Nigerian Independence Day
Nigerian Independence Day is October 1st! Today marks Nigeria’s 56th anniversary of independence from Britain.
In 1960 the Queen’s representative Princess Anne graced the handover celebrations. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa took over as independent Nigeria’s first Prime Minister.
But instead of being in celebratory mood, the country is in an unhappy state.
Officially in recession, the country faces the deep decline in the price of oil.
There is also the Delta insurgency.
People in the Delta area are protesting the degradation of their land due to oil drilling. They want some recompense from the oil companies and/or the government.
Corruption is not completely tamed. Efficiency is still elusive.
The Naira is now trading near 500 to a dollar, an all-time low. Our son just told us on the phone there is severe difficulty in getting foreign exchange. He had planned a visit to the U.S. soon, but will wait.
The International Business Times says, “As Africa’s most populous country and largest economy celebrates 56 years of independence from British rule on Saturday, many Nigerian nationals are using the occasion to bash their government over allegations of corruption, greed and ineffectiveness.”
I was surprised to see the name Buhari in the first comment on the article. President Buhari’s daughter said: “#NigeriaAt56 and my dad is still using ‘trial and error’ in ruling the country. This makes me feel so sad.”
Meanwhile, Clem and I will celebrate Nigerian Independence with champagne. I’m singing in Threads of Light, a collage of African American music by Ellen Dickenson who is conducting.
Afterwards friends will join us to toast Nigerian independence, even in its difficulties. I need to run out soon to buy the champagne!
Nigeria’s Third Conflict
The oil price decline and the continued protests in the Delta are not all the country faces!
The Economist blog, The Economist Explains, says, “The Nigerian army is already fighting Boko Haram’s jihadists in the north-east and the so-called “Niger Delta Avengers” in the oil-producing south.”
So what is Nigeria’s third conflict and what sustains it?”
The writer describes Nigeria’s third conflict, between Fulani cattle herders and land owners.
The Fulani graze their cattle across northern Nigeria and into the middle part of the country. They drive their cattle south, even as far as Lagos, to sell.
I used to see the young herders and their cattle on the road to Ojo, the Yoruba village where I taught part-time when I was a Peace Corps volunteer.
Today there is less land available for cattle grazing. The far north is drier, the Boko Haram have overtaken a portion of the land the Fulani used, and population has grown.
The author of the piece explains: “Grazing corridors and reserves used to be set aside for the Fulani, who hail from the Sahel and drive their cattle south each year. But the land was swallowed up as the population grew and as the government lost interest in taxing livestock (crude proved more lucrative than cows).
Cattle routes have been neglected and overrun. Yes, of course, cattle trample farmland, but that land used to be their ‘road.’
How the country will solve this conflict between Fulani herdsmen and residents and farmers in the rest of the country is an open question.
Lagos International Trade Fair
On November 4th President Buhari will open the 2016 Lagos International Trade Fair.
When I read about it in The Nation, I was reminded of the International Trade Fair on Victoria Island in 1962!
That fair was open when I arrived in the country for the first time. Our Peace Corps group stayed in the Legislative Assembly apartments which were opposite the international trade fair.
After the fair ended, the American International School, AIS, opened in that site. I taught there for nearly two years until we fled Lagos for the East at the lead-up to the Biafran War. I went back after the war for another few years.
This year’s fair has the theme “Positioning the Nigerian economy for diversification and sustainable growth.”
The organisers said this theme would, “explore management mechanics of achieving sustainable growth in the pursuit of diversification.” A lofty goal, difficult, but worthwhile to aim for!
“The Chairman, Trade Promotion Board, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Sola Oyetayo, said the recession may not affect participation in the fair,” I read in the article.
He also said that, “over 500,000 attendants, 2,000 exhibitors from 22 states and 200 foreign ones were expected from 15 countries including China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Egypt and South Africa, among others.”
“Oyetayo said the fair would focus on all sectors of the economy through promotion of partnerships and critical interventions.”
The International Trade Fair will take place in two locations – Tafawa Balewa Square near the center of town, and the Eko Hotel on Victoria Island.
If you visit, let me know what you see!