By Adagbo Onoja
Officially, the programme is called State Grant to Low Income Entrepreneurs. It is not charity, it is not patronage, it is not a case of anybody pitying anybody. It is neither the Villagisation in Julius Nyerereâ€™s ujamaa norÂ Stalinâ€™s Collectivization in Soviet Communism.
Instead, it is social justice, it is both redistributive and allocative justice. It is capital injection to rural livelihood. It is Democratic Humanism at play. It is also Sule Lamido at work. Above all, it is the climax of the Talakawa Summit methodology in terms of popular democracy, the first anniversary of which is now taking place on October 29th, 2009 after the original date of October 18th clashed disastrously with the launching of the Sardauna Foundation.
This programme is, in every way, a very bold response to the reality that â€œfor over several centuries now, the essential theme of culture in almost all African countries has been grim, resourceful and relentless efforts and historic responsibility by ordinary village farmers, artisans and traders to feedâ€¦â€ The result, for them, is a life of permanent pressure and an embarrassing National Wasted Productive Human Potentials â€“ old people who are not cared for, young men women who have exhausted their bodies in laborious tasks, blind beggars and a disease ridden citizenry. And this is the African reality, worsened by senseless violent conflicts.
But instead of pumping billions of funds directly to village farmers, artisans and traders, our leaders are happier selling brilliant nonsense about market forces, waiting for development to come from the World Bank, foreign capital, experts and imported technology.
The outcome is Africa â€™s miserable Human Development Index in contrast to Asia , for example, where many of their leaders rejected external intrusiveness, opted to develop the people, ending up producing the most slender or sleek clock work modernization in the cities of Malaysia , Singapore , Hong Kong , not to mention China . Long before Samuel Huntington had written his The Clash of Civilization, Singapore â€™s Lee Kuan Yew had proclaimed â€œCulture is Destinyâ€.
Although Yew rejected both free wheeling Capitalism and Socialism and the idea of a welfare society as such, he proposed the alternative of a fair society. His articulation of it is that, because people are unequal in their abilities, if performance and rewards are determined by the market place, there will be a few big winners, many medium winners, and a considerable number of losers and that such would create social tension because a societyâ€™s sense of fairness is offended, (p.95 of his book accounting for how he took Singapore from poverty to plenty, titled: From Third to First World).
It was on this basis that his leadership went on to develop to percentage details public policies on employment, health; education, pension etc. including inventing a home-grown solution where neither the British nor the American model was acceptable as in the case of a health care system.
It is within this context that we look at two out of the numerous programmes that have arisen directly from the October 18th, 2009 Talakawa Summit with particular reference to their transformative potentials. One is the modernization and professionalisation of traditional mid wives known in Hausa as ungozoma.
With the support of MacArthur Foundation, Three Thousand and Twenty Seven of them have been trained in response to the testimonies of those of their members at the Talakawa Summit. In view of the high maternal and child mortality rates in Jigawa, this training of the ever present and ever reliable traditional birth attendants must be a very radical leap.
The second which is the programme of capital injection into rural livelihood must be the most outstanding in terms of the expected results, the sheer number of the targeted people and the amount of money involved. It is the single most elaborate direct redistributive programme anywhere in Nigeria of recent without any collateral but based solely on the productive economic problems of poor and low income producers as articulated by themselves at the Talakawa Summit of October 18th, 2009 .
Thereafter, further levels of consultations and alignment and budgeting have gone into it. And it was only recently that the actual distribution commenced. The details make it the highlight of the first anniversary of the Talakawa Summit. Fourty two trade or associational groups are participating. Some of them include skin tanners, wood carvers, fishermen, clay pot makers, blacksmiths, welders, traditional birth attendants, butchers, nail cutters, clay pot makers, cart pushers, shoe shiners, weavers, traditional barbers and so on and so forth.
The sum of One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira is involved. For firewood sellers, for instance, there are ten of them from each of the twenty seven local government areas of the state and each would collect the sum of Ten Thousand Naira. This is the same arrangement for any other category of trade or associational group although the sum of money to be received depends on what the market demands of the particular trade. For instance, there are those like pormade makers w
hose outlay demands up to One Hundred Thousand and they are so given.
