The Second Economic Summit of the six states of the “true” Niger Delta region otherwise known as South South geopolitical zone or the BRACED (which stand for Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta) states, will open in Asaba, the Delta State capital, on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. Among the dignitaries expected to grace the three-day Summit is the President of Rwanda, Paul Kangame, and President Goodluck Jonathan, the first Niger Deltan to occupy the exalted position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Participants, especially the Governors and members of the BRACED Commission are expected to learn from the experiences of Rwanda in conflict resolution and economic management. In preparation for the Summit, a delegation from the BRACED states including the chairman of the South South Governors Forum and Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, and the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, traveled to Rwanda to meet with President Paul Kagame to work out the modalities for cooperation between Rwanda and the BRACED states. After meeting, Governor Uduaghan reportedly stated that “We believe we should have someone who have had experience and success in crisis management and post-crisis management in tackling our peculiar situation hence the need to look in the direction of President Kagame and Rwanda”. He further stated that that one of the objectives of the visit was “to ensure how the South South states could work together with Rwanda to develop the natural resources in the region for their economic growth”. He also disclosed that one of the objective of the Summit was “to come together to see how the region could come out of the crisis situation to become an investment destination”. Elaborating further on the Summit, the Director-General of the BRACED Commission, Ambassador Keshi, stated that the Summit will “x-ray issues that will help in fine-tuning strategies for economic cooperation and integration of the states in the zone” and help the zone in “adopting a unified approach to power generation and distribution; working towards protection of the environment especially in areas associated with oil pollution; to fashion a blueprint for the exploitation of the region’s natural endowments for sustainable human development and position the South-South for Global Competitiveness”.
Many ordinary Niger Deltans know very little about Rwanda other than the 1994 Genocide in that country. As usual, critics of the Summit are saying that Rwanda is so different from Nigeria, and the Niger Delta region in particular, that there is very little the Summit organizers can learn from that country. However, the organizers beg to differ. Therefore, whilst not attempting to second guess or pre-empt what President Kagame is going to say at the Summit, in this article I will examine some of the differences between Rwanda and the BRACED states(and Nigeria) and the key lessons the leaders of the Commission (and Nigeria) can learn from that country.
Rwanda is very different from the Niger Delta region or the BRACED states in terms of geography, history, composition, politics, natural endowments, and challenges. The first obvious difference is that while Rwanda is a country/government, the BRACED Commission is an association of independent state governments which are part of a larger country/federation called Nigeria. The Commission has no legal power to enforce policies. In other words, while President Kagame can enforce his policies within the length and breadth of Rwanda, the Commission cannot enforce any policy or decision or recommendations throughout the six BRACED states. It will be up to each state government to do what it wants to do. Secondly, unlike the Niger Delta region, Rwanda does not produce oil and gas.
Nigeria and the Niger Delta region are far larger than Rwanda in both area and population. Rwanda covers an area of 26,33k sq.km and has a population of 11.7 million. On the hand, Nigeria covers an area of 923,768 sq. km with a population of 170 million while the Niger Delta region covers area of about 75,000 sq. km with an estimated population of 25 million people. In other words, the Niger Delta region is about three times the area of Rwanda and about two times its population! Furthermore, with over 40 ethnic groups, the Niger Delta region is more heterogeneous than Rwanda in terms of ethnicity and culture. The Rwanda population is made up of three groups of people, the Hutu who currently make up about 84% of the population, Tutsi (15%) and Twa (1%). The three groups share a common culture and language and are classified as social groups rather than tribes. Let’s digress a little for an overview of Rwanda’s history to see their tortuous past which helps to define their present. In a sense, Nigeria and the Niger Delta region have had similar tortuous past, and the present is still tortuous.
