The Sun News

The Sai Baba dilemma

Happy New Year, dear reader. The good news, great news really, judging by the depravity of the economic mismanagement of the APC Federal Government, is that we survived. The bad news is that the APC government has not abdicated power and survived too.

Why do we say so? Well, we hold no opinions on the reign of Muhammadu Buhari, as president. All we have to say, we have said even before he made the presidency. And to the last they are all being fulfilled. If you recall, we had warned that his regime would be like that of Leonid Brezhnev in the former USSR. Brezhnev drove USSR, a composite of nations and cultures, into its ultimate russification. And in the end, a little after him, the USSR caved in. The logic of it is that a unitary hold on power by one group in a multi-units system, cannot be sustained or self-sustaining. And exigency demanded that the USSR unbundle. And the sheer power of the inevitable seconded a Mikhail Gorbachev to fix that. And it happened.

Today, Nigeria is more divided than it has ever been. And what is causing it? It is the northenisation of Nigeria. Some even said Moslemisation or Fulanisation. Or, perhaps, the three are coming on concurrently.

But that is not really our point today. It is rather that we met with two well healed entrepreneurs separately. One is in educational services – owning several top notch schools, and the other is an industrialist and trader. The two swore that they were converting their naira balances into dollar and other hard currency denominations.

Their point is that they have no faith in the economic management of President Buhari and his team. And they predicted independently that by June of the year of our Lord 2017, the dollar would be traded about 1000 naira a piece. So, it doesn’t make sense to hold a currency via which the government by incompetence or design will be confiscating your wealth. The point is the dollar has abandoned the naira to its fate one said as if in a revelation.

And I was worried so I sought the views of an academic, who would make matters fit in. Why, I asked, is the current economic team and the presidency out of their depths in matters as simple as running an economy, maintaining the dollar around the rate at which they inherited power?

And the fellow, let’s call him Dr. Ayo, stated that the Presidency was bedevilled with what he called the King’s dilemma. The King’s dilemma, he taught me, was the dilemma that ‘’modernising’’ strongmen or despots suffered. On one hand, they want the good of the economy and peoples, allegedly. On the other, they want to accumulate and keep all powers. That leads them to want to micromanage, to be omnipotent, perhaps, omnipresent, literally.

And this quest for omnipotence and omnipresence drives them to personalise power. This translates to the appointment of only peoples they trust or their fellow tribesmen, regionalists and or religionists. So, the state is compromised into being a religious/tribal/cultist convention rather than a civic centre of equal citizens.

Thus in keeping all powers to themselves, the king and his partisans clog up the processes of development. That is the good of their nation necessarily falters. Importantly, the king, unable to share power, becomes impotent in achieving his futile dream of economic development. And finally, the systems implode and come to nothing. The idea I was told was developed by an American dude, Professor Samuel Huntington. Later, another American scholar x-raying the Middle East called it the Sheik’s dilemma. For our purposes, we may call it The Sai Baba’s dilemma. It in part explains why and how Nigerian economy cannot be diversifiable at the present levels of power aggregation in Abuja. You can’t diversify any economy under a unitary power structure and control. China, to diversify and grow up economically, had to give up power at her outlier regions, making those economic free zones, that is with loose central control regimes. The point is that the economy must align with the political power and vice versa. Development is an ecology of power, of things [organic relatedness]; development is not in the ‘‘totemisation’’ of powers. That is, you cannot diversify [or pluralise] an economy under a unitary or one power structure. This explains in part the why and how Nigeria’s developmental saga from Gowon to Abdulsami, and continuing, are economic tragedies. There is no nation developed by coup makers or dictators. It is not conceptually, or in praxis possible. For Nigerian copycats, what happened in say South Korea is a hugely misunderstood parallax. In fact, it may be said that Nigerian intellectuals inflicted with ‘‘eye diseases’’ are not able to distinguish image and reality. Development is more complex than the eyes can see. That is why and how those who Xerox-copy development models failed, not excluding their Nigerian practitioners.

