This is the News Analysis segment of the Voice of Biafra International Broadcast.
For April 27, 2002.
You have heard the news; now, the analysis…
We visit a letter by General Obasanjo dated August 15, 2000, to the Southern Baptist Convention published in Jubilee 2000 USA website (http://www.j2000usa.org/updates/obasanjo.html). Because this letter was about IMF debt relief, it is appropriate to re-visit it. We will see how the General debased and humiliated the peoples of Nigeria, all for nothing. He has also admitted, in recent times, that all those trips he claims he was making all over the world for the purpose of securing debt relief for Nigeria have not yielded any dividends. We are not surprised—he may deal with the peoples of Nigeria as if they are fools, but the lender nations he is dealing with are not stupid people. He can fool fellow-Christians, but he will not fool God.
PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
PRES/131 August 15, 2000
Mr Adrian Rogers
Chairman Southern Baptist Convention
International Mission Board
Richmond VA 23230-0767
Dear Mr Rogers,
[General Obasanjo introduces himself with his credentials.]
I write to you in a spirit of fellowship at the dawn of a new millennium, about the condition of my country and people and to ask you to remember us in your prayers, as well as in your practical testimonies to your Congressmen, who collectively have the power to lessen our suffering through forgiveness of our intolerable debt. Presently, we are obliged to divert $1.5 billion of our meager resources to service our debts to Western creditors.
>Please inquire how Nigeria came into this debt, and what she used the money for. Did any average person living in Nigeria benefit from this loan?
I lead a country that is at a critical stage in its transition to democracy, which I believe is the only path that will bring prosperity and peace to my people.
> Nigeria is not transitioning into a democracy. Nigeria is still ruled by an Army General who still behaves as such--witness his admitted massacre of 200 civilians and the razing of their villages and total destruction of their property by his Army following his own incitement. General Obasanjo has taken full credit for this, not with remorse, but with justification. There is also a pattern: the General did the same thing with his Army at Odi. Currently, General Obasanjo has completed plans to succeed himself, after being caught inserting extraneous clauses to a completed bill before signing the (Electoral) bill. His surreptitious insertion would have stacked the deck well in his favor (for re-election) and in the favor of his party becoming a one-party system in Nigeria.
>Prosperity and peace will come to the peoples of Nigeria when the peoples of Nigeria can come together to decide how they will associate with one another. Democracy is not the issue. For example, in Northern Nigeria, peace and prosperity are tied to Islam, Sharia and its practice--not to democracy.
We are a desperately poor country facing many formidable challenges.
> This is a fallacy. Nigeria is not desperately poor. Human resources and potential are there. Manpower is there. Intellectual equity is there. There is sweet Crude Oil. There are untapped mineral resources. The land is arable for the most part. Animal husbandry is not only possible but can be lucrative.
> What is wrong is that the forced structure of one Nigeria is utilized well—but only in smothering and suffocation any progress. All capital is deliberately expended by Nigeria in trying to suppress Igbo-Biafran initiative and kill Igbo-Biafran entrepreneurship because to keep Nigeria one, Nigeria feels that she cannot afford to allow the Igbo/Biafrans to achieve their potential within the same one Nigeria.
We also suffer from the unfair misunderstanding that we are a rich oil country that does not need debt relief. In spite of our oil endowment, our debt to export ratio is 250%, which both the IMF and World Bank agree is far too high for a developing country.
>Where is the unfairness, and where the misunderstanding? Nigeria recently recovered over $1B--yes, 1 billion US dollars--of stolen money and misappropriation from just one corrupt military dictator, Abacha. Before him, there were other corrupt military dictators. Dictators have accomplices working with them. If Abacha alone spirited away $1B that can be recovered, you can be sure that 10 times that much is still un-recovered. You can also be sure that his accomplices are hiding at least 10 to 20 times much, if not more.
> At the time of transition to General Obasanjo's administration, it is said that the military leaders raided the Nigerian treasury and reserves to the tune of several billion dollars. It is unlikely that General Obasanjo was totally unaware of this.
