This series, in two installments, is an excerpt from a lecture delivered on the occasion of the commemoration of Mrs. Oluranti Odutola’s retirement from Lagos State public service at Sheraton Hotel on September 23, 2015.
The key issues in coming to terms with the two principles of this topic vide ‘Parody and Absurdities’ are satirical or comic imitations of the challenges of irrationality, unreasonableness, incoherence of the Nigerian society, with its failure to attain the greatness that it potentially possesses. This is further manifest in socio-spiritual, disconnectedness and irrationality that have characterised the social reality of our nation-state, especially since political independence.
When these are applied to society; the Nigerian society, especially in the key areas of national concerns in contemporary Nigeria, the salient departments of urgent concern will be as follows: political stability or democratic sustainability; the economy and its adjunctive elements such as poverty eradication, unemployment and job creation; the great impediment to economic growth, namely corruption and the battle against it; security and the crusade against insecurity, terrorism and counter-terrorism/insurgency and counter-insurgency. What political institutions, practices and policies have Nigeria had to imitate and be influenced by in a way that appears unseemly, irrational and absurd?
From about the 15th century, the entire world has been engulfed in protracted warfare; political/physical wars and, more importantly, economic warfare. It is important to note that the two Imperialist Wars, commonly and mis-normally christened World Wars, were perpetrated and ignited by the global economic competitions. These wars were themselves followed by the more subtle but no less ferocious war – the ideological war called the Cold War between the capitalist West and the socialist/communist East. After the termination of that war, or more appropriately, after the disintegration of the Eastern bloc, came the dissolution of the world into an economic village, via globalisation or neo-liberalisation of the world, what has resulted in the shrinking of the globe into a McLuhan’s Global village. All of these battles have carried the inherent and absurd contradictions – or simply absurdities which the developing nations have had to parody or imitate in ways that have adorned the garment and embroidery, not just of humour but also of grotesque and grave tragedies.
Let us develop temporary amnesia or death of memory to the human savagery and decimalisation of the black and oriental spheres of the world through the heinous human traffic called the trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan slave trades and zero in on the outcome of colonialism with the resultant events of post-colonialism and nations attainments, in whatever manner, of independence. Yet, contemporary struggle today is based on global institutions through which new forms of colonialism are inflicted on poor, so-called developing nations and countries.
Nigeria is a country of great potentials and possibilities and these make it a great nation that can become the envy of all-a fifth of all black population in the world, the seventh most populous and the seventh biggest producers of oil. The expectation from this topic is how we can shed the present absurdities that have overtaken our nation today and explore how we can truly transform the nation’s economy by growing new visions, dreaming new dreams at a time when the nation’s economy is in a serious distress, labouring, disingenuously, under an oil mono-culture, to the criminal neglect of the nation’s rich endowments with numerous cultural, material and human resources.
Every society, Nigeria inclusive, must have a national economic vision, and the objectives and strategies for achieving that vision. No democracy can be said to be enduring and sustainable if it does not fulfill the economic requisites and expectations of its electorate. Professor Charles Soludo (2005), former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, espoused the inextricable link between democracy and economy thus: “the state of the economy is the determinant of enduring democracy; but democracy is a key pre-requisite for sustainable economic transformation…economic prosperity sustains democracy whereas widespread poverty and ignorance undermine it.” Issues fundamental to democracy, such as human rights and the various freedoms and liberties, are concrete and meaningful only if the basic freedom from want, poverty and fear of survival are guaranteed.
What is the quality of my freedom of expression if I can abuse the president at the Tafawa Balewa Square (renamed Gani Fawehinmi Square) in Lagos or in the press, while my children cannot go to school because I cannot pay their fees? The Nigerian economy is fraught with visional and structural incoherence. It is difficult for the ordinary Nigerian to outline, or explain to himself what the cardinal principles of the Nigerian economy are. What is the character and structure of the Nigerian economy? If we care to reflect on the obtuse and absurd nature of the Nigerian economy since independence, we will find that it is characterised by decay and formlessness.
It is an economic system in which no substantial benefit has accrued, through governance, to the people from the abundant natural resources with which the nation is amply endowed. In a nation where mono-culturalism (total dependence on a product, oil) is the inviolable economic order, there has been no industrialisation, investment or a dependable measure of public sector revenue generation/derivation. There is dismal over-government and an excessive dependence on government. It is a government by patronage, what Soludo again calls a “rented-entrepreneurial elite” of big men without any productive source of livelihood, what the late juju maestro, I.K. Dairo, referred to in a very castigative musical rendition, if rendered in its original Yoruba form, as “directors without office, without work-place.”
It is an economy in which government is the sole source of (un) productive livelihood and (un) employment. From the Federation Account, where the revenue derived from oil sales flows, sharing goes on without let. There is no provision for capital growth, as no facilitating environment has been provided for business, whatsoever. Employment growth is stifled and revenue generation for government is near-zero. This is the absurd state of our comatose social economy, over which a growth agenda has been proposed by the current government, and upon which hope abounds, in huge quantum, in our country presently.
(Continues next week)