Benin Republic’s President Patrice Talon should be named African of the Year for trying to revive Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of a united West Africa

Ayo Akinfe

(1) For the first time in a long while, I was feeling very inspired yesterday when I read of President Talon’s proposals about how he would like to see Benin Republic merge with Nigeria and become her 37th state

(2) Not surprisingly, Nigeria’s intellectually bankrupt leaders have distanced themselves from the idea but that is only because they are ignorant. As things stand, Africa has 54 nation states, most of which are not economically viable and the status quo is simply untenable

(3) Africa accounts for 18% of the world’s population but just 3% of global trade. That is because most of her nation states are simply canon fodder for the rest of the world, producing primary commodities which are bought at rock bottom prices, then manufactured and sold back to them as finished goods with a 500% mark-up

(4) Most African nations are simply too weak to do anything about this, so the relentless exploitation continues. The only antidote is to get rid of the nonsensical colonial boundaries and build viable economic entities with a little bit of teeth and clout. Nothing infuriates me more than hearing intellectually-challenged Nigerians calling for the balkanisation of their country even more. With your tiny weak states you face economic strangulation in the hands of giant nations like China and India with their populations that are in excess of 1bn

(5) Just take the case of Benin Republic for instance. It has a population of 11m people but a meagre gross domestic product (GDP) of $14.3bn and paltry annual budget of $2.15bn. Most local government areas in Europe have annual budgets bigger than that of Benin Republic, even those with less than 50,000 inhabitants

(6) Over 40% of Benin Republic’s income comes from cotton exports. In a world where everyone is moving towards synthetic fabrics, cotton simply has no future. Benin Republic’s other main money spinner is the port of Cotonou which is effectively part of Nigeria as about 90% of the goods that comes into there are destined for Nigeria. There is no justification whatsoever for the existence of two separate nation states

(7) Kwame Nkrumah was the first person to highlight the perils of the proliferation of nation states across Africa. Indeed he made the point in 1965 when he opened the Akosombo Dam on the River Volta, constructing it to supply electricity to both Ghana and the then Upper Volta (Burkina Faso). Other West African heroes like Thomas Sankara, Amilcar Cabral, Leopold Sedar Senghor and Sekou Toure all highlighted this vision during their lifetimes

(8) At the stroke of midnight on March 6 1957 when Ghana became independent, President Nkrumah said: “For our independence is meaningless unless it leads to the total liberation of the African continent.” By the same token, any economic development in Nigeria is meaningless unless it leads to the economic emancipation of the African continent. If all our West African neighbours are living off starvation budgets of $2.15bn a year, it is inevitable that their citizens will migrate enmasse to Nigeria if her economy is growing

(9) Come 2022, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Kwame Nkrumah. Would it not be a great tribute to him if we could mark the event by sealing an amalgamation of Benin Republic and Nigeria. This should be the first step in the move towards the creation of an African economic giant which I would name The Peoples Republic of Songhai

(10) What I have in mind is a socialist and secular economic giant south of the Sahara made up of Nigeria, Benin Republic, Cameroon and Niger Republic. It will have a population of about 1bn people, a GDP of say $15trn, an annual budget of about $2trn, it would account for about 15% of global industrial output, 25% of agricultural production, 10% of automobile manufacturing and given that about 70% of Niger Republic is in the Sahara Desert, it would generate about 50% of the world’s solar energy.