By Victor Gai
In the first part of this series, I dwelled on the historical, economic, political and sociological causes of the present condition Nigeria is facing.
The argument was centered on corruption which seems to be the root of all the evils threatening the survival of Nigeria.
There is a correlation between politics, economy, and society, such that the solution to the problems of the society should not be left in the hands of economists alone.
As a matter of fact, it is becoming clear that the economic problem the country is facing now should not be reduced to the dictates of inflation, fiscal and monetary policies and so on.
It may, however, have its roots in the political economy. If that is the case, then we may have, all this while, been living in deception. The so-called economic recession may have been a fallacy after all.
An economic expert speaking on national TV on the concern by Nigerians over the falling value of the Naira wondered what connection the value of naira has on the price of a plate of food in a restaurant.
He did a comparison between the average value of a dollar on the streets of New York and its Naira equivalent in Nigeria. He said a dollar in the streets of New York could not buy for an American what its Naira equivalent can buy for a Nigerian on the streets of Lagos. Therefore, why are Nigerians lamenting on the falling value of Naira?
Although prices of imported goods have risen, prices of locally made goods should remain stable because they are not exposed to the pressures of foreign exchange. Funny enough, even the price of ‘Pure water’ has gone up, and if you ask why they would say it’s because of the fall in the value of the naira.
The consumption pattern of Nigerians is beginning to adjust to the economic realities as Nigerians are beginning to consume local foods like yam, maize, guinea corn, local rice, palm oil, groundnut and so on; foods which were hitherto ignored and which are not affected by the foreign exchange. That is indeed a good omen!
In essence, when we speak of political economy, we are talking about the interplay of economic and political forces in the society. Some experts have said, the idea of the economic meltdown in Nigeria and elsewhere have been exaggerated and that this could be the tactics of rival political forces in discrediting the government in power to score cheap political points.
In Nigeria, the opposition PDP could not make much political capital out of the current economic crunch because it was inherited from the past government and the fact that its house is not to perform that task.
Economists seemed confused on the current problem which is why the masses are suffering. Experts throng private and public televisions to give their perspective on how to surmount the mountain. The current inflation is said to be cost push, meaning little money pursuing goods.
The solution they say was for the government to expand or increase the money supply, free the market and ensure flexibility. The serious inflation we know is plenty money pursuing few goods. But why is Nigeria’s case different?
As we speak now, billions of naira are being owed public servants, contractors, pensioners and so on. There is indeed plenty goods in the market waiting to be bought with Nigerians having to watch in utter despair because they can’t afford them. This is ‘suffering amidst plenty’. It is alien and unorthodox in economic terms.
The wisdom of economists has been rubbished because the solution is not in sight. The problem with economics, however, is that it has several schools of thought, and each school thinks its own is the best towards solving societal, economic problems. With a potpourri of different schools of thought trying to solve a common problem, you can’t avoid the kind of confusion we are having now.
In fact, there is a rumour going on that the President is seeking emergency powers from the National Assembly to enable him to tackle the economic challenges confronting the nation. This means he is trying to free the nation from the grip of experts who in their bid to solve the problem, plunged us into more confusion and misery.
Apart from the economic woes the country is facing, there is the issue of Institutions. The problem here is not that Institutions do not exist, the issue is that they are weak! The reason why they are weak is due to faulty laws or in some instances; these laws are nonexistent. Also, they are weak because we have spent a better period building personalities instead of those Institutions.
Laws are building blocks of Institutions, while Institutions are foundations of the social system or society. We have weak Institutions like- the National Assembly, INEC, Education, Judiciary, political parties and so on.
These are critical Institutions. We were told that it is either these Institutions do not have enough enabling laws or the laws have been warped to serve the interests of certain groups. Perhaps, that is why leadership has failed in solving our political, social and economic problems. It simply did not have the foundation upon which to effect change. It is, therefore, time to go back to the basic foundation of our social organization.
We have to tinker with the laws, fill the vacuum left and innovated new laws. That way, the Institutions would be strengthened to take care of any shocks.
I am an unrepentant advocate of a unicameral legislature at the center. I hold that belief not because I feel bicameralism isn’t beneficial, but because it is impracticable now and counterproductive under the present circumstances. Nigeria, as a copycat society, copied wholesale, the American styled legislature in 1979 when the economy favored that practice. Now, under the present condition of ‘economic recession’, we pretend that there is nothing wrong in having the two arms when ‘25 per cent’ of the budget goes into servicing both Houses.
If Nigeria were to perish as a result of the economic crunch, the current status quo- Senate and House of Representatives, would go down with it because the lawmakers will never amend the laws in order to abolish the Senate, even though they are aware that both Houses play similar roles and sustaining both Houses is unwise and impracticable under the prevailing economic conditions.
Meanwhile, one sociological malaise that has dampened our existence is the issue of a faulty family system supported by rigid and orthodox religious and cultural practices. That brings us to the issue of the Almajiri system. Even though both Christianity and Islam recognize the poor in the society, but such recognition should not be a justification for families to abdicate their responsibilities to the wider society.
The existence of poor people in the Middle East notwithstanding, you don’t see this manner of the societal nuisance there as in northern Nigeria. What then have the religious authorities done in ensuring the right family foundation is established for the poor in northern Nigeria? Unfortunately, their failure is strongly believed to has led to insurgency in the country.
The solution to the Almajiri menace is not in building schools and feeding them as the past and present governments have attempted. This will end in futility if the roots of the problem are not found and addressed. Unfortunately, there is a prevailing norm in northern Nigeria that seems to encourage an inappropriate filial piety, begging, child marriage, and an abnormal resistance to conventional knowledge.
How do you think your child can be pious when you as parent refused to nurture him but abandoned him to ravenous teachers and an unpredictable society?
The burden of these young ones has fallen on government which has to ensure social order out of a maladjusted group of children, and the general society which has to contend with the threat of this group of persons.
The ridiculous population of states like Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and so on, which reflects in the number of local government areas they have and which gives them undue advantage in the sharing formula of the national resources, is characterized by a largely dependent and unproductive persons. Why then won’t the more organized, industrious and endowed southerners feel cheated and clamour for fairness or a break-up?
The political elites in the north have all this while used the population as political and economic advantage to the detriment of the very population. Thank God, the subjugated population is beginning to understand their gimmick, and if care is not taken, there would soon be an uprising that would shake the very foundation of the northern society. Also, these elites have understood the situation and have adopted certain policies that are people oriented and popular.
Back to the issue at stake, it is glaring that government can no longer rely on the variegated perspectives of economic experts in solving the current dilemma. The experts are only interested in ego tripping. Political analysts too are mechanical reporters who are only relevant during elections or serious political controversies.
Instead, government should be focused and consult the Advisory Committee on Corruption and Reforms of the Criminal Justice System led by Professor Its Sagay. Therein lie the wisdom and solution to the complex problems affecting this nation.
When the criminal laws are worked on and our Institutions are reformed, then the stage and enabling environment would have been provided for social, political and economic revival of the nation. After all, corruption has weakened these institutions and the very laws that guide the operation of these institutions have already been compromised.