Okello Oculi argues that in the area of managing trends in population dynamics, Japan will fiercely protect its single ethnicity
On Tanzania’s much venerated national holiday; ‘’SABA SABA DAY’’ (the 7t day of the 7th month), His Excellency Matsunaga Kazuyushi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, treated me to a generous dialogue in his Office at the Embassy of Japan in Abuja. Our discourse was a commentary I had published in the THISDAY newspaper.
I had emphasised the role of ‘’Soft Violence’’ in Japanese culture and economic life, including ‘’corporate governance’’. I had attributed to harsh natural elements like earthquakes, tsunami, and heavy snowfalls producing intensive self-discipline including casual self injury as a mark in romantic pledges. The Ambassador focused on collective resolve to mobilise individual energies to mend injuries and destruction caused by nature’s violent sense of humour.
As he rolled out his different perspective it recalled for me perplexed shock by a Palestinean visitor to Lagos who witness a fire raging through a tall government building while crowds of people stood and watched, in a seeming trance, this horrendous ruin to a public asset. If that had been taking place in Palestine, he asserted, all those people would spontaneously rouse collective energies to put out the fire.
In mid-May 2022, a newly married couple accidentally drove their vehicle into a stationary truck whose brake lights were dark. The impact killed the bridegroom instantly. The bride was thrown out the car with severe injuries. Her cries for help rung out but none was offered. Several witnesses were preoccupied with using their cell phones to take her photo for loading into U-Tube for the pleasure of their photo-story ‘’going viral’’: widely broadcast to vast numbers of Internet users. That behaviour drew much rage among those who knew the retired Nigerian Ambassador whose son and newly earned “Daughter-in-Law’’ had been denied communal help.
Ambassador Kazuyoshi was careful to avoid this road of blame of Nigerian area of social failures. He noted that Nigerian leaders urge Japanese companies, notably TOYOTA, to build a manufacturing plant in Nigeria for building motor vehicles for its vast market. This show of economic patriotism is, however, in direct opposition to views held by corporate managers of TOYOTA who give priority to a PAN-AFRICAN market.
Japanese corporations had decided in the 1960s to avoid economic losses when their factories were seized by politicians who decide to ‘’NATIONALIZE’’ factories located in their countries. They also faced the task of beating European and American politicians demanding that Japanese vehicles manufactured in Japan be banned from entering their countries and taking away the market from their local manufactories, thereby, throwing millions of workers into joblessness.
Accordingly, they evolved the strategy of dispersing production of components of motor vehicles. Individual parts of a vehicle from tyres, windscreens, brakes, steering wheels, to engines would be made in factories located in different countries. It made no sense to nationalize a factory that is manufacturing only front lights of a car for sale to sister companies scattered in other countries. Moreover, if the assembled vehicle is nationalised the profit made from selling it is sent out in INFLATED prices of parts imported from sister companies abroad. The economic patriot was left with an empty shell.
Ambassador Kazuyoshi was not about to spell out this narrative and crucify his employers whose interests he is vowed to promote till kingdom come. It is also not clear that economists and journalists have educated politicians about this defensive economic diplomacy crafted by multinational corporations. Accordingly, corporate managers of TOYOTA appear more PAN-AFRICANISTIC than patriotic African politicians when they argue for locating factories building parts of vehicles in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and elsewhere.
This dispersal strategy can be presented as a manifestation of Africa’s collectiveness. The common African trading space is being seen by African leaders as a creeping progress towards Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of a single African continental government with a common military force, a common currency and common diplomatic machinery.
This creeping political and economic process, however, lacks profound religious roots of belief in COLLECTIVE work; impulses to join individual energy into a common pool.
In the area of managing trends in population dynamics, Japan will stubbornly protect its single ethnicity. Projecting a shrinking population by 2040 (in contrast to Nigeria’s rise from 200 million to 400 million), there is no impulse to invite foreigners as immigrants. Instead, Japan’s Small and Medium Scale Enterprises would flood into Nigeria and use Nigeria’s labour on this soil.
Stories of immigrants into Europe and the Americas bombing entertainment locations; fatally stabbing host individuals with knives and even winning seats in legislatures, disrupts Japanese sense security inside a single ethnicity. The assassination of former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, by a former security official with a secretive home-made gun has severely rattled a sacred sense of collective security.
Prof Oculi writes from Abuja