Utomi’s Baffling Take on Soludo’s Bombshell.
Charles Soludo released his bombshell on the future of the political economy and state of Nigeria beyond the 2015 elections. It was a about the contest between Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan. (URL – http://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/01/buhari-vs-jonathan-beyond-election-charles-soludo/.) The bombshell contains a brilliant analysis of the economic conditions of the times blended with “politics.” Well, besides the “eulogy to Obasanjo as a master economic leader” which cannot be justified by facts or reason. And the “hopelessness of the Nigerian situation.” As if Nigerian politicians should not even try to bring about because of the paucity of resources.
Notwithstanding, many commentators have responded to Soludo’s bombshell. See http://xclusive.ie/reflections-on-charles-soludos-bombshell/. What has surprised me in the responses is the one from Pat Utomi. My favourite program on Nigerian television is “Patito’s Gang”. I do credit Utomi with his persistent call to institute serious political debate as a cornerstone of Nigerian politics. If the program was based on ratings, it would not air. Because too few Nigerians are interested in serious political debate. Political debate never works well with hunger and despair. This does not mean those promoting political debate should stop. It will be very useful and rewarding in the future.
Nevertheless, Utomi has chosen to, besides the core of Soludo’s debate to make “credible” comparisons of the political economy of Nigeria with Singapore and USA. Comparisons that are sometimes useful for transferability in the economy or political economy of nations. Their basis being comparable similarities in certain measurable or consistent combinations of criteria. Population, macroeconomic indices, size of market, legal origins. Or type of economy, political history, institutions, level of development. And technological capability, geopolitical strategic importance, and trade relations. How Nigeria compares with the USA or Singapore in any of these criteria is baffling.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan was a president of the USA. A nation that had created the “Golden Age of Capitalism” in a post-World War II era up to the 1970s. Three strong decades of the world’s greatest ever economy. From this period onwards, the USA was the world’s giant in terms the economy, agriculture, the military, global politics (shared with the USSR), culture, technology, and scientific advancement. What position did Nigeria in the world back then in any of these arenas? What is the basis for Utomi’s comparison?
As Reagan was entering the White House as president, Nigeria was struggling with dying days of a half decade of its wasteful “oil boom”. That was not long after General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978, then Head of State, shocked the world with rhetoric. The General said to the world’s media, Nigeria would be a world [super] power in 2005. That same week Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany, declared his country would never be a world power again. What an irony!
Furthermore, a reading of Joe Studwell’s “Asian Godfathers” a ground-breaking and influential book (and similar titles) is relevant here. It is about the prosperity and billionaires in nations like Hong Kong and Singapore. And tells a different story to the one Pat Utomi presents. Well, it is the popular version, and perhaps an obsolete one. The Singaporean billionaires and economy do not represent any world leading corporations. Or sell any word leading products on world markets. Then why are they rich? Because they are simply shrewd rent-seekers well empowered and rewarded by Lee Kwan Yew for their cooperation with his heavy intervention. The “most billionaires per square mile in the world,” in industrialised Asia, is a classic example of the “Asian Paradox” as it relates to corruption.
Accordingly, high levels of corruption do not reduce but enhance the economic prosperity of many Asian nations. Value-adding corruption is about using economic inputs with high efficiency and creating multiplier effects within the economy. Then sharing the outputs with discretion but both in the private and public sectors. Value-subtracting corruption involves redistributing resources to private pockets at the input level. Thus, it reduces the capacity for multiplier effects and excellent outcomes. Lee Kwan Yew sat on a very corrupt government but was astute enough to make it “value-adding”.
Moreover, Nigerian politicians do not think about the capacity to produce multiplier effects in the economy. Nor their respective values on society and nation building. All they think about is redistributing economic resources to themselves, especially when shared among the elite. Nigeria does not compare an iota with Singapore or the USA in the arena of corruption.
In conclusion, one may ask if blow-taking national comparisons at election time are useful bases for political debates? For the benefit of doubt, Utomi may not have proffered comparisons between the economies of Nigeria and other very different nations for transferability or simple analysis, but for hope. However, I am aware comparisons of Nigeria with better performing nations alienate Nigerian citizens from debates not inspire them.