Prof. Pat Utomi’s opinion on the controversial Charles Soludo article

January 30, 2015 1:37 pm

Professor
of political economy and former presidential candidate Pat Utomi shared
this on his Facebook this morning. Read and tell us what you think… 

The
firestorm generated by Chukwuma Soludo’s well reasoned commentary on the
place of issues in the 2015 electioneering campaign has somehow become
the core of the campaign. What a way to come from outside and define
agenda.

Of
course I do not agree with all the points marshaled by the erstwhile CBN
Governor and Patito’s Gang member, but not to commend his citizen duty
of engagement or indicate as reprehensible the resort to ad hominen
bashing of the former Economic Adviser instead of providing Facts to
counter the views he had raised. 

That is issues based campaign. I will myself raise logic to support and dispute some of the points in the Soludo intervention.

I do agree with Soludo that issues
matter. I also think that those who turn to divisive emotion-laden
typecasting of others rather than issues pertaining to the well being of
the Nigerian people do a grave disservice not only to democracy but to
the long term common Good of all.

The Soludo thrust of criticism
sounds like an attack on the statist perspective that intervention can
generate jobs and economic growth. Even as one who likes to see
government out of the way, I find the approach worrying because beyond
the Keynesian logic that brought the ultimate capitalist state, the US,
out of the Great Depression with initiatives like the Tennessee Valley
Authority in Infrastructure, there is more recent example of post 2008
global financial crisis and the stimulus packages of the Obama
Administration, and now Europe turning to Quantitative Easing, not to
knock the wall street / Main street tag team approach to ensuring
prosperity. Soludo’s solutions sometimes sounded like Deepak Lal on the
poverty of Development Economics. I think that if we see current oil
price slum as an opportunity rather than a threat then we have to see a
role for government in the way Lee Kuan Yew used state intervention when
Singapore was prostrate in 1965, as is today.

This
leads to another point I am not in agreement with Soludo on. He talks
about cost of programmes and the fact that low oil prices mean you
cannot finance a big idea. In 1965 Singapore’s main revenues came from
rent for the British Naval Base and the British had decided to shut all
bases east of Eden. The decision of leaders of the United Malay,
National Organisational (UMNO) to eject Singapore from the Federation
that was thought to be the only hope left. Singapore, out of pocket, and
all dressed up with nowhere to go. Then they rolled up their sleeves,
got creative, transmitted the right values and found leadership that
inspired and had integrity. Today the small country probably has the
largest concentration of billionaires per capital on earth.

Here in
Nigeria, shortly after self government, in the 1950’s, Nnamdi Azikiwe as
Premier of Eastern Region was anxious to match the free education
policy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Palm Produce did not fetch as much as
Cocoa in the Market. The civil servants led by the new Permanent
Secretary in Finance, Chief Jerome Udoji thought it could not be done
because of limitations of money. Zik insisted and accused Udoji, in
Parliament, of trying to sabotage his government. After 40 percent of
the Eastern Nigeria budget of 1957 had gone to education and was still
inadequate, the Ugoji team suggested the introduction of fees for
Primary 1 and Primary 5. But leadership kicked in. A philosophy called
“Ibu anyi danda” raised a formula that created a partnership between
government, the communities and missionaries that enabled the East
leapfrog the gap in education between the East and West.

In
both cases the difference was leadership. At the centre in Abuja for
some reason that may be from exposure, or whatever, does not inspire as
Lee Kuan Yew, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara did. Money is not
everything in making dreams come through.

Among the many lessons we
will learn, if we begin to operationalize the cash transfers initiative
of APC, a concept that helped Inatio Da Silva pull Brazil out of
‘potential’ into a global economic powerhouse, is that we may not need
as much cash as Soludo projects and that corruption and goal
displacement is so high in a bloated public service that the savings
will more than be adequate. Besides from Kayode Fayemi and Rauf
Aregbesola we learn that with such programmes in Ekiti and Osun that the
numbers projected are often exaggerated. Given our abuse of census we
are likely to find much fewer people in those brackets. Check with the
Bill Gates Foundation on satellite imagery studies of target population
groups.

