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NIGERIA-Colonialism and the Mythification of Government : The Aversion for the World Bank and Economic Liberalization

“Why” you ask yourself, ” are Nigerians so distrustful of the World Bank and those connected to it? ” It is simply amazing that Nigerians,individually such inveterate capitalists and profiteers,are put out by any suggestion that the government might be embarking on a liberalization program.Many Nigerians just seem to believe that “those policies do not work here”.The policies in question being the liberalization and privation recommendations promoted by the World Bank.Such was the reaction that greeted Ngozi Okonjo-iweala,former World Bank Managing Director and present Nigerian finance minister,during the latest installment of Nigeria’s fuel-subsidy induced protests,as she tried to make the case for subsidy removal.

Even more striking,is the fact that this distrust is not limited to the uneducated or provincial.Well educated urban  sophisticates are just as guilty.In fact more so,as any one who reads Nigerian newspapers,online or off,can testify.You would struggle to find many commentators,outside of government retainers,who are supportive of liberalization.Instead,you will find plenty of commentators who are quite convinced they are better economists than  “these Harvard-trained World Bank so-called experts”. What is driving this trend ? Is it just the well-known Nigerian “bad belle”,sour grapes ? The tendency to decry every government project,and tar every top government official as a thief just because one is not part of the government ? Or is it just healthy distrust of a government with a huge reputation for corruption ?

While lack of trust and sour grapes have something to do with it,i believe there are two main reasons for this aversion.First,because they are locked into a transactional relationship with the government,Nigerians believe that it is the duty of the government to supply all their needs.According to this view,it is not necessary for Nigerians to make any sacrifices,as the government has all the resources it requires to achieve it’s aims.This view of the government as an omnipotent monster reflects it’s colonial roots.The emergence of government under colonialism,with it’s seemingly magical ability to create value by fiat,”the white man’s money”,left  the impression on the native mind that the government was an alien money-minting patronage-dispensing machine.It is this myth about bottomless government coffers that drives the popular mantra that Nigeria is “rich”,a viewpoint which scornfully disregards Nigeria’s paltry per capita income.

When Nigerians complain about the government,they do not mean that the government is incompetent because of it’s failure to rise to the challenge of leadership by personal example or it’s inability to provide an enabling environment for greater productivity.No.They complain because the government is not providing them with everything,all for nothing..This failure is naturally put down to the government’s wickedness.The prevalent thinking is this : “if only the government were not so wicked,it would  make every Nigerian a millionaire,without any one having to lift a finger,for it certainly possessed the necessary resources.” Feeling had done by,it is no surprise that Nigerians resist any liberalization programs which,naturally,require considerable short-term pains in order to secure future gains.Especially when Nigerians do not believe in that future.

Which leads to the second reason : skepticism about Nigeria’s future. With all the uncertainty surrounding Nigeria,and it’s direction,it is perhaps no surprise that Nigerians are loath to harken to calls for any immediate sacrifice for a future,about which they are very doubtful.And immediate sacrifices are what privatization programs are all about.Why would any one defer today’s gratification in favour of a future that may never arrive ? In stead people would rather borrow from tomorrow to pay for today’s indulgence.This is something the government has to grasp.It would be difficult to implement critical economic reforms without a nod to political restructuring.This is where the Sovereign national conference comes in.We need to sort out the “Nigeria” question.When Nigerians are confident of  Nigeria’s future,then,and only then,would the idea of  sacrificing for the future be embraced by them.Or make sense.

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