Our Political Leaders Faintly Understand This Economy!

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

With all due respect to Mr. President, and notwithstanding the personal focus of much of the reporting surrounding today’s Constitution’s Review Committee as well as the Niger Delta technical committee interim report, the political career of Umaru Yar’Adua is not the most pressing issue on the national agenda. What is most critical, rather, is that this country be governed by men and women with the ability to protect it and to keep its people safe.

Look at this; a good number of political scientists assert that the problems of Nigeria are the product of a crisis of leadership. It is no doubt that the political leaders of Nigeria have contributed tremendously to the under development of this continent. A good part of it stems from miscalculations and errors in the past years, preceding the outbreak of the Niger Delta conflict, should be blamed on the military officers and politicians who no longer hold central positions of power.

Some times, one begins to wonder whether Nigeria as a nation is adequately prepared to depart from bad political leadership to a new definition of good governance and prosperous societies. As a youth of Nigeria, I reflect on the political history of Nigeria to present day. Hardly do I see or notice any transformation in our political leadership. As a result, I subject myself to indefinite scrutiny on whether the political future of this country is guaranteed given the current system under which we operate.

Nevertheless, let no man or woman underplay the significance of politics in our lives as a people; the very essence of our lives from good, clean drinking water to the telephone we use in communicating are influenced by political leaders. One Minister of State or Member of the National Assembly has to supervise a director of a state corporation to provide “affordable” (with all courtesies to the Nigeria council of states) and decent goods and services to the people of Nigeria. However, do we monitor closely the performance of our leaders? The answer is not far fetched. Many of them are directly responsible for the failure of our economic, political and social systems.

It is imperative that policy makers such as Ministers inside Yar’Adua’s cabinet understand the rudiments of practical economic models and theories in formulating policies. A good number of our political leaders know very little about this vital area. The consequences of this deficiency cannot be under estimated. Imagine some officials who do not understand the budget process approving our national budgets in utter ignorance of the implications of vital policy decisions.

As useful as it is, many of our political leaders faintly understand key macroeconomic indicators and how they affect the lives of ordinary citizens. Even when they do, “political talks” over-shadow the relevance of their economic decisions. For the average Nigerian, it makes a lot of sense to tell them annual figures for Net Job Creation rather than Primary Domestic Balance, for instance. As defined by few members of “Nigeria4betterrule” contributors, the last time this figure (Net Job Creation) was published was in 1960, such a very useful economic indicator is left to play on its own. If the labour minister announces that government has created 2008 Jobs, does he have an idea about how many jobs are lost?

Bad economic policies have left Nigeria trodden behind old pals like Malaysia and Singapore with relatively lesser natural resources. The big question is what measures are we putting in place to breed a new generation of politicians in this country? The answer is far and wide but obviously falls on the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS). This is one body that has groomed a good number of Nigeria’s politicians. This democratic body is also laced with numerous challenges both within and without. Financial misappropriation has become a bed-fellow of the leaders of this body who in some cases fail to present their annual financial statements to the detriment of the progress of Nigerian students who need a powerful and unified voice. The worst of all, politicians to some extent manipulate the actions of NUNS leaders to achieve their political targets.

The educational system deserves a fair share of the blame for the mess of our political leaders. Our educational system does not offer the student adequate tools to understand and analyze economic systems under practice.

Even-though, we train all calibers of professionals, each category of professionals requires a good level of understanding of economics. The reason is that all kinds of professionals are needed in the National Assembly and the Ministries to lay the required framework for policy decisions in various sectors of the national economy. What is the way forward for Nigeria?

Our educational system must begin training students well-grounded on economics to take up leadership positions in the country more responsibly. The taxpayers’ money cannot be wasted any longer to train people who mess up our economy as a result of their deficiency in this field. Secondly, we need a writing class of political leaders as a developing nation who communicate their ‘socio-politico-economic’ ideas to the people through writing so that they can be judged appropriately. Besides, it lays the platform for active debates on policy issues which are rather on a low-scale if not non-existent. Great societies suffice on discerning ideas from ordinary citizens and the intelligentsia. If leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello did that, what debar today are leaders from embarking on that paradigm? We should remember that as a developing nation when others are crawling, we should learn how to hop.

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