There was this questioning look on the face of one of my young friends recently when I started a discussion about Nigeria’s famed mineral endowment. I had begun with something from one of Mr Leke Alder’s presentations in which he said, “it is as if the Omnipotence decided to turn Nigeria into a mineral dump.” But my friend didn’t look like he wanted another lecture on Nigeria’s rich deposits. His face said he knows about many of the economically viable and utilisable deposits. I fished in my head for how to work round the discussion to make it beneficial but he saved me all that trouble. “Can Nigeria barter some of the bauxite ore deposits, which she has in abundance, with China, as Ghana did recently?”
It was a pleasant and welcomed intervention. I was fascinated by the fact that his mind would extrapolate in the direction it did with news that Ghana just activated a $2billion barter deal with China over its bauxite ore deposits. I was glad. There is indeed hope in Nigeria’s future. When young people begin to make queries of this sort, one can allow a smile across the face. The first steps always begin with the right questions. The power and reach of the right questions is never fully realized.
In the first place, he asked why we could not barter because he is aware of our failure to efficiently convert these resources to the general improvement of the wellbeing of the collective over the years. We have not been efficient stewards of these resources from nature despite the many attempts at grandstanding. And knowing how we are quick to point at developments at our West African neighbour, he wanted to know why we should not copy another good thing from there.
He argued further that his knowledge of the deal convinces him it will be a win-win for the two countries. In the deal, China will build roads and bridges in exchange for bauxite ore, which she will exploit in Atewa area where the mineral is abundant. Also, China will train some Ghanaians in some vocational and technical areas related to the project, thus enhancing their manpower capabilities. Bauxite ore taken from the sites will be used in the production of aircraft parts and kitchen utensils.
In the face of the publicly acknowledged dwindling revenue from the usual suspects, shouldn’t our leaders consider the barter option for many of our natural deposits, and with some of the biggest customers for African mineral resources ready to deal? Who will more efficiently build those world-class infrastructure we seemed incapable of building and maintaining ourselves?