By Isaac N. Obasi
IT’s madness to say you want to sell NLNG and the refineries. Why not say Nigeria, too, should be sold?…If you want to destroy Nigeria, go and tamper with oil industry; we are finished…No body sells his crown jewel.- Prof. Tam David West (Daily Sun, Friday, September 23, 2016, p.9); & This mentality of sell-the-damn-assets is an evil wind that blows the country no good. If this trend continues, some people may end up offering Nigeria, as a nation for sale some day for a penny. – Onuoha Ukeh (Daily Sun, Friday, September 23, 2016, back page).
One of the sad consequences of the left-wing struggles against military dictatorships in Nigeria, was the fading influence of Marxist-oriented scholarship in our universities. This vanishing influence was one of the outcomes of repressive measures by military regimes against radical scholarship. Before our very eyes, the study of Marxist courses declined with bourgeoisie-oriented courses having ascendancy over them.Prior to this period, a course in radical political economy was any student’s delight as it offered the opportunity to unmask the subtle and hidden ways of how members of the ruling class directly and indirectly influence what choices the government of the day makes.
This influence is all about how to protect their interests particularly in the economy. Public policies exist nearly at the mercy of the ruling class in countries as ours with weak civil society organizations unable to check the excesses of the government.
Political economy generally (whether radical or bourgeois) is a ‘branch of social science that studies the relationships between individuals and society and between markets and the state’ (see D. Balaam & M. Veseth, http://www.britannica.com). Concisely, it is ‘the study of the interrelationships between political and economic processes’ (see http://www.the freedictionary. com).Indeed, the study of how members of the ruling class dominate the society and exploit the masses remains central in the analysis of radical political economy”.
A definition of the ruling class which captures my interest for the purpose of this article sees it as ‘people who directly influence politics, education, and government with the use of wealth or power’, which in Marxian terms is typically seen as the bourgeoisie (See Codevilla Angelo, http://www.en.m.wikipedia.org).
Be that as it may, we can see that the often-repeated view in official quarters that those who looted our economy in the last sixteen years belong to one political party, is only a partial story. The truth is that those who looted our economy were and still are members of the ruling class across regions, ethnicity and religion.
They include politicians (in and out of power) from different political parties, military leaders (serving and retired), civil/public servants in ministries, departments and agencies (serving and retired), powerful industrialists, powerful traditional rulers and religious leaders, and other people out of government who are used as conduit pipes to siphon our public funds. It is important to note that there are always factions among the ruling class, but ultimately they are all united in the oppression and exploitation of the masses.
So it does not matter that they usually disagree in their strategies of how to continue their exploitative tendencies. But a group which is rightly located on the opposing side is the progressive trade union leadership where it genuinely exists.
Given this theoretical background so far, we can properly see the call for the sale of some national assets for what it represents. It is therefore not accidental that the call has originated from one of our most powerful business moguls Alh. Aliko Dangote (who needs no further introduction), with a growing army of supporters in and out of government including The Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II, Senate President Bukola Saraki, former governor of Gombe State, Senator Danjuma Goje among others. As expected, there is a faction of this class opposing this call. People in the group include Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former governor of Benue State Senator George Akume, and some others.
Unfortunately, according to news report, the government of the day through the National Economic Council which met on Thursday, September 22, approved the selling of some national assets (see Daily Trust, Friday September 23, 2016). A compilation by Daniel Adugbo (Daily Trust, Ibid) shows that some national assets with varying levels of government ownership which may be targeted include 4 oil refineries (100%), 22 federal airports (100%), Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) limited (45%), 6 joint ventures (varying degrees of ownership), African Finance Corporation (42.5%), and West African Gas Pipeline (24.5%%).
Every patriotic and progressive government defines what constitutes the ‘commanding heights of its economy’ and goes all out to protect such in the greater interest of its people. One wonders why a government with enormous good will and trust from the masses can contemplate the idea of selling their commonwealth to a rapacious group in the name of getting the country out of recession. Is Nigeria bewitched?
But even if, not all Nigerians are, and many though less powerful can still see and reason clearly. To this group belongs the task of preventing few rich people in our midst and their collaborators in government to smile at us bewitchingly and thereafter impoverish us further. By the way, is there a hidden agenda in this policy direction? Is it another form of ‘indigenization degree’ of the 1970s by which the proposed emergency powers would be used to transfer our assets to a group? The truth is that no amount of money realised from the sales would compensate for the loss of our assets forever.
It is reassuring that loud voices against this policy direction came from the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), and from other patriotic Nigerians including Prof. Tam David West and Onuoha Ukeh quoted at the beginning. But where is ASUU?
Prof. Obasi is of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja ([email protected]).