In precise terms, as a result of the enormity of Nigeria’s physical/material and human resources in the 1950s and shortly after independence, the world projected that Nigeria should and would be among the five most prosperous nations of the world before the close of the 20th century. Look at the pitiable status of our ranking two decades into the 21st century when everybody but our absurd selves anticipate that Africa will be the continent of the 21st century and that Nigeria will be behind the wheel driving the continent to that destination. We keep parodying our erstwhile partners in wishfully believing that we will be one of the topmost twenty nations in the year 20:2020 while international measuring induces place us on about 159th position. It is a real paradox, which enhances its absurdity, is that Nigeria is one of the fastest growing populations in the world, especially with its exploding youth budge. It is anticipated that by the year 2040, Nigeria will be the third biggest country in human numerical force, ahead of the United States of America!
Yet, our governing and intellectual elite are bent on parodying the development strategies, political systems and economic institutions as promulgated by the West-absurd systems which ask us to de-emphasize public policies aimed at delivering public goods and services, qualitative education demanded by the knowledge economy and society of the twenty-first century as already embraced by our erstwhile counterparts in developing countries who have now become developed and embrace, like mimic elite, the Breton Wood’s finance institutions founded on neo-liberalism, privatization and deregulation which, by and large, will continue to cripple the masses and social development. It is for this reason that the new government in Nigeria, whose avowed agenda and declared vision is to bring about rapid socio-economic transformation to the nation must make haste slowly in the uncritical embracement of the ‘good practices and institutions’ whose screaming absurdities have become deafening.
Yes, the euphoria of change is pervasive in Nigeria today, based on the body language of the President-his integrity, patriotism, accountability and commitment. His anti-corruption crusade and anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaign are massive and effective. His international thrust toward the West for support on security, war against Boko Haram and the economy, is registering positive yields already in America, Germany and now France. As President is yet to bring out the economic strategies, structures and policies for his transformation programme, this is the time to advice a more cautious self-haul on the developed Northern countries of the world. The principle of once beaten twice shy is worthy parodying if we are to avoid the economic and political absurdities that have so far aided our developmental un-doing because of their basically conservative macro-economic nature. Let us also cast our searchlight in the oriental direction where there appears to be the great economic leap of the times-and the West knows it and is scared by it! It is absurd for us to simply parody the policies of neo-liberal economy of free trade and investment, privatization and market forces, as laid out by the International Development Policy Establishment (IDPE) at the head of IMF/World Bank and WTO. We know that many of these developed countries took a different route from the neo-liberal institutional strategy they commend to and aim to impose on us. Britain came to economic prosperity through industrialization, found on its Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Germany, France and others did not come to economic growth and development through market forces.
Our new government is right to seek support but must not be as a first resort. It must be in aid of a conscious, indigenously, independently grown alternative development strategy, based on the potentials and needs of our people and country itself. These Northern countries, as we know, give support, not in a father-Christmas fashion, but from the vantage of self, their own national interests.
The Buhari government should learn from the absurd economic practices of the past, from as far back as the mid-eighties-from Babangida’s regime, when the IMF and the Structural Adjustment Programme(SAP) were floated and debated, and admitted through the back-door. The nation debated and rejected IMF. The government brought it into operation through the backyard-through some absurd formula called conditionalities. And yet, this was the backdrop against which Babangida wondered aloud why the nation’s economy had not collapsed, in spite of the pounding it had receive from governments and government policies (such as IMF and SAP, SFEM, and so on!) From then on, the nation embarked on a journey of decline– of seeming no return. The economic experts that advised each succeeding government fed from the Breton Woods institution-Chu Okongwu, Idika Kalu, down to Obasanjo’s Okonjo-Iweala, (who took chunks of our foreign reserve to pay and buy off debts, which has fully returned), including Soludo at the Central Bank and Oby Ezekwesili. Okonjo-Iweala. The former was the be-all-and-end-all of the Jonathan government in terms of the planning and administering of the economy. This confirms the allegation that the economic experts and thinkers of Nigeria have perennially constituted the critical bane of our economic growth and development. Our human and economic resources grew in direct proportion with our declining prosperity, increase in our poverty and our massive unemployment market. What can be more absurd than parodying economic and political policies, strategies and principles which make us poorer as we earned more revenue and garnered greater resources! The institutions that we parodied operated from the absurd anti-people platform. Thus, our education declined in quality and access in a knowledge society where education is the key tool of advancement. Health care suffered mortally diminishing our human capacities for growth and development. Our infrastructure crumbled and we could neither industrialize and build our technology nor attract foreign investments. Poverty brought social discontent and unemployment fuelled insecurity and the army of insurgencies, insurrections and terrorism. Social incoherence, disjointed articulation of vision and mass orientation and alienation are the hallmarks of the absurd in literary and socio-political terms. At the end of the last Administration, following a build-up of three decades, the elite in charge of the economy became inarticulate and incoherent as a result of the paradox and absurdity inherent in the economic policy of deregulation and privatization that we mimicked and parodied to obtuse perfection. Dr. Fayemi, the public intellectual that occupied the seat of government in Ekiti State was quoted, graphically, in 2013 thus: “We have a system that is still pursuing the old Washington consensus agenda…We have a system that argues: denationalize, deregulate, de-subsidize, everything private is good and everything public is bad… I lived in the United Kingdom for 15years. I know that even under the most right-wing of Thatcherite administration, social security was not removed, free health programme, NHS stays. The British railway that was privatized and re-nationalized because of the overriding interest of a welfare state, a state that must protect the vulnerable and the weak. Is that what we do here?
(To be continued)