DEVELOPMENTAL, MY LORDS

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself ~ Milton Friedman

As the Nigerian economy faces such a recession that can be likened to the Great Depression of the post-World War era, it has become a necessity to fish out the rodent elements that chew away the remnants of our national dignity, crumb by crumb. So many factors can be considered as the cause, such as the election of the Octogenarian of Change, but the presence of foreign companies in Nigeria is not one of them. In all facticity, if we are to pull of the cap of hypocrisy, we will agree that it is the key to Nigeria’s development.

Despite being an oil-producing nation, Nigeria’s economy has always been a big wheel so fraught with local friction that it needs to be greased by oil from other nations. Do we need statistics to show the unprecedented effect of foreign establishments such as Airtel, MTN and Etisalat, the smartphone networks that follow us everywhere we go? No? Now, you are talking! They have expanded the girth of our capitalist society, which is its own reward. Through their existence, they have ensured that Nigerians who need to make crucial calls are not stuck with Oodua Net. Their presence gives us a wide range of options, allowing us to exercise our basic human right of freedom of choice. How can we, with good conscience, argue that we would be better off with just Aba-made shoes than high-quality ones made by foreign companies? While it makes sense to encourage the creation of more local companies, it does not follow the same vein of logicality to argue that foreign companies should be eradicated. After all, there is a reason for their success in our economy. If the local companies had been good enough to cater for the needs of Nigerians in the first place, there would be no need for my adversary to worry over the effect of the presence of the superior foreign companies.

While I would not want to bore you with socio-economic parlances, permit me to borrow from the economic register. The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) programme is a multi-edged sword, slaying our economic demons with audacious chutzpah. The Nigerian government gets considerable Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) through the taxation of these companies. This is one of the reasons our Octogenarian of Change once travelled abroad for what seemed like centuries in search of FDI, because even he knows what is good for our economy, as ironic as it sounds. Additionally, it helps our countrymen in terms of employment opportunities and human capital development. Even if our own local companies aim to reach the level of independent economic dominance which my opponent might advocate, experience is needed. And what better way to get that than from these companies? According to an article by Connect US published in 2015, this development of human capital development, while coupled with IGR, ensures the financial-cum-resource growth of the country. This exchange of resources in turn leads to development. Development, my lords. In the globalised tempo-spatial reality of the 21st century, exchange of resources is what catalyses development. All of these stem from FDI. What then are we talking about?

Yes, Nigeria’s economy is yet to reach its full potential. Yes, Nigeria’s economy has not become equal to her Chinese or American counterparts. However, that is not because of the presence of these companies, it is despite it. We do not say that because a drug has not yet successfully cured an acute disease in its entirety, therefore it is the cause of that disease. It might not have crumbled Nigeria’s evil towers of underdevelopment, but it has at least mitigated it. The truism of this is vested in proven arguments. According to a paper released courtesy of European Journal of Business and Management, titled “The Impact of Foreign Direct Investment on the Nigerian Economy” subjecting the relationship between foreign companies and Nigerian economy to the Granger Causality Test shows that Nigeria’s economy has developed, rather than suffered, from the presence of foreign companies, albeit not at the speed of light.

Whether we agree or not, the truth remains that these companies are here to stay and stay they must! Their multiplication is already in effect. To hold a stance against the spiritio-physical presence of these companies, is to say, “Nigerians, suck it up and make-do with Noso shoes, Oodua Network and drive through the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway with Nigerian-made cars.”Now, that would be suicidal.

‘SUICIDAL’ IS THE SURE ANSWER

If things are going wrong in a country, it’s not usually that we don’t have enough foreigners. It’s usually that we have too many ~ Rory Stewart

Not too long ago, I had a rare cause to travel down to the famous (or is it infamous) Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos. It was my first time in that world of gadgets. And don’t you worry milords, I am not about to narrate a tragic story of how I was conned or how I found yam flour staring at me instead of a motherboard after I got home. No. None of that happened. What I wish to share with you, milords, is quite different. 

While I was examining the series of laptops before me and I was rejecting them for one reason or the other, one was brought from a different store. At this juncture, the lady with whom I was bargaining passed a remark in Yoruba which I held on to – oh! No way this is a UK-used laptop. Rather, it resembles a local second-hand device. I thought to myself: whoa! Does this mean that not only are our new made-in-Nigeria products irredeemably inferior, even our second-hand (imported) products cannot match those of the west? 

A bag of rice has today almost tripled in price, thus effectively making people scared of fixing a wedding date. Even tom-tom, I was told, is now ten naira per one. I was surprised also to receive a message recently from one ‘55505’. The text began with the words ‘₦250,000 are waiting for you …TODAY!’. Oh yes, that is how bad it has got. A quarter of a million naira is now so precious that we must pluralise it to give it its semantic due. In a nutshell, our economy is in dire straits and we keep asking ourselves why. I mean why not when our soil reeks of the putrid stench of neo-colonialism and our skies are filled with foreign airlines?

By inviting foreign businesses to erect flags on our land, we are automatically discouraging the growth of local ones which are shorn of ample funds to advance expand. Hard-earned money which ought to go into building our nation is gleefully gifted to strangers. This is because foreign businesses have the upper hand and are more competitive. And worse still, our people seem to be eternally infatuated with anything un-Nigerian that they unwittingly patronise them. That is why we – even the poorest and most wretched among us – flooded the Shoprite branches in Ibadan and Owerri as soon as they flung open their doors. Many of them were in fact caught on camera placing shopping baskets on their head. What a tragedy!

We are not content with the fact that the first destination of funds stolen by our rulers is foreign banks, what is left of the booties is still mindlessly channelled by the victims of corruption to these same foreign lands through their capitalistic agents. What could be more suicidal than this milords?

The truth is that foreign investments have never enhanced the further development of undeveloped countries. They only exist to convert their host countries into dumping grounds for their substandard products. They know the government is not resolute enough to regulate their activities. And they know full well that the final consumers are too consumerist to bother about the salubrity of what they buy. Little wonder why imported appliances are often more durable than their locally produced counterparts. Indeed, if the owner of a calabash calls it worthless, others will join him to use it to pack rubbish. Nigerians are exchanging their money for foreign rubbish only because they fail to recognise their worth.

If it is argued that foreign companies make living easier for citizens and provide them a good number of jobs, we must understand that indigenous companies can do exactly the same thing if afforded the right amount of succour. Let us fertilise our land for businesses, encourage commercial patriotism and provide tax incentives, and then see if local businesses will not sprout like the acacia and endure like amaranth.

Milords, I make bold to say that the presence of foreign companies in the country is not only suicidal; it is in fact homicidal if not outright genocidal. Foreign companies – Asian ones especially – have generally been observed to offer worse pay and labour conditions. Fresh still in my mind, like the definition of a noun, is the 2002 fire incident which killed as many as 45 workers in a Chinese plastics factory. Though the fire outbreak was accidental, the death which followed would have been easily prevented had the workers not been locked inside like zoo animals by their employers. 

Another prominent case is that of poor Mrs. Alexandra Ossai who lost her pregnancy in 2013 because her Lebanese boss kicked her in the stomach like a slave’s slave. I tell you, even more stomach-turning stories abound. So, it is high time we stopped deluding ourselves. We cannot reach the promise land with another people’s compass. And if we have no plan for ourselves, we will only end up as dispensable tools in the plan of others. Milords! If Nigeria must grow, then foreign companies must go.
CONCLUSION: This column is about you, it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the judge in this courtroom.  

THE PRESENCE OF FOREIGN COMPANIES IN NIGERIA: DEVELOPMENTAL OR SUICIDAL?

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