Challenge of Rebuilding Nigeria’s Economy (Part II)

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TELL Cover Page

The Buhari administration cannot, within four years, reverse the structure of the economy that has failed, since 1960, to provide the basic amenities of life to some 90 per cent of Nigerians. But his administration can lay a solid foundation for a better Nigeria. In 1960 and in the years before the incursion of the military into governance, the Nigerian economy was on a positive trajectory. During that period, citizens living in the cities of Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Kano, Jos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, among others, could boast of having water, electric power, a qualitative public school system, a qualitative medical care, food and employment. Even the local government administration functioned properly. Most of today’s Nigerian technocrats, of ages 50 and above, were produced by schools in the villages, public schools in the cities and a few faith-based institutions. The medical centers had qualitative health delivery services. Regarding infrastructure, the railway system linked major cities in the country and were efficiently managed.

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The then existing regional governments were competitive and contributed to the sustenance of government at the center.  Agriculture though peasantry was the mainstay of the economy.  The then technocrats utilized the existing commodity/marketing boards to guarantee profit to the farmers as well as enough crops for domestic consumption and export.  Agriculture which is a renewable resource was the mainstay of the economy. The 3 year civil war economy was even better managed than when the economy was at peace.  There is no question that the various Military regimes must accept blame for ruining the Nigerian economy.  The military dictators not only introduced the command system but were also not benevolent.  Their interest for the most part was to loot the treasury.  Here, I exempt to some extent, the regimes of GGeneral owon, Murtala Mohammed as well as that of General Buhari/Idiagbon.

The return of civilian rule in 1999 brought some relief to most Nigerians. The expectations was that given the enormous human, material and natural resources, the ‘new democrats’ (armed with the history of the country) would at least put the country on the path of sustained growth and development. Sixteen years after, the  progress in the economy has been nominal – 20 per cent of Nigerians benefit from the country’s resources.  The provision of basic amenities remains illusive.  The so-called middle class remains such a class within Nigeria’s context and space.  The  middle class (whether emerging or not) must provide his own water (borehole), security, health facilities, private schools for his children/ward ( or send them to Ghana, at least), electricity (generators), provide for a long-list of hang-ons (some graduated in our first generation universities in the last 8 years but without jobs). The very rich Nigerians are in a special class. They ‘make’ their money in Nigeria but sleep and spent in the cities of Advanced economies.  The poor Nigerians are only statistically relevant and are only remembered during political campaigns.  The poor are used as guinea-pigs for further accumulation by the rich.

President Buhari’s administration can only reverse the fast declining trend in Nigeria’s political and socio-economic life through a radical systemic change.  The country has tried to build ‘market’ capitalism for 55 years and it has not worked in the sense that there is no sizeable middle class to act as a buffer between the rich and the poor. The political class is only interested in further intense primitive capitalist accumulation.  President Buhari is in a tight robe.  His party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) is a social democratic party…

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