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Politics and economics in immature society

There is one thing many Nigerians agree upon without any dissent either in thought or action: that is that the country does not deserve the lowly place it is in today in view of its natural blessings.  God has provided Nigerians with a fertile land and the people, with abundant raw talents to be developed at will.

Many analysts often argue that there is little difference between a developing nation and a developed one.  It all depends on the ability of one nation to master and control its environment by developing it to the best of its ability.  The other nation is rooted to its environment, glorifying its inconsistencies and praying for its amelioration.

Thus the basic difference between the English person and his Nigerian counterpart is that while the English could master the dreary winter months by the provision of adequate mechanism, the Nigerian counterpart is yet to wake up in the morning from where the night has unfortunately left him. There is not always the supply of enough power to wake him from slumber.

The glorious sunshine in the Nigerian mind-set does not provoke a serious thought on the use of solar power for economic projects.  Rather, there is that belief that the country‘s power problem could only be solved by attracting foreign loans, though cheap by local standard, but payable at the end of the period.  The reasonable argument that all local sources, including abundant coal, should be adequately exploited might not appear to a non-innovative mind.

The Nigerian Railway engines of those trying years were powered adequately from Enugu coal mines would make little or no difference to a nation that is flowing with black gold (crude oil).  Even if pieces of economic history relate joyfully to the development of Japan and other nations (which had no oil) to the use of local materials, the pundits are not always impressed.

At the point of being misunderstood, I am not against the concept of foreign loan to develop local projects where domestic capital is not available.  In an atmosphere where saving is inadequate and the available domestic capital is subject to conflicting demands, the availability of foreign capital would be a welcome relief.  However, it is the direction of foreign loan (howbeit cheap) and its application that matters most.

It is essential that loans or foreign investments should go to new projects that would impact positively on the economic transformation of the country.  The preference would be for Chinese loans (preferably investments) to be directed into new and fastly growing electronic and plastic industries.   The idea of attracting Chinese loans into airports‘ modernization does not make much economic sense.

Perhaps, the proponents of Chinese loans often forget the timely warning of the Central Bank Governor that the Chinese, like other past colonialists would prefer to import our raw materials and exchange them for manufactured goods for our markets.  At the moment, Chinese goods have so dominated the local markets that there is hardly any Nigerian home that Chinese products are not found.  Thus, Chinese aggression does not leave room for the growth of domestic manufacturing industry.  It is remarkable that our hard-working Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance Minister touched on this aspect during President Jonathan’s recent visit to China.

There is a big problem with how the economy is run in many immature states.  First, the abundant minerals are inadequately developed; revenues from the developed sectors are often wasted or grossly mismanaged.  In Nigeria, observers believe that the handling of the oil industry does not exhibit a sense of maturity.  Here is a country which is one of the biggest oil and gas producers in the world, but satisfied with exporting a part of its crude oil to import refined oil because its domestic refineries are inadequate.

At home, its production is often at the mercy of oil thieves, illegal bunkers and pipe-line vandals.   The pity is that production is depleted by about 400,000 barrels per day and the revenue, (which is about 80 per cent of disposable income of all tiers of government), is in jeopardy.  It looks as if the local ghosts could easily determine that what is in the “pipe-line” is MONEY.

Politics
The other day, Port Harcourt (the garden city of the colonial era) witnessed political insanity reminiscent of the “wild wild West” of the 1960s when some legislators (devils) turned the Western House of Assembly into a war zone.

The head of a legislator (Hon Kessington Momoh) was used as a test for the durability and the effectiveness of the Mace.  Although Kessington Momoh`s head was `bloodied`; yet it remained `unbowed`.

The victim later became a Judge and his sound judgments in the courts over which he presided were testimonies that his brain was not damaged.  By fate, the victim of the Rivers House of Assembly’s ugly scene might one day become the governor or the Head of State.  Who knows?

In a mature State, the number 16 would not be construed to be greater than 19 or that five legislators mathematically be equivalent to two-thirds of thirty.

It is recognized that the bounty of Democracy is the ability to discuss, argue and come to a compromise with the majority having its way and the minority having its say.  That would amount to good governance between the government and the responsible opposition.  It is the same rule that should bind members within the same political party whether ruling or in opposition.

Some writers have blamed the Rivers State Governor for bringing woes on him by disagreeing with his party and expecting sympathy.

It is only in a primitive atmosphere that a leader becomes sacrosanct and could not be challenged; in principle, any leader could be challenged without molestation in any form.

In Britain, Harold Wilson once challenged his party leader, Gaitskell on party leadership election; Mrs. Margaret Thatcher a Minister of Education once defeated her leader (Prime Minister) in the Conservative party caucus election.  Both Harold Wilson (Labor) and Margaret Thatcher (Tory) became successful Prime Ministers later.

At present, politics is controlled by ethnic and religious considerations while party- politics is rooted in favoritism and “winner takes all” attitude.   Economics, in-spite of array of brilliant economists is yet to put off the toga of (classism) of the 1920s and 1930s.

Sweden exported its only products (Lumbers) and imported western technology for its economic development.  Nigeria however exports her crude to import luxury products like second-hand cars and jeeps, with our tyre manufacturing and battery plants virtually closed.


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