Oil, politics and the Nigerian crisis -By Charles Ohia

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Oil, politics and the Nigerian crisis -By Charles Ohia


The significance of crude oil cannot be over emphasized. This is due in part to the pivotal role this natural resource has played in the evolution of mankind.

This role is the basis on which the foreign policy impetus of many a world power is driven. A number of these policies are substantiated by the vested interests of these world powers. It is for this reason that the United States for instance, did all within its unbridled powers, to invade Iraq; which at the time produced 3.07million barrels of oil per day. It is also by the same token that the United States did not bat an eyelid while ethnic Tutsis were being dismembered like ‘’cockroaches’’ in one of the world’s worst recorded cases of genocide.

Interestingly, these foreign policies are clothed in coats of many colours which the biblical Joseph would have been envious of; and sold off to the rest of the world as ‘’a defence of democracy’’. Often time, this cascades into crisis situations that create conflict and in extreme cases wars in different parts of the globe. The multiplier effect is always predictable; a drop in global oil production volumes and a corresponding spike in the prices of crude in the international market.

Nigeria happens to be the 11th largest oil producer in the world and by virtue of this position is favourably disposed to reap from the bounties accruing from increases in international oil prices. When one considers the fact that the Bonny Light, which is Nigeria’s brand of crude, is the most sought after in terms of quality, the import of the enviable position Nigeria occupies in the international oil market becomes more apparent. Ironically, a critical analysis of Nigeria’s position leaves not only a sour taste in the mouth but renders one completely astounded and befuddled. And the reasons are not far-fetched. The country is reputed to have earned almost a staggering $1Trillion as revenue from its crude oil sales since independence but a critical evaluation of our human development indices, shows an indirect proportionality with those earnings.

Decades of decayed and decaying infrastructure, in the face of spiralling population, as well as years of military dictatorship and civilian maladministration, have contrived to ensure that Nigeria has little or nothing to show for all that enormous oil wealth. The social protection systems for instance, are virtually non-existent. It is for this reason why almost a million people would turn up for an interview that had an advertised vacancy for less than two thousand. This state of affairs is made possible by corruption; that hydra headed monster that has continued to rear its head in every sector (government and private) of our economy, permeating every facet of our national lives. Not only have we taken corruption to new unassailable heights, but through our knack for the absurd, we have collectively immortalized debauchery, inciting the rest of the world not to take us seriously in the process.

And as has become customary to the average Nigerian, we have evolved, with a dexterity that can aptly be described as nauseous, to reducing every discussion affecting our national lives to the puerile PDP/APC dichotomy; one that continues to confine us to some form of binary entrapment. Ironically, the accruable income from years of spikes in international oil prices has been shared by all three tiers of government. So, what you find from Zungeru to Abakaliki, Iyana Ipaja to Kafanchan, and Ogoja to Gbongon, is a commonality that dots the Nigerian landscape like a colossus; a ubiquitously asphyxiating level of poverty that is epitomized by Nigeria’s distinct 180th position in the African Human Development Index.

Today, oil prices have plummeted and the alarm bells are already going off in Abuja. The Minister of Finance and co-ordinating Minister of the Economy has one pretty hand precariously positioned on the austerity measures pulley. How soon she tugs at it is only a matter of time. The naira has also been taking a hiding in the FX market with a resultant devaluation brought into effect as a quick fix measure to mitigate imminent obliteration. If these are not indicative of an impending economic crisis, then pray, tell, what is? Our years of plenty have been fritted away by financial malfeasance and recklessness, now the lean years beckon. In the face of adversity in these parts, we often mouth these three words …….lt is well.