SAVE OUR SOULS FROM OIL GOLD DIAMOND BIG BUSINESS & GOVERNMENT
You may have heard about Gold Coast, Ivory Coast but not Oil Coast, Diamond Coast or Cocoa Coast. They all existed in Africa with nothing to show for it. Outsiders still and used to buy all from us by selling them back to us in petrol, gas, finished gold, diamond, ivory and chocolates. As we get poorer, they get richer. It does not take too much to imagine why.
Poor Nkrumah, we will never stop calling your name. The first to tried cartel, by cocoa producers and failed because he came before his time just as Nyerere's Ujamaa or self-sufficiency failed. So the richest continent harbors the poorest people. Since we don't manufacture what we want, we go world shopping craving for depreciating or used goods, and dump them into polluted environment; then their makers bid for clean up contracts. We pay dearly for our taste, for varieties as the spice of life, claiming no country is self sufficient.
If you have not heard, this is the story of three Africans from Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria on excursion to Louisiana USA. They asked for directions to Oil Street, Big Business Street and Big Government Street. With a map, the first person they asked told them to go straight down the road and can never miss Big Government Street. The second person told them to go straight, turn right and can never miss Big Business Street. The third person told them to go straight and turn left, they can never miss Oil Street.
The dilemma between the three Africans is that going straight and turning left to find Oil Street, Big Business or Big Government became a curse for one while the second one that turned right considered them a blessing. The third African became confused going straight wondering whether turning right or left with his brothers made any sense. The Nigerian found Oil Street so fast, he must have come from Niger Delta area. He saw in Louisiana what is shown on American televisions to the rest of the world, live.
The Nigerian was very depressed seeing the offshore environmental disaster Louisiana got into, and realizing that Nigeria has been going through more or less problem for the past forty years. The Ghanaian and the Kenyan could not understand his problem because he found the Oil Street they were looking for. After all Ghana, so delighted, has just discovered oil in commercial quantity. Kenya is still looking.
The Kenyan would not mind the riches from any source. Be it oil, gold, diamond or ivory. Africa is a rich Continent with abundant mineral resources. If oil is not in Kenya today, gold or diamond in commercial quantity may be discovered tomorrow. No African country is poor and the selling of asserts when found in commercial quantity will not save us. Indeed, the fight or greed to share can destroy us as it happened over diamond in Sierra Leone or central Africa, oil in Nigeria and the colonial control of gold with royalties in Ghana.
Every refined or used product the world has, we want but the only way to pay for it is by our dwindling raw materials. If we cannot sell our finished products, we can never make a profit but end up paying more. It is not the polity; it is the players of politics that are married to the big businesses, turning a blind eye to environmental dumps for children.
The important lesson is not what asserts we have because they shrink in abundance, but what Japan produces and sells for income from the rest of the world. Yet, Africans exhibit the same brilliancy in enabling environments in Diaspora, even when bred and trained in Africa. This insatiable greed for unrefined or polluting oil, gold, diamond and ivory by big business has turned African governments into monsters preying on blood and sweat.
The Nigerian, waking up from his trance, told them Big Business is his problem. If the mighty United States Government cannot do anything about Big Business Street spilling oil in Louisiana, no African country can. He explained that we do not just wake up one day in a crisis, calling on any government to save our soul. We save our souls from day one when Big Business and Big Government sit at the table and let each other know who the boss is. Whatever you want in place or in time of crisis, we spell it out initially.
Before any crisis the Governor of Louisiana who had derided big government about how important it was to have laser faire and allow Big Business to flourish during elections became a town crier on what government should have done. We watch the same man cry for Government to do more in time of crisis after preaching cut in taxes for the rich and Big Business. When it is popular, they do not want big government in their life but it is the same big government regulations they want in bad times. Using what resources?
Watching United States of America and the way the system works can be a great lesson for all of us. Until the economic meltdown, hurricanes, and loss of heavy manufacturing industries to Asians, the unions were able to demand high salaries for their workers. The same workers turn to Big Government for help in their time of need after voting all their life against higher taxes that grow and feed the government they might need later. It could have been worse, social security could have been privatized.
The Nigerian turned to the Ghanaians and asked if he realized the source of his sorrow. He said, yes, he heard about billions always missing. In Africa, big businesses buy many governments. In the western world, they call it lobbying the government. The difference is, once caught or exposed in the western world, both politicians and lobbyists lose privileges, elections and power. In Africa they gain privileges and rig elections into power. Politicians pocket the money and leave the masses to suffer the consequences.
Nigeria asked Big Business for Ajaokuta Steel, it is used by both Big Government and Big Business to drain other resources. We had foreign auto assemblies and car prototypes by hard working Nigerians both our uncontrolled and unregulated desire for foreign products competing with home grown killed demand for them. Oil companies are rulers.
It is not enough to dream of all the goodies oil riches would buy, Ghana must think, debate and learn from Nigeria. It has been said so many times, but not until it is put into practiced. This is the time to enshrine it and not repeat the helplessness of colonial gold.