a few short months, Nigeria will begin the long road to recovery; a new world where we reclaim our rights, our resources, and our prominence. Buhari’s government would do well to leave the serious business of economic trade deals to incoming astute leaders who will approach negotiation tables with more than blank expressions and even emptier minds.
Nigeria MUST progress!
Director for PR & Media TakeItBack Movement / Sowore2019 Campaign
For Economic Policy Unit of TakeItBack Movement