Recent global political events have shown that virtually all countries are either in the process of looking inwards or have already taken a vote in support of nationalism and protectionism as against the globalizing agenda that they hitherto preached. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom that is in the process of taking the UK out of Europe and the recent triumph of Donald Trump in the United States of America all go to show the new direction of economic governance. Of course, economic governance is subservient to the political agenda.
Many may think we have reached rock bottom with a bag of rice being more expensive than the minimum wage. However, we are not yet there and it could actually get worse in the next couple of months or years. But the choice on how bad it will be before we say never again should be the consensus of the majority of Nigeria’s population. The warning however is that going by the trajectory of extant political and economic policies, more hardship and suffering is down the line. However, a new vista is open, new positive opportunities and possibilities await the Nigerian.
What lessons do we draw from this spreading identity and nationalism political developments in stopping the looming economic implosion? These developments rather than being negative for our economic growth and development provide a spur for us to answer critical questions about our nationhood. The first issue is that we must resolve our national question(s) and pull together to move Nigeria in a desired direction that is acceptable to the majority of the population. We must find out the best political arrangements that encourage productivity, innovation and hard work that rewards those who tread the path. Nigeria cannot make progress when there are unresolved political issues such as the one in the Niger Delta. If this resource rich region is on fire as in the present dispensation, we cannot raise the much sought after foreign exchange to begin the economic diversification exercise. And all the political leadership is doing is to talk to largely, the same generation of men and women who contributed in no small measure to the economic despoliation of the region whilst neglecting the younger generation, the victims of years of maladministration.
The looming implosion will be impossible to stop and Nigeria will not make substantial and coordinated economic progress if there is no Nigerian dream which virtually every Nigerian believes in. You must first have a real nation with one great dream before the nation is made economically great. We cannot continue the ostrich denial of the deep divisions and craters and think and believe that papering over it will yield good results. To a great extent, the lack of resolution of the national question is what pollutes the political space and throws up misfits in seats of power. It drives away decent men and women from the murky waters of waters.
If Nigerians can be murdered in their country like (Madam Bridget Agbahime) for belonging to the “wrong religion” and the Attorney General of Kano State declares that there is no case against the murderers and urged the court to discontinue the case, there will be no economic progress. “The legal advice presented to the court, dated June 24, states that there is no case to answer as the suspects are all innocent and orders the court to discharge all the suspects.’’ Yet, a Nigerian may be expendable, murdered without consequences in broad daylight by so called fellow countrymen.
For the future, Nigerians literally need to put on a thinking cap. Nigeria cannot continue to be led by its past in terms of men and women who have passed a certain age threshold and who are no longer in a position to learn and assimilate new knowledge. We can no longer be led by men and women who do not understand the modern age and are impervious to new ways of doing things. Applying the knowledge of the sixties and seventies to the challenges of this age is an exercise in futility and it is bound to fail. We cannot also continue to be led by young men and women who constitute the dregs of our society and who represent the worst in us in terms of moral decadence and bankruptcy and lack of wisdom. We cannot continue to be led by men and women who dislike orderliness, decency and doing things in a systematic and methodological manner. If we are around by 2019, the opportunity for a new beginning presents itself on a platter of gold. The culture of rigorous debates, great intellectual interrogation and vetting should be mainstreamed in our elections.
What is needed on the economic side after resolving the political challenges is an economic plan which addresses the structural issues and binding constraints on economic development and growth. This must be the result of a process of wide ranging consultations led by the brightest of our best men and women of knowledge. It cannot be the result of a few men and women, no matter how knowledgeable they claim to be, locking themselves up in a room and declaring an impossible eureka. For economic planning, we are presented with an opportunity not to be looking over our shoulders on what the great powers will think because they have shown they may not be interested in protecting global trading relations unless it favours their peculiar interests. Not just the overall interest of a group of countries, but Brexit and the triumph of Donald Trump says everyone should answer his father’s name and a new economic global architecture is likely going to emerge.
Practical issues such as building Nigerian infrastructure which is necessary for growth and harnessing the energy of Nigerians in the country and in the diaspora will be relevant in the new dispensation. The diaspora provides a fresh vista of human and material resources that have virtually been disconnected from the fatherland because there is no mobilising mechanism to utilize and harness what they have to offer. Many left Nigeria out of frustration because the system was not working; and looking back, some of them have found that the system has deteriorated beyond the level it was when they left.
Another practical issue is our understanding of resources; we still view resources in the lazy person’s mindset of cheap natural resources or free gifts of nature such as oil. But resources is beyond oil and natural resources, the new critical mindset is one that starts with recognizing that the human resource is the greatest resource of any nation. It will seek to convert the human intelligence into practical mandates that solve human and existential challenges. In essence, science will drive technological innovations, local expertise and technology will be polished and burnished by new knowledge leading to a distinct Nigerian identity of new products and services produced on the basis of new thinking.
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