Our Economy: the Mandarins and Fixers

Our Economy: the Mandarins and Fixers

By: Idumange John

At the investiture of the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (ICEN) sometime in February, 2010 in Kaduna, there was a debate as to whether the Nigerian economy
was affected by the economic melt-down that has had reverberating effects on
the major capitalisms in the world. The question then arose as to whether
Nigeria has an economy at all outside of the oil and gas sector. The argument
itself was an extension of the contention that the planned deregulation policy
of government in the downstream sector would reposition the oil sector to
enable her yield profits, which would in turn be deployed to provide socio-economic
infrastructure. The question then was: if Nigeria is not manufacturing because
of lack of technology, and Nigerians are not even in control of the oil and gas
industry for the same reason, does Nigeria have an economy because she is
OPEC’s sixth greatest oil producer?

As the argument wore on, the contenders discovered that Nigeria is a developing nation that has been rendered under-developed because of gross mismanagement of the economy
occasioned by bad governance. This is
why the nation is characterized by all indicia of underdevelopment such as
inflation, low standard of living, population explosion, a moribund industrial
sector, the fast fading middle class, low life expectancy and other negative statistics.
The poverty index in Nigeria is unimaginable and unacceptable. While insecurity
of lives and property haunts all strata of the population, even the comprador
class is now victim of insecurity. That Acting President Goodluck Jonathan
locked out three Ministers in the first Federal Executive Council meeting, may
be seen as a display of presidential
exuberance not executive rascality,
since he is aware that Nigerians are not conscious of time because of
absence of power supply. Most Nigerians cannot even hear the ticking of their
room clock or their mobile phone alarm because of the deafening sound of killer
generators in their houses. Besides, the Ag. President seems to be under-rating
the powerful bureaucratic elites in stifling public policy implementation,
since corruption has eroded what was left of public morality and work etiquette.

The contenders seem to be unanimous in agreement that Nigeria could not have been affected by the global economic recession because Nigeria is a periphery, which depends on the
Western capitalists nations for survival. The core capitalist economies have strong
institutions and extensive bureaucracies that permit the local bourgeoisie to
obtain control over international commerce and extract capital surpluses from
this trade for their own benefit. On the contrary, the peripheral zones, of
which Nigeria is a member export raw materials to the core, and relied on
coercive labour practices. The core expropriated much of the capital surplus
generated by the periphery through unequal trade relations. This unequal
relation reinforce the dependency syndrome.

Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, identified some salient characteristics of the dependency theory. According to him there is a financial and technological penetration by the developed capitalist centers of
the countries of the periphery and semi-periphery and this produces an
unbalanced economic structure both within the peripheral societies and between
them and the centers. This unequal relationship often leads to the limitations
on self-sustained growth in the periphery, which heralds or rather favours the appearance of specific patterns of
class relations.

The world over, there are three sub-systems recognized namely: the core, semi-periphery, and periphery. The political characteristics for each somewhat related. Centralization and effectiveness of political institutions for the
core system and the semi-periphery; both are mixed. There is also a marked
difference in terms of economic characteristics, for while the core has a
diverse and flexible economy, the semi-periphery practices a mixed economy, and
the periphery is focused on natural resources and lacks diversity and
flexibility. Again, in terms of discretion, of the labour force, the core exercises high levels
of discretion, the semi-periphery mixed levels while the periphery exercises
very low levels of discretion. Going by this analysis, Nigeria is a peripheral

Another distinctive characteristic is the productivity levels of the economy. Productivity may generally be defined as the output per labour costs. It is the ratio of the
total output to the total inputs. Basically productivity is low in Nigeria
because of her poor industrial base. Therefore low productivity is a function
of lack of industrialization, which in turn is a product of many macro-economic
variables such as capacity under-utilization, inability to provide critical
infrastructure such as power supply and
lack of investment security. The case of Nigeria is worsened by ethnic
antagonism, religious bigotry and political adventurism, which have all combined
to render Nigeria unsafe for foreign investment. This is the same argument that
underlies the antagonists of the deregulation policy, because an unproductive
economy cannot be grown even if we privatize everything including the air we

Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and the Asian Tigers realized this fact early enough to have maximally used human capital formation and home-grown technological development to escape the dependency syndrome. Sadly,
however, Nigeria has only paid lip service to human capital development. Over
the years, education ranks second only to defense in the budgetary
allocation. The budgetary allocation to
education is far below the 26 percent minimum threshold recommended for developing
countries by UNESCO. Although there is exponential expansion of the educational
system, quality manpower is sorely lacking. Human capitalist theorists
pontificate that LDC’s suffer from the overproduction of manpower that is not
critical to development. This holds true because even in Nigerian Polytechnics,
the admission ratio is skewed in favour of the social sciences rather that the
vocational and technology-oriented courses.

