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 Dr. M.O. Arigbede

This paper comes from an African intellectual who prefers to listen to the victims of economistic globalization and cultural alienation than to the polished theories of neo-liberal consultants and to the trendy platitudes of local and international media. The language is militant, emotional and may sound hyperbolic to some. Yet basic truth are told and they are inspired by a knowledgeable African observer who explains why he thinks that mere rational arguments couched in sedate academic terms will not do to produce the necessary groundswell of protest and of alternatives. Dr. Arigbede' s paper was first published in IRED' s journal Forum (December 1999). Its quality and importance deserve as large a dissemination as possible. (The headlines are ours).

“Globalisation” has become the new tyranny by which the entire world must be 'managed' by transnational corporate power and insatiable greed. Along with the so-called Free Market, this phenomenon is sold to the world as immutable devine truth which must underpin the success (or failure) of every society. The single mindedness, unrelenting pressure and comprehensive terror with which this new law is being imposed on the world, has, dialectically called forth a counter movement to demystify it so that ordinary human beings, especially in the 'South', can see that it is not necessary to lie prostrate before this global terror and that it can be defeated.

Simple questions by non-pompous people

The basic approach taken in this paper to demystifying this phenomenon is taken from lessons received from my so-called ordinary friends, from both poor rural and deprived urban settings. These non-pompous women and men, living ordinary lives, seeking merely to find their way through the dense fog of impoverishment thrown around them by their ruling elites, have a very simple way of conceptualising and capturing most phenomena with which they have to contend. They proceed from their direct micro-level experiences, asking questions about those phenomena that present them with confusion. In response to their questions, and in a collective setting, we try to tease the problem issues into their constituent strands and examine each strand carefully, linking it with the others to try to understand the whole fabric. In such an encounter, simple questions such as the following are presented to the "collective mind" for consideration :

- If we say that we became independent in 1960 (in Nigeria), how come we still cannot rule ourselves according to our own long tested systems of governance -which definitely worked well for our forebears - and must now look to Europe and America for systems of governance?

- If we say that we are trading and development partners with the people of Europe and America, why are we always having to buy more and more expensively what they make with their machines while selling them in return, more and more cheaply, only those products that we harvest from the land - and we cannot make our own things and also sell to them ?

- If our forbears did not have to depend on other peoples for their food, why are we now in a situation where we must import more and more of what we eat. Is it that we have become indolent and incapable of producing our own food?

- From our own experiences, if a farmer grows yams in abundance, his family must have the right to eat as much of yams as they may wish to - without having to pay for this commodity the same way the family of a farmer who does not produce yam does in the market. How come that we are forced to pay for those gifts that God blessed us with at home here as if we were strangers seeking to buy these things from our own government ? Or what is all this about other peoples forcing our governments to remove what they call subsidy from all those services that our people need so badly ?

- What justice is there in asking that gifts of nature, like petrol, which we have in abundance here, must cost the same here as it does in all other countries of the world whereas, the income of the worker here is about one hundredth of that of the worker in the U.S., for instance ?

- Why does our government accept that bigger and richer and more experienced manufacturing companies from Europe and America, can now come into Nigeria and compete on the same terms with smaller and poorer companies owned by our people - with the result that the Nigerian companies go bankrupt and lay off masses of workers ?

- Why are our rulers pretending to rule or to have power when it is becoming ever clearer daily, that the policies that they enforce on us are made outside this country and rammed down the throats of other people through their own rulers ?

- Those of us who know anything about farming know that if corn planted on a piece of land has matured and grown tall to cover the soil, one does not then plant anew, under the tall and older plants, fresh ones that must just sprout and reach for the sun... the smaller ones would definitely not receive any sunshine and must die off. Why do our governments seem not to recognise this simple law of nature and are asking our own weak and young manufacturing outfits to compete on equal basis with better and longer developed ones from outside this country ?

- What sort of help are we getting from Europe and America if all the people that we train as doctors of medicine, engineers, etc., leave our country to go to these foreign countries in order to earn what their counterparts there earn - incomes that they cannot earn here at home ? Why is it that it is only these highly qualified 'workers' on whom we have spent so much money and whom we need very badly - not ordinary workers like ourselves - that are allowed or even encouraged to come to these foreign countries ?

- Why has our history so abandoned us to the dictations of others such that everything we could be or have must be determined from outside our country to the extent that even our children look, feel, think and act more and more like Americans, for instance, than Nigerians or Africans, for that matter ?

- Why, in spite of the fact that we work very hard, from dawn to nightfall, not spending anything on ourselves or our children, not having any luxuries, in fact, not eating enough at any time, why do we continue to be so poor ?

- How did we get into this human trap called World Bank - IMF, and how do we spring this trap ? Why should it be possible for two man-made organisations - we learn that those who sat to invent them were actually men, not women who know the pains of childbirth and would not easily create monsters to terrorise their offsprings - to enforce their devastating programmes of so-called adjustment on whole nations ?

- We do not understand the meaning of 'National External Debt'. There is no time when the people, that is us, gathered and instructed our leaders to go borrow such huge amounts of monies that we are now alleged to be owing. What did our governments do with these monies? What did they tell their lenders they were going to do with the monies ? Did the money lenders make sure that the monies were actually applied to the purpose/s stated at the time of borrowing ? Is it true that even the interest rates charged on these loans changed from time to time without the agreement or even knowledge of the borrowers ? Should we really be repaying such ‘corrupt' loans for ever and at the cost of our national livelihood ?

- Does it mean that without the so-called Aid from Europe and America, our nations cannot develop ? Is this how it was with those countries that have developed themselves ? From all that we hear, is it not really our poor countries, almost according to the Christian Bible, that give aid to the developed countries - from he who has nothing, even the little that he has, would be taken and given to he who already has much ?

- If two financial organisations can dictate to the rest of the world and make decisions for us all without our participation, what is the meaning of the democracy that those who direct these organisations recommend to us ?

- With all these problems and injustices that seem to be permanent, are we not correct to ask : just what are we poor people and nations doing here... in this 'their world'?

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