By Simbo Olorunfemi
I think the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) like many, is caught up in the emotion of the moment and might not have thoughtfully considered the propriety and implication of his statement yesterday calling for the nationalisation of South African businesses in Nigeria.
It is concerning that his statement comes after a reported meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) which was said to have discussed the matter, leaving the impression that the position he canvassed is that of the party and not just his.
That Comrade, a former Governor, who must be conversant with the ‘efforts’ repeatedly touted by Governors past and present in mobilising foreign investment not to talk of the elaborate investment at the Federal level over the years, will canvass nationalisation of assets of foreign interests not on the basis of any ideological or economic argument but as solution in a matter better handled through a carefully calibrated chain of diplomatic tools leaves much to be desired.
It is disturbing that Comrade did not stop at an omnibus statement around supposed South African interests but chose to single out MTN, making references to its activities, the fine once imposed on the company, rounding off with a demarketing of the company and a call for boycott. How he couldn’t see that he was indirectly hurting Nigerian interests I do not understand.
Not only did he make the erroneous assumption that Nigerians do not have substantial business interests in South Africa beyond the corner shops, small and informal businesses he attached our name to, he falls for the oft repeated error of not seeing the substantial interest by Nigerians in the company. The current market value of Nigerian investment in that company should be in the range of 10 billion Naira. To be stoking public anger against the entity does not only erode investor confidence but the value of that investment.
I do not see it as appropriate that Comrade Oshiomole, purporting to speak for the party, will so insert himself in a matter its own Government is already handling, with the Envoy sent by the President already in South Africa. His intervention only muddles things up, triggering confusion, no matter how populist it might sound.
Diplomatic engagement is a carefully considered and calibrated set of steps, deployed as matters escalate. You often do not go for the kill with your first steps as you just might run yourself out of options of what to deploy if and when the matter escalates. You cannot start out by expelling diplomats here or recalling yours at the outset, not even when there is a diplomatic spat between your two countries. There is the measure fit for the moment, there is the place of threat, there is the place for engagement. There are many ways of registering displeasure beyond showboating and knee-jerking that some Nigerians seem to have become fond of, on account of military hangover.
This tough talk about nationalising foreign-owned assets is a lot of hot air standing on nothing. What will be the legal basis for nationalisation? Where is the legal cover for such mindlessness? Or you want to foist another scenario on the country where we would be forced to pay billions of dollars for some illegality?
People should just face front and stop embarrassing us with some Abacha-inspired solutions, taken out of context, showing off such lack of rudimentary understanding of international relations.
-Olorunfemi a communication specialist wrote in from Lagos