In most of the developing world of Africa, Asia, and Latin America it has been the tradition to castigate and condemn economic policy prescriptions coming from the ‘West’ or rather the countries of Western Europe and North America. The reason for this disdain is not farfetched, emerging from the clutch of imperial powers who have colonized them for decades, third world countries professionals and academics became wary of anything ‘West’. This show of disdain reached it peak with the creation of World Bank and IMF who pushed all kind of beggar thy neigbour policies toward these countries as economic prescriptions. One such policy that Nigerian academics always like to refer one back to is structural adjustment program of the 1980s, that imposed harsh economic policies on the country populace. Since that period according to these academics, Nigeria has never been the same again. Cost of goods and services have sky rocketed, Naira value relative to foreign currencies has depreciated, privatized government agencies have failed to take off, poverty has multiplied, major infrastructures have collapsed, and criminal activities have become the order of the day.
In most of the next four decades after the country’s independence, Universities’ Economic departments were not much different from the departments of political science and Sociology who were known for their composition of Marxist academics. Though, there were substantial number who did not subscribed to such world views, but there antagonism towards the Western neoliberal economic policies made them to become silent on the issue of increasing encroachment of Marxism. Just like in other developing countries of the world, their focus was on rapid development of the country by any other means than the draconian IMF World Bank economic prescriptions. Name of radical economists such as Karl Polanyi, Raul Prebisch, Samir Amin, Dani Rodrik, and Torsten Persson, featured frequently in their writings. Central planning, import substitutions and other inward looking economic policies of the past were championed by Nigerian economists of that period. Famous economists such as the late Professor Sam Aluko, Prof. Ibrahim Ayagi, etc., despite their trainings in Western Europe and United States did not support the increasing encroachment of neo-liberalism into government economic policy making. What happened during the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida is another point of reference, IBB had to literarily and physical fight the Nigerian academia opposition to his economic policies. To implement his failed structural adjustment program (SAP), IBB resorted to using professional economists, who were outside of Nigerian universities, for support and necessary input - people like Olu Falae.
With the return to democracy in 1999, Obasanjo resorted to the same class of Nigerian economists and professionals for economic policy making input. His minister of finance was Adamu Ciroma, an old school administrator cum economist, Prof. Ibrahim Ayagi, another conservative academic economist, as national economic adviser, and the Central Bank governor in his first tenure was Joseph Sanusi, another old school conservative. In his second tenure (2003 – 2007) he brought on board a new group of technocratic economists, most of them of the World Bank IMF School. They include Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of the World Bank as finance minister, Charles Soludo, a neo liberal economist, as national economic adviser later Central Bank Governor, and Obiageli Ezekwesili of the World Bank as education minister. Despite this apparent change of guard there was no substantial change in the general level of poverty in the land, death of infrastructures, or absence of industries needed for the creation of jobs; the mother of all problems in the nation, corruption was never tackled and eliminated. As at today, the same neo-liberal economic policies that Nigeria’s academics fought against in the 1980s are relentlessly been implemented in all sectors of the economy with little or no serious opposition from the country’s ivory tower; this may not be unrelated to the widespread invasion of these economic ideas of the global economic scene. I will, therefore, conclude by asking, ‘do globalisation finally concurred Nigerian Universities or is it our Universities are weaker than where they were in the 1970s and 1980s? Someone (desirably, bespectacled) should please provide an answer here!