- Category: POLITICS
- Published on Friday, 27 April 2012 11:38
- Written by Dr. Emmanuel Ojameruaye
The Second Economic Summit of the six states of the “true” Niger Delta region otherwise known as South South geopolitical zone or the BRACED states, has opened in Asaaba on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Among the dignitaries expected to grace the
three-day Summit is the President of Rwanda, Paul Kangame. Many ordinary Niger Deltans know very little about Rwanda other than the 1994 Genocide in that country. Critics of the Summit say that Rwanda is so different from the Niger Delta region, that there is very little the Summit organizers can learn from that country. While not attempting to second guess or pre-empt what President Kagame is going to say at the Summit, I will examine in this article some of the differences between Rwanda and the BRACED states (and Nigeria) and the key lessons the leaders of the Commission (and Nigeria) can learn from that country.
Rwanda is very different from the Niger Delta region in terms of geography, history, composition, politics, natural endowments, and challenges. Firstly, while Rwanda is a country/government, the BRACED Commission is an association of independent state governments which are part of a larger country/federation called Nigeria. The Commission has no legal power to enforce policies. While President Kagame can enforce his policies within the length and breadth of Rwanda, the Commission cannot enforce any policy or decision or recommendations throughout the six BRACED states. It will be up to each state government to do what it wants to do. Secondly, unlike the Niger Delta region, Rwanda does not produce oil and gas. Thirdly, Nigeria and the Niger Delta region are far larger than Rwanda in both area and population. Rwanda covers an area of 26,33k sq.km and has a population of 11.7 million. On the hand, Nigeria covers an area of 923,768 sq. km with a population of 170 million while the Niger Delta region covers area of about 75,000 sq. km with an estimated population of 25 million people. Fourthly, with over 40 ethnic groups, the Niger Delta region is more heterogeneous than Rwanda in terms of ethnicity and culture. The Rwanda population is made up of three groups of people, the Hutu who currently make up about 84% of the population, Tutsi (15%) and Twa (1%). The three groups share a common culture and language and are classified as social groups rather than tribes. However, like Niger Delta region (and Nigeria), Rwanda has tortuous history but it has learned from the past while the Niger Delta (and Nigeria) do not seem to have learned much from its tortuous history.
What then are some of the key lessons that the leaders of the BRACED states (and Nigeria) can learn from Rwanda? The first lesson is that if we do not manage the ethnic, group and religious differences and conflicts in the region (and Nigeria) in a peaceful manner based on equity and justice we can end up with a tragic situation similar to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. After that terrible event, Rwanda resolved to say “never again”. The government initiated a National Reconciliation process to heal the wounds of the genocide and past conflicts and to ensure harmony among the various groups. The government is promoting a “one-people” policy and has removed the Hutu/Tutsi/Twa classification from identity cards. The three groups are now classified as social groups rather than “tribes”. In addition, the Rwandan government has enacted laws criminalising genocide ideology. Most Rwandese speak Kinyarwanda which is the language of government, in addition to the other two official languages - English and French. Although the Niger Delta region is more complex than Rwanda, we can do more to facilitate cohesion. For example, the BRACED Commission can set up a Peace and Conflict Resolution Agency to address and manage conflicts in the region. In addition, the Commission should promote the adoption of a “common language” within the region. To this end, it should set up a team of linguists to develop the “pidgin” English into a modern language. The language can be called “Bracedia” or some other name and it can be similar to Swahili in East Africa or Esperanto that was created in 1887, recognized by UNESCO 1954 and is today the world’s 32nd language!
The second lesson we can learn from Rwanda is one of good governance including anti-corruption. A comparison of the World’s Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) index for Nigeria and Rwanda clearly shows that Rwanda is by far better governed. For instance, on a scale of 1 (low) to 6 (high), Rwanda’ CPIA for the policies and social inclusion/equity cluster is 4.0 while that of Nigeria is 3.2; the CPIA for public sector management and institutions cluster for Rwanda is 3.7 compared to Nigeria’s 2.9. On corruption, the 2011 corruption perception index (CPI) showed that on a scale of 0 (extremely corrupt) to 10 (extremely clean) Nigeria scored 2.0 and was placed at 143 position out of 183 countries in terms of “cleanness” (i.e., Nigeria was the 143rd “cleanest” or the 40th most corrupt country in the world). Rwanda scored 5.0 and was placed in the 49th position. In fact, Rwanda was the 4th “cleanest” country in Africa. We do not have data on the CPIA and CPI for the BRACED states, but it is safe to assume that they are not better than Nigeria’s national averages cited above. We must learn from President Paul Kagame how he has improved governance and managed to curb corruption in his country. We will find that that it began with the leader having zero tolerance for corruption. The Rwandan constitution provides for an Ombudsman, whose duties include prevention and fighting of corruption. Public officials (including the President) are required to declare their wealth to the Ombudsman and to the public. Those who do not comply are suspended from office. Can we do this in Nigeria and the BRACED states?
