By Owei Lakemfa
Nigerians need more government intervention, not less. All modern development has been government-driven. Nigerians need their government to regulate and provide for their basic needs, not a deregulated society where greed is hailed as enterprise; the rich get richer and the poor are sentenced to a live of misery.
We used to have a country where the basic duty of government was to provide or strive to deliver the basic needs of the people while allowing the rich to have its expensive life style but not at the expense of the mass.
Nigerians have been badly educated and misled to believe that what they need is less government in their lives; that globalisation means their abandonment to the sharks of the marketplace. Donald Trump is disproving such fake education. Not a few in the world believed that America is the greatest country in the world, but came Trump saying Americans are being impoverished and that they need to take back their lives. So he tells his fellow Americans ‘Make America Great again’ and they agreed with him in their millions, garnering enough votes to send him to the White House. Where exporting jobs, to the Nigerian elite, is an inevitable and inescapable part of globalization, Trump says, America and Americans must come before the exploitative market forces. He says jobs must return to America. And this is not about preachment; it is about actual policy. He tells companies exporting jobs from America, bring them back or be sanctioned. For companies whose pursuit of profit makes them relocate, he says they will be punished as their acts will be an unfriendly act against the United States. If America, the mother of globalisation and prophet of Market Forces protects its national interests against globalisation what excuse has Nigeria, or any African country for that matter?
Modern industrialisation began with the British Industrial Revolution in 1780. It championed the expansion of so called free trade and markets. It overthrew kingdoms and city states across Africa in the name of free trade. For over five hundred years, it championed this ideology across the world and fought for globalization. But when its membership of the European Union meant freedom of labour across Europe and loss of national power of regulation, it decided on Brexit. If our former colonial master which led us on the false path of borderless markets can exit, who are our elites to continue forcing us on that path?
Russia from 1917, protected its own until the Mikhail Gorbachev regime began the unraveling of the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Quickly, the parasites took over the country; privatizing and selling the country to themselves. Russian patriots stepped in to retake their country, seizing some of the assets, jailing some of the emergency billionaires while others sprinted into exile. Today, Russia is stronger, and Russians are more confident, and convinced that their country is there to defend their socio-economic, political, cultural and military interests.
China has made the fastest and most remarkable development in contemporary world history. Within two decades, it moved from being a Third World country to a developed one dictating the pace of global development. The driving force of development in China is not the private sector, trade liberalization or the ideology of the market forces. No! China rose on the basis of its national interests, growing its human capacity and encouraging all-round development. It did this while holding strongly to its socialist ideology, refusing to allow market forces rule the lives of its people and dramatically expanding its social services while countries like Nigeria are shrinking theirs. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other international grave diggers told the Chinese that they cannot develop unless they allowed market forces run their country, remove state regulations, allow trade liberalization, devalue their currency and float their interest rates. The Chinese said ‘NO’. Today, we know the Chinese are right and the grave diggers, wrong.
Nigeria is not learning the right lessons as we abandon our people to the vagaries of market forces; allowing speculators to crash our currency to the dollar from N160 to N490 within 24 months with inflation running at an average 18 percent. Since the early 1980s when our elites, military and civilian, forced us on this disastrous path, we have had the same results of greater misery, underdevelopment and mass poverty. Daily, we are told that we must suffer now to enjoy later. Nothing typifies this falsehood more than the childish nursery rhyme of the Babangida regime at the 1990 Armed Forces Dinner: “future generations will say of you and me that for their tomorrow, we gave our today” The truth is that with the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which included drastic cuts in social spending, massive currency devaluation- from which we have not recovered three decades later – trade liberalization and dislocation of the education system, they mortgaged our future. There is also, the perpetuation of the culture of plagiarism. That theme and quotation of Babangida’s 1990 ‘patriotic ’ speech, was lifted without acknowledgement from The Kohima Epitaph. That is the epitaph to the British troops who lost their lives in the April 4-June 2, 1944 Battle of Kohima against Japanese troops. That epitaph read: “ When You Go home, Tell Them Of Us And say, For Their Tomorrow, We gave Our Today”
The Privatisation Programme which began with the Babangida regime and dramatically expanded under the Obasanjo administration, has been nothing more elegant than organized robbery; the theft of public property by private individuals. This was done under the deceptive claim that ‘Government has no business in business’ I had debunked this bankrupt claim as the Spokesperson of African Workers in my address to the Plenary Of The International Labour Organisation (ILO) 102nd Session, Geneva in June 2013. I had argued that:
“The ILO has to reject the evangelism of the market place in which human beings are objects and mere statistics in the balancing of budgets. Making profit is good, but not at the cost of human lives…Therefore, the hypothesis that the private sector is the engine of development, is false. The financial crises, and the role of the state in bailing out the private sector in countries of the industrialized world has put a lie to the propaganda that government has no business in business. On the contrary, government’s business is business; the business of developing society for the good of all.”
Given its track record of running aground businesses from the airlines to textile, the private sector in Nigeria, is a knocked engine. Where are the business empires built by Da Rocha, Adeola Odutola and Moshood Abiola?
Government should play the central role in governance, not run away from it.