Nigeria-Leadership,The Old Woman And The Basket
September 17, 2010
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Like the captured agencies they are,Nigerian governments,at every level,are in thrall to various client and business groups.They exist only to award contracts for projects,that are mere boondoggles,in favour of their contractor-friends.When they are not directly sharing money of course.They are not at all exercised by the needs and interests of the ordinary people.They are always unprepared to meet the needs of the people in any emergency;whether it be sectarian violence,cholera or some other out-break.Every thing they do is subordinate,directly or indirectly,to the imperative of self-aggrandizement.
Like the proverbial frail old woman,a mere bag of bones,made uneasy by any mention of the word ‘basket’,these people are xenophobic about any sort of criticism in the foreign media,no matter how justified.They see critics every where.It is so annoying when you hear government agents complain that Nollywood,the local film industry,is giving Nigeria a bad image abroad,because of some tame ‘love’ scene.Who judges America by it’s pornographic industry?The things that define and that demean us,have to do with the way our country is run.No one can respect us given the level of corruption,ineptitude and mediocrity exhibited by our governments.It is governance,stupid.
Our leaders should focus on governance,not mere prettification:artificial,fake and insubstantial beautification.In other words,sweeping dirt under the carpet otherwise known as governing through bans.Government wants to ban okada or pure water or street trading or this or that.For me bans simply demonstrate bureaucratic or intellectual laziness.There is a reason people are out there on the street,selling pure water or riding okada.We need to understand that there is an inverse relationship between the formal economy and the informal,the informal here defined as incorporating all those legitimate activities performed outside the regulatory and tax framework.
The bigger the formal economy,the smaller the informal one.In other words,there are so many people out there hustling on the street because the formal economy is not providing enough job-opportunities for our people.And that is because government is not doing it’s job.Instead of banning these activities,the government can bring them into the formal economy,by regulating them.This is a win-win situation,because the government benefits from the attendant tax-take and these guys get to keep their jobs.The question is whether our governments are bothered enough about the welfare of the people,to put in the required time and effort,necessary to crafting the sort of intelligent regulations that would bring about this happy state of affairs.
I am pretty sure those street hustlers would rather have their own shops.So what stops the government from midwifing an arrangement,probably with private sector investment,to provide these guys with market stalls on rental basis?As to the okadas,while we may bemoan their safety record,let us remember that they only came into existence as a result of the inadequate road network.Building an adequate road network is an issue of governance.And that is my point.Bans are a lazy option.If you stop the okada today,you will be faced with another antagonism tomorrow.We can never get away from the imperative of committed governance.The economic and social environment will always promote business models that are in line with the prediction of it’s characteristics.It is unscientific to expect a banana tree to bear oranges.
To get the respect of the international community we need to raise our game.We have to show that we are worthy of their respect.Nigeria needs to become a serious nation.To do this will require committed leadership,not cosmetic foolishness.The international community does not look down on us because of the street traders and okadas,they do not rate us because governance here is comical.Countries like Mexico,Brazil,India and China have plenty of street traders,bikes,rick-shaws,home-made trucks,and yet they are highly respected.Because they are seen as making the necessary effort at self-improvement.No one will denigrate you for being poor,only for being stupid and lazy.