We live in a world of earning. To hope to attain is to plan to earn. This is the meta-logic that applies to all entities; be they people, businesses or nations. To hope to build or have a strong currency without first having a strong economy powered by strong institutions is to be completely divorced from the truth of how functional economies work.
For a long time Nigeria as a country, has been run by leaders who couldn’t see farther than their noses. Our policies, plans and projects have largely been created in the spur of the moment. Our leaders made a living out of being a reactive economy and in the seasons of plenty, we settled into our chairs, loosened our belts and went about filling our bellies till we could take no more. Our coffers were full but in spates of misadventure that was inspired by gluttonies, we ate both the harvest and the seed we needed for the next planting season.
On many occasions and across different administrations, the Nigerian leadership was faced with moments of decision; moments, when the onus of progress rested solely on the quality of decisions of our leaders. That was when the type of popular politics employed by Nigerian elites showed its truly flawed nature. Leaders that had been elected on the foundation of vested interests couldn’t deliver the quality they didn’t have and consequently caved in.
When we had to make hard choices we avoided them. When we were faced with tough choices, we looked for the easy way out. Our bellies of course were full, so we could barely move our feet. When our nation was rich with demand, we begged China for help and they manufactured for us. When our children wanted food we scolded every nation we could with our big wallets and they went to the farm for us. Our luxury was great – at least for those among us who could afford it.
With merry hearts and a full stomach we roamed the international streets calling alike where we were wanted, and unwanted. Our house, once beautiful and growing was gradually going to ruin but we didn’t spare the moment. The world loved us. We weren’t harsh. Nigeria was like the friend who gave but wasn’t worth giving to.
Our leadership and our elite obeyed the golden rule and treated all our foreign neighbors and partners nicely; even though we didn’t have enough, we sold electricity to Benin Republic, we sold Natural gas to Ghana, we let Cameroon have some portion of the oil rich Bakassi peninsula, we kept our border with Niger and Chad hopelessly open and our list could go on forever. But for some reason the failing state of our house never bothered us so much.
Like Esau, we could hunt, but nurturing wasn’t our forte. However unlike Esau who sold his birthright once in his lifetime, Nigerian leaders sold our birthrights so often that we had to device new ways of selling it. First we sold our agriculture on a platter of oil, then we sold our oil on a platter of foreign exchange, next we sold our best and brightest minds, then we sold our security and now we are selling our naira. For all the great imagination I have, I cannot even predict what Nigeria will sell next.
However as we continued in the culture of momentary gratification, we failed to realize that the universe is governed by more than one law. Equally as strong as the Golden rule, is the Law of the Harvest. A very accurate version of the law would be: as the earth remains, seed time and harvest, shall not cease – whatsoever a nation sows, that it will also reap.
Now we return to the present, 2016.
The Economic Law of Precedence
(This law was first coined by E.O Richard and covers a wide and highly relevant body of issues under national macro-economics. For the purpose of this essay, only a basic portion will be covered).
This law unlike certain renowned laws of economics is one whose timeline of relevance extends from the past to the present; and whose consequence dictates the outlook of the future.
At any given time, the economic realities of an entity, is the evident result of previous independent or related choices or actions executed by that entity.
This law seeks to explain how elements of the economic realities affecting an entity can be better understood by investigating the previous choices, policies or actions undertaken by that entity. In the case of this paper, the entity under investigation is Nigeria and this investigation has been made necessary by the present economic challenges facing our beloved Nation – prominent amongst of which is the fall in value of the naira.
It may have seen unlikely or at least inconspicuous at the time, but before the current economic situation of Nigeria fully manifested, the following steps likely played out. We were most likely still working through the intense hangover of our political binging and electoral over indulgence to notice.
Acculturation: The first thing prudent nations do when they gain independence, is to earnestly begin the long process of establishing a national culture. At any giving time, the elements of national culture chosen by a country must correspond with the goals and standards the leadership of that nation has set for themselves and for the nation as a whole.
Intentionally or unintentionally, the leadership of Nigeria has over the years established a national culture for the nation. What they created however, it is not a good one. The political processes and Leadership style adopted by Nigerian leaders across different administrations, have failed to inspire the Nigerian people towards excellence.
Every Nigerian agrees that Nigeria is a rich country; but no Nigerian believes that Nigeria’s wealth is reflected in the state of the Nation or the life of its people. This simple sentence that so accurately describes the truth of Nigeria’s government is such a powerful cultural statement that its consequence can be felt in every corner of the nation. Every time the Swiss government does Nigeria the favor of returning hundreds of millions of stolen dollars to the federation account, a new chapter in our national culture is written; Every year our federal government implements only 40% – 50% of the national budget, a culture is being solidified; Every time a former governor or politician is dragged to court in handcuffs for laundering public funds, our massive youth population is being unconsciously given a lecture in national culture.
The most dangerous element of National culture is that it does not need a conscious effort in its formation and it always outlives the leader(s) who formed it. The leaders who slowly but surely sold Nigeria’s agricultural prowess on a platter of easy petro-dollars are mostly dead; but their legacy no doubt lives on. The administration of government who put in place the economic policies that set in motion the decline of the naira in the currency market are all retired and nearing the call of their maker but the unpleasant fruit of their labor is the reality many young Nigerians will work for years to overcome. Nigeria was unlucky; our founding fathers didn’t live long enough to help in the formation of a foundational national culture.
