By Kunle Oyatomi
Last weekend, the immediate past Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor ChukwumaÂ Soludo made curious news when his statements at a lecture in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka were published.
He was reported to have called for fundamental changes in the structure of the polity, if this country is to develop at all. In effect, he called for scrapping the hyper-expensive presidential system, a reduction in the number and size of the nationâ€™s parliaments, a return to the regional structure, which invariably will result in the scrapping of the 36 states and the 774 local governments that have become a horrific burden to the nationâ€™s economy.
But to cap it all, Soludo was reported to have described 50 years of Nigeriaâ€™s independence as a â€œclassical case of squandered opportunities. â€The mercurial professor of macro-economics said in addition that there was nothing to show for the over $400 billion oil money that Nigeria has earned since the substance was discovered in the country. If this was not a curse to the people and the country, what is it?
The shock here is not what Soludo had to say, but at what point he actually converted into those ideas. Could he have known that much when he was a key player in the coven of power as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, or he only recently developed them after his defeat at the Anambra State governorship election that left him sidelined in the power equation of his state, and the national politics of his party, the PDP?
To say the least, this transmutation of Professor Soludo from an active participant in the Nigerian Presidential system, to a strident critic of virtually everything that the same system has wrought on this country is a curious volte-face, even if auspicious. What I cannot determine is the extent to which the failure to clinch the Anambra State governorship might have been responsible for this change.
But giving the quality of mind of the professor it is least probable that he was ignorant of the facts that the presidential system we run is unsustainable. Yet for the length of his eventful tenure as Governor of the Central Bank, he looked the other way and kept quiet while the system drained the nationâ€™s economy under his watch!!
I believe that the ebullient professor knew all along that the 36 states and 774 local government structure were not the best for the country. But the glamour of his job, and perhaps the razz-ma-tazz associated with the power that went with it were too tempting for our friend to indulge in the kind of criticism of the system, which would have put his job at risk!!
Also, I like to believe that if the prof. had won the Anambra governorship election a couple of months back, he most probably would have had no cause to call for the scrapping of the 36 state structure of the federation just yet. But you never know; only Soludo can tell accurately.
However, it leaves a lot of us wondering if anger borne of dissatisfaction isnâ€™t at the base of it all. The fact remains though that his disposition is archetypal of the elite in government and those in the corridors of power.
Most of them are aware that the Nigerian polity as currently structured is terminally defective and totally unsustainable, given theÂ mono-product (oil) economy on which the existence of the country depends. But because they benefit hugely from this defective system and polity, they pretend that the system can and is working whilst they remain in power.
It is, for them, only when they leave power, or power slips off their grip that a â€œnew dawnâ€ begins. Such is the atmosphere as we could have a Soludo profess that the 2010 vision is a bad dream that may not be feasible; that it will take Nigeria 42 years (at our current rate of development) to catch up with the present per capita income of South Africa.
Notwithstanding that this knowledge is not new to Soludo, itâ€™s release now still serves a useful purpose especially for those in power who know the truth but live the lie. They have no place to hide anymore. One of their kind (perhaps until recently) has told them the truth that is increasingly impossible to cover-up.
Yes, Soludo was right; but these same demands had been explicitly articulated for a while now by Elder Statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro and his associates. They had canvassed a return to the parliamentary system (which is virtually what Soludo is also advocating), and a regional structure similar to what we had at independence.
Under such a system the 36 states and 774 local government arrangement wouldÂ necessarily collapse. Soludoâ€™s additional details for restructuring the polity are therefore welcome.
Warnings over Nigeriaâ€™s future are becoming more serious by the day, and Soludoâ€™s bit of it is scary enough to jolt any reasonable person in power and government, and cause a rethink. Our options are getting fewer by the day.
If we refuse to change, if we continue on this template of squandermania, and stick to this structurally defective polity, most of those in power today may have no reason to celebrate the consequences of those negativities which we a piling up on the country.
The omens are bad. The way forward is clear, but the choice of which way to go is ours. Thatâ€™s the long and short of Soludoâ€™s message. We will ignore his advise at our collective peril.