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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Nigeria-The “Anambra” syndrome: Bringing back the middle class

Most Nigerians would probably agree that Anambra is the most dysfunctional of Nigeria’s many states.And,with good reason.Since the installment of Nigeria’s latest republic,Anambra’s lot has been the near-unremitting reign of impunity,as various thuggish and unsavoury characters have taken the state  and it’s administration hostage.This,in spite of it’s pedigree as the home-state of some of Nigeria’s most illustrious sons.The problem of course is that a lot of those sons are not resident in the state.The troubles in Anambra are symptoms of a malaise: the absence of a resident middle-class.With most of it’s educated elites living and working outside the state,in such places as Port-Harcourt,Lagos or overseas,a leadership vacuum emerged,which has been poorly filled by a merchant-class that is ill-equipped and ill-trained to provide enlightened leadership.

This malaise afflicts all Nigerian states,save possibly Lagos,which has a critical-mass of resident elites,which probably accounts for it’s success in producing able governors and administrators,even under the military.However,Anambra stands out,because,unlike the other states,it boasts a merchant-class that is so wealthy,it has the confidence to aspire to the political domination of the state.Because members of this class are ill-educated, ill-trained and ill-equipped to lead,it should be no surprise that their methods are crude or that the result of their stewardship is so,well,Anambra.As everyone knows,you can not give what you do not have.There is a good reason why the middle-class is regarded as the repository of democratic values.Not only because of it’s education and enlightenment,but also self-interest.For,more than any other segment of society,the middle-class benefits from effective and accountable governance.

Most societies are segmented into an upper-class,a middle-class and a lower-class.In Nigeria,with weak institutions and poor governance,the system is seemingly rigged to facilitate the plunder of national wealth,by a few well-connected individuals.These people,members of the upper-class,would have no incentive,to see an end to a system that enriches them;they would have very little desire for effective governance. “Surely,a poorly governed country would impose costs on them in the shape of poor infrastructure,bad schools and an even worse health-care system.?” No problem.The rich can afford the best power generators,foreign education for their kids and medical treatment abroad.They  have co-opted police officers as their private security detail.At the other pole of society,are the poor,members of the lower-class.Largely uneducated,and enervated by the daily “chore” of survival,the poor have not yet come to terms with the notion of “rights”.They do not really believe that “government” owes them anything.They demand nothing and they expect nothing.They basically just exist.

In between the upper- and lower-classes,lies the middle-class.It’s members are professionals,such as doctors,engineers,lawyers,members of the information industry,typically people who have obtained tertiary education and have white-collar jobs.By economic definition,these are people who have at least a third of their income left over,after catering for their corporeal needs and shelter.This left-over,discretionary income,can then be used on such things as their children’s education,as well as creature comforts.These people crave good schools for their kids,decent health-care system,regular power-supply and good roads.They have had a taste of the good life and want more.They are educated and enlightened enough to know how people live in the Western world,and want no less for themselves.They have developed a sense of entitlement,even.They want to” live”,not exist,unlike the poor.

However,unlike the rich,they do not have enough resources to provide these facilities themselves,individually.They can only do so by pooling their resources.The resulting community is then well-placed to provide the necessary services.This is why it is in the overwhelming interest of the middle-class to have good governance.For,only an effective and accountable government can provide the enabling environment,necessary to promoting the good life.Members of the middle-class understand this,which is why they would do anything to enthrone good governance.Why they are politically aware.Any society boasting a critical-mass of educated and enlightened people,would also have a high degree of political consciousness,a prerequisite for enlightened governance.It is no co-incidence that in established democracies,West-Europe and America come to mind,the vast majority of the populace is middle-class,where as in the mostly poor third-world,democracy is still “on the stand”.

It is clear that there is a correlation between development and the emergence of a middle-class,with the one boosting the other.Where people are enlightened,leadership or the supervisory capacity of the community can only be strengthened,leading to sustainable development,which in turn boosts enlightenment.It is no accident,that the bulk of the Nigerian middle-class is concentrated in Lagos,with a sprinkling in Port-Harcourt and Abuja.There is,in fact,a good reason for this: jobs.Good jobs.It is the availability of good jobs in Lagos,and it’s non-availability in other states,that has turned it into a magnet for the Nigerian middle-class,leaving the other states short of the acultural influence of the middle-class.Given the clear connection between the middle-class and development,you would think state governors would prioritize investment and job-creation.Nope.Instead,they are  busily engaged in diversionary gimmickry,carrying on as if a governor’s job is limited to painting roads and planting flowers.

Now planting flowers is not bad,but it should not be the primary focus of government.Creation of jobs should.While working to create jobs,our state government should also keep the rural areas in mind.Every effort should be made to spread development to the rural areas,to solve the twin-problem of over-crowded slum-towns and deserted villages.Anyone conversant with Nigeria knows that our villages are desperately deserted(except at festive periods),as the able-bodied and the ambitious have all run off to the towns to seek their fortune,leaving the weak and the elderly behind.With the able gone,the elderly are to left to their own devices.You can only imagine the loneliness.We desperately need an injection of life into our villages.Injecting life into the villages,does not mean that the government gets to tell investors where to site their industries.No.

There is a reason companies cluster.Network effect; the greater the number of people using a service,the more valuable it becomes.Like the pudding which proves it’s tastiness by the speed with it is eaten,business locations prove their business-friendliness by the number of businesses they host.The number of businesses hosted by a cluster constitutes it’s credentials as a location for business.The more businesses a location hosts,the more attractive it is to potential investors.Usually clusters would have certain characteristics: access to markets,labour as well as consumer; availability of a good road network; proximity to a pool of service-firms.Given the absence of these conditions in the villages ,it is no surprise that investors are not exactly flocking there.Still,the government can make a big difference.

First thing government needs to do is to create conditions that conduce to investment.Second,it should spread development to the rural areas by providing good roads,electricity and security.Finally,it should craft a housing policy that makes it difficult to build in certain areas of the town.If land-developers find it difficult to build in the towns,and the rural areas have decent infrastructure as well security,guess where the developers will go? Yep.The villages.If the villages have decent housing and infrastructure,workers would think nothing of commuting 30 miles to work,if they can do it in some 30 minutes.Why not.You might not be able to  displace the cluster,but you can channel some of the workers,and their income,closer to the rural areas.Our governors should get to work.The hungry do not admire flowers.

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