A PASSAGE TO INDIA By: FEMI ADESINA

What do you do during a flight that lasts nine hours
and six minutes? You read. You sleep. You wake, and
sleep again. You eat. You pray (if you are the praying
type). You discuss with your co-passengers. And of
course, you ruminate about your destination. What
you’ve heard, or read about the place, particularly if
you were visiting for the first time.
But first, due credit for this headline. ‘A Passage to
India’ is the title of a literature text I read in the
university some 32 years ago. It was a 1924 novel by
the English writer, E.M Forster. The book was on the
struggle for Indian independence from British colonial
rule, and the book is today regarded as one of the 100
Great Works of the 20th Century by the Modern Library,
while Time Magazine also includes it in its ‘All Time
100 Novels’ list.
A Passage to India. That was what I embarked on,
alongside my principal, President Muhammadu Buhari,
who was billed to attend the 3rd India-Africa Forum
Summit, scheduled for New Delhi, the Indian capital,
between October 27 and 30,2015.
What had I heard about India? You probably heard
those childhood tales, too. India, the land of potent
talisman. India does not take part in world soccer
competitions, because the world football ruling body,
Fifa, had banned it for life. What was the offense?
Well, France had met with a country that nobody
knows, in a game of soccer. But instead of depending
on natural skills, India deployed its famed talisman.
The opponents kept kicking the air, because the
Indians had made the ball invisible. While the
opponents did all the gyrations, however, the Indians
did all the scoring. When the game ended at the end of
90 minutes, India had scored 90 goals.
Blue murder, Fifa screamed! This is unnatural, and
would bring the beautiful game into disrepute. So it
banned India for life. Well, that was the story we heard
as young boys. Believe it, and you’d believe anything.
And what of athletics. The International Athletics
Federation had to ban India for life, too. What
happened? It was an Olympics Games (nobody
seemed to know what year, and who the host country
was). India was competing, and ended up winning
gold medals in all the races. You would see all the
athletes at the starting blocks, and the moment the
whistle is blown for the race to begin, Indian athletes
would already be breasting the tape at the other end.
Talisman at work!
This is unfair competition, the rest of the world
screamed. So the athletics federation banned India
again. And that was how the country was left to play
cricket, hockey and other such games. But the question
we did not ask ourselves was; if talisman worked with
soccer and athletics, why doesn’t it work with cricket
and hockey? At least, India gets defeated in those
games. Some imaginations are simply fertile.
Well, we were passing to India, and it was for serious
business. India and Africa had found common
grounds, and were cooperating for development in
what Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister calls
“partnership beyond strategic and economic benefits.”
We landed in the land of film stars, beautiful damsels
(hope my wife is not reading this) and, of course,
medical tourism, at nighttime. Straight to Lalit Hotel,
where our President and his entourage were to stay.
Lalit. You need to hear a bit about the story of the
hotel. It was part of the Lalit Hospitality Group,
established in 1988 by Mr Lalit Suri, a very successful
businessman and politician, who represented his
people in the Indian parliament.
Lalit Suri had the Midas touch. The hotel chain was
very successful, and can be found today in most major
Indian cities. He had great plans for expansion, and
was growing steadily towards the goal. But in 2006,
while on a trip to London, Lalit suffered a massive
heart attack, and died. He was only 59. But his wife, Dr
Jyotsna Suri, took up the gauntlet, and is today
keeping her husband’s dreams alive, along with their
four adult children.
A day before we travelled, a massive earthquake had
occurred in Afghanistan, and the tremor was felt both
in Pakistan, and New Delhi. But the organizers of the
summit said ‘no shaking,’ that delegates had nothing
to fear. There were presidents and top government
officials from more than 41 countries, and it was,
indeed, a great outing for India and Africa.
Wednesday began with a bilateral meeting between
President Buhari and Prime Minister Modi. Discussions
focussed mainly on three areas: strengthening
relations between the two countries, oil business, and
helping Nigeria and Africa to develop their potentials.
India would be quite willing to cooperate with Nigeria
on the military front, the PM said. She had helped set
up the Nigerian Defence Academy in the early 1960s,
provided instructors, and also took in Nigerian officers
in its military academy. In fact, President Buhari was at
the Defense Services College, Wellington, between July
22 and November 24,1975.
India wants Nigeria’s oil on government to government
transactions, and President Buhari said the request
would be considered in the context of ongoing reforms
in the industry.
Back to Wellington. The alumni of the academy paid
the Nigerian president a courtesy visit at the Lalit Hotel.
Led by Gen V.K Singh, it was time to go down memory
lane. The then Lt Col Buhari had been described thus
in a confidential report by H.W Kulkam, the Chief
Instructor of the College:”Tall, slim, and well-turned
out, Buhari is a quiet, unassuming and honest
individual.”
Major General S.P Malhotra, Commandant of the
