Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
In South West, many people vehemently criticised the Federal Government when they heard that if Nigeria failed to repay tranches of loans obtained in China as spelt out in their agreement, China would take over some landed property, especially in the South West to recoup their money.
But the Federal Government that took loans from China has not said it does not have capacity to repay the loans. To some people, the criticism was not properly placed because government would never allow such to happen.
The argument, however, prompted Prince Ademola Ayoade, former national secretary of National Democratic Party (NDP), and an associate of the former Military President of Nigeria, Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), to take a cursory look at the relationship between China and Nigeria on giving and receiving of loans.
To him, government should tell Nigerians in plain terms what it used as collaterals for the loans from China, repayment plan and duration for repayment of each of the loans. He also suggested that Nigeria should rather initiate a form of trade by barter with China, such that whenever the country obtains any loan from China, which is an industrial nation, crude oil should be used to repay the loan.
Ayoade, who congratulated Babangida on his recent 79th birthday, said: “When Babangida was in government, he gave opportunities to a lot of people to serve in government. When he discovered that you are not doing well, he would replace you. A lot of people complained about Babangida, and he left government over 27 years ago. Why are they still complaining about him? Does it mean there are no sensible people in government after his regime that could have upturned what they thought Babangida did wrong?
“He constructed the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, Ibadan-Ife-Ilesa dual carriageway, Kano-Kaduna Road, a new federal capital for Nigeria in Abuja, secretariat in Abuja and the Abuja Airport. He did not borrow money from outside. Then, you want to construct a rail line from Lagos to Ibadan and rail line from Abuja to Kaduna, you borrowed money from China. Any project this government wants to do now, they will borrow money from China. Do they want to enslave us to the Chinese?
“Why can’t they explore the possibility of trade by barter? China is an industrial nation. They need energy and power and energy and power come from gas and petroleum. China buys petrol from Nigeria. If Nigeria wants to execute a project and discovered it is only China that has the money to fund it, why can’t the leaders of Nigeria explore the option of trade by barter with them? We have crude oil that we can exchange with money with China. If it is loan, there is no way money will not exchange hands. If it is trade by barter, it is what you are trading with that will pass hands.
“But we want this government to tell us what they used for collaterals for all these loans they are taking from China. What are the conditions? They should tell us? We are going to pay the loans back. Our children are going to pay back the loan. During the regime of a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, if not all, all the loans Nigeria owed the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Paris Club, were written off. But now, what is the debt profile of Nigeria?
“Some people have been saying that Babangida’s regime was the most corrupt. He has been investigated many times, and they have nothing to say against this gentleman. His regime liberalised the economy. And in free market, there are so many suppliers of the same products.
“So, you need to have one incentive or the other to beat other competitors, which is happening now in the telecommunication industry. If you buy airtime, some telecommunication companies will double the airtime for you. Is that not an incentive?
“Most successful businessmen in Nigeria today came up during Babangida regime. He opened the banking industry to a lot of people. He opened the broadcasting industry to a lot of people by issuing licences to a lot of radio and television stations. There are so many newspapers that came up during his regime.
“After the regime of IBB, how many serious businessmen came up, except consultants and commissioned agents? As at the time Babangida left power, the exchange rate between naira and dollar was N22. Now, it is close to N500. He employed the best brains in Nigeria that worked in his regime. So, if you say Babangida regime was bad, it means the Nigerian best were bad because they were the ones who advised him.”
On the insecurity in the country, Ayoade noted: “President Muhammadu Buhari was a seasoned military officer and a General of repute. I expect him to know how to handle the situation. We heard information that some soldiers are grumbling, which is supposed not to be so within the military.
“A soldier can never be grumbling if he is properly taken care of. I want to advise government to change the service chiefs and appoint fresh blood. The present chiefs of staff have done their best, but their best is not too good enough for Nigeria.
“If you go to war and you stay too long in the battlefield, there will be a time that you would not know what to do. The trauma of war, the psyche and what you have gone through, will make you find it extremely difficult to know what to do. But if they bring them back and send fresh people, they will have new ideas. They will operate differently.”