Following the partition of Africa in 1884, Rwanda became a colony of Germany but was transferred to Belgium after World War I. It became independent on 1 July, 1962. The colonialists promoted Tutsi supremacy and treated the Hutu and Tutsi as different races even though both were ethnically and linguistically the same people similar to sub-groups within the Edoid group in the Niger Delta region. This distinction and unfairness led to tension between the two groups and the Hutu emancipation movement that culminated in the 1959 Rwanda revolution during which Hutu activists killed many Tutsi and forced more than 100,000 of them to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. In 1973 there was a military led by Juvenal Habyarimana in which the President and his wife were killed. In the years that followed, there was relative economic prosperity and reduced violence. In 1990, the Tutsi-led Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from Uganda thus initiating a civil war. There was a cease-fire in 1993 but it was terminated on 6 April 1994 when President Habyariman’s plane was shot down killing him and the President of Burundi. This led to the Rwandan Genocide in which in which Hutu extremists killed between 500,000 and 1 million Tutsi as well as some moderate Hutu on the orders of the interim government. The Tutsi-led RPF restarted their offensive and took control of Kigali on 4 July and the whole country by 18 July 1994. Since then, the RPF has been the dominant political party in the country. It controls the parliament and the presidency. President Paul Kagame took over power from his predecessor in 2000 and was re-elected in 2003 and 2010.
What then are some of the key lessons that the leaders of the BRACED states (and Nigeria) can learn from Rwanda? The first lesson is one of cautiona: if we do not manage the ethnic, group and religious differences and conflicts in a peaceful manner based on equity and justice we can end up with a tragic situation similar to the Rwandan Genocide. We had a foretaste of such a situation during the Biafra civil war (1966-1970). Some of the seeds of these differences were sown by the colonialists and were allowed to germinate and blossom after independence. In the case of Rwanda, although the Hutu and Tutsi belong to the same one linguistic group (Banyarwanda) and share a common culture and language, there has been strong animosity between the two groups culminating in 1994 genocide. After that terrible event, they resolved to say “never again”. The government initiated a National Reconciliation process to heal the wounds of the genocide and past conflicts and to ensure harmony among the various groups. The government is also seriously addressing the land issue which was contributory factor to the genocide and remains a potent source of conflicts. It is also promoting a “one-people” policy by discouraging the Hutu/Tutsi/Twa distinction. It has removed such classification from identity cards and the three groups are now classified as social groups rather than “tribes”. In addition, the Rwandan government has enacted laws criminalising genocide ideology. Most Rwandese speak Kinyarwanda which is the language of government, in addition to the other two official languages - English and French.
Although Nigeria, and indeed the Niger Delta, is more complex than Rwanda, we can do more to promote national cohesion. For example, the BRACED Commission can set up a Peace and Conflict Resolution Agency to address and manage the intra-community, inter-community, inter-ethnic, inter-state and community-company conflicts in the region. In addition, the Commission should seriously consider promoting and eventually adopting a “common language” within the region. To this end, it should set up a team of linguists to develop the “pidgin” English into a modern language. The language can be called “Bracedia” or some other name and it can be similar to Swahili in East Africa or Esperanto that was created in 1887, recognized by UNESCO 1954 and is today the world’s 32nd language!
The second lesson we can learn from Rwanda is one of good governance including anti-corruption. As I indicated in one of my previous articles on this subject, “over much of the past 51 years, the country has been characterized by bad governance as evidenced by grand corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, political instability, lack of law and order, weak public institutions, poor public policies, weak leadership, and poor quality and inadequate provision of public services”. A comparison of the World’s Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) index for Nigeria and Rwanda clearly shows that Rwanda is by far better governed. For instance, on a scale of 1 (low) to 6 (high), Rwanda’s CPIA for the policies and social inclusion/equity cluster is 4.0 while that of Nigeria is 3.2; the CPIA for public sector management and institutions cluster for Rwanda is 3.7 compared to Nigeria’s 2.9. On corruption, the 2011 corruption perception index (CPI) complied by Transparency International showed that on a scale of 0 (extremely corrupt) to 10 (extremely clean) Nigeria scored 2.0 and was placed at 143 position out of 183 countries in terms of “cleanness” (i.e., Nigeria was the 143rd “cleanest” or the 40th most corrupt country in the world). Rwanda scored 5.0 and was placed in the 49th position (i.e. 49th cleanest country or 134th most corrupt country). In fact, Rwanda was the 4th “cleanest” country in Africa after Botswana (32), Cape Verde (41) and Mauritius (46). We do not have data on the CPIA and CPI for the BRACED states, but it is safe to assume that they are not better than Nigeria’s national averages cited above. Therefore, we must learn from President Paul Kagame how he has improved governance and managed to curb corruption in his country. Among other things, we will find that that it began with the leader having zero tolerance for corruption. Also, the Rwandan constitution provides for an Ombudsman, whose duties include prevention and fighting of corruption. Public officials (including the President) are required by the constitution to declare their wealth to the Ombudsman and to the public. Those who do not comply are suspended from office. Can we do this in Nigeria and the BRACED states?
