Cash And Carry Bureaucrats Guzzled Foreign Income Dry 

We once watched as this physically challenged man struggled in a motorized wheel chair to get himself into Western Union office in order to send money to relatives in East Africa. He could not be a rich man, probably sharing his little disability payments with someone he considered less fortunate. Everyone paid attention to him without focusing or glaring. He wriggled some money out because one of his hands was not as effective as the other. Done; he left smiling.

You can double the official foreign remittance sent to West Africa since equal or more number of Africans pay hard currencies to acquaintances that have money equivalent in their countries. Most of these guys sending money home are not as rich as our politicians smiling to the banks. Yes, some are Engineers or physicians making reasonable income, but many work at 2 or more places, after professional jobs to afford extras instead of living from one pay check to another.

While some middleclass in African countries also work even harder to make ends meet, their generosity to extended family, relatives and friends are limited by surplus cash inflation created by looters. The two categories of those caring for relatives at home and sending money from Diaspora could have had their burden reduced if our politicians take care of those they govern.

Indeed, our foreign exchange allocation is abused by a few powerful people with unrestrained access, most of whom do round tripping. If you have ever wondered where those Bureau Du Change traders got so much local currency no matter how much hard currency you give, they are supplied by the mighty oppressors that got it as entitlements and fake contracts. They then turn around and buy dollars and pounds in naira at Central Bank rate. Easy way to profit, err!

Cash changers do not have to sweat, think deep or create wealth. All they have to do is employ some trusted talikawa to do the exchange on the streets. Well, these days there are some risks posed by street urchins. But for a long time nobody dared challenge or steal from those dagger carrying fierce looking malams. Something changed as hungry people got desperate and started waylaying them. They claim they would rather die quickly from guns than die slowly of hunger.

Foreign currencies gulpers invaded world candy stores and knocked Africans out at the expense of oil in Niger Delta, raw diamond in Sierra Leone, gold in Ghana, earned income of dedicated folks sending money home to families, friends and to workers building their houses. Oppressors cannot stop; their salaries and entitlements cannot be cut to reflect dwindling foreign reserves. If they want foreign currencies so bad, they must create manmade goods or finished products, other than live on our sweat and on natural resources they sell cheap to foreign countries.

If they cannot work for dollars and pounds, what makes them think they have right to yearn for hard currency? Our threat or noise about progress only when Katanga is separated from Congo, only when oil-rich Abyei is separated from Sudan; Kono or Kenema diamond rich are separated from Sierra Leone, Ashanti region is separated from Ghana or Niger Delta from Nigeria is grossly misplaced and highly exaggerated. We can learn from our local communities or immediate past.

Politicians are too busy converting local cash into foreign currencies and paying one another legally or illegally outrageous benefits. They are pen robbers; not different from armed robbers. When sharing loot, if they disagreed they blackmail us with violence, even without any resource in their backyards. The areas they represent may not generate or contribute to national purse.

Yet they creates so many local councils, states and regions within the same country based singly on a commodity income from only one region. Commonwealth is good for the benefit of all; but common sense is not shared out of common effort. Even a state or a region within a country can prove its superiority by being creative, in its efficient use of resources, not only to benefit its region but for other regions or states to compete for the betterment of the country.

Natural resources, no matter how precious, can be hot today and cold tomorrow. Imagine what Nkrumah could have done if he had the resources of South Africa, or Lumumba could have done if he had the resources of Ashanti region or what Azikiwe could have done if he could rule Sierra Leone diamond mine or what Mugabe could have done if he had the oil in Sudan. The point here is that each of these leaders could have done more but for the selfish greed and blind ambition of their fellow countrymen ready to take people to war at any cost.

There is nothing stopping us from working from our regions by establishing selfless and efficient system of governance worthy of emulation the same way we sing the praises of countries more advanced than African countries. These people were not created or born before us. Indeed, it is an insult to our intelligence to keep on wallowing in some self-acclaimed young democracy or that Rome was not built in a day. African Empires were born in days when they were Barbarian.

The old Western Region in Nigeria accomplished many firsts in Africa with meager income from cocoa. The efficient use of resources benefited Nigerians beyond its region by competition and every Nigerian within its region. We must stop lamenting what we could do only if, when in fact we are still fooling our people while African countries burn. Western Region of Nigeria that accomplished so much, almost lost everything when it joined the rat race at the Federal level.

Stay in whatever region you are and be creative there to lift your people out of poverty. If you are worthy of any miracle, prove it wherever you are. The greatest mistake the Western Region of Nigeria leader made as an efficient manager was to abandon his base for the Federal level while a self-possessed opportunist replaced him and watched every progress made melt away.

Dansukigate is a classic example of how money is share between our looters and their cronies regardless of region or political parties. He was able to withdraw enormous amount of money and distribute it with impunity like Father Christmas satisfying the wants of children in stores full of toys. Nobody remember the talikawa, the children and their families waiting for salaries to be paid. Do our countries need to be sanitized by another Nzeogwu, Rawlings or old Buhari?

What do you do with a country where you belong, the only village they know your name, can claim rights and privileges? As soon as you leave, miss the place, cannot wait to get back. No matter how much you hated and rejected that country, only to be asked if you are from there!

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Articles by Farouk Martins Aresa