Nigerian moneybags in ebullition
By Bayo Ogunmupe
NIGERIA needs technical talent in order to grow her economy. In particular, the manufacturing sector is increasingly technology-driven, especially the multinationals. Unfortunately our tertiary institutions have not revised their curricula to meet the rising demand for skilled technical manpower.
We do not even have the know how to install, operate and maintain new operational machines. Thus, there is a dearth of talent in this sector. This dearth of talent mars Nigeria’s economic growth. This area must be addressed squarely. The Nigerian Institute for Industrial Technology is an example of a technical school positioned to do this.
Indeed, a report by Mckinsey Global Institute urges that businesses operating in skills scarce world must know how to find talent with the skills they need. They are to build strategies for hiring and retraining the workers they will need in order to gain competitive advantage.
Which is why we should examine why Nigeria is backward. This is explained by a book published recently by Daron Acemoglu, Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA and James Robinson, a Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University. The book is entitled: Why Nations Fail. In the book, the two professors aver that nations fail not because of geography, culture or policy but for lack of institutions broadly defined as institutions that govern economic and political behaviour.
Countries that succeed are those with the right economic institutions, secure property rights, law and order, market and state supported public services. Also, they have markets that are open to free entry of new business, that uphold contracts and with free access to education and opportunities for the great majority of the people.
Indeed, the two experts argue that the countries most likely to develop these economic rights are those with open pluralistic political systems, where competition for political office is open, where the electorate is open to new political leaders and ideologies. Ordinarily, powerful people will always seek to grab power and undermine a broadly shared prosperity for their own greed. By keeping those narcissists in check, the nation succeeds, if unchecked that nation fails. In the Nigerian situation, the greedy narcissists are unchecked which is why Nigeria remains backward.
However, this explains the prosperity gap between South Korea and North Korea, North America and Latin America, but also between Botswana and Nigeria. In spite of being very rich, Nigeria has 70 per cent of her population living below one dollar a day. Nigeria is also with eight per cent of the world’s poor while Botswana has 33 per cent of her population living under one dollar a day. The widespread poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in Nigeria does not only uphold the veracity of this finding, it is also responsible for much of the imbalance, instability and kidnapping, the militancy in the Niger Delta, the secessionist threats from the southeast and the Boko Haram insurgency from Northern Nigeria.
Now, the Nigerian government has lost the exclusive power to use violence and now a nation on the throes of disintegration. Apart from a break down of law order owing to Boko Haram, kidnapping, oil spillage insurgency and armed robbery, there is also a break down in public services reminiscent of acute infrastructural decay. Nigeria ranks 14th in the World Failed State Index. This isn’t because of our ethnic and religion diversity, it is because of our ineptitude; because Indonesia which ranks 63 is as ethnically and religiously diverse as Nigeria. Our inability to integrate the Nigerian nation through a broadly shared available prosperity and justice has reduced us to a failed state.
The exclusion created by our narcissistic leaders and the backlash it generated, has been the result of how power has been exercised and monopolised by an elite group since the collapse of the First Republic in 1966. The point is that those who seize power in Nigeria after 1966 have always been in power through proxies up till now in the 21st century. In Nigeria power has always revolved around the military clique that wrested power from Tafawa Balewa. For instance successive governments and the various agencies and ministries have been filled by arrangement rather than through free, fair and open practice. With few exceptions, our leaders have preferred second-rate brains and bootlickers to straight and competent administrators.
That was why it was not until the advent of President Umaru Yar Adua that ministries had to return unspent fund to the state. Even then the practice seems to have died with him.
Also, each Nigerian military ruler had become a moneybag since Balewa. The exception to this rule was Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari whose uncompromising egalitarian posture caused his ouster after 20 months in power in 1985. Thus, Buhari now leads a faction of Nigeria’s narcissistic ruling elite. That military cabal has created a huge patronage network fueled by oil rent and royalties, thus concentrating power and wealth at the centre.
The discretionary award of oil blocks by each potentate in power, to friends, loyalists and bootlickers only helped build a digital fortress for each ruler. Bonuses payable by an investor when he wins and signs bidding agreements with the department of petroleum resources, to the tune of millions of dollars are often waived, only to be admitted through the back door paid to special accounts as appreciation gifts. Indeed, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s failed bid at self-perpetuation in power, would have been unimaginable but for the cabal’s penchant for coercion, bribery and assassination. For the line of political murders: Mamman Vatsa, Bola Ige and Moshood Abiola come to mind.
Because of the enormous wealth at stake, our decadent captains have always turned elections to selections which was why Obasanjo said the 2007 election was a do or die affair.
If even our colonial masters didn’t wish us well, as recent memoirs by former colonial officers testify, why haven’t our leaders woken up by developing Nigeria? The answer can be found in the narcissistic greed of our leaders, their lack of knowledge of affairs and perhaps their innate lack of gumption which made Nigeria produce one Nobel laureate with 167 million people while Germany has a ratio of one Nobel prizewinner to 500,000 people. That means you should forget the notion that Nigerians perform better outside the country. It is a myth. There are no records of its award-winning prowess.
However, we now know that it is for their safety, in order to keep themselves in power is why our rulers have kept us poor and ignorant. Which was why they bastardised our educational system. But there is crisis in the elite, occasioned by the ostracisation of Buhari from the club of moneybags. And that is why he has become the rallying point for the opposition. That line of thought might be the stream by which a change can emerge. Recent disasters point in the direction that solace lies in a unified opposition to narcissistic moneybags who want to continue in power through bribery, kidnapping and election rigging.
The kidnapping of Mrs. Kamene Okonjo is a case in point. Within a fortnight of her kidnap, parliament was compelled to pass into law a N161 billion bill authorising the President to pay marketers’ subsidy claims. Hitherto, government was loath in paying the oil subsidy suppliers.
Indeed, like in America, there is a glimmer of hope that this country is angling for change. In the last U.S. presidential election for example, Barack Obama was re-elected by people who don’t really care for politics. A sizeable chunk of Obama’s backers were people who admire neither party nor territory, because Obama was above of either. He was immune to the horse-trading and favour mongering that politics entails. Obama’s backers weren’t politically motivated. These people who re-elected him just stood for justice. Nigerians should behave likewise in 2015. All we need do in the transition is to create the awareness that change alone can save the nation from collapse.