Would late President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Cote-D’Ivoire’s solution sort Nigeria’s problem with Graft? – Part 1

Felix Houphouet-Boigny trained as a medical doctor in France. After World War 2, many European countries, including France concluded that colonialism was no longer a viable economic policy. So, they began to grant independence to former colonies. Specifically, in the case of France, before independence was granted, some persons had been appointed from the colonies to represent their countries in the parliament in France. Felix Houphouet-Boigny was representing Cote-D’Ivoire, Leopold Senghor, Senegal, Sekou Toure, Guinea, etc

When the moment came, Felix Houphouet-Boigny became president of Cote-D’Ivoire. He made Cote- D’Ivoire one of the top tourists’ destination in Africa, in his days. The economy boomed and things seemed on the upward trajectory.

The country built a petroleum refinery and began to refine crude oil there. It was good business and one which brought huge profits to the country. The refinery was managed by French nationals.

Some Ivorian ministers began to agitate for Ivorians to be given charge over the refinery, to run it but the president always told them they were not yet ready.

One day, one of the ministers went to the president to inform him that his son had graduated as a chemical engineer and was working in a leading oil company in France. He appealed that the gentleman he given the reins of the refinery to manage. Why allow a foreigner to continue to run the refinery when there were qualified and competent nationals who could equally be as good as the foreigners, he argued. Again, the president replied that the country was not yet ready. But the minister would not let him be. So, during a cabinet meeting one day, he asked the minister to bring his son. He was given the job but within a space of two years he had run the refinery aground. Then he fled to France after stealing huge sums from the run-down company.

When the cabinet sat to review the situation at the refinery, President Houphouet-Boigny reminded everyone president of what he had always said – that the country was not yet ready. He asked the father of the gentleman who absconded to get his son on the phone. When he came on the line, the president told him, “You’ve taken away our money to spend in France! It’s not fair. It’s our money. You have to come and spend it here. I’m sending my aircraft to France to bring you and the money back. I will not prosecute you but you must bring back our money and spend it here in our country!”

The gentleman returned to Cote-D’Ivoire with the money. The country went back to the French to resuscitate the refinery and it was back on stream in no time.

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