Monday comment1

Charles Onunaiju writes that President Buhari must go beyond rhetoric and initiate issues of economic recovery

Despite the persistent claims of a divided country tottering on the brink and whose only balm of restoration lay in political restructuring and other similar geopolitical reconfiguration, the future to the actual healing of the simmering cracks is in economic revitalization. The politics of economy which simply revolves around desperate contestations for shrinking resources is at the heart of the call for equity and fairness in a sharing formula, the key motive in the call for restructuring and the so- called fiscal federalism. However, a puritan federal structure or what some have called true federalism with enormously substantive regional autonomy, the resources constraints of untapped productive forces will force a new category of sub ethnic agitators to rise in demand of another political formula that would seemingly guarantee them fairness, equity and justice in allocations. The politics of economics follows a hollow logic of definitive social satisfaction when in actuality human needs grow with the exposure to new conditions and infinitely to higher forms. On the other hand, the economics of politics searches for the best organizational method to generate and create values and the attendant mechanism for allocation, with emphasis on triggering consistent value creation and multiplication. The economics of politics is the ultimate exercise of human’s organizational faculty through the in-depth invocation of ideas to generate a social formula for the purpose of maximally unleashing the productive forces, to consistently unlock wealth avenues in the service of human wants. To come to terms with the challenges of navigating the vital trajectories of the economics of politics, a reality check of seeking truth from facts and taking practice as the criteria for truth is imperative.

Recently, the government hosted a policy dialogue in line with the priority of President Buhari to revitalize the economy through diversification and creating the enabling infrastructure framework to drive the process. But Nigeria’s histories of policy dialogue are uniquely riddled with the heinous deficit of the grasp of the existential social reality and our particular national condition. Because the reality of our unique national conditions are less intensely studied because there are no adequate facts about its reality on the table, policy dialogues generally recline to technical workshops with the consequence that abstract jargon that are incompatible with our reality and incapable of driving a meaningful road map to economic recovery is the usual outcome.

President Buhari expressed a seemingly indomitable will to deliver economic revival and transformation. Even the worthy aspiration to deliver 100 million Nigerians out poverty in 10 years is welcome and admired. But only patriotic goodwill and intention cannot on its own foster an economic transformation.

The challenges of Nigeria’s current economic condition are to understand the depth of its structural dis-articulation and how this fundamental disconnection has historically distorted its evolutionary trajectories.

For many years and under different regimes or administrations the mantra of diversification has been the standard economic jingle. If President Buhari does not want the jingle to ring hollow as it has always done, some key initiatives and measures are absolutely necessary. Except for oil reserves, there is no authoritative economic map of Nigeria’s resource endowment by regions, states and even local councils. To generate accurate data about resource reserves and deposits in various states of the country will offer the first realistic approach to economic planning, especially if the argument for industrialization is to be taken seriously.

The resource endowment is not in this sense, restricted to minerals but a comprehensive account of proven, untapped and potential resources of all the nations’ wealth including material and human. The factor of critical infrastructure, currently a key priority for the current administration, would suffer from under-utilization if the totality of Nigeria’s economic chain is not actuated through unleashing and unfettering the productive forces at all levels and allowing them to interact in meaningful production relations.

Putting in place and enhancing the critical national economic fundamentals would support the optimization of regional and global aggregates in contributing to sustainable and inclusive national growth and development. Market economy is essentially propelled by its own internal dynamics and logic but the conditions for this to happen are created through deliberate choices made through acute interrogations of one’s own realities and the outcomes reached from it. Even the barest and modest progress to set out Nigeria’s economy on the trajectory of self-sustaining dynamics has been hobbled by inefficiency through elaborate distortions by vested interests, institutional malady and state weakness. Whether a democratic state or an authoritarian one, if the state is unable, unwilling or both to enforce its rules and hold the ring for rule-based participation of all categories of actors in the economy, the chaos of the economic arena would foster a general decline in economy, with the consequence for increased poverty and deepening inequality.

President Buhari in the final term of his tenure of office would certainly want his legacy to consist in successfully re-setting the Nigeria’s economy to sustainable and inclusive growth. But the challenge of doing so goes beyond the sheer goodwill and even the strong will to stay the course. Strong political will can be helpful if matched by a profound and unique insight into the existential contradictions and innovative acumen to marshal policy framework in sync with the observed lapses and anticipated results.

If President Buhari does not want to be remembered as the man who only genuinely dared, but as one who enabled the mechanisms for addressing the numerous challenges of Nigeria’s economy, he must move beyond the orthodoxy of recurring rhetoric and initiate the basic rudiments for economic recovery.

Mr. Onunaiju is research director, Centre for China Studies, Utako, Abuja