Last week on this page we commended the president for taking the monumental step of constituting an economic team. Irrespective of issues that may have followed the composition and announcement, it is a good move. It may not have been an idea from the president; that won’t matter because all ideas about governance ought not to come from one person, more so in a democracy. The meat of democracy is mass participation; ingrained inside it all are ideas. It has been said already that ideas rule the world. Many of us writers have told the president this from the time he came to power in 2015 and began showing signs of running as a lone ranger, for that long he ignored every one. The constitution of the economic council confirms he has come to realization and this should be a welcome development.
From the reactions that have greeted the pronouncement, it could be safe to say Nigerians welcome the move. However, there is this other aspect that has to do with suggestions. We understand the council’s chairman is the in-law to the Chief of Staff while the secretary is a relation to the president. If it is true then it raises some concerns as to the seriousness attached to what should be a great move. How much the misinterpretation of motives that could follow filial relations is obviously an issue. If the president, who in this instance is the appointing power, understands this and takes measures to ameliorate it, it would do the work of the council a lot of good.
The other matter that is equally of great importance would be about the president and the question of ideology. The world currently runs on some tested systems and since our president is not a revolutionary he must subscribe to one so that the rest of the citizens and the world can key in and follow effectively. The truth we must tell the president and his handlers is that he is ideologically vague. He, while seeking for power took on the toga of a liberal conservative even though his outburst cast him differently. In power for four years we can tell he is a bad mix of many things: ultra conservatism, theocracy, liberal capitalist, oligarchic and even socialism, of which record different effects and outcomes when applied. So much attention is given to religion and ethnicity. This on its own can subtract from genuine push for quick transformation. When everyone is pissing out and some are forced to piss in, certainly there would be pollution. We have had to deal with this for a long time and in recent days, rather than abet it has gone high. Social tension has been high especially in the last three years.
Also, at more than any other time our country under this regime has pushed the frontiers of capitalism too far and this is regardless if the pillars for progressive exploit of individualism is in place. We proclaim private initiative and in that guise abandon key state responsibilities to the citizens. We increasingly say government has no business being in business; we forget that those who introduced this slogan first built up their countries and still do using the instruments of state. Most of them still run qualitative public schools on a free education policy up to tertiary level. The transport systems are still in the control of various tiers of power; we see these and still listen to the nonsense talk of big government. In our case we don’t only abandon critical tasks meant for government, we divert the subheads and spend on irrelevancies and turn round to cry no money. We have no jobs, no social security, yet we are spending huge sums to prospect for crude in arid areas and to refloat Lake Chad. We don’t give heed to industrialization and other projects that have lives of their own.
We have accelerated on this lane, it is a wrong path and if truth be told it is big challenge that would confront the team of economic advisers recently put in place. The president must be ready to change style to give assurance he will take and implement recommendations that would come from the council of advisers. Can the advisers bring significant change? Physically to an extent but structurally nothing of significance will happen. All of them belong to the World Bank school of thought, from what we have seen in the past they will keep to their safe confines of staying around fiscal and monetary dance and nothing more. They will spend so much time on foreign exchange regime and by the time we know it, Buhari’s tenure has drawn to an end. They may be able to stop arbitrary increase in service charges and make goods available but things will not change substantially because these guys hardly venture into critical issues that matter.
In the western world, economists talk about treasury bills, bonds, stimulating construction, credit facilities, building select areas, tax rebates to develop economy, you the reader should say how many times you hear these from our economist. We suffer today due to inability to develop strategic sectors in spite of heavy spending because our economists and their twin brothers, development experts, have led us to take away development from being people centered to being a physical thing. The consequence is what we suffer.
The idea of a team I already acknowledged last week is great yet am of the thinking that we stood gain more if we also have economists of the leftist bent in the team. We will escape the traps of imperialism except if we look into world economic set up and resolutely chart our model. So long we remain in deadly dance with western economic institutions, so long they will continue to give prescriptions that would not only tie us but continue to send many citizens to untimely death. For a start let us hope the president would listen to the team he himself gathered for his use.