In the chain of the Economic Law of Precedence, Nations start with culture formation. Culture is a pervasive concept. Its form and content is felt in all aspects of a society in which it exists. Nations who lead, have a defined culture in their business practices, they have a culture of politics that sets the tone for their leadership style and the same goes for all facets of their existence. Those nations who fail to design their national culture will struggle as they go along. However those Nations – like Nigeria – whose governments unconsciously or naively establish negative political and fiscal traditions without realizing the cumulative socio-economic effects on the culture of the nation will struggle to prosper.
We have a current administration that has promised to change everything that can possibly be changed. Their initial belief in their capacity to create change would make one believe that they would regulate the heat of the sun shining on the Nigerian masses if they could.
Nonetheless, as a keen observer of societal psychology, I believe a good place to begin the change mission, is from the base of the National Culture of the people, whose lives they seek to improve.
The Nations who lead today’s world started by building an impeccable national culture that permeated all areas of their society. The nations that experienced breakthrough later on stopped in their tracks and with sincere prudence, did the same. If we seek breakthrough, we must apply honest wisdom and begin this process, earnestly. What Nigerian leaders over the years have succeeded in creating is an ominous set of traditions that have proved counter-productive in many ways.
Institutions: With the careful and disciplined design and implementation of an excellent national culture, we can move forward to revive our institutions and make them more purpose driven. First Civic Institutions and then the others will follow. A Nation’s progress rises and falls on the strength of its institutions. At the moment, the number of institutions in Nigeria that have been created to cater for vested interests is amazing.
Today, even the most refined and genuinely fired financial criminals shudder at the thought of laundering money to, or through the United States. This is because the American government has spared no expense in building its Justice department into one of the best in the world. The success of many local and international American businesses rest on the capacity of the US Justice Department to settle disputes of all kinds, ensure healthy competition, eliminate monopoly and generally broker a good deal for everyone involved.
A Nigerian government agency that does a terrible job of organizing a national job selection process; a selection process that ultimately leads to the death of young educated Nigerians is a clear example of an institution that is capable of sending any nation to socio-economic grave.
At a time where our foreign exchange reserves is bleeding profusely, oil prices lay critically low and our secondary export capacity is nowhere near what it should be, the key to reversing the current economic trend may very well lie in reviving institutions. Institutions, that makes sense to investors and economic stakeholders even though they do not necessarily seem attractive to the current political leaders. Investors without fail, will chose a peaceful country over a rich country; they would rather import cash into a fair and just economy even though it is lean, than into an economy that is robust, but has no guarantee of the rule of law (Strive Masiyiwa’s experience in Nigeria affirms this point).
Civic institutions like a solid Justice system, a fair and people oriented democracy, a healthy Police and military, and others are necessary for economic growth even though on the surface they seem disconnected. Indeed on the surface, it will take a man with good insight to see how a healthy police force will affect the value of the naira but those who lead know that in the “System of things”, nothing stands alone.
Solidify Basic Industry: While we wait for the price of oil to soar to a new and favorable high, we will need to set our hands to building Symbiotic Commerce nourished by properly designed internal and external value chains. We need to explore our comparative and absolute advantages fully. Oil is one of the most volatile commodities in the international market largely because of its connection to several other consumer variables and its bulk availability in many nations. However, many of the other minerals available in Nigeria are not. My only caution is that the present Nigerian leaders should not do with our secondary mineral resources what the past leaders did with Crude Oil. We built oil refineries but indulged in folly that dragged us into importing fuel (thanks to Aliko Dangote, even if we export limestone, I doubt if we will ever import cement). Our secondary mineral resources should be bestowed the appropriate value that will increase their worth in international markets. The current snatch and grab model popular in oil and gas exploration in Nigeria if applied to secondary mineral resources will leave us in dire straits. Importantly, in executing our new found zeal for mineral resources, relevant economic policy thrusts should be geared towards Extending resource commerce by exploiting the logic of Business Models on every level of international trade possible.
Exploring local industry will involve deep innovation in business models. We live in a time governed not by economic policies, bilateral trade agreement between nations or the old diversification mantra. Today’s world is run by smart international business with highly functional Business Models. These business have become the tools with which developed nations exploit the resources of other nations who themselves have not come to the point of modern economic enlightenment. Nigeria for generations was in the class of those nations exploited remorselessly. The way to change lies in prudence in Value Management; and not necessarily in Value creation. To engage in value creation without providing a framework to manage such value, is to open the doors to the proverbial devourers. Sustainable growth is tandem to Value management the former can never happen without the later.
The mundane traditional Nigerian method of:
Produce – Sell – Get revenue – and Produce more
is dead on arrival when applied to many of today’s fast moving industries. The present demands insightful national business models that will incorporate more and more players; create more jobs and add value to the products of our local industries. Today’s modern industries at all levels (national, state or private), are looking for new ways to; “Upsell” clients; charge consumers on secondary value and seal of leakage points of revenue. Nigeria may be a big country, but nonetheless, we are still immersed in the harsh, fast moving and highly competitive global market and until we can apply such nimble albeit highly effective modern commercial methods to our economic activities we will remain the fat slow lady that gets picked apart at every turn. Until oil hits a new and favorable high, we must continue to intelligently pursue the Controlled exploration of artificial and natural resources.
Personally, I have no love for the many prominent Nigerians who have taken this season of national challenges as an opportunity to gorge out unbridled complaints and criticisms without offering as much as a penny’s worth of advice on how these obstacles can be surmounted. This unpatriotic approach has served some well. It has given them cheap minutes in the media. However, the remaining 170 million of us will woman and man up. Necessity and survival are after all, the birth parents of Innovation, of change and of progress.
If we faithfully engage our hands to serve Nigeria with heart [intelligence] and might, our naira now ailing, can lead again.
Emeka Richard writes from Delta State. [email protected], 07053139176, Emeka Richard O (facebook)