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Giving peace a chance

October 7, 2009

Some modicum of peace has returned to the Niger Delta. May it stay, grow and spread. Wishful thinking? Let’s give peace a chance. Just realised how naive I am about the palaver down south. Years of neglect and dithering over the matter have spilled oil over trouble waters – a 2005 article by Michael Peel of the Financial Times (FT) is rather prescient. Karl Maier’s prophesy that This House has Fallen did not come to pass, but it detailed the seeds of Delta unrest, and beyond. The heart of the matter is complex, even for a Nigerian – from slave trading to the oil (palm) bartering to crude oil drilling and gas flaring. Michael Peel’s A Swamp Full of Dollars attempts to get into the heart of the Niger Delta war.

At the petrol station today, people thronged to buy petrol with 20 to 50 litre plastic kegs (yours truly was one of them). Destination: innumerable fuel-guzzling generators, mostly from China. Nicknamed “I better pass my neighbour” these generators and others from the UK, Korea etc, are a status symbol, more like a necessity – a permanent din that serves as background music.

Official figures say Nigeria splurges 900 billion naira ($6 billion) on importation of generators. Toss in money spent on diesel, kerosene and petrol importation (not to mention the shady subsidy) and behold, Nigeria, a country blessed with the slick stuff can’t gas turbines to produce electricity or refine crude oil to meet local demand.

Is this a Paradox of plenty or the curse of black gold? No wonder why the banks stay optimistic? All the same, as a new world order ushers a new normal, governance, innovation, industrialisation, infrastructure, agriculture and education are requisites for any prospective global player.

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