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Monday, November 5, 2012

BUHARI PROGRESSIVE ECONOMIC IDEALS AND NIGERIA’S ELITE


     Buhari political economy that is derived from his believe in the principles of elimination of wastages, economic self determinism, productive investments, equity, and long term savings is indeed very different from what we have today in the Nigerian version of American liberal economic model that failed to learnt from the positive changes that have taken place in America itself in the last hundreds years. But, instead found a perfect partner in our local corruption, tribalism and absence of sympathy for those down the ladder who are in need. If you ask most people in the current government what its economic ideology is only few will give you a ready answer, as majority will be tasking their brains to find an answer. And, the simple answer you will get is economic growth; that this government aims to achieve economic growth so as to enter the league of the biggest economies in the world.  But, how should that economic growth be achieved? Economic growth without development, that champion the pauperization of the majority by the few, that act as a harbinger for the development of cabals who control both political and economic power is not in the long run interest of Nigeria. Neo-liberal models as we have seen in the post communist Eastern Europe can result in economic and welfare complications, destructions of major social fabric of societies, enrichment of few powerful groups by means of sale of government assets and finally hardship at the bottom of the scale. The obsession with the creation of the richest individuals on the continent, its biggest banks, or tallest building should not be the main concern of our policy makers. Like the famous development economist professor Dudley seers has rightly observes, the main questions that should preoccupied the minds of our economic planners should be what has been happening to poverty, inequality, unemployment? When these are reducing we will now talk of economic development. In the case of Nigeria all of these indicators are increasing despite our claim to have achieved more economic growth.
    What differentiate Buhari from most of contemporary Nigerian leaders is that the Nigerian poor sees him as highly committed leader who abhor corruption and injustice, a moral crusader in his own right. In term of commitment to the development and progress of his own dear nation and its people Buhari can be compared to such world leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Moa Zedong, and our own Murtala Mohammed. Like Murtala Ramat Mohammed that came before him, Buhari was kin on removing Nigeria from the clutch of Western debt institutions by his administration regular debt repayments and reduction in our dependence on external finances.  Buhari’s tract record as public servant during his military and post military career show him as efficient administrator who plug all leakages and wasteful expenditures, as well as some body who champion the need to boost the productivity of public employees. Exploitative capitalists and crook business people were brought to order making them to pursue their business interest inline with the national interest. Free enterprises economic system, as we see it in practice in some countries around the world, is a better economic system when compared to either of socialism or communism, as it allow freedom of trade and individual right to own property assets; but as good as it is it need strong government and institutions to function well or else it will result in anarchy and exploitation of the weak by the strong. In a country where corruption, rent seeking and bureaucracy has eaten into the foundational base of the economy, not any kind of government economic machinery can bring the needed scour to relief the nation and it people from the clutch of power hungry cabals. For free and fair competition to find a place in any economic set up you of all things need strong judiciary devoid of partisan politics and corruption, strong central government steered by accountable team, strong property and copy right, effective watch dog to fight against corruption and rent seeking, and easier access to sources of  finance. In a place where the central government still fights to restore peace and stability in unruly parts of the country, investors are not so sure of the security of their lives and properties; much remain to be done to achieve the desire economic change.
  In a recent special report by the London based the Economist, a weekly magazine, on the world economy, Nigeria was placed among the countries of the world that continue to experience increased inequality between the rich and the poor. This is happening despite its high economic growth rate that tends to concentrate wealth in the hand of few. The richest few continue to enjoy the dividend of democracy at the expenses of the majority who are poor; despite the fact that the leader of the current government (President Jonathan) as he widely told his audiences during the last year election campaigns, once moved around without shoes in his youth. Examples of how this regime favour the rich at the expense of the poor abound; the creation of Asset management company (AMCON) by the CBN to help prevent the collapse of the Nigerian financial system end up providing billionaires such as Otedola with highly subsidized loan paid from taxes payers money. All of the beneficiaries of the AMCON bad loan buyout are very rich people at a period when the government is removing subsidies on fuel. Federal government import and export licenses allocations, land distributions, contract allocations, taxes waivers, and employments all favour the rich and other government cronies. Thus, it should not be surprising to any one that the Nigerian elite don’t want changes to the status quo as offered by opposition politicians such as General Muhammadu Buhari. The elite main fear is that under Buhari the political and economic powers they hold for decades will shift ground and move to the poor, a kind of Marxian revolution. But, we all know that this is simply taken things too far, though the poor is expected to benefit from Buhari’s government that does not in any way exclude the rich. The fact that we are operating under democratic system with it inbuilt system of check and balances allays fears of any tectonic changes that should eliminate the Nigerian capitalist class.