Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

What The Papers Say

The Guardian, Nigeria

Nigeria, Gambia and the Western Sahara

Official and state visits by heads of state and govern- ment have come to assume an importance that transcends ordinary diplomatic protocol. Apart from providing avenues for a rededication to certain common goals and shared visions, such summitry often serves to advance key questions affecting contemporary international relations.

Of course, many countries still perceive such visits as merely a change to show the flag or to bolster their domestic standing at home. And it may well be that part of Gambian President Dauda Jawara's purpose in paying us a visit was to restate his country's independence in spite of his public declarations in support of the Senegambia confederation. There is, however, nothing in the communique issued at the end of his three-day visit to this country that heralds any decisive new thrust in African diplomacy or international relations. There was the usual call for rededication to the goals and ideals of ECOWAS, and for a more just international economic order. There was also the routine condemnation of apartheid South Africa, and a reaffirmation of commitment of the OAU.


This reaffirmation was however not backed up by the one concrete step needed to immediately save the OAU and preserve its vision and goals: the recognition of the Sahara- oui Republic proclaimed by the Polisario.

Both Nigeria and Gambia as well as some other African countries have long been pussy-footing on this issue; and it is this issue, unduly conferred with the status of a major problem, that has been holding up the convening of an OAU summit in the last three years.

Given the unhelpful attitude of Morocco to the efforts and resolutions of the OAU on this issue, continued non- recognition of the Saharaoui Republic only serves to further Morocco's own devices: to buy time and possibly achieve a military solution, as it is currently attempting to do by building fortifications and a high wall around the more economically profitable and military defensible portions of Saharaoui territory.


It is now abundantly clear even to those who have extended so much goodwill to the Morocco government that Morocco is not interested in giving in to the just demands of the Saharaoui people. Indeed, it is seeking to further internationalise the conflict by declaring that Moroccan troops have the right of "hot pursuit" of Polisario fighters into Mauritanian territory.

Reaffirmation of support for the self-determination of the Saharaoui people, and for the OAU, as Nigeria and Gambia have done, is clearly not enough. What is needed is recognition of the Saharaoui Republic well before the OAU attempts to convene in Addis Ababa in November. Our two countries should have the courage to take that next logical step. And this is what General Buhari should be telling President Jawara if he does go to Banjul before November.

Sunday Concord, Nigeria

Banning some foreign foods

THIS country imports a lot of food items whose nutritional values are, to say the least, questionable. Some of them are imported and sought after by the nouveau riche simply because they are exotic and foreign. Others are sought after because people have simply gotten used to them. Yet others are sought after because people do not realise that available substitutes exist locally. The point to it all is that Nigeria is today still saddled with import bills for food items that we can well do without at this time of grave economic crisis. Commonsense should dictate that we make whatever savings there is to make in this regard. Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon's recent announcement that a halt would soon be put to the importation of food items with low nutritional values is, therefore, very welcome.

However, we believe that the proposed ban should be researched and well programmed to avoid the pitfalls of banning the good as well as the bad in foreign foods. In particular, food items without adequate local substitutes should be carefully evaluated before they are placed on the list of banned goods. The reasoning here is that some of them may well have their medical values. An example is the issue of low calorie foods which are sometimes recommended for health purposes.


On the other hand, there is no doubt that even those food items which are well known to have doubtful nutritional values still have their clientele if only for reasons of psychological attachments. Popular saying has it that one man's meat could well be another's poison. A good deal of educational reorientation would, therefore, be needed to convince these set of citizens that what they are being denied of, is actually nothing lost in real value. A simple resort to the ban without a commensurate process of re- orientation can have the unintended effect of pushing the items into the thriving hands of the blackmarketeers. And in such a situation, the government and the country would only be losing money through the efforts of smugglers.

The government should also encourage on a massive scale, the local production of substitutes for those food items that are possible to produce here. We are not yet convinced that enough has been done, for instance, to encourage local production of food items like rice on a massive scale. True enough, the current budget policy speaks so eloquently about incentives for agriculture.

We note that even government-owned farms have not escaped the now recurrent problem of how to dispose of their yields. A case in point is that of the Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority which is reported to have in stock, over 100,000 tonnes of unsold rice dating back to 1979. At a time when we are busy importing rice on a massive scale, it is counter-productive to let go to waste food items which have been specifically produced for public consumption.

The decision to ban food of non-nutritional values is good. The selection of what is to be banned should, however, be thorough and with the aid of professionals.

talking drums 1984-08-06 Challenge to Siaka Stevens - Rawlings has no regrets