PMB’s ‘dream team’ must avoid magical formula
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible”…………………T.E. Lawrence
We dreamt of change, and had the courage to get up and act on that dream, and successfully kicked out a party and the regime it imposed on us. But what did we really midwife, and how would President Muhammadu Buhari and his party help us bring about this dream of a changed, democratic and prosperous nation we so badly desire?
True, democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people” but we “the people” are not all going to be out there “governing”.
This is the job of elected and appointed “representatives” who we hope to hold accountable. Irrespective of who is the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, Governor or Minister –or even the President-if we simply look on and watch them, they will become dictatorial, and possibly corrupt as well.
The two most common lapses of Nigerians are the worship of “big men”, and the awe we hold these “supermen” (and “women too”, as the UBA added in an afterthought to its memorable advert, which it has now rested).
PMB has presented those he would work with to actualise our dreams. Whether they are the right choices or not, they are here and we better learn to work with what we have. To my mind they seem mostly capable, and some are clearly up to the task. But we must learn to look them straight in the face and tell them our minds, and correct them where they go wrong. More important, we must start to question them, especially regarding their ideological baggage. Very often our leader do not think things through, believing they have all the solutions which they often enough reduce to simplistic, poorly conceived projects and programmes. The abandonment of “national planning” or any real strategic policy thinking or framework means we will soon have a barrage of “new” policies and programmes, based on second-hand and poorly articulated thinking and ideological fixations. These we must stand up to. In a November 14, 2014 paper for the US think tank, Carnegie, Diane de Gramont urged us to move beyond a search for single-focus “magic bullet” solutions for developmental and governance reforms, towards an integrated approach that recognizes multiple interrelated drivers of governance change. This is very critical for us as we await President Muhammadu Buhari and APCs Blueprint for concretising the “Change” they promised. Some may argue that it is only Buhari that knows which way he and his inner circle are really taking us, but that is unfair and defeatist because Buhari never said he was going to implement his own personal agenda and so we must hold him and the party, APC (as amorphous as it is), equally and jointly responsible for what is attempted, just as we ourselves must continue to push our ideas and proposals for reforms. And we must force them to listen.
Much as the going-ons in the National Assembly, and the composition of the team may both not inspire some, yet it would help to give them the benefit of our doubts; for, among “the good, the doubtful and the unknowns” in the legislature and the cabinet, there are many that stand out. We should help all we can but demand also that they set up listening channels.
The real problem, however, is that there are too many of them who are typical Nigerians, believers in a single “magic bullet” or two, which they strongly believe can solve all our problems. Unfortunately there are no magic bullets in economics, though that has not stop people from searching.
Some will tell you that all we need to do is to “diversify” the economy.
Oil is running out or its price is collapsing they insist. Maybe so, but seeking for a replacement for oil is myopic. Oil revenue may accrue to governments, but very often these proceeds are wasted, and in any case they tend to benefit only a few. Finding more oil and gas may be important but that would hardly change the fundamentals of a dependent rentier economy.
New minerals may bring in additional foreign exchange but would still employ only a couple of thousands, maybe slightly more. However we would still remain dependent on what others wish to buy at prices we cannot control. Mining is no magic bullet. Others would tell you we need to “go back” to agriculture and the days of groundnut pyramids. Again, the focus is external trade and the assumption is stable prices. We cannot guarantee either. Agriculture in the long run would employ less and less people as it get more mechanised and more commercialised, unless specific steps are taken.
In any case, without linkages with industry we may end up getting people to produce more without markets or at much lower prices. If Nigeria, Ghana and other significant produces simultaneously increase their production of cocoa prices may actually fall by more than 50 percent, if demand remains static, the so called “fallacy of composition” argument. Taken in isolation such total focus on mining, agriculture or, as others are suggesting, tourism, ICT, shipping, services or whatever, are all magic bullets and cannot work in isolation. Nor would electricity or cheap loans work on their own, without other changes in the economy. The economy is a system, not a stand-alone object. The structure of demand, the system of rewards and punishment, the capacity of governance and the regulatory environment all must work consistently, and in tandem, with the required level of technical and managerial training and research, to usher in the type of economy our society requires.
Therefore, more important than all the focus on how many cousins and cronies of big shots are in Buhari’s cabinet is the question of planning the “change” and the capacity to deliver that change.
Which takes us to the other types of “magic bullets”, at a slightly higher level of abstraction: the more systemic ones, namely “privatisation” and “deregulation”. They arise often from the World Bank and IMF inspired preoccupation with less government and more profits for the rich, who, in turn, would reinvest in the economy and create more jobs and society would then benefit from the “trickle-down” to the masses. These too are just ideological baggage that may or may not work depending on the overall context, the cohesion and consistency of the reform agenda.
Diane de Gramont’s research, (summarised in her *“Beyond MagicBullets in Governance Reform”*) brought out the critical significance and interdependence of political commitment, bureaucratic capacity and effectiveness, and state-society relations and political participation in reforms. Others can add here that without a “big picture” (clear mental map of where we are, where we wish to go and how to get there), even if we have the funds, the natural resources, and the “educated” human resources, we will end up running helter-skelter, running up and down, and not going anywhere.
In one sentence: we are waiting for Buhari to reintroduce serious national planning, or insist that he does so. Otherwise all we end up with is the supremacy of spending without any direction. This was what obtained when our future direction was put under the Ministry of Finance. At that time, projects and programmes were decided solely by proximity to the “madams”, or to “Oga at the Top”. Now we demand clearer directions. There are no simple solutions; just solid planning, coordination and hard work. Barcelona will appeal the red card shown to Javier Mascherano in Sunday’s La Liga game against Eibar for verbally abusing a referee’s assistant, the Spanish and European champions said on Monday.
Mascherano was dismissed in the 83rd minute of the 3-1 victory at the Nou Camp and the Argentina international, who mainly plays as a centreback but can also operate in midfield, could face a ban of up to four matches if the appeal is unsuccessful.
That would mean he will be unavailable for some key games in Spain’s top flight, including the first of the season’s two ‘Clasicos’, to be played at Real Madrid on November 21, and the match at home to Villarreal on November 8.