And this regime fits into the dilemma of image-reality refraction like a second skin. Even admirers of Buhari, including fellow northerners and Fulani, like Dr. Junaid Mohammed, have confirmed that his governance is a cabal of regionalist and or nepotistic powers at work and at play. And it is often heard from Buhari, maybe in earnest, that he wants a developed Nigeria. The dilemma is that the two, an economically developing Nigeria and aggregative political nepotism can’t go together.

It is a universal law. It may be said to be like this. As a king or strongman becomes more powerful relative to citizens, the state and citizens become more and more impoverished. Economic prosperity is actually better expressed in the dispersal of power, not in GNP terms. In effect the state with the plural and most pervasive sharing of powers will be a more prosperous state than a contender unitary state.

Thus, the ratio of power of presidents to citizens has an inverse relationship with the wealth of the nation. Obama, it is worthy to repeat, has less and less powers over an American citizen than the least LGA chairman in Nigeria has over a Nigerian national. That is, for Americans the human being as citizen is the big issue. In America, the citizen is as big as his president. Here, due to our hard heartedness or blockheadedness, the state, not the citizen, is the big issue. Thus the president, the governors are like tyrannical gods unto citizens. This is why we are poor and the naira is crashing to be 1000 to a dollar anytime next.

If power is concentrated either in a class, tribe, region or religion, then and consequentially the economy is finished and so are her operators. Thus logic demands that the smart rich dudes will trigger an economic hegira – a flight to safety, to other jurisdictions, dollarising their naira balances.

To give a real life example, let us recall why president Barak Obama taunted Putin and Russia. And it is worth quoting in some detail: ‘‘In his final news conference of the year, President Barack Obama emphasised that Russia cannot change or significantly weaken the U.S., adding that Russia is a smaller and weaker country.’’

‘‘He said Russia’s economy ‘doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy,’ except oil, gas and arms. The only way Russia can affect the U.S., he said, is ‘if we lose track of who we are” and “abandon our values.’

“‘Mr. Putin can weaken us just like he’s trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press or lock up dissidents or discriminate against people,’ he said.’’

“‘Our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is,’ he said. “‘That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable.’” Obama says Russia is a smaller, weaker country than the US. Friday, 16 Dec 2016

Now, Russia is arguably the most endowed nation of the world. Even as a depreciated state, Russia still has one of the largest landmasses in the world. It has a history of genius citizens in all fields, from mathematics to literature. Yet, despite these gifts, Russia is in economic and manufacturing doldrums. It has done no better than Burkina Faso say, save that it possesses nuclear arms. The issue of economic failure is explainable by the nature of the aggregation of much powers into one hand, either the czar or the party secretary or Putin. And so long as that remains there is no economic future for Russia or Nigeria. In fact, in America, there is what they call the Russian economic dividend. It is the proceeds of smart Russians, who, frustrated by the aggregation of power, flee to the West, especially America, to do things. Guess you have heard of Mark Zuckerberg? Okay, there is another guy, Sergey Brin, who is just as great and rich as him. He is just one of the many Russians, powering America as special Russian economic dividends. So, when you cry that Nigerian professionals are fleeing Nigeria for America, why won’t they? There is no environment here. America is enjoying not just the Russian but also the Nigerian dividend.

That is why the greatest economic effort in this year is not to tinker with the economic team or reshuffle ministers. The greatest economic game we can play in 2017 is to restructure this nation. It certainly is not to bother about terms and statistics like GNP, unemployment figures, etc. If we miss out on restructuring, then we will be lucky if by the end of the year the naira will not trade for N1500. And soon after, little will remain of Nigeria if it is not all gone like a smelly fart. Ahiazuwa.


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1 Comment

  1. Ozo Nnaka Okonkwo 5th January 2017 at 6:49 am

    What a great and articulate write-up. But note: America is not enjoying Nigerian, but Biafran dividend. Also note that Nigeria has expired and is living on borrowed time. Restructure it anyhow you like it must come to crash.

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