Saturday, April 8, 2017

Notes on my Beloved Country



Nigeria, ERGP, Corruption


Nigerians are excellent at analyzing situations. Even a market woman is an avid social commentator. Unfortunately, our peculiar problems require a pragmatic solution not merely an intellectual one. This reminds me of an anonymous quote: Do not depend on theory when your life is at stake.


We all are responsible for the lamentable state of affairs in our nation. We should ask ourselves whether we are truly united in our fight against corruption. If so, are we persistent enough to gain momentum? 

For me, the vision 20:2020 is mere fantasy. Vision 20:2200 would have been more modest and realistic. Let’s face it:Nigeria is among the poorest nations on earth right now. Forget the Giant of Africa jingles; forget the flamboyant lifestyle of the microscopic fragment of the population. The majority are suffocating below the poverty line. This makes me wonder whether our abundant natural and human resource is a blessing or a curse.

The country knows what to do but corruption on the part of the fat cats, and negligence (or rather procrastination) on the part of well meaning citizens is hindering the needed progress. Chronic, widespread, and systemic corruption, including mismanagement of our bountiful oil proceeds has plunged the economy into deep recession. Rocketing inflation and embarrassing exchange rates are clear indicators.

There is widespread uncertainty about the future in this country. An average citizen doesn’t seem to understand what the government is doing (if at all they are doing anything). Is there a holistic and coherent policy framework...? Is there discipline for timely implementation...? Are the people carried along...? Without sound public systems, there wouldn’t be any difference between the human society and a jungle. The government shouldn’t declare that it has succeeded unless the poorest of the masses feel her impact. If the average citizen isn’t confident his/her tax money would be utilized judiciously, then something is wrong somewhere...

Indeed, faulty public systems breed uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds fear and anxiety which in turn breeds corruption. If people sense that their patriotism would not be rewarded and their economic future is not secured by their honest work, then disaster is lurking. Basically, a kink in the mechanisms of government would lead to disconnect between policy formulation and implementation. If the constitution is not held sacrosanct and some individuals are above the law, then due process is a lie and social contract is a fraud. Public institutions and systems need to be strengthened to prevent corruption and impunity from thriving.

It would take forever to dissect each and every strand of causes that led to our dwindling fortunes as a nation. I am not an expert in such matters. However, my take is that the disease called corruption is a major culprit wearing infinite disguises. It is an emergency and the nation needs urgent treatment. Cosmetic palliatives won’t help here; you don’t give tablets to an unconscious patient. Therefore, if there is a blackout, power has to be restored.  If there is shock, blood needs to be pumped. If there is pathogen, it needs to be wiped off. I’m saying this because the CBN Forex intervention is addressing symptoms and not the cause. Our children would bear the heavy cost, if we still fail to switch economic gears from consumption to production.

The government admits that lack of continuity, consistency and commitment (3Cs) to agreed policies, programs and projects as well as an absence of a long-term perspective resulted in rising unemployment, inequality and poverty. To that effect, the much awaited Economic Recovery and Growth plan ERGP has been launched.

The broad objectives of the ERGP are to restore growth, invest in our people and build a globally competitive economy. It focuses on agriculture with a view to ensuring adequate food security as well as energy, industrialization and social investment (a step in the right direction). Furthermore, it seeks to achieve a 7 per cent economic growth by the year 2020. The hope is that it would remove the country out of recession and put it on the path of strength and growth, as well as away from being an import dependent nation. Meanwhile, it promises to create an environment for businesses to thrive. This looks impressive on paper!

I am glad the government realizes that Investment must be made on research and development, so that we can sustainably produce what we consume and export the remaining at a profit. Whether this would translate to action is a matter of speculation. 

As a matter of fact, the government needs to water down the ERGP to the expectant masses instead of mumbling it among the cabinet members and government affiliated technocrats. Notwithstanding, we should not forget Reginald Ibe’s statement: correcting and reforming our national and individual mindsets and attitudes is the starting point of the reformation to get us out of the economic hole.