The Nation of Saturday, 5 June, 2010, reported that the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo delivered a lecture at the main auditorium of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The guest lecturer spoke on the topic: â€œWho Will Reform Politics in Nigeria?â€
On that day, the professor was in his usual radical element, calling for a restructuring of the polity. He wanted the scrapping of the 36 states to be replaced by six regions. He also called for the scrapping of 774 local government councils, but the professor was silent on their replacement. I have reasons to infer from the way he put it that he is against the high cost of maintaining 36 states government and 774 local governments.
That the professor was deliberately silent on the issue of Fiscal Federalism meant he was not honest enough in his treatment of that topic on that day. Reducing the cost of administration is not and has never been the cause of the problems we have as a nation. As for the professor, suggesting the scrapping of 774 local governments without giving an alternate option for their replacement is to say the least, a mere rhetoric.
How does the professor come to the conclusion that public administration is possible without local governments? To make my point clearer, I will refer the professor to the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which stipulates Fiscal Federalism.
The fundamental principle of Fiscal Federalism states that every region will manage its Human and Material Resources at its disposal to create wealth and better the lives of its citizenry.
The implication is that every region will depend solely on its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) with no federal allocation from the federal government at the centre.
Professor Soludo also called for the scrapping of the Bicameral Legislature at the National level and suggested its replacement with a unicameral legislature with reduced membership. The suggestion of the professor points to only one factor: he is against the high cost of maintaining a Bicameral legislature at the national level in Nigeria.
Again, I am forced to disagree with Soludo on this issue. My humble submission is that unicameral legislature at federal level will not be suitable for Nigeria at the national level as suggested by the knowledgeable professor. My reason is that Nigeria is a multicultural and multiethnic society. Nigeria, with many nationalities, different history, different languages, and even different traditions and cultures, will certainly need more than proper and adequate representation at the national assembly.
Unicameral legislature is practiced at the national level by nations with monolithic or homogenous culture, tradition, and even history like Israel. The professor went ahead to describe as unacceptable, the fact that in spite of over US$400 billion dollars that the nation has earned as oil revenue since 1973, basic infrastructure are lackingÂ while the people wallow in poverty, ignorance, and hopelessness.
He went ahead to warn that millions of Nigerians who may be frustrated by lack of basic necessities of life in the face of the present bad political system, could revolt violently against those who resist change. His reference to the US$400 billion oil revenue from 1973 to date and the lack of basic infrastructure on ground is to say the least is diabolical. I will suggest that President Jonathan Goodluck brought the US$400 billion Soludo is talking about to the National Museum at Onikan for Soludo and other Nigerians to come and see. The professor is either suggesting that no capital project took place in Nigeria since 1973 to date or all the capital projects being executed in Nigeria since 1973 were paid for in cowries. I am not saying that part of this huge sum was not looted by corrupt government officials and their collaborators.
While Soludo was the CBN Governor, let him tell us where the government got money to pay for their projects if not the oil rent he is not seeing. He knows too well that it is an established fact that we, as a people, have a culture of consuming what we do not produce and consuming marginally (which is oil) what we produce.
The number of cars bought by Nigerians annually is higher than the number of cars bought in England. Yet, we do not produce cars, whereas cars are produced in England. The professor should know that Nigeria, as a nation, has a structural problem in our attitude towards scientific research and technological development. Our reliance on borrowed technology and our refusal at developing a technological base at home for reason that is not particularly clear is the bane of our national development in a nation where investment in laboratories and libraries are considered luxury.
This is Nigeria where falling standard of education is given cosmetic attention. The professor knows that no nation, since history, has developed with borrowed technology. In the 18th century, Britain became an industrial giant as a result of its home grown industrial revolution. The United States of America started its industrial revolution before the Second World War. After the war, the USA has established itself as the worldâ€™s most powerful industrial nation. Japan started its industrial revolution after the Second World War. Today, Japanese cars and electronics are with us as testimony to their success. Korea and China are recent successes in the industrial world. We are forced to ask, what is holding Nigeria back from embarking on its own industrial revolution?
The professorâ€™s reference to US$400 billion realised as rent from the sale of crude oil since 1973 and his condemnation of the high level of poverty, hopelessness in the face of this oil money brings us to the issue of definition of what is wealth. Wealth of a nation is different from the national income of a nation. Wealth is a personâ€™s productivity (or economic activity) directed towards satisfying someone elseâ€™s needs. Put in a more technical language, wealth is human productivity directed towards the satisfaction of human needs. The wealth of a nation is the total wealth of its citizens.
The professor knows too well that oil is not national wealth but labour. In Nigeria, where more than sixty percent of its labour force is unemployed, Nigeria cannot be said to be wealthy irrespective of whether we have oil or not. The professor knows very well that the Nigerian government at federal, state and local levels all depend on oil money in the form of federal allocation. The survival of some state governments and many local governments will be in doubt without federal allocation.
Professor Soludu, as CBN governor, met 89 banks and reduced them to 25 with his consolidation and recapitalisation programmes. By the time the professor left office, 13 of the 25 banks had becomeÂ critically ill. In fact, his successor, Lamido Sanusi, had to injectÂ billions of naira into the 13 sick banks to bring them back to life.
Soludo knows too well that the CBN has a fundamental duty in law to supervise the banking industry. CBN, under Soludo, did not supervise the banks. Otherwise, how do we explain why 13 banks out of 25 banks were very sick under his watch? Soludo must tell Nigerians if he is aware that the collapse of those thirteen sick banks will spell trouble for the money market, which will in turn, spell trouble for the stock market, which will in turn, spell trouble for theÂ economy.
I was thinking along with other Nigerians that a sober Prof. Soludo should be somewhere X-raying his tenure as CBN Governor to know where he got it wrong. Today, those banks have been put up for sale due to Soludoâ€™s inability to supervise those banks effectively. But instead of sober reflection, what did we get in return from Prof. Soludo? He jumped into politics and we saw the result.
The people of Anambra State did not welcome him. He lost the governorship election on 6 February this year.
As if that was not enough, he has found a new hobby in delivering lectures. I was expecting him to deliver a lecture titled â€œMy Tenure As CBN Governor.â€ In that lecture at the UNN, the professor made reference to violent change if things continue the way they are. The professor should know that this same violent change of government he is talking about led to a three-year civil war in Nigeria. He should know now that very few countries survive second civil wars. The professor should also know that the genesis, perpetration and elongation of military junta rule in Nigeria can only be traced to the violent change he is talking about.
The professor must be told the truth that the current democratic dispensation which the professor is a beneficiary, is the product of agitations of some people, groups, organisations and the media. Most people died during the struggle to enthrone democracy. So calling for a violent change when the memory of the dead is still fresh is unacceptable. Among the dead are MKO Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane, Suliat Adedeji, Bagauda Kaltho, and others too many to be mentioned.
â€¢Sunday Ajayi wrote in from 27, ACME Road, Lagos