WHAT NIGERIANS MUST LEARN FROM CHINESE â€“ AMB. WALI
Alhaji Aminu Wali is Nigeria's Ambassador to China, a position that places on him the responsibility of ensuring Nigeria logs into the China magic. He shared his experiences with Daily Sun.
'To anybody without close contact with the Chinese, you will easily think they are mysterious. Their culture, history and tradition set them apart from any civilization we have had contact with. Coming in here, my perception and understanding of the Chinese was minimized because I never had contact with them before this period.
'But since coming here as Nigeria's Ambassador to China, it gave me an opening and opportunity to look and understand and study the Chinese people from the official level, but to understand them better, one needs to move from the diplomatic parlance and deal with them unofficially.
'Most of my engagements are official and most of my trips are guided. But there is no visible evidence to show am not allowed to reach out to regular day-to-day Chinese. The little I have been able to link up with, I find them hardworking, highly disciplined, highly cultured and proud of their 5000 year history.
'Secondly, when I look on the other side of their phenomenal rise over the last 60 years one cannot but appreciate their tenacity and commitment to their social development, and economic advancement of their people. What I have found out is that their achievements in the past 20 odd years have not been equalled in the history of human race. Here I refer to what they have achieved in raising over 300 million above poverty line in the last 20 years.
'This has never been achieved by any nation in the last 20 years and to me that is their greatest achievement.' 'What I learnt here which I think we need back home is that they have a political hierarchy that is firmly in place. Their succession has been properly set out so that they have continuity in terms of policies and governance. We also need to emulate the kind of political will that the leadership posses in pursuing their programmes single-mindedly to a logical conclusion.
They are always planning ahead and focus their energies and activities towards achieving those goals set within the programmes and policies. 'They have also made good use of their human and material resources. By this I mean the overseas Chinese which they call 'sea-tackles' as a catalyst for their development. These are people who have a huge success of their lives outside China and are made to come home and contribute to the growth of their people. There is also a deliberate policy on the part of the government right now to encourage these overseas Chinese to return home and bring with them the knowledge and expertise as well as material resources back home.'
So, are you not ashamed that Nigeria is still where it is?
'The question here is not whether one is ashamed or not. Now we have our own strengths as a people. When crisis erupts in Nigeria which sometimes appear to be threatening our existence as a nation, the crisis always resolves itself and we keep pulling through.
'But the secret of the Chinese success is in their sense of pride as a people and as a nation. Their rich history and culture that bind them together, their commitment to reviving their nation as a leading power in the world and of course their current political set up has continuity in the last 60 years in all ramifications.'
Tragedy of the Nigerian state.
'We always have a programme but they are never followed up. Now look at it. The military came, we had civil war and several other processes of reintegrating and rebuilding a Nigeria that emerged out of civil war and experimenting one form of government or the other. This has not been helpful to us in a continuous process of development. We take one step forward and two others backwards. There has been no continuity in Nigeria, no continuity of government and leadership and this is a major problem with us.'
Has anything changed since 1999?
'There is still endemic corruption. But you cannot talk about imposition of candidates because these leaders emerge through congresses and convention. Whether we accept it or not, as far as am concerned, we are still in a process of transition. To shake-off military influence in our polity will take a long time to find its roots. Democracy is a whole new culture that evolved over time. Even major democracies took time to get it right.
'We did not get our priorities right as a people and we still haven't to my mind. Lack of education is one. Without an educated people or polity, there cannot be a leadership that will suit our purposes and needs. With an educated polity there will definitely be a demand on the leadership. That's the point am making.'
Ensuring credible election.
'I don't want to use the adage that a nation gets what it wants but we will get there. There has been an understanding that we need to get it right this time around. Therefore, the weight is heavily placed on the current leadership that providence has pulled on Goodluck Jonathan into a role that he cannot afford to fail Nigerians. 'God has been kind to him and therefore he is the God chosen leader of Nigeria and so he cannot afford to fail the nation at this critical time.'
Should Jonathan run?
'As far as am concerned credible elections is of utmost importance and the major determinant of our future development. Whatever it will take of a leader, in terms of sacrifice, to ensure a credible, transparent election that is generally acceptable, that leader should be prepared to make.'
PDP and 2011
'My appeal to the leadership of the party is one thing. Some of us that were the founding fathers of the party knew the principles and manifesto of the party. The fundamental issue at this stage is to ensure a level playing ground for all and entrench internal democracy. Once this is done within the party, I tell you PDP will still sweep the polls in the next general election.
'The current leadership should make sure they have brought to an end the era of imposition of candidates for elective offices from the councillor up to the presidency. Once this is done then we would have returned to the principles and the basis on which the party was founded. Not only the PDP, I am also appealing to other political parties to ensure internal democracy as well as a level playing ground for all and get credible elections.'
Challenges as ambassador of Nigeria in China
'My major challenge is to be closer home. The problem that I face on a daily basis is trying to sort out problems of my compatriots who have gotten themselves involved in various troubles with the Chinese law enforcement agents. A lot of them are getting into trouble by overstaying their visas which is a criminal offence. Hundreds of them are currently in various jails and the mission has to go out of its way to get some reprieve and ease for them which is taking tremendous toll on our resources.
'There are those involved in more serious criminal activities that is giving our country a bad name. These ones are involved in drug trafficking and other drug-related offences, rape, robbery and cultism. These are issues I come face-to-face with on a daily basis. 'Am always fairly reluctant to call names of states because out here we are all Nigerians but there are states with prevalence. We have a lot of them that are sentenced to death for drug related offences which is serious here. About one or two Nigerians are currently facing execution but we have made appeals for commutation. But I must say that our chances are very small.'
'What I did upon assumption of office is to ensure I forge a close relationship with the authorities here to create a forum that will open dialogue and relate to each other to make things a lot easier for Nigerians who may have run fowl of the law. I have organized a seminar in conjunction with the Chinese authorities to understand what is expected of them by Chinese laws. There is lack of understanding of the Chinese laws and this is highly appreciated by the Chinese authorities and also on our part we have seen improvements in the conditions of the process of Nigerians leaving China should they run fowl of the laws here.'