By appointing Dr (Mrs.) Okonjo-Iweala, of the World Bank fame, as the coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, President Goodluck Jonathan appears to have realized that there is need to move Nigeria’s economic thought and practice away from ideas derived from religious viral infections and anchored on dogmatic and subjective musings, suffused with nebulous ambiguities, to knowledge-based, economic management of the Nigerian economy. We can now enter occasional dialogue with the Honourable Minister.
In the past, we hesitated to dialogue with the Central Bank Governor, because we were not sure, when we could cross the Rubicon between economic polemics into religious politics. His language of banking is pontifical, at times obscure and controversial.
It has been my intelligent assertion with the binding force of a sworn affidavit that any time religious sentiments percolate into a secular discourse, the whole discussion dovetails into the orbit of belief. Belief is difficult to dissect.
In the new dispensation, all the essential knowledge in agricultural economics, industrial economics, must be harnessed to develop a model that will be suitable for Nigeria’s advance.
Borrowing some economic knowledge from G.L Thirkette,I would like to know the nature of Nigerian economics and economic activity, how we derive our national income, how we determine our prices, how equitable is the distribution of national income in the form of wages, interests, profit and rent? How strictly do we monitor our public finances, how strong is our international trade? How efficiently do we manage our foreign and local investments?
What is the situation of our fixed and floating exchange rates? How can we deal with the economy of high wages paid to the non-productive sector of the national economy? Are there labour-saving inventions and capital-saving inventions in the Nigerian economy or do we purchase machinery at inflated prices?
Is our monetary policy being efficiently controlled by the monetary authorities and the government? By what magical conjurations do officials make away with so much money, with impunity? What are we doing to arrest the inequality in the international division of labour, whereby we import goods at the prices dictated by the manufacturers and we export our raw materials at the prices they unilaterally fix for global users?
Every year, we produce graduates, who employers tell us are marginally employable. Those, who studied abroad, do not want to come home. They serve the economy of advanced economies. Our few professors are allowed to idle away in retirement! Is anyone thinking for and about Nigeria?
A gloomy set of statistics relate to basic food, housing and welfare requirements. Yet, millions of able-bodied men and women roam the cities instead of being made to cultivate the rich agricultural land we have in Nigeria. China feeds its 1.3 billion people.
Go to the ant thou sluggard nation, learn her ways and be wise! How to practicalize economic theory and build a nation where basic amenities abound is the challenge before the transformation cadre.
These and many other issues must form the core economic drive in the Era of Transformation.
The first clarification we demand from the economic team is to state clearly the economic system Nigeria will adopt. This will enable us to know the parameters we shall use to evaluate their performance. A country must know the way its economic team is piloting the nation.
As Walter Rodney said, “The social services provided by a country are of importance equal to that of its material production in bringing about human well-being and happiness”.
In the 1980’s, the structural adjustment programmes “exacted huge social, political and economic costs to the detriment of the majority of the people, rural and urban.” The programme did not accelerate capitalist production not promote capitalist forms of accumulation. As Olukoshi et al noted,” The economic fortunes of the countries that accepted the structural adjustment programme hardly improved in spite of the adjustment regime imposed on them by the IMF and the World Bank”.
It is hoped that the new economic programmes we are looking forward to, will distance themselves from IMF/World Bank politics of structural adjustment, conditionality and measures that are contradictory to the ECOWAS integration efforts.
We must do an appraisal of the debilitating factors that have crippled the Euro-American economies and by-pass their failed Keynesian principles and debt crisis. We must embrace progressive economic thinking and prudent management of our resources.
We must find a bold way to arrest our price regime. It is a wonder economy in which houses built with cement cost exorbitantly as if they were built with gold blocks. Ann Philips will not find any rationale for such in her “Concept of Development.”
The local manufacturing index in Nigeria continues to fall as a result of our infrastructural collapse. The roads need fixing, electricity is yet to remain steady to encourage industrial output and the creation of jobs.
Our public enterprise sector is so weak that ten years ago, the Federal Government mechanistically sold off our commonwealth to private companies. It is laughable that the Government, crying over split milk, is now interested in finding out how the privatized companies are doing. Any Nigerian with a modicum of patriotism cannot but feel embarrassed about how this country is run.
Talking about patriotism, Dr Okonjo-Iweala displayed her love for country by foregoing a dollar-paid job to serve as Minister of Finance in Nigeria. If she been that dollar-conscious, she would have sent a polite note rejecting the offer.
When my learned friend, Chief Gani Fawehinmi went to court over the issues some years ago, I wrote to ask him what his cause of action was. After all, I am not sure whether the Federal Government paid her fees at Harvard or at MIT. There are many Okonjo- Iwealas strutting about the streets of Nigeria without ever going to a University. The nation is reaping where it did not sow So, what is the achievement in the announcement that she will not be paid in dollars?
Some of our foreign contractors are paid in dollars, after which they abandon their jobs.
I am constrained to mention the issue of the nationalized banks. In international commercial relations, foreign states are always wary of states that make nationalization part of their national economic policy. We must be careful in adopting some macro-economic measures that scare investors.
Something must be done at once to solve the mass unemployment in Nigeria. In his book of the same title, Professor F.E. Ogbimi of the Obafemi Awolowo University, identified cogent reasons for unemployment a- in Nigeria, and proffered solutions that are appropriate to the Nigerian situation.
Dr. Ogbimi gave the following reasons for mass unemployment in Nigeria. He mentioned “the backward state of the economy, poor perception of the relationship between employment and the health of the economy, faculty planning theory and framework and inappropriate economic philosophy/ideology”.
He further linked education with productivity and discussed how to stimulate rapid industrialization. He sketched the European and Asian experiences.
He wrote that ” the management of an economy from one status to another, say position (1) to position (2) or position (2) to position (3) is a fundamental change- a transformation which demands a quantum input of quality knowledge and skills into the production system. Learning, he wrote, is the fundamental basis for growth and development.”
A critical look at the Nigerian society shows that new hands are left to age, while old hands are re-cycled. Since old people do not learn easily, the work-force at the decision-making level is populated with lazy, yawning drones, whose relevance or the lack of it,is that they can r
ely on the Old Boy network.
As a result, there is little or no innovativeness. The economy suffers and so do the citizens.
For our economy and foreign trade to become vibrant, we must embark on rapid industrialization like the Germans did between 1950-1970, under Conrad Adenauer and his able Finance Minister,
The pre-occupation with the six years elongation noise, whether well understood or misunderstood is putting the cart before the horse. If the government can evolve a dynamic, comprehensive programme, which would be seen to transform the Confederal Republic of Nigeria, that success will be good evidence that could strengthen the plea for an extension.
The cardinal issue in Nigeria now, is how we can transform from a Federal to a Confederal Republic, in which each state can evolve developmental strategies, using its work force, natural resources and human resources to develop its state, under the supervision of the Central authority.
With visible gains in the agricultural and industrial and other sectors of the economy, the people will decide through a referendum, whether they approve of any elongation or not.
Both the Distinguished and not-so-distinguished Senators, who legislate for the Republic, should pass laws that will enhance the transformation of Nigeria. They have the powers to control and supervise the activities of the Executive. They should exercise their powers to conduct investigations, at least as a deterrent to the heinous crimes that have been and are being perpetrated against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The coming transformation must be judged by the caliber of leaders on the ground, in all spheres of governance and not by mere proclamations, promises, speech-making, retreats, conferences and declarations of intent.