The central logic is that what has come out of the Talakawa Summit shows abundance of enterprise spirit which should be captured and properly directed/supported to stimulate the development of commerce and industry.Â In the absence of local capitalists interested in providing the breeder for enterprise drive and skills development, management techniques, access to capital, the option of State Grant to Low Income Entrepreneurs is the most advisable strategy for achieving social transformation in an agrarian formation like Jigawa. At the same time, it is not throwing away money at people in a way that suggests to them that they are being given a share of the national cake.
No. instead, they are being challenged to look beyond the here and now, to confront the issues of enhanced productive capacity, start thinking about use of appropriate technology, about producing for the market, about the possibility of employing labour and generally, transforming into a capitalist producer. That is why it is being associated with a revolution, albeit a capitalist revolution.
All the recipients are people who are active producers already but whose productive potentials are subverted by their exclusion and powerlessness, both within the dynamics of the regional, national and the global economy. Surprisingly, they are very conscious of these as they pointed out at the Talakawa Summit.
In fact, Jigawaâ€™s may yet be another case of ending poverty simply by ignoring the experts just like what happened in Malawi when, stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, President Mutharika declared that, â€œas long as Iâ€™ am President, I donâ€™t want to be going to other capitals begging for foodâ€. Subsequently, he ignored â€˜expertsâ€™ and restored subsidies to agriculture, leading to what one writer described as an extra-ordinary turn-around in food production.
That is what rejection of â€˜foreignâ€™ consultants and specialists, loans and credits, improved seeds, technology and the models of how to achieve development can achieve. Since independence in 1960, African countries have been practicing one model of growth or another within Western modernisation theory, all of which have failed comprehensively.
They include such models as (a) Growth maximisation and trickle down policies in the 1950s; (b) Economic Growth through Social Change in the 1960s, (c) Economic Growth with Social Equity and its three sub sets viz: i) Integrated Rural Development (IRD), ii) Basic Human Needs and iii) Assistance to â€œSpecial Publicsâ€ (Women, Children and the Poorest of the poor) and, finally, the disastrous Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP. So, Mutharikaâ€™s boldness should be understandable.
It should be clear that what Nigeria needs is a capitalist revolution, a capitalism that would develop the forces of production and all the governments have a central role to play in it, contrary to the present mantra of the Nigerian governing elite that government has no business in business.
If that were true, what were the colonialists doing by sponsoring and escorting their pirates like Unilever, Tate and Lyle, Turner and Newall, John Holts, the United African Company, Dunlop, Patterson Zochonis, Barclays Bank, Standard Bank.Â G.B. Ollivant, United Trading Company, K. Chellarams, Esquire, Bhojsons, Societe Commerciale Orientale dâ€™Afrique (CFAO) and even the oil companies of today?
It is even more urgent in Nigeria whose economy is, by the admission of the NEEDS document, characterized a collapsing economy viz â€œâ€¦income inequality is very high; unemployment is threatening social cohesion, security and democracy; and the imminent HIV/AIDS epidemic is a potent time-bomb waiting to explode, with potential dire consequences for productivity in the economy.
The educational system is dysfunctional, as graduates of many institutions cannot meet the needs of the country. Institutions are in decay, strikes and cultism are common and corruption has become so rampant. Youth militarism has now gone beyond the walls of schools to the heart of societyâ€, (p.10).
Therefore, without claiming easy victory though, the programme of State Grant to Low Income Entrepreneurs gives a lot of hope towards the capitalist revolution in Jigawa. For, though the deep crisis of capitalism is pushing the system to offer concessions to the peasants, agrarian proletariat, urban poor, market women, lumpens, workers, shop keepers and middle class professionals all over the world, the concessions are still far from anything fundamental.
Seen in this light, there is something to write home about in a Nigerian governor bringing the people to insert themselves into the development equation by saying publicly what they think and want, in an arrangement chaired by the governor himself and in which no civil servants or aides are summarizing the testimonies for the governor.
And, on the basis of the testimonies, popular policies are being fashioned and implemented with unparalleled swiftness. All these give hope even as the world is still watching and waiting as to whether this would produce the capitalist revolution, that being what Jigawa and, in fact, Nigeria itself needs.
*Onoja is of Govt. House, Dutse.