Oyibo Tired As Politicians Beg & Sell Themselves Too Cheap

By Farouk Martins Aresa

There is an adage that no matter how valuable you are, you get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. You may have heard those stories of Europeans and Americans shaming fellow African passengers on the planes on their way back home: how stupid many African leaders are. They are so stupid, they sell themselves short, too cheap and beg out of what is rightly theirs.

The first story was some years ago about an American traveling out of Kenya. Then, there was another one out of Ghana. Later, others stories along the same line have come from Nigeria, Senegal and other African countries. The closest way to relate African politicians’ foolishness is how some school boys conspired with bursars to defraud their own poor hardworking fathers.

Another was personal. One of our “small” uncle visited a “big” uncle. Small uncle was served with drinks and a full pack of cigarettes. As the big uncle stepped into another room for a moment, our small uncle stole half of the cigarettes in the pack. When he finished his drinks, he stood up to go. Before he stepped outside, big uncle reminded him that he had forgotten his cigarettes: yepaa, I had been stealing from myself!

The embarrassment these oyibo subjected their fellow African passengers to paralyzed most. They did not know whether to laugh or cry at the “jokes”. Some Africans pretended to fall asleep with the hope that these oyibo people would stop since other people were listening. There is nothing these expatriates were bragging about that were not known or discussed in the African communities.

It is the glee with which foreign investors expressed the fact that they made a killing in their deals that is both embarrassing and annoying. You cannot fight them on the plane or counter what you know is true. One of them actually summarized African leaders’ negotiation skills to be stupidly selfish and dirt cheap: natural resources, land, royalties, tax-free zones, exorbitant finished imported products eagerly brought in with incredible concessions at tax-free zones and allowed to do whatever they want in Africa.

What do these African leaders get back? Peanuts! Gold for mirrors like past century. Everything they get back is usually less than five percent of what is given away. Actually, they know African leaders are so greedily stupid, they usually keep back about one percent because they know Africans would come back to beg for less than one percent more, of the bargain. Once they are thrown the bones like dogs, they would dance and worship their foreign portfolio investors.

Please note that Congo is rightly renegotiating cobalt price with foreign investors. The fact is, most leaders have no idea or do not care about the value of what they are negotiating away. They go to their people and brag about how much foreign investments they bring into the country since nobody asks them how much is flying out of the country. When African experts lecture or write about business and economics, it is never from the perspectives of Africans.

All their authorities and quotes are from International Monetary Fund, World Bank and of course foreign universities. Any contrary opinion and authority inside or outside Africa like OXFAM that points out the one sided deals they negotiated for their countries is dangerous to their ability to get kickbacks in foreign currencies in their self-interests.

African and foreign businesses that generate sales outside each African country, are surprisingly the biggest looters of foreign reserves. If these companies are selling products like chocolates, coffee, beer, automobiles and cement outside their country, they should be a good source of foreign or hard currencies for their own government. No! They dip into limited foreign reserve locally, fighting for it like every Momoh, Emeka and Tunde or small businesses.

What they promise is that by the year - when we are all dead and gone - they will be generating foreign cash for their home countries. Think about it. Those selling sugar and water in the name of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta etc. claim they need our limited foreign reserve to import sugar from our sugarcane and Pierre water that cannot be readily made available at home. So they have to obtain them with our foreign reserve, haba!

Though ignoramus when they are negotiating with multinational corporations, when buying their finished products, they know these manufacturers make more money from after sales from maintenance and of course from training their own staff, not African staff on technical details. This was the bone of contention between the British and Americans in the early century when British accused Americans of stealing their innovations. Now it is the turn of American claiming Japan and China are stealing American innovations.

When are Africans going to steal British, American, Japanese and Chinese technologies? If these leaders were not so book-educated like a robot, we would think they would play the same game after their Independence in the late fifties and sixties. Sometimes one has to wonder which is more painful, African telling our leaders daily that they are selfishly stupid or Asians, Europeans, Americans, Lebanese and Arabs telling us our leaders are a special case of morons.

Someone said Africans are good at diagnosing their problems when writing or out of power. Once they are put in the position of authority, they all mess up big time. This may be true in many cases. But please, give some credit to those that worked tooth and nail to make their countries better than we met it; against all odds. There are hard workers in every African country that will never be given the opportunity to rule, even if they contest.

We all know the hard workers, five different types of professors, the sincere and patriotic Africans in each country. It is unfair to claim that people you know and refused to elevate to the position of power are just rogues like the rest of them. You shun them and prefer to celebrate rogues and vagabonds that give you “stomach infrastructure” and foreign motors/bikes while stealing you blind. Do not lump everyone together. Respect the dignity of labor. Even as gutter cleaners and farmers, we all have a role to play in life. Everyone cannot be a politician.

When Prof. Soludo said the Paris Club odious loan could have been negotiated better by anyone, it was not out of spite but out of indignation. We had two Obasanjo and two Audu Ogbe we know very well. On their first outing, they worked diligently for the country but left office almost bankrupt and were humiliated by people for going back home broke up to today. The subsequent opportunity they got, they learned their lessons and looted us dry!

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