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Deregulated Leadership and the People

January 25, 2012
Deregulated Leadership and the People
By Tunde Akingbade

President Olusegun Obasanjo is no doubt convinced that the deregulation of the oil sector is the key to Nigeria’s economic prosperity. The president also believes that there is no alternative to deregulation, his pet project. His Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar also believes in this dream economic wand that is supposed to take Nigeria to the promised land. Hm! In 1986, General Ibrahim Babangida, the man believed to be on another voyage back to the flats on the hills of Abuja took us on a similar ride and by 1989, he argued vehemently using all government apparatus that there was no alternative to SAP, his own pet project.The people said that there were alternatives. IBB in his own wisdom said there was none. Gani Fawehinmi, Pa Imoudu, Dr. Tai Solarin then organised a talkshop on the alternatives to SAP. IBB’s government thought that they were the only ones whom God gave the divine wisdom on political economy. His security men picked the organisers at
Gani’s chambers before our very eyes and landed them at Panti Police Station.

Many people may have forgotten the economicmess created by that regime, but the people who cleared the mess cannot forget the pains. This is why one needs to commend the efforts of THISDAY newspaper on the First Town Hall meeting which discussed the issue of Nigeria’s battered economy with all those who matter in the society and not just the guys in government who in those years of dictatorship thought that they were the only ones God gave the wisdom to reason on policies of World Bank and IMF officials who shuttle in and out of Nigeria.

However, back to SAP years. I remember Professor Sam Aluko,the renowned economist, said in an interview then (he had not served the Abacha government at the time) that there was alternative to everything including “death”,and that is “living”. Even our own General Olusegun Obasanjo(rtd) said then that Babangida should give SAP “a human face. ” How time flies!IBB forced SAP on everyone in his wisdom and later told the nation in an about turn manner “that the economy has deified all logic.” Bayo Onanuga and his team at the African Concord ran it on their cover. It was the hypocrisy of the regime. Brigadier Halilu Akilu thought they went too far and should apologise. Chief MKO Abiola wanted them to apologise. But the guys refused and the whole event led to their resignation from the African Concord, thus giving birth to The News magazine. But today, no known expert or economist whether in the World Bank or IMF can argue positively that SAP improved the
quality of life of Nigerians and the economy.

Today, our divine kings in government are flying the kite that there is no alternative to deregulation,the same way that the much respected Chief Philip Asiodu flew the kite of “appropriate pricing of petroleum products”. Mr. Hassan Sunmonu three years ago had spoken on Democracy, Development and Trade Unions at a conference organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the same organisation that gave President Obasanjo an award when he was incarcerated. Thank God that the country is at peace today and I cannot be accused of being subversive for quoting from a foreign foundation. Sunmonu recalled that “the sharp decline in the prices of Africa’s export-agricultural and mineral commodities- over a period of years (due mainly to injustice in international economic relations), coupled with the ever-increasing expenditure on social services and a dose of corruption and mismanagement in some cases and sharp rise of petroleum prices in the mid -70s, a number of
African countries got into debt and had to go to IMF and the World Bank for rescue”

The Third World Forum (Nigerian Network) published a book titled; Nigeria, Beyond Structural Adjustment; Towards A Popular Democratic Development Alternative edited by Akin Fadahunsi and Tunde Babawale. They traced the problem with the economy to the NPN days and reminded us that the conditions the IMF gave the Buhari government is similar to the sounds the Obasanjo government is now echoing.

IMF had told Buhari to devalue the naira, to privatise, to remove petroleum subsidy, and to liberalise trade.

Feelers in the media on the talks between the government and NLC have it that both parties are going to fly the kite of liberalisation and not deregulation again.

The Third World Forum argues interestingly in its book that if Buhari regime was authoritarian in its dealings with the people, it was patriotic in its resolute stand against the conditionality clauses of the IMF. There was no area that Babangida’s SAP did not destroy. Even the Nigerian environment and ecosystem was negatively touched. The book: Perspectives in Environmental Management edited by Professors D. Okali, K.O Ologe and U.M. Igbozurike for NEST, Ibadan noted that the battery of policy measures being used in managing the Nigerian economy under SAP have produced mixed results in the housing sector.

Just as IBB set up NERFUND, Abacha told us that PTF money would be used for Nigerians.Were we not told later that part of the money was set aside for his campaign that never materialised? Deregulated leaders? Deregulated people? Not so?

G.O. Olaore had also found a linkage between SAP and The Tragedy of Waste Scavenging. In his study, he noted that single, married, divorced, separated persons, and widowed people were adversely affected by SAP to the extent that some of them took to scavenging for food from public dustbins.

Olaore added “among single or unmarried persons, Lagos and Kano had more than a fair share, while for the married, Aba came out strong as the leader among the four cities. For the divorced, 66.7 per cent came from Lagos and Ibadan was the home of separated and the widowed scavengers”. From the style of governance and economic policies, what the leadership in Nigeria has been doing is deregulating themselves and their own people.

Akingbade writes from Lagos

This article was published during the reign of OBJ. Now that some Ijaws believe its wrong to criticize GEJ over bad policies let us “siddon look” at how he intends to transform Nigeria alone without other regions. Sa

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