The third lesson we should learn from Rwanda is that there can be no rapid economic growth without peace, security, stability and good governance. After the tragic 1994 genocide, Rwanda has witnessed an unprecedented period of relative peace, security and stability thanks to the exemplary leadership of President Paul Kagame who has earned the respect of leaders all over the world. For example, Rwanda’s GDP per capita tripled between 1994 and 2011. Also, the country’s Human Development Index (HDI) increased from 0.376 in 2006 to 0.429 and gaining two ranks. On the other Nigeria’s HDI increased marginal from 0.429 in 2006 to 0.459 in 2011 and the country lost four ranks. Yet Rwanda does not have oil, it is land-locked and has very few natural resources. President Paul Kagame has embarked on the diversification of the Rwandan economy. The solid minerals sector (with a few minerals such as cassiterite, wolframe, gold and coltan) is also expanding and generated US$93 million in 2008, which is more than the revenue generated by solid mineral sector in Nigeria which has over 34 minerals! Tourism is growing very fast and became the country's leading foreign exchange earner in 2011. In spite of the country’s genocide's legacy, it is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination. Between January and June 2011, about 405,801 foreigners visited the country of which 16% were from outside Africa and a total of US$115.6 million in revenue was generated! Most of the visitors who come to Nigeria are either Nigerians in the Diaspora or foreigners coming for their slice of “black” gold! Let President Kagame teach the Summit organizers the secret behind his country’s ongoing economic diversification and transformation so that Nigeria and the BRACED states can break loose from the Dutch disease syndrome that has followed the oil exploration and production in the Niger Dellta region.
The fourth lesson from Rwanda is that we must increase our investment in the people, especially in education and health. For instance, expenditure on health and education in Rwanda accounts about 18% of its GDP (9% each). On the other hand, expenditure on health and education in Nigeria accounts for 11.6% of the GDP (5.6% each). Rwanda has established a basic healthcare insurance scheme that covers over 90% of the population. This has resulted in an increase in life expectancy in recent years. Life expectancy in Rwanda is now 55.4 years; it is higher than Nigeria’s 51.9 years. Under-five mortality rate in Rwanda is 111(i.e. 111 deaths per 1,000 live births), far lower than Nigeria’s 131. Maternal mortality rate in Rwanda is 540 (deaths per 100,000 deliveries) and it is far lower than Rwanda’s 840 rated amongst the highest in the world. Adult literacy rate in Rwanda is 70.7% compared to Nigeria’s 60.8% while Rwanda’s gross enrolment rate (primary) is 150.7% compared to Nigeria’s 89.5%. The situation in the BRACED states is a mirror image of that of Nigeria, or slightly better at best. Also critical is investments on public (not executive) security and safety which ensures that people can go about their businesses and move freely without fear of armed robbery, kidnapping, bombing, and harassment by thugs masquerading as local or state government revenue agents. The have become part of life in the BRACED but are virtually absent or their prevalence is low in Rwanda. I hope President Paul Kagame will teach the Summit participants how to invest in people and I hope they will become doers but not hearers only!
Finally, we must learn from Rwanda how to put in place affirmative actions to address the issue of gender inequality and other forms of inequality and social injustice in Nigeria and the BRACED states. For instance, in compliance with the third Millennium Development Goal (promote gender equality and empower women), women make up 51% of the members of their Rwanda parliament while women account for only 7% of the members of the Nigerian National Assembly. How did Rwanda achieve this feat? The lower chamber of the Rwandan parliament (Chamber of Deputies) has 80 seats of which 24 seats are reserved for women, elected through a joint assembly of local government officials; another three seats are reserved for youth and disabled members; the remaining 53 seat are elected by universal suffrage under proportional representation. Following the 2008 elections, there are now 45 female deputies, making Rwanda the only country with a female majority in the national parliament. The upper chamber (Senate) has 26 seats and it is mandatory for women to occupy a minimum of 30% of the seats. In other words, the system of election into parliament is designed in such way as to ensure that disadvantaged groups are adequately represented. This is unlike Nigeria where the system is thrown open with no “affirmative” procedures to ensure that women and other disadvantaged groups (e.g. youth) are adequately represented which has fostered alienation and limited popular participation and accountability. Thus, the Nigerian parliaments (national and state assemblies) and political positions are dominated by men who have the means (money and “strength”) to contest and rig elections. Rwanda has also put in place other policies to reduce inequality and the success is evidenced in World Bank and UNDP data. For instance, while Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) for Nigeria in 2011 was 0.459 with a ranking of 156 out of 187 countries, the HDI for Rwanda was much lower at 0.426 with a ranking of 166. However, when Nigeria’s HDI was adjusted for inequality it fell to 0.278 making Nigeria to loss six positions to 162. On the other hand, the inequality-adjusted HDI for Rwanda fell to 0.276 but the country gained two positions to 164, thereby significantly narrowing the gap between both countries. The wealth and income disparity in Nigeria (and the Niger Delta region) has reached an alarming level and it is contributing to the growing insecurity. The leaders of the Niger Delta region cannot wait for the federal government; they must emulate President Kagame by taking necessary actions to reduce the various forms of inequalities in the region otherwise their efforts to accelerate economic growth in the region will be hindered or come to a nullity.
In conclusion, it is my hope that the Second Summit of the BRACED states will not turn out to be another “jamboree” or talk-shop. The people of the Niger Delta region would like to see concrete actions and positive results arising from the decisions, recommendations and lessons learned from the Summit, including those from Rwanda. It is only in this way that the resources spent on organizing the Summit will be justified. God Bless the Niger Delta region!
Dr. Emmanuel Ojameruaye