Unmasking the Border Closure
In 1949, the Peoples Republic of China came into being after Chairman Mao Zedong came to power and entrenched communism into the once ancient empire – one of the few never to have been colonized. He immediately turned to the then Soviet Union to make China leapfrog into becoming a highly industrialized economy which could be self reliant in the future. His foreign policy thrust saw the sending of many young Chinese students to understudy the Soviet Union especially in the areas of science and technology and come back home to have a great impact on the Chinese economy.
This visionary move worked and the heralded the dawn of the Cultural Revolution which cashed in on the large population size of the country to get millions out of grinding poverty.
After Zedong’s death, the new leaders decided it was high time China developed its own home grown technology for massive exportation. It then closed her borders for a long period of time. It naturally resulted in a short term pain which later translated into a long term gain as the Chinese economy got better for it and is now the fastest growing in the entire globe.
The Buhari government concerned about smuggling decided to shut down the Nigerian borders. Smugglers from Benin Republic were engaging in massive smuggling of rice, second hand cars and bales of clothes which adversely affected the Nigerian economy as customs duties weren’t paid to her.
Concerned about the plight of the local farmers who were unable to sell their rice no thanks to the insatiable appetite for foreign rice by many Nigerians, the government decided to act fast to save these tillers of the land from total economic annihilation.
From a nationalistic viewpoint, the border closure is highly commendable as it will make Nigerians critically look inwards and solve their problems with home grown solutions. For the first time in a very long while, the rejected local rice suddenly became the beautiful bride as the demand exponentially went up as well as its hitherto low price. The Nigerian Customs Service has been raking in between five to six billion naira a day thereby increasing the revenue in the government coffers at a time when revenues from crude oil is at an all time low and we are eager to return the budget cycle to the January to December calendar.
On the other hand, I am very skeptical about this policy not because I am any less patriotic but because successive governments always fail when it comes to altruistic policy implementation for the benefit of the citizens especially the downtrodden who have always bore the brunt of maladministration.
I believe that the leaders should lead by example so that they actually walk the talk. There is no sturdy agricultural policy to get Nigerian farmers to massively export their produce. The government isn’t thinking in the direction of extending agricultural subsidy to these drawers of water and hewers of wood in their motherland. They are practically left alone and to their own devices. There is no infrastructural development to aid them in easily transporting their produce to the cities from the hinterland.
In four years the Buhari led government hasn’t implemented any visible public policy to make the nation food sufficient.
Asides food production, there is no sincerity on the part of the government to ensure a robust home grown economy that can enable the ‘Giant of Africa’ stand on her two feet. When our dear President falls ill, he runs at the slightest opportunity to London to seek privileged treatment despite a campaign promise in 2015 to ban medical tourism. Nigerians were shocked to their bone marrows when Zahra Buhari his daughter ranted on twitter that the Aso Rock clinic had no syringes despite the billions of naira voted into it. In an ironical twist, she was delivered of her baby in faraway Spain – how patriotic of her!
We have Innoson motors that are producing vehicles locally against all odds. Does Buhari drive any of their vehicles to encourage patronage for this wonderful economic initiative of his fellow Nigerian? Do the various ministries, departments, agencies and other organs of government purchase these vehicles which have the potential to massively generate employment? The patronize made in Nigeria products are just mere slogans that don’t apply to the parasitic political elite.
One won’t be surprised if the prohibited foreign rice is still being consumed by the political elite as the law is clearly for the poor.
The success of any economic policy is the willingness of the political actors to show a high modicum of sincerity in its effective implementation rather than merely playing to the gallery as is characteristic of the Nigerian government.
News from the rumour mills have it that the closure will end by January 2020. If it is true then we proceed to ask a question: After the closure what next? Will we return back to square one?
It is high time the Buhari led administration shows seriousness in getting the nation out of the economic woods and desist from economic policy flip-flops.
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com