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Is patriotism a bull market? (1)

Atedo Peterside is easily one of the golden boys of Nigeria Plc. Of this generation, he is one of the half a dozen or so businessmen whom we will rank above all others. Peterside may not be as rich or famous as Aliko Dangote. Yet, we can assure that no Nigerian tycoon beats him to taking the eagle feather. The point is popularity is often not substantiality.

Anyway, Peterside is rich enough to be one of the Broad Street ‘‘big boys’’. However, his contributions are not just monetary. They are more of the kind that are germinal to building institutions out of the chaos of markets places. To illustrate, we tell a real life story.

In the days of Professor Chukwuma Soludo, as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, something significant happened. The CBN decreed that banking corporations must scale up their investors’ equity by some quantum sum. At that time, we were marginal subcontractors to the banking industry. And we were thus privy to bankers’ gist. One of the most enthralling was this. International financial brands were shopping for opportunities to buy into the Nigerian banking system. It was apparently a win-win game for both local banks and offshore interests. The local boys will meet their new regulatory capital base, and the foreigners would have a stake in a booming financial services industry. Peterside, who, by the way, was ‘‘Ivy League’’ educated, was then running a successful boutique bank, IBTC.

To get a leg in foreign banks required due diligences. One South African big money shop sent her forward team of experts. And one of the scouts confessed that of all Nigerian banks that they examined, only IBTC met the minimum standards for transparency of records and disclosures. That is, there were no significant mysteries to how IBTC [and Peterside] was making its money. That is while Peterside was not in the league of the richest bankers, he ran the best benchmarked Nigerian shop. And we were so proud of him and his bank. His riches it appears are what the Yoruba call owo tutu – honest cool wealth.

And, since then, we have tried to read up anything he writes, in fact, to revere him. So, you can imagine our shock when we read a statement attributed to him.

A This Day report quotes him thus: “While calling for an open mind on the issue, Peterside, who punctuated every point with “because I love my country,” noted that less than 25 per cent of the nation’s 36 states were economically viable.” Emefiele: CBN’s Policies in Best Interest of Nigerians At This Time January 20, 2017 This day.

A patriotic, a country loving economist? That is a contradiction in terms, in fact, a self-cancelling proposition. Adequate for our purpose, economics may be defined as the study of the rule and role of market forces in the affairs of man. Implied in this is that there are market forces and that these forces need not take instructions from presidents or other municipal agents. And, lest we forget, market forces won’t also take diktats from economists, rogue economists, who may be country-loving partisans. This was the lesson that China under Deng Xiaoping learnt. And the game was that China was ‘squeezed’ to open up at great nationalistic cost to itself. The logic of opening up China was not patriotic. It was economic. It was what was [economically] decreed if the Chinese people were to prosper under the sovereign powers of market forces. It was similar to the Chinese humility in adopting the invention of the Nazi genius, Fritz Haber, to be able to feed her billions. Anyway, the last time Russia took patriotism to business, agricultural business [via genetics], Russian agriculture collapsed and hunger finished the living.

In a pithy way, it is said that the bond market [economics] is its own sovereignty. That is, economic forces act independent of municipal delusions or wishes. And there is no way you can sustainably or profitably control economic forces by being a patriot, by love of country. So, to achieve economic prosperity, you don’t start with loving a country. You start and end with negotiating with the forces, the economic forces at work and play. [While we were traders at Onitsha, it is well to recall, there was a popular transactional saying: ife afia kwulu. The translation will be: The decrees of the market forces must be obeyed or you are finished. Apparently, the traders were more sophisticated than their book knowledge or lack, suggests]. Thus the true scholar, should be first and foremost a citizen of his imagine-nations and if he is an economist of ife afia kwulu. That is his first and supreme loyalty. Next, whatever municipality he finds himself, his greatest task is to pay up his taxes and avoid Boko Haram. Scholars canvass what is rational, not patriotic.

