There is one truth we cannot run away from. That truth is that any society desirous of repositioning its economy must first of all get its political structures right. Before the Mao revolution in China, the Chinese economy was subject to so many shocks. Mao’s first major preoccupation was to initiate far-reaching political restructuring of China. It was this massive political restructuring that triggered the explosion of the Chinese economy. The same is true of the Russian economy after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Lee Kuan Yew is our modern example. The point I am making is that getting the politics right as a prelude to economic resurgimento is a natural sequence of social growth.
Given the renewed momentum and calls for the restructuring of Nigeria, I am not surprised that it has dominated media headlines both in the one print and electronic media. Recently, I was watching and listening into the programme, where the discussants dwelt extensively on the economy and what should be done. One thing that actually interested me was the various suggestions made by the panelists on how to move Nigeria out from the woods. While the panellists were unanimous in their agreement that the economy has collapsed almost irretrievably, some of them recommended, as a way forward, that Nigerians should go back to the farms; others agreed that there is urgent need to restructure the country. Most of the discussants also dwelt extensively on the importance of restructuring. Even Vice President Yemi Osibanjo called in to make his position on restructuring known, though I find his explanation vague.
But whether the Vice President agrees with restructuring or not, my happiness is that many highly placed Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora, who before now would hear nothing about restructuring the country, have become fiery apostles of restructuring. I have always known that we can never escape the route of restructuring because history is coterminous with the reality that restructuring is the only escape route for countries like Nigeria. In the past 35 years I have maintained this position.
However, it does appear that even when restructuring has become very trending today, many of the new apostles do not understand the full import of restructuring. I want to say for the umpteenth time, that what Nigeria needs now is not a back-to-land initiative (that is good in itself) but an urgent restructuring of the country. My worry actually, is the lackadaisical understanding of this process of restructuring, even by those we may regard as informed.
Nigeria’s problems are far more grievous than we are ready to accept. Our problems are not just corruption and its associated dynamics. Nigeria’s problems are deeper than these. Our problem is simply and squarely that of defective structure. It is this defective structure that has spurned the collapse of the economy. I do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that when the source of the stream is polluted, the whole stream will be polluted. But history is generous with instances, that it takes a visionary, intelligent and focused leader to raise any society from its lowest level of production to a more advanced one.
There is one truth we cannot run away from. That truth is that any society desirous of repositioning its economy must first of all get its political structures right. Before the Mao revolution in China, the Chinese economy was subject to so many shocks. Mao’s first major preoccupation was to initiate far-reaching political restructuring of China. It was this massive political restructuring that triggered the explosion of the Chinese economy. The same is true of the Russian economy after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Lee Kuan Yew is our modern example. The point I am making is that getting the politics right as a prelude to economic resurgimento is a natural sequence of social growth. So I am scarcely surprised when one hears so many people talking about stimulating economic growth in Nigeria; yet such people fail to appreciate the significance of political restructuring. My conclusion on such occasion is that such people either do not understand the correct meaning and import of political restructuring or they are simply not being sincere to themselves. In real terms, the first step towards getting the economy right hinges on a thorough-going and acceptable political restructuring of Nigeria.
The significance of political structure came to the fore at the time Barack Obama came into office as the US President. Obama came to power at a point the US economy was in deep melt-down. He did not go about bemoaning the errors and mistakes of the past Republican administration of George Bush. He realized that his legacy in government would be judged by how he confronted the economic challenges of the US. He relied on a solid political structure that has been consolidated across time to initiate far-reaching economic policies aimed at stimulating a collapsing economy. Did he succeed? Yes! He did not only succeed but has taken the US economy to new levels.
What I am saying is that a leader who comes to power must have a vision and mission of how to turn his society around. This is not the case in Nigeria. Is it not worrisome that a man who had contested the presidency of this country for three consecutive times could not boast of a mission statement when he eventually got into power? To prove my point about Buhari’s lethargy, I want to draw a comparison between him and the current president of the Philippines, Duterte.
Both men are in the same age bracket. General Muhammadu Buhari, officially, is 74 years. The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte is 71 years old. Buhari was elected in and sworn in on May 29th 2015; Duterte was elected and sworn in June 2016. Like Buhari and the APC, Duterte and his party promised “change”. Buhari is known to be very stubborn, obstinate and unforgiving, Duterte is known as the “punisher”. Buhari vowed to curb corruption, stimulate the economy and stem the tide of insecurity; Duterte vowed to kill suspected drug dealers and other criminals if elected president. He came into office on the strength of what he achieved as the Mayor of Davao, Buhari came into office on account of his assumed reputation for anti-corruption. Buhari was elected into office with 15.4 million votes as against Jonathan’s 13.3 million votes. Duterte was elected president with 16.1 million votes as against 14.4 million votes scored by Leni Robredo. Buhari has been in office for 14 months. Duterte has been in office for just one month. In 14 months Buhari has not fulfilled any of his campaign promises. In one month, Duterte has reined in notorious drug dealers including his own kinsmen. In terms of educational qualification, Duterte is a political scientist, lawyer and public administrator. In comparison, Buhari’s educational background has remained a matter of conjecture. In 2015 Buhari was enmeshed in a certificate scandal. Till date Buhari has failed to provide his real WAEC result to prove the he went to school. If he went to any secondary school in Nigeria, he has been challenged to name his school mates.
You can see why Duterte is succeeding and Buhari is failing. I have always said that Buhari is not the Messiah Nigerians are waiting for. My conviction on this is anchored on hard facts. First, it is not for nothing that early political philosophers like Plato spoke of philosopher-kings. The thrust of this concept is that he who should occupy the position of leadership must be a very educated person. Criticisms of this concept notwithstanding, experience has shown that it is inevitable in leadership.
A philosopher-king is at the same time a leader and a motivator; a visionary and a missionary; one who is ready to explore new frontiers and accommodate all the segments of society. Nigeria has been less than fortunate in enthroning such leaders. However, the worst mistake we have made as a people is to enthrone a man who can barely read and write; a man that does not even have the West African School Certificate as our president.
In real terms, Muhammadu Buhari does not have the intellectual capacity to do for Nigeria what we expect him to do. There is wisdom in the saying that one does not give what one does not have basically because one cannot go beyond one’s intellectual capacity. The truth is that no person can go beyond the level his intelligence. You can only go as far as your intelligence can carry you. Even Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had noted that Buhari “would not be a good economic manager”. Obasanjo could not have been more correct and prophetic. While I commend the discussants on TVC’s Journalists Hangout for their courage, I want to add to their recommendations, as a way forward, the immediate resignation or removal of Buhari. That, for me, is the first thing we have to do on the road to restructuring. I think it is escapist for Buhari and the APC to keep dwelling on what they think the PDP did wrongly in power as reasons for failure.
For the records, the Nigerian economy had been destroyed by the several military juntas we have had in this country (Buhari’s military dictatorship of 1983 being one of them) even before the PDP came to power. But my take here is not about PDP or APC. My point is that Buhari is ill-equipped to drive a process of change and restructuring. Though Nigerians are presently groaning in hardship, the coming months and years would even be more gruesome. The times, indeed, are perilous and tragically, this is all about the Buhari legacy.
*Nwankwo is Chancellor of the Eastern Mandate Union