Could Tafawa Balewa have made River Niger area like Tennessee Valley, with jobs, electricity…?

In a national broadcast on August 2, 1961, following his state visit to United States of America, late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa told Nigerians of the series of discussions he had with President John F Kennedy; his address to the United States Congress, and his visits to Chicago and Knoxville, Tennessee. Here is what he said about the Tennessee Valley:

“The Tennessee Valley, which we later visited was an economically weak region in 1933, when the Tennessee Valley came into existence. Its rivers were underdeveloped; its forests were suffering from overcutting; its soils were eroded and drained of plant food; its people were on a low subsistence level and were also faced with problems of malaria incidence, flooding and with navigational difficulties.

As you know we have similar problems with the River Niger and its tributaries; and you will understand why we went to Tennessee to see what lessons we can derive from the great experiment in this region which was started over twenty-five years ago.

Today, Tennessee has become a gigantic inland waterway carrying agricultural products and manufactured goods to a growing market with links with other waterway systems serving the whole American nation. It is contributing more and more to the general welfare and common security of the United States of America. Dams and locks have been erected on the river and these are proving efficient and economic water transport systems all year round, providing cheap electricity for new and growing industries, irrigating large areas of land and increasing the yields in agricultural production. In this way, the TVA has made possible the agricultural and industrial development of the Region. Herein lies the significance of our visit…

Like many news states in Africa, we are now faced with the problem of raising living standards and expanding our social services. I discussed such important projects as the Niger Multi-Purpose Dam, which if realised, can bring about a transformation in Nigeria as significant to our economy as the Tennessee Valley project is to the Americans.

The River Niger development would mean cheap electricity for domestic and industrial purposes, flood control to prevent erosion, water for irrigation and a navigable and waterway opening up of the country to traffic and trade all year round.”

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