And this is related to why it is considered unethical and finally disastrous for a surgeon to operate on a near-relation, say a wife. His love for a near-relative patient, will get in the way of his scalpels. And next in love with his patient rather than the rational, the surgeon will sever the artery he is to suture.

And if one cared to check on our history, the following may be self-evident. Nigeria has been mortally ruined by damnable if not plain blockheaded patriotisms, especially of self-deluded messiah-soldiers, abandoning barracks for things that are higher than their khaki destinies. Apparently, they forgot that khaki no be leather. And this is a matter King David warned against in Psalm 131, hundreds of years ago.

By the way, it is instructive that as we write, Mark Carney, the Governor, Bank of England, is actually a Canadian citizen. So, how another-country loving, can a Canadian be in paid [British] employment? Out there in the West, patriotism is now left to those who don’t have the brains to be scholars or in any honest employment, not excluding driving Keke Marwa. Ironically, not a small number of these brain-dead hustlers end up as brilliant politicians, senators, governors, godogodos, presidents and such likes. Perhaps, this is a compensatory tool of nature not to exclude the many, too many from making history. But to be a scholar, you are never called to be a patriotic, sissy or country [music or geography] lover. And this is a matter that is as ancient as Adam Smith.

By the way, nothing in this essay should be read as a defence of Godwin Emefiele, who was spatting with Peterside on love of country. With the naira becoming as valuable as used up sanitary pads, it is clear Emefiele is part of what ails us. But because of the lengthening queues of unemployment, it will be unkind to call for his immediate sack. Already, Nigeria, by one account, has about nine million unemployed graduates. Would Emefiele not add to the numbers if he is sacked? Ahiazuwa.

Congrats Chief Nnia Nwodo

Let us start by congratulating Chief Nnia Nwodo on his election as President General of the Ohanaeze. It is clear that the Igbo are in such existential threat for being Nigerians that it is moral to want to give up on Egypt and leave for a higher Jerusalem. But it is sometimes better to hesitate, and give Saul a chance to clean up his odorous armpit and turn up Paul. And of what we hear of Nwodo, he is such a man that is needed at this hour. He has, we are told, a genius for all-inclusive conciliation.

To help in realising his job, we will hazard without invitation to give him pieces of advice. The first is that his job must largely confine him to the South East, his jurisdiction. The idea of Ohanaeze leaders junketing, not to speak of holing up in Abuja and Lagos should be abolished if it ever happened. To do so is to suggest the Ohanaeze dudes are hustlers, trading for both profit and power. We have asked and were told Nwodo is a municipal and not just tax resident of Enugu. That is good news and a place to start.

If he starts well and it can be seen that Ohanaeze is not used for electoral popularity or the bidding for oil blocs or GSM licences, we would champion a situation where Ohanaeze will be superbly funded by our private donations, as the Jews have done. And this is besides whatever other sources of income they already have. But first, Ohanaeze, led by Nwodo, must make the first sacrifices.

The other point is that when we read the reportage on his first press outing, we were a little troubled. The choice of words was in some error. Nwodo is reported to have spoken of President Buhari, as the father of Nnamdi Kanu, the nation, etc.

The point needs all the emphasis it can get. President Buhari is not the father of anybody or anything, except his children. It is especially out of tune to say he is a father of Kanu. That he can does not mean that he is. Potentiality is not substantiality.

To treat state matters as if they are paternal details is to trivialise serious matters. Ohanaeze should relate with Buhari on purely municipal or civic arrangements. A country is a state of civic, not paternal, fraternal or blood relatedness. It is this turning of a state, a civic order into a fraternal kraal or paternal Bantustan that leads Africa into spawning otherwise normal people into dictators. Even the thug of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, was also called the father of the nation.

The issue is that Buhari has a superbly remunerated day job. It is to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not father of Nigeria or Nigerian citizens, save his children. And we have canvassed this issue more vigorously in our How and Why the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War. Ahiazuwa.

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