College, on his part, had written: “Sober and balanced.
Straightforward, simple and mature.” Memories are
made of such.
In almost all the countries he has visited, President
Buhari always spared the time to interact with
Nigerians in the Diaspora, at the grounds of the
Nigerian Embassy or High Commission. It was not
different in New Delhi.
Ambassador ‘Sola Enikanolaiye, the acting High
Commissioner of Nigeria to India had put together an
impressive assemblage of professionals, post-graduate
students, businessmen, indeed, Nigerians from all
walks of life. He reeled out the many ways in which the
High Commission supports Nigerians in India, and
from the way he was repeatedly hailed, he seems quite
popular with the people.
Nigerians asked many questions. The President
answered them all. And he gave them his usual charge:
be law abiding. Don’t lord it over your hosts. Obey the
rules. Be good ambassadors of Nigeria.
From the High Commission, it was time to meet with
the CEOs of Indian companies, particularly those who
do, or are aspiring to do business in Nigeria. All the big
names in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications,
construction, manufacturing, power, oil and gas,
agriculture, and many other sectors, were there. They
spoke earnestly. The President responded frankly. New
vistas were opened, promises were made. A very
rewarding session, if you ask me.
That parley did not end without President Buhari
warning the Indian businessmen not to connive with
unscrupulous people to send sub-standard food and
pharmaceutical products to Nigeria. To show how dear
this was to the heart of the Nigerian president, it
formed part of his paper at the plenary session of the
summit the next day.
Thursday was the main day, in which 41 heads of
government gathered at the Indira Gandhi Stadium for
the high point of the summit.
After a colorful opening session of cultural display,
Prime Minister Modi took the floor. He underscored the
raison detre of the summit:
“The dreams of one-third of humanity have come
together under one roof. Today, the heartbeat of 1.25
billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm.”
He said further:”india is honoured to be a development
partner for Africa. It is a partnership beyond strategic
and economic benefits. It is formed from the emotional
bonds we share, and the solidarity we feel for each
other.”
Modi backed his position with statistics. In the past
few years, trade between Africa and India has more
than doubled to over $70 billion. India is now a major
source of business investment in Africa, and 34 African
countries enjoy duty free access to the Indian market.
The country has equally committed $7.4 billion in
concessional credit and $1.2 billion in grants since the
first summit held in 2008.
In the immediate future, according to Modi,
concessional credit of $10 billion would be given to
Africa within five years, while grant assistance will
total $600 million.
The presidents spoke one after the other. Trust Robert
Mugabe, who spoke in his capacities as Zimbabwean
president and chairman of African Union, he used the
opportunity to fire darts at the West.
According to him, one-third of the world’s population
must be respected, therefore, the United Nations must
become the United Equal Nations, with its Charter
amended.
Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Nkosazana
Dlamini Zuma, submitted that Africa and India could
no longer be rationally excluded from the permanent
seat of the UN Security Council, a position supported
by almost all the presidents.
One thread ran through the presentation of nearly all
the African leaders. This was a good time to promote
cooperation between Africa and India. South-south
cooperation must not just be political slogan, but an
opportunity for the countries to to meet their growing
challenges.
“Africa needs mutual partnerships leading to
development, rather than aids,” submitted King
Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Idris Deby Itno of Chad said India and Africa had had
mutual exchanges since time immemorial, stressing
that partnership will help achieve the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs).
President Muhammadu Buhari said India and most
African countries have similar historical experiences,
and the summit was an opportunity to review what
had been achieved since 2008, stressing:”India and
Africa must develop new spirit of solidarity to confront
challenges.”
He equally brought the message home, saying:”as a
government, we have demonstrated our strong
determination to change the direction and content of
governance, including the management of our
resources through accountability, transparency, and
result-orientation in governance. We are confident that
India, as a tested friend and dependable partner, will
always stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the
discharge of the mandate entrusted to us by our
people.”
With the summit over, and planning to return home, I
sent text messages to my friends in Nigeria, saying
since I was in the land of talisman, they should
indicate the type they wanted. The responses were rib-
cracking, but you can’t beat this one from Steve
Nwosu, Deputy Managing Director/Deputy Editor-in-
Chief of The Sun Newspapers. He wrote:
“Get me a money doubling ring. They call it evergreen
pocket. Every money you spend finds its way back to
your pocket. Hahahaha.”
No doubt, India and Africa are onto a strong
partnership that may be enduring, mutually beneficial,
with strong implications for development. That is the
true talisman.Ever potent, ever sure.