In Nigeria, today, we cannot point at any sector of the economy that is developed. Development in the sense of a conscious, organized
and systematic process of change has not
On the
contrary, we have made political offices very attractive to the detriment of
those sectors that can bring about development. For example, in Britain, a
University Professor earns more than the Prime Minister but in Nigeria a Local
Government Chairman can comfortably pay three university Professors with a
substantial balance in his kitty.
We have not assembled experts to
x-ray and identify the key sectors of the economy. Our bureaucrats, the
mandarins have made it impossible for the iron and steel sector to take-off.
The Mandarins have also neglected sound, quality education, as well as industrialization, science and technology
power and efficient social services delivery system. The amalgam approach we
have adopted has made us to sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of anomie and
self-inflicted poverty.

Two main classes can be identified among the fixers. They are the political class and the oil majors. The Multinational Corporations (MNCs) neglect their corporate social
responsibility (CSR) functions while merit is sacrificed on the Golgotha of
other voodoo considerations. At present, it is the political elites that are a
stumbling block to the stability of the nation. The phenomenon of instability
has been compounded by the sit-tight syndrome associated with tenure elongation
amidst overwhelming evidence that government officials are non-performers. The
predatory hawks know that the Nigerian masses have lost faith in government
because they have dashed the hope of the people, purloined their coffers and
made life much more unbearable than they met it.

Russia (1917), Japan (1946), China (1950), Korea (1953), Cuba (1962) and other countries in Eastern Europe, and Latin America identified the crucial stages of technopolitics and technolysis
hence they were able to build gigantic industries that mass produce goods and
accommodated the army of unemployed. Why is our case different in Nigeria, and
why have we failed to emulate the developing world positively? From the
unfolding drama in the political scenario, Nigeria is not ready to develop. In
most States, Governors are pre-occupied with a campaign for second tenure
rather than fulfill their mandate. What one is remembered for is not the number
of years one stays at the locus of power, but what impact one creates on the
lives of the people.

We have a band of IMF economic miracle men or fixers leading teams, which otherwise would have been led by tested technocrats. As the poverty index worsened unemployment
soared, the colony of the disillusioned expanded exponentially. We are indeed a
nation trapped in anomie. The so called economic reforms are just a
re-statement of the same incrementalist development
paradigm that does not fill the lacuna created by frog-leaping critical stages of our development

The band of fixers suffocated the banking sector under the guise of re-capitalization. Now, the current tsunami in the sector has laid-off about 12,000 bank workers. Surely,
the apex Bank has deviated from the macro-economic objectives of job creation
and poverty reduction. Whereas the price of crude oil soared to the ceiling,
the wages of public servants remained stagnant; and while the public good
concept of education was discredited, the PDP political hawks privatized all
the national assets and used the proceeds to buy-up the refineries, build
private Universities and corporatized the common wealth. Amidst all these adversities the
Corruption Perception Index (CIP) has worsened. The Transparency International
reported in 2009 that Nigeria now ranks 130th out of 180 countries
In terms of Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which is an indication that the
anti-corruption war is running out of steam.

Politics has also made a wild incursion into the judiciary, where most judges make vacuous pronouncements and leave the public to either imagine or get their brains
worked-up on how to demystify such nebulous constitutional interpretations. The
high wire politics in the judiciary has contributed to the slippery nature of
democracy in Nigeria. It is understandable why some Nigerians have started
campaigning for the Former Military Ruler General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida
(IBB). The irony is that those campaigning for “Bad Moses” are the same
Nigerians who carried placards that IBB had to handover because he had shifted
the transition goal post several times. They are the same Nigerians who went on
rampage when he annulled the June 12 1993 Presidential elections, in which
Late. Bashorun MKO Abiola was poised to win. If Nigerians have forgotten about
the anti-SAP riots that claimed hundreds of lives, and the abbreviation of the
130 military officers in that well-orchestrated plane crash, certainly those of
us in the noble profession of putting pen to paper are not suffering from
amnesia so acute as to forget about the letter bomb that dispatched the Edo
born journalist Late Dele Giwa in hurried transition to the great beyond. These
are some of the scintillating credentials of IBB who is angling to be President

There is now a cruel hegemony in Nigeria - battle ready to rape the economy to the point of overkill. Nigeria’s economy is characterized by strong cyclical fluctuations
owing to the internal contradictions associated with structural imperialism.
The mandarins are also compradoring along
with the fifth columnists. The fixers would not want the economy to work
because a working economy would not serve their interest, but those at the
receiving end of poverty, misery, disease and death are the hapless masses, the
economically excluded youths, the politically dislocated women and the rural
folk. The mandarins and fixers have sucked away the vitality of the nation and
only technocrats with altruistic motivation can resuscitate the economy.

Idumange John, is Fellow, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, and Association of Career Commercial Diplomats, London

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