Ali and The Burden of History

Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Colonel Hammed Ali (retd.), in trying to justify the rationale behind the border closure by the Federal Government, decided to play the role of a historian by reminding Nigerians that if they want to attain the same status as that of our benefactor, China, they should not grumble over the closure of the Nigerian border.

Like a preacher, he faced his congregation, rallying them to ignore their earthly sufferings because there is a crown awaiting them in the afterlife. He said; “This is the government that has insisted that we must grow Nigeria, eat Nigeria. China that we go there to buy almost everything we use, closed their bothers for how many years? They closed it for 40 years to the whole world, and today they are great China. Don’t you want to be great?

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Unlike religious congregations, where members reply with vigour, his question was met with silence. The gloom and doom of the present situation, a gentle reminder of what is yet to come, was probably too much to warrant a response from those he was addressing.

His statement has somewhat revitalised the gullible who now go about echoing the same sentiment as that of the Comptroller General. What Ali didn’t tell them, either out of ignorance or omission, was that China was never made great because it closed its border like Nigeria is trying to imitate. The opposite was the case. China was ravaged with poverty and was in fact, on the brinks of collapse before Deng Xiaoping rescued her with radical reforms.

Will & Ariel Durant in their book, The Lessons of History, said: “The record of the past can have a great deal of significance, but the events themselves have significance only if you approach them from a philosophical standpoint and ask the right questions.” This quote best describes the approach Ali decided to take, ignoring the events but sticking with the record.

Ali was referring to the Maoist era, under Mao Zedong, Chinese Communist revolutionary leader and founding father of the People’s Republic of China. It is imperative to let Ali know about the five-year-plan labelled the ‘Great Leap Forward’, an economic and social campaign by the Communist Party of China (CPC) from 1958 to 1962 and how millions starved to death in the ensuing Great Chinese Famine. The result of that experiment was a sharp contraction in the Chinese economy and between 30 to 55 million deaths by starvation, execution, torture, forced labour, and suicide out of desperation.

China was a closed and isolationist Communist society and economy under Mao, an approach that stifled market forces and, in turn, social equity remained only as a social symbol. However, what restored China as a referencing point was Deng’s policy of ‘openness’, responsible for the decollectivization of agriculture, the privatisation, and contracting out of state-owned enterprises and the growth of a market economy, a process that leads to China joining the WTO in 2001. For him, economics was the best way to benefit the citizens and strengthen national vitality.

It will be imprudent for Ali to expect Nigeria to be great like China by just closing her borders.

What Ali has done again is bring to the fore, the reasons why ignoring history will never bode well with Nigerians. The country is currently stuck with a President whose disdain for the rule of law and the constitution is legendary. Buhari’s refusal to handover affairs to his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, while on a private visit to the united Kingdom, is another flagrant disregard of the constitution. Another minor infraction from his enviable records along that line.

Ali and others who might seek to rewrite history should know that no matter how much they try to repaint the obvious, history will always laugh last.

By Segun Akinleye

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