president Muhammadu Buhari is in China today, having arrived there last Monday for a five-day visit. As usual, his journey out of the country has been generating ripples among those who would rather have the president sit at home and “find solutions to the nation’s many problems, among which the lingering fuel scarcity and the furore over the 2016 Budget, are tops.
I am neither for, nor against the president’s many shuttles out of the country. I believe each journey should be assessed on its individual merits to determine its value, or otherwise, for the country.
Sitting, askance, in Aso Rock may not bring Nigeria the much-needed respite from her many problems. At the same time, Nigerians do expect their president to be on ground to address what they consider the important issues of state.They can hardly be faulted for expecting that at a time that strong winds appear to be raging against their souls from the power and energy sectors, their president would be on ground to empathise with them and solve their problems.
I do, however, find a journey to China by the president and his team apposite at this stage of their administration. Nigeria and China, I believe, have so many things in common that Nigeria’s leaders will actually have a lot to learn from that country if we are serious about moving close to the height it has attained in the global community.
For one, China, with its huge population amounting to about two billion should have many useful lessons for Nigerians on how it manages to feed and transport all its citizens without being consumed in crisis. Nigeria, with just about 170 million citizens is having such a huge problem doing just this.
Just last Monday, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, decried Nigeria’s huge food import bill which stands at N630 billion annually.
We spend billions of naira importing basic food items such as rice, wheat, chicken and fish every year, yet we have the land to grow these food items, and a high population of unemployed persons who could be supported to go into agriculture to produce the items. As Emefiele said, this huge food imports bill is simply not sustainable.
If past Nigerian leaders had been serious to pay more attention to the way other countries support agricultural production to feed their citizens and for export, rather than how to shop and stash illicit funds in these countries, Nigeria would probably not be in the position that it is now. China, with such huge population does not toy with the feeding of its citizens. Nigeria should study how it handles its agricultural sector and replicate the positive aspects of it at home.
Transportation is one other area in which Nigeria has many lessons to learn from China. Transporting the population of that country seamlessly cannot be a tea party. That the government of the country is able to do it should interest our delegation to that country so that they can utilize the insights gained there in designing strategies for efficiently moving Nigerians from one point to the other. The huge impact that an efficient transportation system will have on business and the Nigerian economy cannot be discountenanced.
What about energy? China’s economy and huge industrial output cannot be what the world knows it to be without adequate power and energy supply. Imagine how much power the country expends on all the Made- in-China products flooding Nigerian markets and those in many other parts of the world? How much fuel is used to power the millions of vehicles on its roads?
The support China affords its industrial sector, which makes its products among the cheapest in the world, needs to studied. Beyond all the agreements that the president would be signing in China, he and his team must pay close attention to these fundamental issues if they hope to be able to make the necessary impact in these critical sectors.In the power sector, for instance, China reportedly has the largest hydro-electric plant in the world, the Three Gorges Hydro-electric Plant, which alone generates 70,000 megawatts of electricity, at a time that total power generation in Nigeria is tottering between 2000 and 3000 megawatts. Buhari and his team will do well to engage the operators of this plant with a view to seeing how a similar facility, even if with much lower capacity of 20,00 to 30,000 megawatts, can be established in the country.
The problem in Nigeria’s electricity sector is now such that Nigerians would welcome help from any sector to put the epileptic power supply in the nation behind them. If only this sector can be made to work optimally, certainly, many of the nation’s problems, including de-industrialization, unemployment and poverty, will significantly reduce.
Beyond the expected signing of a Framework Agreement to boost industrial activities and infrastructural development in Nigeria, between the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Development and the National Development and Reform Commission of the Peoples Republic of China, and another agreement between Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Communications and the China Aerospace and Science and Technology Commission, the president and his delegation to China must be proactive and decisive on the gains that they want to make from this visit.
The visit to China should not be just another visit. Let it have multiple positive impacts on critical sectors of Nigeria’s economy. This is the only way that Nigerians can begin to appreciate the gains of such trips and desist from blanket condemnations of the journeys.