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NIGERIA: Without equity and harnessing its diverse peoples’ capabilities, country’s peace & economic growth doomed – Olumide Ìjoṣé

April 4, 2018

Nigeria

Let’s Be Real – Political Structure and Earning True and Fast Economic Growth by Olumide Ijoṣe

 

With economic growth averaging well under a cumulative average of 5% in the 57-years since independence in 1960, Nigeria has significantly underperformed relative to its resource base, even after controlling for the infrastructural, investment, and human capital conditions at that time. Thus, no one should be surprised that the stock of these key forces remain insufficient and that poverty remains a deep problem.

On the other hand, Nigeria has been lucky, in the sense that internal conditions did ensure that the crude oil earnings that was invested, created in a fairly strong foundation for generating rapid economic growth going forward, assuming the presence of the enabling conditions.

Despite the potential, it is clear that if externally generated and internally fostered corruption did not have such a strong hold and the earnings stream had been well invested, the country would be a global medium economic power today, with enterprises and consumers that add to global economic growth, rather than a recipient of foreign aid and World Bank advise. And this fact, should be the driver of analysis and action, rather than an adulation of the very limited enclaves of “success” – including democracy and a fairly free press -, that do exist in the country.

To generate the kind of growth that Nigeria is clearly capable of, radical restructuring must happen in several areas, all of which will be extremely difficult – some will say impossible –, because they are reside in core parts of the country’s political institution, are rooted in a history that goes beyond the slave trade age, and are conditioned by irrational fears and senses of insecurity.

Going by statements and past acts, Nigeria can be defined as a country that outwardly, yearns to be globally relevant. This includes costly assistance provided to the successful fight to free Zimbabwe and South Africa from apartheid, Angola and Mozambique from colonialism and Liberia and Sierra Leone from internal despotism.

With its ambition not in doubt what is, is the vision, discipline and ability to make and execute the reforms that will strengthen its underlying political institution. Why? Because the quality of a country’s political institution is the predictor of its economic capability and in a self-reinforcing circle, how enduring its political, educational, economic, cultural and military strengths will be.

Though the need for political restructuring might be clear, most analysts and policy makers are unwilling to identify the real factor that has mitigated against any genuine effort to restructure the manner and method by which the country’s federating unit collaborate: the fear that going back to greater regional control of natural resources, will leave the Northern region with insufficient revenue flows and reduce its growth rate.

The political power that is necessary for breaking this condition, is thus centered in Northern Nigeria, by virtue of the election of the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister at independence and subsequent revisions to the terms of association, starting with the creation of states (first in the General Yakubu Gowon administration) that was in part meant to provide greater Northern access to key positions in the federal bureaucracy, and ending in the provisions and language embedded in the 1999 constitution (crafted during the General Abubakar Abdulsalam administration), that were designed to give the Northern region an advantage in the allocation of centralized revenue and control of the constitution revision process.

Though many of the intellectual and political forces in the North, contend that the region will perform economically, an assertion that is supported by region’s resource base, there is a perception that the road to harnessing these resources, will be more challenging, than in other regions. This central thought, acknowledged or not, is clearly the primary reason for continued Northern resistance to greater regional control of arguably, the main driver of economic growth in the county: natural resources.

The other side, is the lack of internal democracy in all political parties that are capable of competing for political offices at the local, state and national level. Aside from the local government level, there is an absence of paths that provide avenues for gaining political experience, even as the local governments are too small, too many and are an administrative – and corruption laden – burden that drains resources. Parties also tend to promote and favor growth reducing practices such as zoning political offices to geographic areas in a rotating manner.

On the surface, zoning and rotation may be a response to the history of the country, the way it was formed and the very presence of federating units, but in practice, all it does is promote and sustain mediocrity, corruption and dangerous armed political warfare. By making the enthronement of a merit based system impossible, the quality of governance suffers, as does the will to confront corruption, and prevent the decay of institutions, such as the court system and law and order.

The impact of the political culture at its most damning, as resulted in a type of money politics that is identified by the bribery of the electorate and the press, and a manic quest for power that routinely tramples on the fundamental human rights of people in the country. Clearly, the outcome of such a system, cannot be counted on to fight corruption (thus the saying “corruption fights back” as an excuse) or have great policy vision.

However, enough investment has been made on education and other drivers of growth, to suggest, that Nigeria will take-off if political governance improves. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is known to be suicidal. The continued centralization of revenues in what is indeed a unitary system, has resulted in a very weak country.

It is time for the intelligentsia – political, military and intellectual elites – to acknowledge that independence from the British and the presence of strategic natural resources in the country is insufficient but that only commitment to prioritizing the country and all its people above themselves and ethnicity, will allow the people to harness the strength in diversity that is staring at Nigeria, for rapid economic growth.

Restructuring, that is supportive of the core values of competition, fairness, freedom and the respect of life and liberty is a crucial and pressing need!

 

Olumide Ìjoṣé, a policy analyst, sent this from the USA.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2018. 5:25 A.M. [GMT]

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