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Interrogating the International Community

04 Dec 2012

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Edifying Elucidations By Okey Ikechukwu. Email, okey.ikechukwu@thisdaylive.com

It fuels the delusion of many otherwise sensible people, this nebulous entity called “international community”. Genuine work for humanity, presumption, incompetence and idle, messianic pretensions hide under its umbrella. But the admirers do not notice the barely-concealed cultural and economic imperialism. These are marketed in a very sophisticated way by its ‘handmaidens’, called international organisations. The money comes from the international community, and international organisations use it to ‘develop the world’. The identity and strength of this amorphous configuration also draws from a clan of speech wielding ‘activists’ and human-interest organisations. They are always at hand with one report of the other, backing it all up with statistics.

For instance, they had all the statistics on South Africa’s HIV/AIDS population, until they were challenged. The figures then got quickly downwards by over 53 %. Which is not to say that statistics is not important for national planning and national development. It is! Correct and relevant statistics, that is. The statistics and evaluations coming from the myriad of international observers and commentators about Nigeria oblige us to ‘stop and search’ their submissions, for truth. With the growing epidemic of these presumably objective evaluations of the affairs of the Nigerian state, it is necessary to make the point that uninformed opinion may well be encroaching on the legitimate territory of knowledge and truth.

A few weeks ago, the thesis emerged that Nigeria is the worst place to be born on earth in 2013. This is in addition to the country being declared the most corrupt nation on earth. It is also said to be one of the poorest, with the lowest human development index. Lest we forget, they also said Nigerians were the happiest people on earth, not too long ago. The indices used to declare Nigeria the worst place to be born on earth, when carefully examined as human progress indicators, will read ‘prosperity’ in nations where majority of the people live in abject poverty. Will the Pope say that the best place for anyone who wants to go to heaven to be born in 2013 is America? Will a Tibetan monk say the same? Whose paradigm is to be taken? These assessors from the Western World, which is arguably the most corrupt part of the world in terms of ‘distortion of values’, oblige us to rethink their profile. It was the Western World that recommended ‘excellent World Bank recipes’, including structural adjustments, for African development. That was decades ago. The rest of the world was asked to watch out, as Africa was poised to speed past even the fasted whirlwind. Nothing happened. No, not quite; something happened: The recipes failed most spectacularly. This does not excuse bad leadership in Africa, but it says something about an amoral international community that keeps its idle workforce busy and keeps its profit margins up at the expense of developing nations. The same Western World is being owed billions of dollars by the nations they ruined.

Meanwhile they are still busy, working out new solutions for Africa. Statistics, essential and critical as it is for national development, must not be swallowed as they come from our international friends. A few weeks ago, the world got a UN report, saying: “About 10.5 million Nigerian children were out of school.” There are many decent people working in these institutions, the UN, DFID, and similar platforms, but these organisations may yet be put on the dock for their alleged insight and impact on real problems and issues. Until their most recent figures, they made the world to believe (maintaining the lie for 7 years, until three weeks ago) that 10 million children were out of school.

Meanwhile, the school census and national population census figures showed all the while that over 22 million children of primary school age were out of school. The number is put at about 27 million for secondary schools, based on actual figures – and not projections. The expert knowledge of these organisations, in 2006, said that Nigeria had 9,700 secondary schools. A physical census of the schools by Nigerians at about the same time showed that there were actually 14,543 secondary schools in the country. The same goes for the monitoring of nearly all their support initiatives, including elections and other governance issues. The recent economic cataclysms that swept through America and Europe affected business organisations that were confirmed to be in excellent health before then. But they went burst without warning. The experts did not even see it coming.

All the templates by ‘international experts’ for such eventualities were out of alignment when they were needed. The “Fitch” and other ratings were also on high scores, until the realities showed that the so-called ratings did not have the strength of a feather. And, talking about Fitch rating, Nigeria got two ratings in less than two weeks. That was last year. One of the ratings was abysmally low. The other was quite impressive, and for no reason at all. Apparently some protest about ensuring that some people do not look bad was all it took. The indices used are laughable and the fact that we can be upgraded without anything changing on the ground says a lot.

But let us disaggregate the points being made here, to avoid a possible misreading of thrust. The thesis is the pronouncements of the international community and sundry ‘activist’ on Nigeria should not always be taken at face value. This does not remove the fact that Nigeria needs improved governance and government processes. It also does not remove the fact that ubiquitous policies and policy drivers hamstring the institutions of state. On the latter point, it is honestly difficult to see what the Finance Ministry is doing in substantive terms, with its coordinating role. Its profile, performance, use of language, as well as the analysis of the impact of government are so markedly curious that it is all beginning to look like a disservice to the mellow and simple ways of the president.

On the issue at hand, it would seem that the Nigerian state is tyrannised over by an international community that thrives on untruth; and which is driven solely by its economic interests. At the peak of the Abacha era, the economic stakes of nations like the US, Britain and France in Nigeria shot through the clouds. Their investments and profits went up at the same time that they were lampooning the dearth of democracy and issuing security alerts on Nigeria. Their exports to Nigeria were also on the rise, while their experts were warning us about the negative impact of misgovernment on international trade and Foreign Direct Investment. The truth of their submissions could not be contested at the level of theory. But the governments and their respective business communities were busy doing brisk business in inclement climate. An uninformed public may tremble at the thought of “what the world is saying about us”, but without looking at the credentials of this “world”.

A typical news bulleting of the Cable News Network (CNN), for instance, is one of the best examples of how purely personal opinion and commentary takes the place of factual reporting of events. The organisation has made a virtue of journalistic laziness and will thoughtlessly run the same bulletin repeatedly for an entire day and the day after. A reporter’s health condition may be taken as an index of how hot weather affects humanity. Should CNN decide today to dwell on the unusual whiskers of a catfish found in Ode Itsekiri, in Delta State, that will become a global event! Driven by a cultural bias, with imperialistic inclinations, CNN always maintains whatever subsisting ideas they have about you and your country, no matter how much you spend on airtime, or how often you turn up at their studious to try to ‘convert’ the world.

The dictates of globalised capital lie behind it all. The West has an unwritten grand consensus running as a common thread through its media content, media outputs and communication goals. We see none of these when we hear them speak. Thus we presume that we are receiving honest comments from on all issues, when we are not. The idea of the ‘worst place to be born’ on earth and similar characterisations overlook a lot of things. One of the most important of the overlooked points is that the indices used apply to only a marginal component of what it takes to have a fulfilling human life. They will be laughed out of court in informed circles.

One of MKO Abiola’s greatest pain and shock was the disappearance of the ‘international community’ when he was arrested and detained. While his detention lasted, this community made no effort to find out the circumstance of his detention, or the state of his health. While the military dictatorship lasted, Western media interviewed Abacha repeatedly for news headlines. We could not have forgotten that it was not the international community that gave Nigeria its present democracy. The NADECO, G-4, G-16, etc. were not international organisations. That community did not bestow the marginal democratic gains we have made today, including the mistakes. It is Nigeria’s struggle and will remain so. Genuine patriots can draw inspiration from best practices, knowing that no ‘community’ will do it for Nigerians.

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