> So-called Nigerian oil comes from oil wells in South Eastern Nigeria. The revenue accruing from it is large. This revenue is misappropriated to develop Northern Nigeria at the expense of the rest of Nigeria, but especially, at the expense of South Eastern Nigeria whose environment and ecosystem has been ruined by attendant operations. The rest of the revenue is open to abuse and self-use by the Northern military dictators and their cronies. To maintain the authority of Northern Nigeria over the oil, a large proportion of crude oil is piped from South Eastern Nigeria all the way up to Northern Nigeria for refining. This plan of course makes no economic sense because the North has no ports and the pipeline is subject to damage and sabotage; but it suits the purpose of reinforcing the North's domination and claim over all of Nigeria.
The average per capita income for my fellow citizens is a paltry $300, as against an average of $29, 240 for the United States. In 1979, we spent $2.25 per capita on education. In the same year the US spent $1, 546 for each person. Under our current budget, my government has been able to allocate only $3 per person to health. The US government spends $4,080 on each citizen. These are the only resources we have to fight the threatened HIV/AIDS epidemic which accounts for about a million deaths annually and Malaria which is responsible for one in five of all childhood deaths in Africa.
> "Crocodile tears," as they say. General Obasanjo is building a Sports Stadium in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, at a cost equivalent to a significant fraction of his allocation for health. He refused to stop the project even after appeals by well-meaning and respectable persons and bodies. The ordinary peoples of Nigeria could not afford to travel to Abuja or afford the ticket to events in that stadium. US knows to invest in her citizens. Who does Nigeria invest in? Crooks, self-serving and self-enriching greedy persons. There is no comparison.
Fellow Baptists, as you can see, the health challenge is pressing and I feel particularly passionate about this. But I can only spend $3 on each of our 120 million citizens, which scarcely covers for the cost of a mosquito net!
> Has General Obasanjo even spent $2 per capita on health? If he did, that would be $2.00 of real health benefit to the average Nigerian, but even that much is not there! The average Nigerian would readily and happily celebrate even a $2.00 tangible health benefit.
>Moreover, the same leaders and ex-leaders who raided Nigeria’s coffers are still on the payroll of Nigeria, collecting government pension, consultation fees and government contracts.
Like many of you in the Southern Baptist Convention, I am a man of the book and never embarrassed to draw inspiration and wisdom from biblical authority. A verse that never fails to enlighten my thoughts is Leviticus, Chapter 25, which evokes the "'Ram's Horn Blast' to declare liberty throughout the land". I know that this biblical idea of Jubilee is also close to the hearts of all Americans, as it is the biblical text engraved on the side of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. It is the idea that the imposition of suffering upon the poor is an offence to God's holiness that drives our magnificent Baptist vision, particularly in the developing world.
> Far be it that we should judge the General, but what have General Obasanjo and his government been doing to the Igbo people living in Nigeria, to the Biafrans? Was General Obasanjo not a chief player in the genocide against Biafra, in the starvation of Biafran children, women, and old people, when he and his government declared that starvation is a legitimate instrument of war? Did not General Obasanjo recently try to incite another group in Nigeria against the Igbo, in a totally unprovoked outburst—and this, while he is President of Nigeria?
The year 2000 is a jubilee year, which should restore the earth as in the concept of the Sabbath and promote friendship amongst all of its citizens. It is also a time for forgiveness. 'You shall count off seven weeks of seven years, seven time seven years, so that the period forty nine yearsY.and you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants'. Leviticus 25:8, 10.
>Where does General Obasanjo really stand when it comes to mercy and being merciful? Consider his own history and conduct in Nigeria, during the war, after the war, and at the present times. And he is speaking of “forgiveness”? God help us all! This week, Nigeria appointed 16 new Acting Inspector Generals for the Nigerian Police. Not a single one of them came from Igboland. Of the 23 topmost police officers in the country, including the six Deputy Inspectors General of Police and the Inspector General, there is only one from the South East / Igboland.
My people cannot hallow the fiftieth year. And we enter a new millennium, not in a spirit of new beginnings but a millstone of debt grinds our country and its people into endless poverty. Nigeria borrowed $5 billion from Western creditors in 1978. Since then, we have paid back $16 billion. It may also surprise you to know that we still owe $31 billion! This is largely due to compound interest and interest rate fluctuation. Prophet Isaiah rallied against this form of economics when he chastised the creditors, 'Yadd house-to-house and field-to-field until there is no room for no one but you' (Isaiah 5:8). Jesus appealed to the creditors to be 'merciful, as your father also is merciful' Luke 6:34.