As I have indicated in one of my previous articles, “Nigeria (and the BRACED states) cannot afford to continue on the path of unbridled corruption because corruption erodes the capacity of governments at all levels to provide public services at the quality and quantity needed to improve the living standard of the people. Corruption has made public office the fast track to wealth in Nigeria, and has intensified the struggle for elected offices, making elections a do-or-die affair and creating conflicts and instability. This has scared many professionals from contesting elections and has increasingly allowed charlatans to dominate the political arena”. This must stop!
The third lesson we should learn from Rwanda is that there can be no rapid economic growth without peace, security, stability and good governance. After the tragic 1994 genocide, Rwanda has witnessed an unprecedented period of relative peace, security and stability thanks to the exemplary leadership of President Paul Kagame who has earned the respect of leaders all over the world. For example, Rwanda’s GDP per capita at constant PPP grew from $416 in 1994 to $1,284 in 2011, i.e. almost tripled. Also, the country’s Human Development Index (HDI) increased from 0.376 in 2006 to 0.429 and gaining two ranks (i.e. moved from 168 to 166 position). On the other Nigeria’s HDI increased marginal from 0.429 in 2006 to 0.459 in 2011 and the country lost four ranks (i.e. moved from 152 to 156 position). Yet Rwanda does not have oil, it is land-locked and has very few natural resources. President Paul Kagame has embarked on the diversification of the Rwandan economy. Coffee and tea remain the major cash crops for export, but the industrial sector is growing rapidly contributing 14.3% of GDP in 2010. The solid minerals sector (with a few minerals such as cassiterite, wolframe, gold and coltan) is also expanding and generated US$93 million in 2008, which is more than the revenue generated by solid mineral sector in Nigeria which has over 34 minerals! The service sector of Rwanda accounted for 43.6% of the country's GDP in 2010. Tourism is growing very fast and became the country's leading foreign exchange earner in 2011. In spite of the country’s genocide's legacy, it is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination. Between January and June 2011, about 405,801 foreigners visited the country of which 16% were from outside Africa and a total of US$115.6 million in revenue was generated! I do not know the number of tourists who visited Nigeria, nay the BRACED states, in the whole of 2011 but my guess is that it is less that the number that visited Rwanda in first half of 2011. Most of the visitors who come to Nigeria are either Nigerians in the Diaspora or foreigners coming for their slice of “black” gold! Let President Kagame teach the Summit organizers the secret behind his country’s ongoing economic diversification and transformation so that Nigeria and the BRACED states can break loose from the Dutch disease syndrome that has followed the oil exploration and production in the Niger Dellta region.
The fourth lesson from Rwanda is that we must increase our investment in the people, especially in education and health. For instance, expenditure on health and education in Rwanda accounts about 18% of its GDP (9% each). On the other hand, expenditure on health and education in Nigeria accounts for 11.6% of the GDP (5.6% each). Rwanda has established a basic healthcare insurance scheme that covers over 90% of the population. This has resulted in an increase in life expectancy in recent years. Life expectancy in Rwanda is now 55.4 years; it is higher than Nigeria’s 51.9 years. Under-five mortality rate in Rwanda is 111(i.e. 111 deaths per 1,000 live births), far lower than Nigeria’s 131. Maternal mortality rate in Rwanda is 540 (deaths per 100,000 deliveries) and it is far lower than Rwanda’s 840 rated amongst the highest in the world. Rwanda’s educational statistics are also better than those of Nigeria in terms of reach and outcomes. For instance, adult literacy rate in Rwanda is 70.7% compared to Nigeria’s 60.8% while Rwanda’s gross enrolment rate (primary) is 150.7% compared to Nigeria’s 89.5%. The situation in the BRACED states is a mirror image of that of Nigeria, or slightly better at best. Also critical is investments on public (not executive) security and safety which ensures that people can go about their businesses and move freely without fear of armed robbery, kidnapping, bombing, and harassment by thugs masquerading as local or state government revenue agents. These vices which have become part of life in the BRACED states and elsewhere in Nigeria are virtually absent or their prevalence is low in Rwanda. I hope President Paul Kagame will teach the Summit participants how to invest in people – the common man – and hope they will become doers but not hearers only!
