In the Name of Oil, Gas & Politics
By Sunny Oputa
Beyond the capital cities of most African countries, especially the oil-producing enclave life is like a dimmed light. Citizens of such resource-rich economies have continued to grope in darkness orchestrated by adverse poverty and lack of infrastructures such as electricity which supposedly should be powered by the same hydrocarbon that the nations have claim to as their natural resources.
The disappointing level of development in these African regions were the attractive wealth of oil was supposed to overhaul has become an issue of major concern to most economist, policymakers and analysts, making the problem of “Dutch Disease” among resource-rich economies a puzzle too complex to be solved and a maze walk.
Among core macro-economic and institutional problems that are prevalent in these large-scale producing, but poor nations are apparent myopic views on the part of the system in not diversifying their economies. In nations were oil is produced in Africa, the only viable industry is the oil and gas sector which fuels about 85% of the GDP of the various countries. Agriculture, manufacturing, construction, services are not in the economic development equations.
The inabilities to develop other vital economic sectors have stymied growth and push every employable citizen to only the oil/gas industry. And for such countries where oil and gas remain the economic wealth basket, the industry is highly controlled by the governments, thereby making politics a predominant part of the business tripartite. In this vein, business and employment activities in most African nations sit on the tripod of oil, gas and politics. Therefore, any soul that misses this trinity is “dead”. As the souls of the citizens of the rich oil-patch regions languish and die, so the national economies continue to nose-dive into comatose, plunging their nations into multi-faceted crisis.
It is so glaring that governments are not fully equipped to run businesses commercially and in a competitive global economy. However, governments can create enabling and sustainable environments for rapid economic growth through good governance, accountable and equitable distribution of national wealth, provision of infrastructures. Yet, these ingredients are lacking in the government menu. These lack or negligence has begin to trigger humongous strife, internecine and social disorder in the region in the way of struggle of who controls what and a didactic push for resource nationalism. There is a new conscious awakening among people with a diversified interpretation of what government and politics means in regional existence and the role of the various pooblahs in the control of the national wealth. Sometimes, misinterpretation of government intentions and every day bleak outlook of live that spurs macabre dance have created a big gulf and lack of trust between government and the people. Now, be it in Nigeria where the incessant cataclysm in the Niger Delta cannot be simply doused or in Niger where a coup saw the removal of the president or in Guinea and South Sudan, name it the war pointer is how to have control on politics in order to control the sole resources of oil and gas.
This trend poses an ugly specter and is destroying the survival and development of the region. The way and manner the intensity of the struggle and chaos that surrounds the business of oil, gas and politics makes the building up of the great tornado which is about hitting most African nations inform of deadly internal clashes and war and should be averted. One of the solutions is for African governments to come to the understanding that politics is local and development should also be locally based. This entails that the simplified definition of politics as “who gets what, how, and when” should be equitably done through proper distribution of wealth and good governance.