Collapse Of Nigeria’s Casino Capitalism

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During the early years of the 1970s, an old Lebanese man installed a gaming machine by the Niger Road junction, in Ilorin. Most evenings, people will pack the small hall to drop coins in the machine with the hope of winning big sums that might transform their lives for the better. A few people would win the ‘fabulous sums’ of ten or twenty shillings, but that was always after tens of others have lost their money. KALOKALO is the Yoruba word used for this gaming business, and the old Lebanese man would clear his huge takings at the end of each day. The next day, another swathe of clients will return to try their luck; never winning significantly; never losing the hope to win; never ending the playing and losing!

 

The capitalist system is the ultimate ‘Casino’ or KALOKALO, especially because it stokes the selfish instinct of humans; those base instincts to find riches and get to do some of the most irrational things in the rat race of life. It is actually that irrationality which makes the capitalist system so enduring and able to survive even the most committed ideological effort to overthrow it as a mode of organisation of human society. Those who made the Great October Socialist Revolution in1917 in Russia, through to the Chinese in 1949; the Cubans in 1959 or those efforts to transform national liberation struggles into People’s Democratic phases of constructing socialist state forms in Africa, will testify to these facts about the capitalist system.

 

I have thought about the old Lebanese man of the Ilorin of the 1970s, in relation to the serious ill-health of the Nigerian economy in recent months. As the African proverb says, the wind exposes the hind place of the fowl. Over the past few months, one of the leading ideologues of Nigeria’s ‘Casino (KALOKALO) Capitalism’, Charles Soludo, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was assuring the nation that Nigeria’s economy was going to baulk the international trend of the collapse of the system witnessed around the world. It was an ideological issue for him and other satraps of imperialism’s neo-liberal reforms: they had to assure that all was well, even despite the evidence of the world wide melt down of the capitalism of speculation and making a fast buck in the stock market.

 

It was therefore poignant that President Yar’adua resumed work from his “books-reading” two week holiday, to be sucked into the crisis in the economy. The headlines in Nigerian newspapers must make very depressing reading for the president himself: END OF EXCESS CRUDE ACCOUNT; 300 CADBURY JOBS GONE AS PAN SENDS HOME 565; and DAILY TRUST of Tuesday, February 19, 2009, reported that “foreign investors (These are just speculators really!) in the Nigerian capital market withdrew $4 Billion from the Nigeria Stock Exchange and precipitated its steep decline”, quoting the exchange’s Director General, Ndidi Okereke-Onyuike, one of the most visible faces of KALOKALO Capitalism in our country.

 

When the Nigerian currency went on a free fall against an equally unhealthy dollar, DAILY TRUST of December 17, 2008, reported Charles Soludo as saying that it “was a deliberate economic strategy aimed at ensuring stability of the country’s economy”. Soludo ever full of ‘economic-talk’, obfuscation and mystification, was actually addressing Nigeria’s Senate, and as usual, employed his time-tested method of power point presentation (the weapon that he used to ‘capture’ a certain economic illiterate named Olusegun Obasanjo!); the event was called to seek clarifications about the state of the Nigerian economy. Charles Soludo told the Senate on that occasion that “this was carefully thought through and deliberately implemented in order to ensure that we maintain an internal and external balance for the economy”. Well, Soludo’s ‘internal and external balance’, did not or could not stop the massive capital flight from what remains essentially a neo-colonial economy; but one that has a greater exposure to the vagaries of the international capitalist system, as a result of the neo-liberal policies of the kleptocratic Obasanjo presidential years. Yes, Nigerians were convinced to join in the “Casino (KALOKALO) Capitalism” of speculating in the stock market, and did so in droves (thanks to that primitive instinct to achieve a financial killing, that we spoke about earlier); many took loans from banks while others even sold properties, etc. But when the crash came, like Humpty Dumpty, the pot of greed and KALOKALO hit the ground with a thud! Who on earth can put Humpty Dumpty back together again? It seems that our satraps will not stop trying.

 

How do they hope to go about it? It is MORE OF THE SAME old poison, especially from the woman from the stock exchange. At a Senate session early this week convened in  apprehensive response to the harsh consequences of the world wide crisis of neo-liberal capitalism, Okereke-Onyuike described as “Financial Prostitutes”, those responsible for the troubles of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (as if the capitalist stock exchange can be anything but a form of prostitution!). So how do we solve this problem of “Financial Prostitution”? The answer she offers is MORE OF THE SAME: “This is the best time for Nigerians to buy shares because prices are low. Otherwise, these investors will come back to mop them up”. Not for her any sympathy for the thousands who became ruined by swallowing the same poison they earlier prescribed. Please pardon the erotic flight of fancy, but the Nigerian investors in ‘’Casino Capitalism” have become the “used condoms” of the champions of neo-liberalism in Nigeria. No wonder that a flustered Senator Ahmed Makarfi was forced to respond that “many lost over 70 percent… and you are asking them to come and buy more shares. What efforts are you making to ensure that they recover some…”? But what can anybody usefully do with “used condoms”? You dispose of them of course! Those who lost out do not matter in the calculations of the technocrats. Or do they?

 

There is a little matter that is tangled up in the knot of the crisis and that is Charles Soludo’s tenure as CBN Governor. It will end soon, but he is working flat out to secure a second term (who will not try to secure that juicy corner?). Soludo has apparently survived the indictments from the AFC scandal; he has also warmed his way into the hearts of those who matter and now seems confident of getting a new mandate (which forecloses the return of the CBN Governor’s residences that he sold to himself). But it seems that the timing of the economic collapse is worrisome for him, hence the spin in the media in recent days. It is obvious that the neo-liberal prescriptions which Soludo and his ilk have repeatedly touted as the only way for Nigeria have turned out to be a monumental fraud. But they have become very rich in the process, leaving the Nigerian people to suffer the consequences.

 

The evidence is all around us today; the de-industrialization of Nigeria has turned once vibrant industrial estates into ghost towns: Kakuri in Kaduna; Sharada in Kano or Oregun in Lagos. Erstwhile industrial warehouses are now rented out to new generation churches, where Nigerians are suffused with ‘spiritual booze’; if they are not downing the hard stuff in frustration at the fact that ‘Casino Capitalism’ is not providing jobs and a livelihood. The danger we face is that for as long as Nigeria’s ruling class remains wedded to the same mindset; for as long as economic policies continue to be determined by satraps, we can only get more of the same! Once Soludo gets the opportunity to mystify our very lazy, non-thinking ruling elite, with his power point mysticism, he casts a spell on the economic infrastructure and delivers Nigeria further dosage of the same poison of neo-liberal, KALOKALO capitalism. The result is all around us today: banks that declare stupendous profits but do not lend to the real sector; stock collapse; de-industrialization; sale of national assets to bandit billionaires; despair and deepening of tendencies towards a collapsed or failed state!

In the hands of satraps of the imperialist system, Nigeria will surely fail; there can be no doubts about that. If we are desirous of leading changes that will genuinely benefit the Nigerian people, we must seek an alternative political economy, based on a project of national liberation. For a start, what Charles Soludo deserves is a sack; he must NOT get a second term as CBN Governor. Similarly, we have to repudiate ‘Casino (KALOKALO) Capitalism’. It just won’t work! Even the leading imperialist power, the USA, under President Barack Obama, is rethinking the orthodoxy of neo-liberalism, at least to an extent. They are proposing to spend over $800Billion to turn the economy around. Unfortunately for us, it is the same fraud that our economic thinkers want to give us more of. The patriotic duty is to break free from fraud; we must reject economic poison!

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