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The Forum > Article Comments > Nigeria - poverty amid plenty > Comments

Nigeria - poverty amid plenty : Comments

By Cam Walker, published 28/11/2006

Amid so much oil wealth the people of Nigeria's delta region are struggling - poverty stricken and their land polluted.

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Nigeria is a wealthy country, so if money is not the problem, and Nigerians themselves are not doing anything to alleviate the poverty of, apparently, the majority of Nigerians, there’s not much anyone else can do for them.

We are now well past the “Shell affair” brought to our attention by people probably like Cam Walker, and nothing has changed even though we shocked and horrified when we heard the story. Short of a full-scale invasion and takeover of countries such as Nigeria, nothing will change. This is obviously not going to happen: the left bent goody goodies who keep harping on poverty in Africa don’t believe in such things, and neither do PC Western governments any more, unless it is in their interests.

The same people who still claim that poor countries are still poor as a result of colonialism conveniently overlook the fact that these same countries were much better off when they were colonised, and it is only since the colonists left generations ago (leaving all of the infrastructure and financial systems they set up) that the local rulers have brought their people to rock bottom through corruption and tribal politics.

The author, unsurprisingly, says it is “our” companies that are to blame, and that “we” have the power to stop what is happening. This is naïve nonsense. Apart from the fact that there is very little interest from most people, the few activists who are interested have had no effect on big business and rich and powerful African leaders totally without reason, morals and ethics.

Leave it alone. Accept the fact that there are vast differences between races. If there were not, Shell and others would be doing the same things in Australia and other Western countries as they are in Nigeria
Posted by Leigh, Tuesday, 28 November 2006 9:53:35 AM
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From 1961 to 1963 I worked and lived in Okrika, a Rivers (Delta) place in Nigeria. At that time preliminary work was being started by Bp/Shell on the refinery on the Okrika-Eleme road. Local people existed by a combination of fishing and smuggling (from ships waiting to go into Port Harcourt) Agriculture was already restricted by the lack of land.
The absolute basic fact that has to be remembered is that tribalism was and remains rampant. There is a close association between tribe and religion, but two groups, both Christian, could and often did dislike each other intensely. It would be puerile nonsense to think that such tribalism is due to colonialism, it had been going on long before that. It is that tribalism, Hausa/Fulani v Ibo v Ijaw etc etc down to tiny groups that is one of the two biggest problems that Nigeria faces. The North, predominantly Muslim effectively rules the roost. They have no oil. There was never any chance that they would allow the cash from oil to go anywhere else other than into their own coffers. For over 40 years they have failed abjectly to provide an equitable fraction of the countless billions they have recieved to the Rivers area and people. They simply couldn't give a stuff what Shell do just so long as they keep forking out the cash. Yes Shell have behaved very poorly, but it is erroeous to see them as the basic problem - the bitter tribalism allied to the misuse of majority power by the Nigerian 'elite'. I weep for the place.
Posted by eyejaw, Tuesday, 28 November 2006 11:21:01 AM
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Leigh, I'm not sure I understand your point about races being different and that multi-national companies are exploiting Nigeria and not Australia because of race. I think these immoral companies will exploit any country that they think can or will not stand up to them.

As for your point about colonial governments, I accept there may have been a few instances where government services were delievered effectively. But colonial governments were not set up to provide good goverance to Africans. They were set up to exploit the natural wealth of the continent for the benefit of Europe.
Posted by sonny, Tuesday, 28 November 2006 12:42:48 PM
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Dear Eyejaw....
firstly *welcome*.. haven't seen any post by you before.
So glad to receive a first hand commentators perspective.
I think we should appoint you as a consultant to the Socialist Alliance, you might talk some sense into them...oops..hang on... now that would pre-suppose they actually care about the "issue" as opposed to "using" such issues to simply criticize Westeran Capitalist governments, and raise their own political profile on the back of genuine issues they most likely don't care about any further than they can milk them for political advantage.

You will find it is crystal clear to someone like yourself (and myself) who have "lived" this type of thing. Its most difficult to get past sloguns and dogma when it comes to dealing with socialist leaning people. I find those on the extreme right just as difficult.

But one thing is clear.. the answer to African poverty is NOT debt cancellation, it is the equitable distribution of existing resources to the people rather than the Swiss bank accounts of current and would be tyrants.

No wonder there is an insurrection in the South.

Regarding 'tribalism' I'm sure your experience would be of great value in the thread 'Reflections on a Multicultural Society' or any multicultural thread.
Tribalism is alive and well in Australia, but many who support multi-culturalism are in abject denial of this.
"Strength in Diversity" goes the slogun. What a load of total rubbish.

Posted by BOAZ_David, Tuesday, 28 November 2006 3:40:53 PM
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I'm usually on here re education issues, but the plight of ordinary Southern Nigerians is something that burns me up.
Later, 1965 I returned to Nigeria, this time to Kano in the North. Although the area was predominantly Hausa/Fulani (Muslim), there were a lot of people from other parts of Nigeria (who lived in the Sabon Gari - strangers quarter). many were Ibo from the SE with some from the Rivers-Ijaw. They were there because they did almost all the skilled jobs - they were far better educated.Trouble started to brew up after a coup and counter coup nationally. We knew that trouble was coming on 1/10/66. It did. There was a massive slaughter of southerners carried out by the army and the mob, it mattered not what particular tribe. God alone knows how many died that weekend but it must have been thousands. Their offence? they were Ibo or thought to be Ibo. Big pits were dug with heavy equipment outside the old city walls; bodies were collected in garbage trucks and the dead, whole or in bits were thrown in. As a consequence the East attempted to leave the Federation and the Biafran war started. Awful.
Such experiences account for my conviction that anything at all that emphasises differences between different groups of people is an unalloyed evil - irrespective of the good intentions of the perpetrators. About 7 or so years ago there was a review of Multiculturalism here. In part my submission described that doctrine as being the real GST.
Government sponsored Tribalism
Posted by eyejaw, Tuesday, 28 November 2006 5:19:16 PM
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hi all

interesting to read the discussion on this.

Just quickly to respond to Leighs comments:

He basically blames the victims for crimes perpetrated by others and makes an enormous assumption (that "Nigerians themselves are not doing anything to alleviate the poverty").

While on one level he is right, Nigeria was better off before colonisation (in that the benefits of economic activity stayed in the country), he misses the point entirely. Colonisation was never for the benefit of the locals, it was for the enriching of the colonisers; the British did a great job of creating a governing culture that continues to allow riches to flow out of the country; this is exactly what i saw in Nigeria.

To suggest that its the Nigerians own fault that they haven't yet been able to make the oil companies operate in an ethical and socially responsible manner is to show a remarkable lack of understanding of the power of corporations and more broadly, the history of the European conquest of Africa. I'm being as polite here as I can be but in my opinion this is a pretty nasty and mis-informed view on the world.

I would re-iterate that we do have a role to play in getting the companies to lift their game. To wash our hands of this situation through blaming others for their problems would be a sad and tragic response and a massive failure on our part.

Cam Walker
Posted by Cam Walker, Wednesday, 29 November 2006 9:59:15 AM
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