Advertisements

WHAT NIGERIA, AFRICA MUST DO TO ENJOY FULL BENEFITS OF PARTNERSHIPS WITH OTHER COUNTRIES – BUHARI

President Muhammadu Buhari declared Thursday in
New Delhi that Nigeria and other African countries
must work harder to achieve greater political stability
and security before they can enjoy the full benefits of
partnership arrangements such as the India-Africa
Forum.
Addressing the Plenary Session of the 3rd Summit of
the Forum, President Buhari said that to attract the
massive investment in-flows which they need to
overcome the challenges of unemployment and wealth
creation, Nigeria and other African countries must also
establish policy environments that guarantee the
sanctity of contracts on the basis of the rule of law.
The President told the gathering that since its
inception in May this year, his administration has been
working with determination to establish these
preconditions for rapid socio-economic development
and re-focus governance on the real needs of ordinary
Nigerians.
“As a Government, we have demonstrated our strong
determination to change the direction and content of
governance, including the management of our
resources through accountability, transparency and
result-orientation in governance.
“We are confident that India, as a tested friend and
dependable partner, will always stand shoulder to
shoulder with us in the discharge of the mandate
entrusted to us by our people,” President Buhari said.
The President expressed the hope that the India-Africa
Forum will deepen, in practical terms, the South-South
Cooperation that countries of the South have desired
for so long.
“The current international economic and political
environment is far from being favourable, particularly
for developing countries. Fresh political conflicts have
erupted, accentuated by terrorism and extremism in the
most awful forms.
“Trans-border crimes, illegal arms trade, irregular
migration and cybercrimes have all added to the new
global threats that demand our collective action.
“Furthermore, the world is facing the challenge of
Climate Change in which Africa remains badly affected
with severe threats to food security and social stability.
“From the West to the East, North to South, virtually
every country in our respective regions is faced with
unacceptable levels of poverty, unemployment and a
youth bulge.
“India and Africa must develop a new spirit of
solidarity, cooperation and partnership to confront
these emerging threats. We must recognise that, in this
globalised age, we all live interconnected lives in a
fragile planet. We must therefore work together to uplift
the lives of our people in a manner that preserves the
sustainability of our living environment.
“These challenges call for a renewed sense of urgency
among African countries for economic development. It
is an open secret that Africa possesses all the
prerequisites to become a major growth region of the
world.
“There is therefore the need for India and Africa to
strive together to build a virile framework for
partnership and cooperation in order to address
common challenges in key areas including health,
education, interconnectivity, power and employment
generation as well as the strengthening of institutions
of governance and democracy,” President Buhari told
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and African Heads of
State and Government.
The President said that although African countries
have a number of partnership arrangements with other
countries of the world, the India-Africa Forum
promises to be different “as it is not only a partnership
between friends, but between countries and peoples
who have had similar historical experiences of colonial
rule”.
He noted that the immense potential of the forum was
already evident in the growing volume and improved
terms of trade between Africa and India as well as the
increasing presence of several Indian enterprises in
Africa.

