By Victor E. Dike
All nations (developed, underdeveloped and developing) are populated by human beings with needs and wants. While the developed nations are relentlessly searching for solutions to their social, political and economic problems the underdeveloped nations engage each other in war of attrition and dish out half-baked and unreasoned policies to enslave its citizens. The leadership only prescribes solution to socioeconomic problems without actually providing the institutional framework to solve them. Consequently, the peoples' needs and wants often out-run resources. This article is a critique of the unreasoned policies of the present civilian administration.
The political landscape of Nigeria is littered by myriad of unreasoned policies - those that are hastily put together and poorly implemented. They do them, we hear and see them, and judge them every day. The gods and monsters that are involved in such activities appear to enjoy the nation's underdeveloped status. But, a smell that one person enjoys gives another individual a headache. A review of the reform programs shows that the society lacks the institutions and committed leadership to spur sustainable politico-economic growth and development. How would Nigeria aspire to govern others when she is incapable of designing and implementing coherent and reasoned national policies to tackle her domestic problems? For instance, it was ridiculous to read about the federal government's ÔÇśinitiative' to make state-of-the art personal computers available at an affordable price in a society that lives in the heart of darkness. After analyzing the deceptive ÔÇśinitiative' some questions popped up. How would the people power the PCs without electricity? Are they going to power them with firewood or candle? Is the price of computers the major problem facing Nigeria? How could the federal government that has failed to provide basic needs to the people undertake an elephant project of making the hungry people living in darkness information and communication technology gurus? Something is seriously wrong with the way the leaders of Nigeria reason! The computer ÔÇśinitiative' is not compatible with relevant facts on the ground. NEPA/PHCN is the main cause of Nigeria's socioeconomic underdevelopment because without constant electricity businesses wither. The ambitious ÔÇśinitiative' the government should embark on is to make electricity available to the people and to truly democratize the society. Demo-autocracy, which Nigeria has presently, is incompatible with true democracy. As it were the sheep cannot coexist peacefully with the wolves.
However, could the government (Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) tell Nigerians the difference between the power generating plants in Nigeria and those in the United States (or any other society) that enjoys steady flow of electricity? The only difference this writer could discern was that Nigeria is located in the continent of Africa where corruption and leadership "without soul" -leadership with unreasoned and unproductive faculty -does not allow national policies to function effectively. Is it not absurd and shameful that the so-called Nigeria's Science and Technology Ministry/National Information Technology Development Agency that participated in the computer ÔÇśinitiative' cannot provide solution to the nation's electricity problem? What actually is the function of the Ministry? Is it planning to take Nigeria to the moon? And, could the Minister of Power and Steel, Liyel Imoke, who is missing and inaction, tell the nation what it will take to get electricity flowing steadily in Nigeria? Uncle Bola Ige could not resuscitate NEPA before he was murdered. Is lack of money the problem with NEPA/PHCN? It is doubtful! The problem is leadership and follower-ship! Political patronage! Nigeria has sunk billions of dollars on the moribund organization and it remains epileptic. The organization needs new crops of leaders. However, if the managers are incapable of supplying the nation stable electricity, why can't they swallow their pride and bring in technicians (not engineers) from any of the developed nations to get PHCN working. Stable energy supply is the key to economic diversification, social and business activities and national development. Because of its failure to constantly supply electricity to the society the cost of doing business in Nigeria has gone beyond the reach of many organizations. According to BusinessDay of July 5, 2006 recent testimony by some business executives shows that supplying private electricity to a medium-sized business alone has pushed the cost of doing business in Nigeria to over 50% of the regular cost. This has destroyed (and is still destroying) many businesses and social activities. However, the businesses that are hanging on are passing the high cost to the consumers.
The unreasoned PC initiative is akin to the NEEDS, as the government dabbled into the program without first strengthening the institutions that would make its prescriptions effective. Has the NEEDS improved the economic life of Nigeria? The benefits of the program will continue to elude the society until the government removes the institutional bottlenecks to economic and social activities. The areas the present administration could be given some credit are the debt-relief deal and banking consolidation developed by the transforming leadership of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Charles Soludo, respectively. However, they have limited impact because of the inherent deficiencies in the economy. The governments (federal, state, and local) are still not financially disciplined, as they are still spending unbudgeted public money, thus flooding the economy with liquidity that prevents its monetary policy from working. However, the war on corruption is elusive because the government that wages the corruption-war is terminally corrupt. The war should go beyond harassing individuals who are critical of the unreasoned government's policies. The government should look beyond the debt-relief euphoria and invest the funds realized from the privatization program and the N5.547 Trillion earned in 2005 (ThisDay, July 13, 2006) to areas that would impact positively on the living standards of the people. They include education, health, security, employment creation, food, drinking water, and housing and rural development. This will bring Nigeria into the realm of modern world because a healthy and literate society is a highly productive nation, ceteris paribus.
Why is Nigeria still underdeveloped? Is it not because of corruption and poor leadership? With all the resources at its possession Nigeria could have made a phenomenal development if it were blessed with creative and reasoned leadership-those with better ways of defining issues and finding solutions. Unreasoned policies and fraud have deprived Nigeria the benefits of the reform programs. For the reform programs to be effective the government should apply a common sense solution by undertaking a comprehensive reform and not a deceptive and selective process. The government should completely reform the entire system and establish a clean money system. It appears Nigeria did not learn any lessons from the wreckage of the 2003 elections. Taking money out of politics would stop the buying and selling of politicians. The people are gasping for fresh air, as the stench of a corrupted political process pervades the atmosphere. With the renewed spate of ÔÇśpolitics of unreason' -unresolved politically motivated assassination (in Plateau) - and youth violence in the Niger Delta there is still serious threat to national stability. The socioeconomic and political life of Nigeria today will determine its rate of development tomorrow. Without peace, security and stability there would be no sustainable economic growth and development.