> General Obasanjo: can you tell us what either Jesus or Prophet Isaiah said about military dictators and their cronies who rape a so-called country and subsequently enrich themselves with her wealth, and about the persons who have knowledge of this and do nothing about it?
Fellow Baptists, we live in a world in which mankind is accumulating the greatest riches in all of its recorded history, yet I am writing to you almost in despair. I have just returned from a meeting with the leaders of the G8 in Tokyo, Japan, as representative of the G77 group of countries. I pleaded with the richest countries to give a billion people in the developing world a cause for celebration, at the dawn of this new millennium by cancelling their unpayable debts. I left very disappointed.
> Why should these countries spend the hard-earned money of their honest and hardworking citizens so that they can pay for the corrupt, crooked and lazy Nigerian leaders’ past, present and future shameless robberies? These countries should be called STUPID if they did! They realize what the General is not saying: none of the relief will ever trickle down to the masses in whose name the General is begging for relief. We know it.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you have the power and influence, in your Congress to right this wrong. You can persuade your Congressmen and women to give millions of our citizens relief from the millstone of their debts- by writing the debts off the books. I know that if you take up the cause for debt cancellation in this jubilee year, you will not be alone. Millions of Christians all over the world support this. In the US Congress, I was heartened to read about the moving testimony of one brother, Kasich, who called on the US government to agree to debt cancellation this year 'as a historic act of grace'. Senior economists like Professor Jeffrey Sachs of the Harvard Business School have also supported the case.
> Please see the Biafran Plan / Recommendation for Debt Relief at the end of this document
So, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, my call to you is not from the wilderness. There are many voices supporting our call. But we need your support too. Let us stand together in the great spirit of our Lord, in His mercy and forgiveness.
> General Obasanjo is always quick to tout his Christianity. But listen again, and hear the real General. General Obasanjo recently took pride in taking credit for instituting Sharia in Nigeria. General Obasanjo quickly justified Sharia in Nigeria by rationalizing that Nigeria is a multi-religious country, not a secular state. Thousands of Christians have since been killed in Muslim Northern Nigeria on account of Sharia. General Obasanjo and his government failed to provide basic security for those Christians, predictably since most of them are Igbo. In fact, he is on record defending his lack of action by stating that he was waiting for the State Governor to ask for Federal government help before he could step in to stop the unjustified, lope-sided genocidal massacre of the Igbo, which was being sponsored by the same State government herself in the first place.
Thank you and God bless.
> General Obasanjo can fool even fellow-Christians and fool himself; but he cannot fool God.
THE BIAFRAN PLAN FOR DEBT RELIEF
This plan is based on responsibility, accountability, and dignity.
1. If any nation borrows money, such nation has to repay it. If a nation cannot afford to repay its debts, then, that nation should not borrow any money. Consider AID instead.
2. If any organization plans to lend money to a nation, such a lender must take into account the credit-worthiness of the nation, and that nation's ability to repay her debt.
3. Any nation that cannot repay its debt may declare bankruptcy. New bankruptcy laws focusing on Nations should be formulated.
4. Any borrower that agrees to COMPOUND INTEREST arrangement has itself to blame.
5. Loan payments should be capped at the time the loan is negotiated: for example, total payment on any loan should not exceed 300% of the original loan value.
For existing debts:
1) Any debtor-nation that has made payments of at least 250% of the original loan should have the rest of the debt cancelled, unless such a debtor-nation has tangible liquid assets (Nigeria, for example).
2) Any debtor-nation whose leaders have the reputation of stealing from the national coffers (like Nigeria) can petition the lenders to recover looted debtor-national assets and count this towards full loan repayment. The reason is that stolen wealth from debtor-nations is sitting in lender-nation banks, and these lender nations are well aware of this.
We have taken time to respond to the General to point out the inconsistencies and the false assumptions. We live it up to you to be the judge.
In the meantime, Biafra Actualization continues because that is the best way to get out of this type of debt arrangement, and to get out of the suffocating and murderous grip of one Nigeria so that our people may fulfill their-God-given potential!
That’s all the news analysis for this week.
God bless and keep Biafra and you, until next week. VOBI broadcast continues. (Audio version part of weekly VOBI broadcast posted on Biafraland website, http://www.biafraland.com : follow Voice of Biafra link.)