The bombshell released not too long ago in the media by Charles Soludo on his evaluation of the 2015 general elections and the future of the Nigerian economy has created a “great debate” that has migrated to its “natural place”; the major theft of state resources and its protective syndrome. The only person who cannot be found in that “natural place” is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
The “great debate” has fortuitously exposed the top government political economists (TGPEs) in power, rapacious theft and the support of it, obtuse comparisons of no practical value, an inability to generate useful indigenous statistics, the misuse/avoidance of statistics, doctrinaire adherence to failed neoliberal policy, the glorification of serendipity, choice of selective/prejudiced histories, the touting of qualifications, taking credit for policies actually decided in Washington and New York, not Abuja and the like.
Only ‘crude oil price’ seems to be the one thing accurately modelled in the Nigerian macro-economy with general consensus. Without appropriate substantive theory and the robust quantitative guidance of reliable statistics, of what use is a political economist and their policies to any nation?
Nevertheless, the substance of this so-called “great debate” or real debate created by Charles Soludo is exclusively centred on “macroeconomic myths” of Nigeria. Myths? Yes! Rebasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), opening free markets, observing economic efficiency, improving/worsening macroeconomic indices/ratios and poverty reduction calculus are myths both to most Nigerians and TGPEs themselves. These myths are no different from the myth of Santa Claus bringing kids’ presents at Christmas time. The kids get the presents but not from Santa.
Macroeconomic obscurantisms touted in the “great debate” are myths because they are about “shifting abstractions” (cf. Lucas Critique) that have no meaning for good economic policy and the everyday life of the electorate. I have never seen their realities in Nigeria, has any sane person? So why then are macroeconomic myths the stuff of a substantive election campaign in Nigeria? Real debates in political economy at election time are about real production and real consumption, real jobs and real household incomes, real household savings and real investment, real hunger and real inequality, real corruption and real governance.
Boko Haram terror is helping improve the so-called GDP of Nigeria. Increased hospitalisations, increased spending on the military, reconstruction of damaged properties, house rents paid by those fleeing violence, increased civilian security requirement/costs are increased economic activities, they increase GDP. Inflated government contracts, a major means of corruptions, also increases GDP. The ever-growing informal sector, which some, reasonably, claim makes up between 60-70% of the Nigerian economy, is excluded from the GDP. This is not the place to dissect macroeconomic indicators/models but it is not difficult to do.
We have not seen any credible solutions proffered or admissions of mistakes made by TGPEs in the debate, just accusations, bitterness, gloom and gloating. “I too much” is what we hear from these TGPEs, but no economic miracles or sub-miracles have happened under their watch. The polygonation of accusations and counter-accusations of thievery and incompetence between them are revealing. They actually sound like the national soccer coach of San Marino who might say I was the first coach in charge to concede less than 40 goals in 10 consecutive matches. World record!
There is something known as the “Guilty-Accuser Syndrome.” It is a pervasive situation whereby those in Nigeria elected/appointed to high office are secretly guilty of provable corruption or their maiden duties when in office to office are designed to implicate them in major theft. This is one key reason why corruption persists in Nigeria; “expose my corruption and I will expose yours.” It is a balancing act, tit-for-tat. ‘Silence’ is the best strategy. The TGPEs are only deviating from this strategy because their corruption is being exposed. Tit-for-tat!
Vast corruption did happen under Soludo’s watch. It cannot be denied. But also happened under the watch of the others. All the TGPEs of note in government since 1999 are those now fighting each other over the contents and implications of Soludo’s bombshell, “missing money” included.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi appears to be the only one appointed to high office in the arena of the Nigerian political economy to “come in” and “leave” clean. Sanusi complained persistently during his watch as Governor of the Central Bank about the senseless corruption and its consequences on the Nigerian economy going on in Goodluck Jonathan’s government, firstly internally, then publicly. The other “top managers” of the economy kept very “silent” about the same corruption. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s double minister, has perfected a strategy which is, ‘be silent when corruption is taking place but shout the heavens down when observed corruption is linked to her.’ That is the optimal solution to participating in the “Guilty-Accuser Syndrome” game.
As things stand, Sanusi remains as the last man standing in the “great debate”. Sanusi’s unique position of rising above the “natural place” of Nigerian politicians cannot easily be imitated or match. Such a claim can generate a debate of its own but not here. I can only think of Vincent Azie, Auditor-General of the Federation, as a match of Sanusi after much searching. Sanusi’s contemporaries, TGPEs at war at the moment, are not acknowledging his transparency, courage and exceptionality. Such is no surprise.