• Sunday, December 03, 2023
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Nigeria: In need of ‘shock therapy’ (1)


In medicine, shock therapy is a procedure involving the application of mild electrical shocks to the body, usually for treating mental conditions. Said to have been first introduced several centuries ago, shock therapy is now applied in treating a wide range of mental cases such as depression, schizophrenia, etc. In economics, the term ‘shock therapy’ (attributed to Jeffery Sachs) could refer to a set of radical reforms aimed at freeing the market by way of liberalisation, privatisation, withdrawal of subsidies and other actions that will lead to a reduction of government influences in the market pricing mechanism. Although what I have in mind has some semblance with the two definitions above, in this article, the term ‘shock therapy’ will take up the meaning of a sharp and drastic change in our attitude, aptitude, policy, polity and ideology as a nation and as a people.

Today, we live in a country with lots of illusions. We believe we are so rich, yet we are a poor nation. We believe that our oil is “enough to go round”, yet we are held hostage by poverty. We believe that our land is so conducive and productive, therefore we have automatic right to wealth. I can go on and on, but we must realise that these things do not guarantee the wealth and prosperity of a nation. We are all too familiar with the case of North and South Korea. Both have same geography and are not significantly different in “look and feel”; however, the North is poor and the South is prosperous. This is no destiny, it is simply because the brutish regime in the North, while pretending to be rich, has unfriendly policies that suppress prosperity, discourage private enterprise and indirectly provoke poverty of the populace, while the South has policies that promote industrialisation, commerce, enterprise and stimulate economic prosperity.

That fantastic book published last year, Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu, MIT professor of Economics, and James A. Robinson, Harvard professor and Political Scientist/Economist, has several examples buttressing this. One such example which I like to share is the city of Nogales, “cut in half by a fence”. To the north of the fence is Nogales in Santa Cruz County of Arizona, USA, and to the south is Nogales, Sonora in Mexico. Same name, same people, separated sharply by the administrative boundary of both countries and the contrasting standard of living. While the people of Nogales in Arizona are living in good conditions with better economic outlook and better life expectancy, the people of Nogales in Mexico are grappling with intense poverty. Reason – one nation has better policies and stronger institutions, the other has unfriendly policies and weak institutions. We might have all the oil in the world, but if we do not put in place the right policy framework and strengthen our institutions, we cannot go far as a nation. Government must play a leading role in this, and will therefore need a dose of this “shock therapy”. We need a drastic shake-up of our policies to promote industrialisation and engender economic prosperity. This administration will not have any excuse if it fails as the core of the economy is managed by competent technocrats such as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Olusegun Aganga, Akin Adeshina, and a few others.

That brings us to a critical issue – the composition of the Federal Executive Council. The success of any regime is usually a reflection of the competence and capacity of the executive council. Even in ancient times, successful kings always had quality counsels. Most of us, especially Christians, are familiar with the story of how Daniel and the others were chosen to work in the king’s court. Daniel 1:3-4 (KJV) says: “Bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had the ability in them to stand in the king’s palace.” The president must apply this verse to his cabinet. The king in that passage clearly didn’t go sentimental, he went for the best hands, including people like Daniel, Shedrach, Meshack and Abednego who didn’t worship same god as him, nor came from same tribe. While this administration is blessed with some renowned technocrats, I’m, however, sure not everyone in the president’s cabinet is worthy to stand before the “king”. Some of them are obvious toxic assets to the regime. I do not want to mention names. Suffice it to say that certain ministries, such as Petroleum, Information, Niger Delta Affairs, etc, certainly need a dose of shock therapy!

Let’s move on to the ordinary citizens. We have a dangerously self-righteous population that never takes responsibility for anything. We transfer our failings to the government. You get sacked at the office for gross misconduct, next thing is you come back home and start abusing government for your jobless state. You have an argument with your wife; oh, it must be the president! Your dog gets run over by a drunken driver, you blame it on the “anti-dog” policies of the government. We are quick to criticise the president but will not question our civil servant uncle who earns a little over N100,000 per month but owns mansions in choice locations. You walk to a government office to submit a form, the clerk demands he be given a bribe twice his monthly salary before he processes the form. You go to the airports and you see shameless immigration officers abandoning returning Nigerians to concentrate on foreigners who will give them dollars. What a way to be welcomed home!

We have a huge number of civil servants who collect salaries but don’t go to work. There is a civil servant reading this that is not at his/her place of work, with no cogent excuse for absence. We cry out that the politicians are corrupt, yet for every kobo looted, there is a corresponding signature of a civil servant accomplice on the cheque.