Finally, we must learn from Rwanda how to put in place affirmative actions to address the issue of gender inequality and other forms of inequality and social injustice in Nigeria and the BRACED states. The third Millennium Development Goal is to “promote gender equality and empower women” and one of the four indicators is the “the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament”. On this score, women make up 51% of the members of their Rwanda parliament (i.e., slightly more than men) while women account for only 7% of the members of the Nigerian parliament (National Assembly). How did Rwanda achieve this feat? The lower chamber of the Rwandan parliament (Chamber of Deputies) has 80 seats of which 24 seats are reserved for women, elected through a joint assembly of local government officials; another three seats are reserved for youth and disabled members; the remaining 53 seat are elected by universal suffrage under proportional representation. Following the 2008 elections, there are now 45 female deputies, making Rwanda the only country with a female majority in the national parliament. The upper chamber (Senate) has 26 seats and it is mandatory for women to occupy a minimum of 30% of the seats. In other words, the system of election into parliament is designed in such way as to ensure that disadvantaged groups are adequately represented. This is unlike Nigeria where the system is thrown open with no “affirmative” procedures to ensure that women and other disadvantaged groups (e.g. youth) are adequately represented which has fostered alienation and limited popular participation and accountability. Thus, the Nigerian parliaments (national and state assemblies) and political positions are dominated by men who have the means (money and “strength”) to contest and rig elections.
Rwanda has also put in place other policies to reduce inequality and the success is evidenced in World Bank and UNDP data. For instance, while Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) for Nigeria in 2011 was 0.459 with a ranking of 156 out of 187 countries, the HDI for Rwanda was much lower at 0.426 with a ranking of 166. However, when Nigeria’s HDI was adjusted for inequality it fell to 0.278 making Nigeria to loss six positions to 162. On the other hand, the inequality-adjusted HDI for Rwanda fell to 0.276 but the country gained two positions to 164, thereby significantly narrowing the gap between both countries.As I have demonstrated elsewhere, “Nigeria’s poverty reduction strategies and programs (such as the Better Life for Rural Women, People’s Bank, Community Banks, FEAP, NAPEP, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) and Vision 2020 have largely been ineffective in reducing the incidence, depth and severity of poverty as well as in reducing income inequality”. The wealth and income disparity in Nigeria (and the Niger Delta region) has reached an alarming level and it is contributing to the growing insecurity. The leaders of the Niger Delta region cannot wait for the federal government; they must emulate President Kagame by taking necessary actions to reduce the various forms of inequalities in the region otherwise their efforts to accelerate economic growth in the region will be hindered or come to a nullity.
In conclusion, it is my hope that the Second Summit of the BRACED states will not turn out to be another “jamboree” or talk-shop. The people of the Niger Delta region would like to see concrete actions and positive results arising from the decisions, recommendations and lessons learned from the Summit, including those from Rwanda. It is only in this way that the resources spent on organizing the Summit will be justified. God Bless the Niger Delta region!
Dr. Emmanuel Ojameruaye
 The main ethnic groups include the Efik, Ibibio, Annang, Oron, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Igbo, Isoko, Urhobo, Yoruba, and Kalabari. These groups belong five major linguistic/cultural groups – the Ijoid (with about 40 loosely affiliated “tribes” or “clans”) , Delta Cross (e.g. Ogoni, Ogba, Obolo/Andoni, Ibibio, Oron, Ibeno), Edoid (e.g. Isoko, Urhobo and Edo/Beni), Yoruboid (e.g. Itsekiri, Olaje and Ikale) and Igboid (e.g. Ikwere, Ndoni, Ukwani)