The furore over Chinese loans and the questions regarding sovereignty have died down. This is Nigeria. We are not steadfast on any matter. We make noise, all noise, and we never discuss the substance. However, the truth must be told. Depending on whose figures we are using, there are close to 15 million Nigerians in diaspora. With this, Nigeria is one of the top five nations with high remittance inflows globally. The nation’s diaspora remittances have been on the increase. We are like the Chinese, and we are also everywhere. The difference is that the Chinese are not giving away their land.
The Chinese are patriotic. They are courageous. They are taking risks, and they have an agenda. Nigerians are not patriotic. We are not courageous. We are not taking the right risks, and we have no agenda. The Chinese have the money. They have a plan. We had the money, but we had no plan. We now do not have the money and we still have no plan. The Chinese have the resources, human and otherwise, and they are on a mission. We have the human resources, but we do not know what to do with it.
A large portion of the loans we collected went to our dead railways, and when you talk railways and trains, there are the high-speed trains, which mostly operate on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated right-of-way that incorporates a large turning radius in its design. However certain regions with wider legacy railways, such as Russia, have sought to develop a high-speed railway network in broad gauge. It is not new technology in a real sense, but an improving technology.
Several countries have built and developed high-speed rail infrastructure to connect major cities, including Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, The Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan. Only in Europe does high-speed rail cross international borders. China had built over 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles) of high-speed rail as of December 2018, accounting for two-third of the world’s total.
So, here is a little reality shock. Shanghai Maglev tops the list with its maximum operational speed of 430km/h and average speed of 251kmph. The Maglev started commercial operations in April 2004. It runs on the 30.5km Shanghai Maglev Line, which is the first commercially operated high-speed magnetic levitation line, extending from Longyang Road Station of Metro Line 2 and ending at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Shanghai Maglev is owned and operated by Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co. (SMTDC). The train was constructed by a joint venture of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp.
Harmony CRH 380A, with a maximum operational speed of 380kmph, is currently the second fastest operating train in the world. The electric multiple unit (EMU) set a record by speeding at 486.1kmph during its trial operation on the Shanghai-Hangzhou intercity high-speed railway in December 2010. The CRH 380A was put into operation in October 2010. It operates from Beijing to Shanghai and provides daily service along the Wuhan to Guangzhou route. CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive & Rolling Stock constructed the vibration-free train. Its high design speed is a result of research carried out at various Chinese universities.
The Moroccan government has a high-speed rail line, the Kenitra-Tangier high-speed rail line. It was completed in 2018. It is part of that which is supposed to connect the economic capital, Casablanca, and Tangier, one of the largest harbour cities on the Strait of Gibraltar, serving the capital Rabat, and Kenitra.
Gatimaan Express is Indian Railways’ fastest train, attaining speeds of 160kmph between Delhi and Agra. Vande Bharat Express, a world-class engine-less train, has the potential to hit 180kmph, but the maximum operational speed on its routes is 130kmph, as at February 22, 2020.
In Nigeria, after billions in Chinese loans, the Abuja Light Rail System has trains, which are currently being hauled by diesel locomotives as electrification works on the line are yet to be completed. The initial fleet of rolling stock operating on the network comprises three trains with three rail cars each. Anybody that tells you that this country is going somewhere, kindly ask, where exactly are we going? With all the loans, we cannot boast of a bullet train, a speed train.
We misbehave without any sense of fear. These days, it is hard to be shocked. One has become so inured to this kind of behaviour. Yes, you say, as you shrug your shoulders, this is what happens. Such cynicism erodes the obligation of people to demand that their institutions live up to their own values. If you are not angry – regardless of your political orientation – about the never-ending revelations, then the culture of democracy or whatever it is we practice is further depleted. You will get sucked into the crooked smile of powerful people who are protected by the disengagement of the masses.
“For humanity, comrades,” writes Frantz Fanon at the close of his monumental The Wretched of the Earth, “we must turn over a new leaf; we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.” Terrible inequalities in our nation keep us divided. We have so few concepts that guide us in our feeble desire to overcome these divisions, so few road maps for our struggle to create a new society. There is the rigidity of culture and the cruelty of our lack of foresight, surely, but then, egregiously, there is the collusion of the powerful to block the advancement of this nation.
“We must turn over a new leaf,” writes Fanon. That requires action – to turn. But to turn, one has to have ‘new concepts.’ Cynicism appears when the old concepts no longer seem credible, when everything seems hopeless. Hopelessness is the worst kind of surrender. We are not angry with the Chinese, Americans, or ourselves. To be angry is to open the door to new concepts and to a new future, to turn over a new leaf. We are not angry as a people. However, when will we be angry?
•Dickson, PhD, a development and media professional, writes via [email protected]