Having stated my major point of disagreement, it is useful to reflect on some other points raised by Soludo.
His
broadside on austerity measures pronouncement and the road to austerity
is a true, fair and proper read. No question that we walked with our
eyes open into a repeat of 1982. In many of my speeches and my 2006 book
WHY NATIONS Are Poor, I recall how the Iranian revolution pushed oil
prices into the stratosphere of USD 40 a barrel. We went reckless with
champagne and even importing sand and big men bought Rolls Royces. We
managed to borrow ourselves into a dept trap. On this round we moved up
private jets and buying up Dubai.

When
this current boom started with India Rising and China producing I
recall on several occasions calling for fiscal responsibility compact in
which flows into the distributable pool, the FAC account, not go above
$40 a barrel, with additional revenues up to $70 a barrel price going to
a stabilization fund. This fund would be available were prices to drop
below $40 to be used to ensure a constant budget funding up $40 in lean
times. Beyond $70 it should flow into a future fund. I have been singing
this song for several years but the technocrats say the politicians
insist on sharing the whole money and say of talk about saving for a
rainy day that it is pointless planning for the rain when it was already
pouring torrents. My retort was what is so wrong in resigning to make a
point and force public conversation to educate the people because these
politicians may be greedy but they surely do not hate their children.
They have only acted in ignorance. I point them to young Mahathir
Mohammed in Malaysia who disagreed with the position of the then Prime
Minister and spoke up. He was dropped from the government where he was a
junior minister, and expelled from The United Malay National
Organization (UMNO) the dominant party at that time. Out of government
he wrote a book: The Malay Dilemma. That triggered soul searching that
finished with the resignation of the Prime Minister. He was brought back
into the Party. Not long after Dr Mahathir Ibn Mohammed became Prime
Minister and the history of Malaysia changed for good.
What does it
take to lead such change- Genius? No. I draw from the Ronald Reagan
experience in the US. President Reagan was not a genius. Some think he
probably already had Alzheimer disease when he entered the White house.
But his values were clear as was his vision. He found the right people
and an America, in retreat, was revitalized, opening the way for teen
and twenty American young stars to create a new industry with the .com
revolution. Ironically, I have said elsewhere that the Buhari movement
somehow reminds me of the coming of Ronald Reagan.

Let
me close with a caveat. My response is a citizen response. My prism on
this is not partisan. But I am a card carrying member of the
APC. The emergence of the APC is a culmination of my life’s quest as an
institutionalist to see the dynamic of two balanced political parties. I
was sure that without competition between parties that are equals
progress would continue to elude Nigeria So I longed for and worked for
the scenario we have today. But I see in the torrent of abuse on
Chukwumah Soludo for speaking truth to power and worry this thing we
have worked hard for, not in any pursuit of any self interest, but for
the advance of the common good, could be threatened by those who fail to
understand the very idea of the public squares and the triumph of the
ideas rather than emotional outbursts that result in tension and
violence.

I have read unprintable things on line and in so many
e-groups, some more offensive than Charlie Hebdo cartoons from both
sides. This is poison we must curb. It is a double blow when those who
follow this track are well educated. So let us leave this business of
certificates and uncompleted PHDs and hateful portrayals of opponents in
caricature from the cross to throw backs of earlier life of candidates
that seem like Hitler’s Goebbels at work let’s examine vision of society
of challenges and the record of incumbents. Lets ask people, regarding
incumbents, is your life better today than it was four years ago and to
the challengers how can you make these same lives much better four years from now.
To win elections from intimidation, a shower of insults and trying to
diminish opponents rather than engage their minds can only produce
pyrrhic victory. 

The worst such “victory” would be to win an election
and lose a nation through bitterness that makes it difficult to get
people to work together to advance the shared good of the people. For
people like me the public sphere is about the pursuit of the elevated
immortality. This comes when you do what is right and if providence
beckons, as it did for Mahathir Mohammed, lee Kuan Yew and Ronald Reagan
then you live a name that time cannot find an eraser to rub off. Those
who negate the opportunity for progress to blossom and the triumph of
the human spirit to bring progress deserved die a thousand times while
they still inhale and exhale no matter the title they get for their
place is in infamy.

Tags:
shared on wplocker.com