Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has advised Nigeria and other African countries ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic to collectively seek debt relief from their creditor countries and banks.
According to Atiku in an article titled: “What Africa Must Do to Mitigate the Damaging Effects of Coronavirus’, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Nigeria and other African nations are yet to see the worst effects of this scourge. That is why we should come together and seek debt forgiveness, as a direct consequence of the impact of this pandemic on our economies.”
The former vice-president, who justified why Nigeria and African countries should seek debt forgiveness, said: “We have a perfect case because almost every African nation with a COVID-19 infestation had an index case that originated outside the continent. Nigeria’s index case was an Italian; Liberia’s was a Swiss. Ethiopia had a Japanese index. South Africa’s index case was a South African, but he and his family got infected in Italy.”
He explained that the COVID-19 crisis should force a commonality of purpose in Africa and more so in Nigeria, stressing that: “This is beyond politics, religion, region and ethnicity. As the crisis goes on, this one can be described as existential.”
According to Atiku, “While it is true that in a situation like this, the international community should invest in all countries needing help, we must be mature enough to see that that is not going to happen. The only thing that is standing in the way of the coronavirus in Africa is we Africans. And we should not give in to panic by the doomsday scenarios being painted by analysts. They mean well, but if they only shout fire in a crowded theatre, all that their good intentions will cause is widespread panic.”
He stated further that Nigeria and Nigerians must remember that many of the Western nations had predicted that Nigeria would cease to exist as a corporate entity by 2015, but here we are.
The former vice-president noted: “We had the Wild Ebola Virus but and we defeated it because we did not panic. We must apply that same level-headedness to this crisis. But this does not mean that we should go to the extreme and become overly optimistic or Pollyannaish.
“Even when we are able to avoid a high human toll from this virus, we would not be able to escape a much higher economic toll. We may have a recession. The challenge right now must be to mitigate it, since we cannot avoid it. Already, we see forced currency devaluations from the Cape to Cairo. These will no doubt lead to internal inflation, which will spell trouble for a country like Nigeria that has a high external dollar debt burden.”
Already, the former vice president said the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is projecting that Africa’s growth will at least drop to 1.8 percent, and maybe more, adding that nations like Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania had been projected to grow 3.2 percent this year.
Faced with this crisis, Atiku said Africa cannot even think of falling back on China or the West as “when a country like the United States is struggling to supply its own healthcare workers with personal protective equipment, Africa will not feature high on its priority.
“Where China is wondering how to explain itself to the world when all these die down, our challenges will be far from their minds. We must fall back on ourselves, or we will fall headlong. We must take responsibility for navigating our way out of a challenge that was forced on us from outside.”