Nonetheless, many things are dragging the economy down. What is the government doing about the many wealthy politicians without established sources of income that are not paying taxes? The government should restructure the tax system and get these individuals to pay appropriate taxes on their multi-billion dollar properties. The police that have a unique responsibility in a democratic society are involved in conflicting political interests. This takes us to the issue human rights violation that hinders socioeconomic development. As Alfredo Sfeir-Younis rightly pointed out in the Punch of July 12, 2006 ÔÇśrights and responsibilities' are forms of capital and sustainable economic growth and development depend on the ÔÇśfulfillment of those rights.' The police (and other security agents) should thus be educated on democratic ideals, as they often adopt barbaric and unlawful means to prevent the people from freely gathering to discuss issues facing the nation. With the recent arrest of two Nigerian journalists of Africa Independent Television the Nigerian press that holds governments accountable to the people is being silenced in a supposedly ÔÇśdemocratic Nigeria.' The leadership is becoming too powerful at the expense of the media, political oppositions, non-governmental organizations, and even the judicial system. Obasanjoism is choking Nigeria. Some of the officials should be tried for lying and engaging in antidemocratic activities.
And because everyone is chasing petrodollar agriculture is still being neglected. This leads to food scarcity and resultant high prices of food items. It appears oil is the main cause of Nigeria's underdevelopment. Perhaps, if oil were not discovered in Nigeria "she would be today a land flowing with milk and honey." Economic growth and development has been high on the agenda of Nigeria, yet the nation remains underdeveloped. The workers that are being laid off from government ministries (and the privatized public corporations) are not getting any assistance in the form of job/career training. However, a reform program without in-built job/career training/ re-training program and some form of public assistance can only create more hardship, as it will reform the people into destitute. What does the government expect those hapless individuals to do? To join the pool of armed robbers harassing the society, become 419-scam artists or human traffickers? Without first strengthening the institutions the present administration is repeating the same mistake General Babangida made during the SAP. Thus, the problems facing Nigeria today revolve around the poor state of the public institutions and leadership "without spirit."
Are the leaders of Nigeria working in the interest of the citizens or corporations or foreign government? Comprador? Who is really in charge of Nigeria? The dictatorial and incompetent leadership is now shifting blames to previous leaders, for which he was a member, to escape accountability. Without well-reasoned policies Nigeria cannot achieve political stability and internal civil peace. Effective reasoning will enable the leaders to understand the meaning and process of conducting national policy. The government should give special attention on human capital development because there is a shortage of skills in the public sector for effective economic management and planning. Illiteracy and ignorance hinders development. Despite the reforms, statistics show that the current literacy rate in the society is 57%. Therefore, with the falling standard of education it is now difficult to differentiate an illiterate youth on the street from a university graduate.
This is not new, but poor policy implementation is part of the problem in the society because a good policy would not work without proper implementation. The government should properly staff, fund and equip the departments involved in policy implementation for proper project supervisions (at the local, state and federal levels) and quality control. It should channel resources towards promoting industrial development by assisting domestic industries through research and development, etc and to promote a better public/private sector relationship. The leadership should improve its public relation method and remove religion from politics and public discussions. For this writer, it does matter if a good leader beliefs in one God, many gods or no gods; what counts is what the leader does to develop the society.
Despite the reform program, the public is ignorant of what the government does. And this leads to the growing public cynicism on political institutions. Information is important in governance and anything that disrupts communication affects governance. The government should create easier access to information about its activities through the application of modern information technologies. Nigeria should get out of the politics of distrust and underdevelopment trap and learn from the Asian Tigers and develop specific economic, political and institutional structures for sustainable economic growth and development. No nation can progress and effectively compete in the emerging computerized global economy without applying advanced information and communication technologies in business management, policy design and implementations. Thus, to be a technological giant, Nigeria should either develop its local technologies or borrow (and if possible steal) advanced technology from the developed world. If other nations are doing that why not Nigeria?
Many Nigerians are merely stumbling through life, as there are no coordinating agencies to make things work better. It is a contradiction for Nigeria to be an affluent society where majority of the population lives in poverty. And democracy will not survive in a society where the losers in elections refuse to accept that they have lost and leave office without bickering. For democracy to hold the politicians must be willing to die for telling the truth and to protect and support the tenets of democracy. The government should improve the economic conditions of the disadvantaged by providing them with basic necessities of life. However, this is not possible without transforming the economy and creating employment. Labor/management relationship is abysmally poor, as workers are still begging for their poor salaries/wages and pensions, despite the fact that their non-living wages are not catching up with inflation. This is part of the causes of petty corruption in the society. And, because workers are unmotivated the qualities of domestic products remain poor, preventing made-in Nigeria goods from competing favorably in the global market. This, again, underscores the need for the government to refocus its policies on education and skills training, housing and rural development. This is because Nigeria may not develop without developing the rural communities where most of the people live.
Nigeria's politics has been, and remains dominated by "soulless" leadership that only prescribes solutions to issues facing the nation without strengthening the institutions that could tackle the problems. To move Nigeria from chaos to peace and democratic consolidation there must be a paradigm shift. The government should ensure macroeconomic stability and fiscal responsibility, transparency, and accountability in governance. Sustainable politico-economic growth and development will continue to elude Nigeria without reasoned national policies to provide the basic institutions to improve the absorptive (or productive) capacities of domestic industries. In other words, a well-reasoned and focused national policies is the key to the problems of weak economy and inflation, unemployment and poverty, crime and the hiccups on Nigeria's political democratization. As Kant had noted in the Critique of Judgment that remains one of the most important works on human reason, "The sun arose As calm from virtue springs."
Victor E. Dike