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How to reform the govt (2)

By John Amoda

COLONIAL governments determined the security and orderly governance of colonial societies. From this structure of the provinces of the British Empire arises the statecraft challenges of the post-colonial society of independence Nigeria.

The first challenge is that presented by the fact that the colony was instituted to produce what the metropole would have had to obtain in comparative advantage markets. The colonial production was organised solely for export. Colonial commodity production was not market but state determined.

The colonial producers did not choose what they produced and the buyer of their products. So one can distinguish between comparative advantage production and colonial statist production. Claude Ake describes how the Gold Coast came to be producers of cocoa:

“When the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was colonised, it did not farm cocoa. The colonial government decided that the country would be suitable ground for farming cocoa and duly introduced the crop. In 1865 the country started exporting cocoa and by 1901 it was the leading producer of the commodity in the world.

It quickly became a mono-cultural cocoa economy; by 1939 cocoa accounted for 80 per cent of the value of its exports. In Kenya, the Coffee Plantation Registration Ordinance of 1918 forbade the growing of coffee, the country’s most profitable commodity by Africans” (Claude Ake, Democracy and Development in Africa Ibid P.2).

Mahmood Mamdani helps to clarify the distinction made between comparative advantage production and colonial-coerced or decreed production in the following:

“The production of coffee in Uganda was not a response to the needs of the domestic economy nor a response to a demand from the world capitalist market, but a response to demand from a section of that market; The British Empire.

It was not in the least “natural” that Uganda be a cotton- or a coffee growing area. So far as “comparative advantage” was concerned, early British travellers to Uganda had emphasised the excellent opportunities for expanding already existing industries: Dairy farming, basket weaving, making bark cloth, fishing, etc. None of these, however, was encouraged by the Protectorate Government.

A neo-colony may respond to demand from the world capitalist market; a colony, however, acts in response to demand from the metropolitan market, its metropolitan market. The fact was that the production of coffee, like that of cotton, was in response to the political need of the metropolitan power and was undertaken only as a result of the colonial relation; it signified the subservience of production in Uganda to the accumulation needs of the British colony” (Mahmood Mamdani Politics and Class Foundation in Uganda Ibid p.48).

From this economic structuring of the colony as a sector of the metropolitan economy arises the challenge of the economic reform of the society that addresses the needs of the Nigerian citizenry. Professor John Kenneth Galbraith shows what economies do in consolidating the legitimacy of the order of society:

“The purpose of an economic system would seem, at first glance, to be reasonably evident, and it is commonly so regarded. Its purpose is to provide the goods and render the services that people want. In the absence of such a system- one that grows food, processes, packages, and distributes it, manufactures cloth and makes clothing, constructs houses, furnishes them, supplies educational and medical services, provides law and order, arranges the common defence- life would be difficult.  Thus the function. The best economy is the one that supplies the most of what people most want”(John Kenneth Galbraith- Economics and the Public Purpose Penguin Books 1973 p.19).

In this felicitous definition of the purpose of economy, the function of the system in the legitimation of the state, government and governance is identified. The colonial economy produced the most of what the metropolitan authorities most wanted produced. The post-colonial economy must produce the most of what Nigerians most want produced. By the same logic the best government is the one that addresses the most of what citizens most want. The government in place was structured to address the interests of what the colonial authorities most wanted attended to. The government for post- colonial Nigeria must supply the most of what Nigerians most want.

The beginning of reform must be with ascertaining what Nigerians most want and effecting the reform of government so that it supplies the most of what Nigerians most want. Such a reform will be the best reform initiative for the post-colonial election parties. We can see that such reform agenda contextualizes the reform of Nigeria’s governance statecraft as the want of Nigerian citizenry replaces the wants of the colonial metropolitan government.

When the Nigerian economy supplies the most of what Nigerians most want, the leadership that institutes such an economy functions as the agency of the Nigerian democratic republic. All post-colonial reforms have this as their public purpose and are indeed the dividends of democracy expressed in the Nigerian parlance.


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