PMB’s ‘dream team’ must avoid mag­i­cal for­mula

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

“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.

Javier Mascher­ano

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