In the past few weeks, we have been sucked into the controversial zoning debate. Some have interrogated the passionate intensity, insisting we should only have been concerned about the competence of individuals asking our votes. Appearing on the surface as a patriotic harangue, but things are not often as altruistic or value-free, as presented. The zoning debate is important, because it touches the essence of Nigeria’s political architecture and any unfair tinkering can lead to a defective and uninhabitable political house. Clearly a PDP affair, but they must also be aware that, in the long run, the choices they make will affect Nigeria into the future.
But it is also important to emphasize as Lenin said, that politics is a concentrated expression of economics; and properly situating the processes of politics, needs an understanding of movements that hold the entire system together, at the infrastructural level of economics, or more appropriately, the political economy. The thoughts of two individuals have inspired my concern over the past one week, about problems of political economy and the well-being of Nigeria. Last Friday, August 6th, 2010, DAILY SUN carried the warning by CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, about the “lean credit allocation” banks extend to agriculture despite “contribut[ing] about 42 percent of Nigeria’s GDP”; nevertheless it gets “only 1% of banking sector’s total credit annually”. Sanusi said “Nigeria’s economy cannot go anywhere unless we fix the productive sector particularly agriculture”, adding that “10percent growth in agriculture would add 4 percent to the nation’s GDP”.
Significantly, CBN has allocated N200billion towards financing commercial agriculture and another N130billion to manufacturing through the Bank of Industry. Sanusi nevertheless warned that “credit expansion without corresponding investment in infrastructures that support productive enterprise may eventually be counterproductive”. I took in Sanusi Lamido’s worries within the context of discussions I held with Professor Paul Lubeck from the University of California. Paul has carried out researches in Nigeria since the 1980s, studying patterns of industrialization and the formation of class consciousness amongst Muslim industrial workers in Kano. In the earlier periods of his studies in Nigeria, there was still a vibrant industrial sector in our economy; today we face a crippling de-industrialization and the closure of the industries in Bompai, Sharada and other estates in Kano. In fact for Paul Lubeck, Nigerians should insist that our politicians have an industrialization restitution program, before being considered as candidates in the next elections.
Paul Lubeck thinks the 2011 elections will be a path breaking moment in Nigerian history; pointing out that Attahiru Jega’s appointment as INEC chief signaled some hope against the background of the major crises that he believes endanger Nigeria social stability. These are the restiveness and low intensity warfare in the Niger Delta; development of Muslim, anti-state rebellions that culminated in Boko Haram, including those on the Jos Plateau and the near-complete breakdown of law and order in Eastern Nigeria, where kidnapping has become a virtual “industry” on its own. Nigeria as a signatory to the WTO agreement has a right, in his view, to take up a waiver in the interest of national security, from the WTO agreement. That waiver should be used to support employment generation industrialization, otherwise, in his viewpoint, “there will be no Nigeria” anymore. And Paul really knows Nigeria, and using Kano as an example, he added that the de-industrialization of the city has turned it into a magnet of extreme poverty. Kano’s population since the 1980s has grown over four times, while employment has virtually disappeared; the consequence is that there is no hope for the huge population of youth in the city.
Unfortunately, the campaigns to go to school has created a huge population of educated young people, who are urban-based and can no longer return to farm during the rainy season, as was the practice in the past. So Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb, with this new stratum of educated poor. Furthermore, the statistics are very worrisome: one out of every 13 children in Kano is abandoned and now lives on the streets, as a result of poverty. The 2007 population projections put Nigeria’s population at 144.4 million people, and by mid-2025, that population will reach 204.9 million and 281.6million by 2050! The problem area is that 45% of our population is under the age of 15, meaning that earliest, by the next decade, Nigeria must find employment for this huge population of youngsters. Already, there are 44 million unemployed young people in our country and each year, 5million more are added to that population of the young unemployed. As we noted on this page a few weeks ago, for just 68 vacancies in Abuja in June, 2010, they received one million applications!
Given this gloomy scenario with our country’s present and future prospects, I asked Paul Lubeck what he thinks needs be done for Nigeria to diffuse the gathering explosive storm. In real terms, Nigeria has not invested in industrialization for almost three decades; we will therefore need to re-capitalize industry; support a national entrepreneurial (a productive bourgeois) class (but where are?) that collaborates with transnational capital to invest in industry that can begin to absorb the huge population of unemployed. He believes that Nigeria’s history exemplifies the failure of state-owned enterprises.
The state ought to concentrate on the level of management expertise it can face: security challenges; education, health and basic infrastructure that work for a massive country like Nigeria. Agriculture must become commercialized in a context which offers a class transition from the peasantry to commercial agricultural workers. We can then achieve food security as well suck a huge population into modern production. If the ruling class cannot see the historical proportions of the crisis which Nigeria faces, the problems will explode and consume them; and that is not doomsday forecasting. Especially in Northern Nigeria, the implementation of political Sharia tapped into a subsisting romanticism about using Islam to achieve social justice, but it has failed to address the deepening poverty and despair. So between Sanusi Lamido and Paul Lubeck, there is a lot of wisdom that the Nigerian ruling class should learn from to save their class hegemony project. Unfortunately, the narrative of pro and anti-zoning has not accommodated the serious problems which face Nigeria now and will threaten it even more frontally into the future. Nigeria is perched dangerously on a powder keg which can explode at any time!