Monday, December 18, 2006


At times like this, when people en masse are despairing of the system that reproduces itself aggressively, its good to try to take a step back and look at some longer term patterns. Here's my initial attempt:

1. Political reform. As many have commented, the new President Yar'Adua (who can be bothered to wait till next year to call him that?) reminds them of Shagari and the descent into hell that was the 1980's/90's. Underneath that innocuous exterior, who knows what lies? While Katsina's public finances may have been prudently managed, what development has actually taken place in the state in recent years? It does not look encouraging. Where in the North are their case studies of progressive development?

It seems that in terms of political structures, genuine reform that takes away the huge power vested in the Presidency, creates fiscal federalism and promotes accountability is a long long way off. Don't expect to see the governor immunity clause challenged in the next administration. Massive corruption in the public sector will be business as usual. Nigeria will continue to be pre-ideological, run by big men on a patronage/client basis.

2. Economic reform. There are grounds for more hope here. But how dynamic the reform continues to be depends on whether something similar to the capable technocrats (Soludo et al) around at the moment are still in place. Perhaps some will be persuaded to stay on. Let's see what happens with the EFCC- a continued role for Ribadu is absolutely crucial. The banks still have a massive step-up operation ahead to compete with the bigger banks on the continent and offer genuine service to Nigerian businesses and general consumers. There are still many more essential building blocks yet to be in place - a credit ratings system, reform in the insurance/re-insurance sector, epayments infrastructure, a legal framework for electronic transactions etc etc.

3. Inward investment. China, Korea and India will continue to compete for big infrastructure projects in the next administration. Allowing naira to leak outside the economy is good - the economists will tell you - because it allows for massive infrastructural spend without being too inflationary. Whether it is so good from a job-creation/skills transfer perspective is quite another matter. The power situation should improve steadily in the next ten years - although it will still remain woefully inadequate by global standards. We can look forward to at least two big rail network projects - Lagos northwards to Abuja and Kano, and Calabar to Maduguiri. Meanwhile, global investment flows look set to increase as part of this infrastructural improvement - again a lot of the money coming from Asia, with South Africa and the donors lagging behind. My own personal favourite - IT infrastructure - does not look set for any major improvements - the current administration has a very poor track record in this regard.

4. Creativity. The one area that keeps me continually excited in Nigeria is the development of the arts. Cinema especially looks set to boom, as new cinemas (in Tinapa and Abuja) continue to make the theatrical-release model ever more viable. Expect a revolution in production values in the next 5 years, as cinematic distribution begins to challenge the worn out video/Nollywood model.

5. Education. The foundation stone of any society, the education sector does not look likely to improve in the near or medium term future. The current plan to privatise all institutions of learning is deeply misguided and will fail. The general melt-down will continue, as the Federal Govt's allocation for the sector falls 15% or more below UN recommendations. Nigerians without silverspoons in their mouths and a ticket to a school abroad will find it ever more difficult to compete with their fellow Africans, let alone globally. Another lost generation will follow hard on the heels of the current crop of 18-25 year olds.


Atala Wala Wala 9:33 pm  


Interesting attempt at a long range prediction. My comments:

1. Political reform. Not much will change here - power will continue to be concentrated in the centre, with very few states making any attempt to establish financial independence.

But don't make the mistake of thinking that Yar'Adua is Shagari Mark II. Yes, they are both reluctant candidates from the North - but whereas Shagari had limited political experience, Yar'Adua has at least managed a state for eight years. Also, he is reputed to be very much his own man - so I'm not sure how willing he will be to be teleguided by the party hierarchy. We'll see.

2. Economic reform. Yar'Adua may continue with the more obvious reforms started by Obasanjo, but I'm not sure that he really 'gets' the reform message. Oh well, who knows? After all, Obasanjo used to be a statist in an earlier incarnation. At the very least, he has no reason to sack the technocrats who have been behind the reforms up to date.

I think that the EFCC will still be around - perhaps it will be more vigorous, given Yar'Adua's reputation for financial transparency. On the other hand, since his candidacy has been bankrolled by many of the people who the EFCC should be prosecuting, I think it will stick to catching lesser fry, and the likes of Babangida can rest easy for a while.

The other stuff you mention - a credit bureau, e-payments will definitely happen in the next two to three years.

3. Infrastructure. I'm not sure whether the rail infrastructure projects being promised will yield much - I guess I've heard it all before. I agree that the power situation will change - the NERC has already commenced the groundwork that is needed before private companies start operation - but it will be slooooow.

I don't share your pessimism regarding IT infrastructure, because this is something that depends less on government and more on private sector initiatives. The only thing to sort out is regulating access to the SAT-3 gateway that hooks up Nigeria to the rest of the world via cable.

4. Education. Unfortunately, I think that you're right, and that the impact of education is simply not immediate enough for the government to give it the attention it needs. I don't agree with you that privatising institutions of learning is a bad idea, but that's another discussion for another day.

Monef 4:03 pm  

I also disagree that privatisation of institutions is a bad idea. This is an issue grappled with all over the world and even the US and UK cannot find ways of making their public education systems work as more and more people turn to private schools for answers.

Olawande,  4:09 am  

Does anyone even remember that the Amina Lawal case (the woman a Sharia Court sentenced to death by stoning)which provoked so much outrage,especially in the west,occured in Katsina State-under Yar'Adua's watch and as an outcome of HIS sharia policy in the state? What was his response to the entire episode? What does it say about Yar'Adua's orientation? Would he have allowed the stoning to go ahead? Did he have any opinion on the entire episode? Did he express any? Unfortunately, the Nigerian "voters" will not get a chance to drill him on these issues-they have little say in this pre-determined selection process. This politically and socially reclusive individual who's shown little or no interest in issues outside his immediate domain and who cannot be quoted on any single issue suddenly wants to preside over the affairs of this complex construct called Nigeria? Everyone appears to be mindlessly parroting the PDP's Mantra that Yar'Adua's Katsina state has a reserve of 6 billion Naira or so(Less than $45 million). What exactly does it take to achieve that? Options are i.a natural frugal disposition (which Shagari also shared by the way) that's projected as State policy or ii)simply a lack of ideas! I see no reason why a state as backward as Katsina should save up all that money. His choice of a running mate leaves me less confident. We can only wait and see but I need someone to answer the Sharia questions in the meantime

I wish us all luck...

Anonymous,  4:30 pm  

More on Pat Utomi... on YouTube..

He needs our support.

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