WE’LL VIGOROUSLY PURSUE THE RECOVERY OF STOLEN FUNDS TO DETER OTHERS FROM SEEKING PUBLIC OFFICE FOR PERSONAL GAIN – BUHARI

President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in New Delhi
reaffirmed his Administration’s resolute commitment to
curbing corruption, plugging all loopholes in public
sector accounting and deploying available resources
for the good of all Nigerians.
Addressing members of the Nigerian community in
India, President Buhari declared that the recovery of
stolen funds and prosecution of persons who have
been indicted for corrupt practices will also continue to
be vigorously pursued.
The President said that he expected the ongoing
recoveries and prosecutions to serve as a deterrent to
others who nurse the ambition of seeking public office
solely for illegal personal gain.
President Buhari assured the gathering that his
administration fully recognized the devastating
consequences of the illegal diversion of public
resources meant for national development into private
bank accounts, and was doing all within its powers to
stop such diversions.
“The anti-corruption campaign will be on-going for
many years. We are committed to the enthronement of
good governance that plugs the loopholes in public
sector accounting, and the use of scarce resources for
public good.
“We are determined to demonstrate exemplary
leadership that will make our citizens to change their
ways in a manner that lays a solid foundation for
reconstruction and development.
“I am confident that our approach to fighting
corruption through value re-orientation, improved
internal processes and systems and the rule of law, as
well as enhancing the capacity of the various anti-
corruption agencies and institutions will prove more
enduring in addressing this evil.
“In the meantime, we will continue to prosecute those
who have been indicted for corrupt practices and
ensure that stolen funds are recovered, to serve as
deterrence to others who nurse the ambition of seeking
public office solely for illegal personal gain,” President
Buhari said.
The President told the Nigerian community he was fully
aware of the expectations of Nigerians who elected him
on the platform of change, integrity, probity and
accountability, and was therefore doing his utmost
best to meet those expectations.
“I wish to assure you that we shall do our best to fix
the economy, create jobs for the teeming population of
our youths and make the home environment safe,
secure and more attractive to Nigerians outside the
country like your good selves.
“On the economy, our aim is to address the challenge
of infrastructure in all its ramifications, especially
power and transportation. We are seeking to create
jobs through agriculture, mining, industrial value-
addition and the promotion of small scale enterprises.
“We are also taking steps to address criminality across
the country. We are tackling the menace of terrorism
posed by Boko Haram head on and I am pleased to
note that though sporadic attacks on soft targets have
not stopped, the over-all capacity of Boko Haram to
hold territory and determine the course of the conflict
has been severely degraded.
“If the current positive trends are maintained, we are
confident that by the end of this year, we would have
succeeded in permanently turning the tide against the
Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria,” President Buhari
said.

