Market Economy Reform In Africa: Case Of Nigeria

by Dele A. Sonubi


That events and policy situations of one part of the world influencing the rest of the world is increasingly becoming factual and perennial. Iran announces its nuclear program and world leaders began to fidget. No doubt credible governance in one country attracts the attention and patronage of other credible governments, in some cases, even governments without credibility try to tap from the resources of credible governments playing on their goodwill.

There is no doubt the continent of Africa needs reform. From one policy to the other, the continent continues to search for a focus that will take it out of the threshold of underdevelopment to the stage of stability and developed economy. Such a stage will provide job and security for its citizen who would like to be gainfully employed. Its citizens would not have to look up neo-slavery handouts like skill transfer but provide the political groundings, the economic guarantee and the social infrastructures that will make “home” sweeter than away. Those are dreams. The reality is that Africa is a continent with histories of years of excessive wastages, poor leadership and lack of faith in reform policies particularly those that are championed or suggested from outside the continent. African countries had attempted “Ujamaa” the African brotherhood policy of communism, particularly in East Africa and it did not work. Socialism was introduced across the continent, it did not work. Now most African countries are practicing democratic socialism which is a blend of “a little to the right and a little to the left but not remaining on the center” kind of policy. In some senses, some part of the economy is deregulated while still keeping its social value i.e., government selling off some shares of its corporation but still holding on to the majority shares. Still that is not working because the government continues to control from its ivory towers, the nature of business and runs down its corporation with excessive bureaucracies of its functionaries.

In recent times, the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced a policy of reforms aimed at deregulating the economy. It was seen as a step in the right direction. The bankers, the stock exchange operators, giants of industry, commanders of corporations and commercial magnets commend such moves as appropriate to the extent that they began to lobby the legislative branch to alter the constitution to allow Obasanjo extend his rule. Their reason was that Obasanjo needs to follow through, his economic reform policy to its logical conclusion.

Eight years after some element of market economic policies were entrenched, Nigerians are still massively impoverished and youths are still without jobs. Nigerians were promised that as soon as the economy is deregulated, there would be job opportunities and life would be better than what it was before the introduction. The failure of such promises to materialize was part of the huge reason why the entire country rose up against the benefactors of the policies and insists that third term would not happen. They lobbied and threatened legislators with social and political excommunication until the idea of elongating the political term of Obasanjo failed and was voted out along with other noble reforms to the constitution.

The question remains, Market Economy Policy, is it a myth or a reality? What are the indices and variables that are missing in such practical policy that makes it appear as a myth rather than reality? If a policy promises job offer, that offers individual liberty and access to properties and people are still crying fowl, what is wrong with that policy?


If Nigeria and indeed Africa must continue to remain relevant in the global scheme of things, there is a huge need for greater work to be done. Work in the area of policy formation and good governance. One nation must take a lead, it must be ready to do what the Americans are doing around the world with its foreign policies- evangelize the tenets of democracy and democratizing nations.

However, most of the African countries particularly Nigeria are still having leaders who are selfish with policies that are incoherent- (incases where they display signs of having policy focus), and some with governments with hangover baggage from their military pasts. Currently four retired military generals are vying for the highest political seat in Nigeria. None of these generals has any coherent political manifesto, policy direction or ideology other than their offer of goodwill. Nigeria has more than 36 political parties that are drawn not on policy or ideological lineage, but by sheer greed for power and political relevance. Unlike in advanced democracies like US and Britain where a businessman knowing a Bush-man in government will run a liberal economic policies for maximum of eight years or a Labor Party government will run a socialist regime for the length of time it is in power, one cannot make such commitment in Nigeria’s case. It is a pure accident of history that PDP is in government and President Obasanjo runs a liberal economic policy despite the fact that the party has no clue what such policy is.

It is a known fact that the current problem of the African countries is that of leadership. We should not put a blanket cover over the entire continent. We have leaders like Nelson Mandela- world renowned leader of the modern South Africa who led South Africa out of apartheid regime, became the president, did one term and handed the reigns of power over to his deputy Thabow Mbeki, who shares the same ideological opinion with him, claiming that he wanted to go and rest and enjoy the rest of his life. Then there is Thabow Mbeki himself who declared that even though his party controls the majority in the parliament yet, he was not going to change the constitution to favor himself for whatever reason. These were leaders from South Africa. So, we cannot put a blanket cover over leadership vacuum created in all the African states. Then there is also John Kuffour in Ghana. His leadership qualities have helped Ghanaians retain their earlier developed doggedness to resist official flamboyance, excessive use of power by government officials and have provided a significant level of leadership worthy of emulation in that part of the continent. Moreover, the Liberians just elected a female president to govern them for the period before the next general election.Gender balancing had never been a priority issue in leadership formation of the entire African countries because there was no chance for women in the male dominated political field. But all of a sudden, a woman was elected by popular votes, appointed and anointed by the gods of the land. Then not to forget the indefatigable (former General) Olusegun Obasanjo, whose leadership of the most populous African country was before now, without rival. His popularity was unprecedented and his leadership style was without rival in the African continent. The only comma to his name was his recent total obsession of power and enormous display of Machiavellian description; power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

So the continent as a whole is not without quality leadership. What has been lacking is continued sustenance of the spirit of sustained leadership and permanent democratic dividend.

Basic Principles of Liberalism

Before we proceed further, let us agree on some fundamental assertions which will be the pivot upon which the other arguments will be premised. It is very essential that we establish this because it will place us all on the same page of thinking. The idea of free market enterprise is based on other dependant assumptions and that is the basic principles of liberalism. Free market already presupposes that a liberal political policy is in place. And by liberal one does not refer to the common usage of the word to mean, generosity; not placing restrictions on things, giving freely or open mindedness. By liberalism here, one refers to political/institutional policy reform. This policy reform connotes that there must be:

a.fundamental human right;

b.rule of law; economy policies; and

d.the type of governance must be democratic.

These are strong tenets and cannot be substituted for another. They are crucial and in a peculiar polity such as Africa where almost nothing works, these values must be adhered to. Similarly, Obasanjo’s regime is been applauded for its introduction of deregulations and policy of market economy. His pass marks are resting on these assumptions. But once we can establish that the other variables mentioned above are as momentous as market economic policy, then we can better assess whether the sustenance of such policy in Nigeria and indeed Africa is a myth or reality.

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1 comment

BIGFEST June 4, 2006 - 7:21 am

The problem with most developing countries is not policy formulation but poor policy implementation andlack of continuity.aboveall,such policies usually have corrupt and selfish ulterior motives.funny enough it seems nigeria rates highest in this vicious circle.


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