Opinion: Mr President, the Chinese are playing you for a fool

by James Inedu George

Nigeria has earmarked $5.8 billion for the construction of some dams up north. Finally, there will be light in the land. PHCN will have no more excuses! Maybe industries will begin to work again.


Thank you, China. You aren’t giving us churches and soccer pitches. And all this at an immediate cost of only $1 billion to the Nigerian Government? Genius.

But is this the best use of this opportunity and cash? Remember Burj Khalifa is $1.5billion…


Oga Presido,

I’m back again, again. I’m becoming a pest, aren’t I? I’m sure you realised from the first letter that I had more than a few bullets in my gun.

Anyway, it has been difficult these days penning down letters. I’m caught in a war to find the core of Architecture itself, so I have spent the last few weeks in the trenches, staring at traditional architecture and mathematical formulae. I’d promised myself that I’d mind my business and focus on what I do best, that was until I heard the announcement… $5billion. Na ce ma kai na waiyo!!! (Na so I shout ye for my mind). Five Billion??? Chei! And all of it goes to our development too? This is great news, music to my ears. I’m a young man, so my Nigeria story has been mired by stealing and selfishness. So for me this as good as a new dawn. I haven’t seen much of this kind of collective spirit in Nigeria since my birth and so I’m giddy with excitement. Maybe Nigeria is changing, maybe Africa is truly rising? Will Nigeria pepper them in my lifetime? Maybe!

My euphoria is cut short however when I consider the volume of the cash and the magnitude of development that can be accomplished with it on a global scale. To compare, Dubai City centre is about 20 billion USD, Burj Khalifa about 1.5 billion USD. The city of New York’s proposed shoreline protection (the BIG U, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group) is about $400 million. Our Affordacity Idea to house 150000 people costs $500 million. These dams are the cost of 10 Affordacitys. Housing, dams and farms for 1.5 to 2 million Nigerians!

When I consider the magnitude of good that can be done for a nation that will be the 3rd largest in the world by 2050, I am flabbergasted. I immediately have to ask, is this the right approach to infrastructure for our development? These opportunities come so infrequently that one would expect that each opportunity will be whipped like a piñata until all the goodies in it are taken and harnessed. Or are we rich again in Nigeria? Is there another oil boom we don’t know of looming? Is this a 1960’s novella?

Dear Sir, as you know, I am a trachitect. I have and continue to travel the world in search of architecture. The one thing I keep finding strange is how architects are not invited to the table to put forth ideas for our development. You might need a dam to solve a problem, but that dam can be more than a dam with some architecture in it. We can have much more, Sir.

Anyway, in order not to sound naive, and because of my trachitect status, I can report, from Kenya to Rwanda and several other African countries the reality and hostility of Chinese Investment. I can testify to the apparent powerlessness these governments seem to feel to the unstoppable might of Chinese Investment. The Chinese have never really developed anywhere. They just build hovels and destroy years of African heritage in these parts. In several ways, Europe was better for us. But we are beggars, and Europe is broke, so all we can do is to put our finest brains to work to make more from less in these deals. This is where the young, radical and truly creative architects will come in. We need our dreamers now, my President. It is your duty to find them and deploy them on the unsuspecting world.

For a while, I’d been writing about the progress of local small scale tech in Kenya. In a way, it’s a pride for Africa.

Or I had felt so until I passed through Kenya recently and experienced their new airport. Here’s the kicker, China fucked us. They’d fuck Africa until the end. It was a bad move to let them in. China screwed Africa.

You’d see it at the airport. You’d actually see the lines of difference between the old Jomo Kenyatta airport and the Chinese addition which is by all means almost non-existent.

There are 3 parts to the airport as is. The old, the new and some air conditioned tents. The tents have linoleum flooring. The tents are better than the Chinese addition… a sad tale.

This reminds me of freestyles OK. Nigeria was not prepared for it. He got fucked right in the ass…

We can avoid this fate, sir. I beg you.



James George


Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

James Inedu George is an African architect practicing out of Nigeria and South Africa with focus on Innovative Sustainable Affordable Solutions and Future African Cities.


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