WE’LL VIGOROUSLY PURSUE THE RECOVERY OF STOLEN FUNDS TO DETER OTHERS FROM SEEKING PUBLIC OFFICE FOR PERSONAL GAIN – BUHARI

President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in New Delhi
reaffirmed his Administration’s resolute commitment to
curbing corruption, plugging all loopholes in public
sector accounting and deploying available resources
for the good of all Nigerians.
Addressing members of the Nigerian community in
India, President Buhari declared that the recovery of
stolen funds and prosecution of persons who have
been indicted for corrupt practices will also continue to
be vigorously pursued.
The President said that he expected the ongoing
recoveries and prosecutions to serve as a deterrent to
others who nurse the ambition of seeking public office
solely for illegal personal gain.
President Buhari assured the gathering that his
administration fully recognized the devastating
consequences of the illegal diversion of public
resources meant for national development into private
bank accounts, and was doing all within its powers to
stop such diversions.
“The anti-corruption campaign will be on-going for
many years. We are committed to the enthronement of
good governance that plugs the loopholes in public
sector accounting, and the use of scarce resources for
public good.
“We are determined to demonstrate exemplary
leadership that will make our citizens to change their
ways in a manner that lays a solid foundation for
reconstruction and development.
“I am confident that our approach to fighting
corruption through value re-orientation, improved
internal processes and systems and the rule of law, as
well as enhancing the capacity of the various anti-
corruption agencies and institutions will prove more
enduring in addressing this evil.
“In the meantime, we will continue to prosecute those
who have been indicted for corrupt practices and
ensure that stolen funds are recovered, to serve as
deterrence to others who nurse the ambition of seeking
public office solely for illegal personal gain,” President
Buhari said.
The President told the Nigerian community he was fully
aware of the expectations of Nigerians who elected him
on the platform of change, integrity, probity and
accountability, and was therefore doing his utmost
best to meet those expectations.
“I wish to assure you that we shall do our best to fix
the economy, create jobs for the teeming population of
our youths and make the home environment safe,
secure and more attractive to Nigerians outside the
country like your good selves.
“On the economy, our aim is to address the challenge
of infrastructure in all its ramifications, especially
power and transportation. We are seeking to create
jobs through agriculture, mining, industrial value-
addition and the promotion of small scale enterprises.
“We are also taking steps to address criminality across
the country. We are tackling the menace of terrorism
posed by Boko Haram head on and I am pleased to
note that though sporadic attacks on soft targets have
not stopped, the over-all capacity of Boko Haram to
hold territory and determine the course of the conflict
has been severely degraded.
“If the current positive trends are maintained, we are
confident that by the end of this year, we would have
succeeded in permanently turning the tide against the
Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria,” President Buhari
said.

OUR POLICIES MAY HURT SOME BUSINESSES IN THE SHORT TERM, BUT THEY’RE RIGHT FOR THE NATIONAL ECONOMY – BUHARI

President Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday in New
Delhi that despite the fall in oil prices, his
Administration remains fully committed to maintaining
macro-economic stability and improving investor
confidence in Nigeria.
At an interactive session with Chief Executives of Indian
companies with interests in Nigeria, President Buhari
expressed the belief that with its abundance of human
and material resources, the Nigerian economy does not
have to suffer unduly from low oil prices, despite its
severe impact on government revenues.
“What is required of us, to which we are strongly
committed, is the implementation of tight expenditure
controls, effective fiscal and monetary policies,
including the husbandry of scarce resources which our
introduction of the Single Treasury Account has began
to address.
“We are aware some of these measures may hurt
operations of some businesses in the short term, but
we believe they are right for a sustainable economy,”
the President said.
Noting that India has been a dependable ally and
friend of Nigeria, President Buhari urged the Chief
Executives to expand their companies’ investments in
Nigeria “so that we can, together, turn our
engagements into a win-win situation for our two
countries”.
“We can increase and diversify the current volume of
our bilateral trade beyond US$16.36 billion, and
diversify to other critical sectors such as agriculture;
green technologies in power generation; infrastructure;
information and communications technologies; the
services sector; education; industry, especially textiles
and solid minerals among others,” the President told
them.
President Buhari also urged the Indian CEOs, to accept
the changes in policy being introduced by his
administration and observe all extant Nigerian laws in
running their business in the country.
He warned, particularly, that his administration will not
tolerate the importation of sub-standard goods,
especially foods and medicines, into Nigeria.