Sunday, October 4, 2015 6:39 pm
By Adagbo Onoja.
‘Speaking is governing’ is a mini-theory of (presidential) exercise of power, almost funny in its claim that the ‘directional clarity’ exclusive to presidents and prime ministers, as the case may be, is demonstrated and enhanced by the possessive pronoun ‘I’ and the use of active words in the sentences a president deploys. Applied to President Buhari’s statement in New York to the effect that he is personally taking charge of the oil portfolio, what might we say is the direction of governing in that?
It should be fairly straightforward: the president is the locus of power, be it in the coercive, structural, institutional and discourse senses. His selection of a particular portfolio, therefore, means the greater centrality of that portfolio to power. Linked to other pronouncements thereto, we can then surmise the unfolding of something interesting: Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the GMD of the NNPC says if he were allowed, he would sell off the refineries. His is the point of view of the expert.
The President maintained in the 55th anniversary speech that the right thing is, “Those of our refineries which can be serviced and brought back into partial production would be enabled to resume production so that the whole sordid business of exporting crude and importing finished products in dubious transactions could be stopped.” This would be taken as a consensus of the expert and political views. Two things emerge in that consensus when contextually analysed. First, there is commitment to undermining rentierism – looting, waste and inefficiency. In short, attacking accumulation by speculation! Second, there is a clear realisation that Nigeria must refine its petroleum or, like other commodity producers, it would remain unable to pull its weight.
If this is a correct summary of what is unfolding, then there is victory after all for a particular directive principle of state policy in contemporary Nigeria. It is debatable if there is a better argumentation of that than Mahmud Modibbo Tukur’s 1984 epistle to the incumbent president. The epistle titled “The Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (1984)” can be found in the book titled The Essential Mahmud: Selected Writings of Mahmud Modibbo Tukur. Edited by Dr. Tanimu Abubakar, the book is a 1990 publication of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria based Bala Mohammed Memorial Committee and the epistle runs from page 310 to 338, a 28-page affair. As most people would know, Tukur was an academic at the Ahmadu Bello University and President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) then.
I take my bearing from what I identify as the three most critical points in the letter under reference. The first is where Tukur was telling the then General Buhari, “Sir, I have no doubt in my mind at all that Nigeria is at a cross-roads and that a wrong turn can lead our people direct to Hell, on this earth, just as the correct turn will eventually lead these same people to Paradise, on this side of the grave”. Now, without blaming any individuals as such, Nigeria has been in Hell and there is considerable consensus that the key reason for that is the unregulated nature of capitalism in Nigeria such that it is not working for anybody beyond a few buccaneers and smart Alecs. Hence, the aptness of the word cross-roads! As it was 31 years ago, so it is.
The second vital statement in that letter comes in this quotation below: “Privatisation”, of necessity, assumes that any of the enterprises to be sold can be allowed to collapse without serious consequences to the country economically, militarily and politically. Such an assumption – namely that any of these enterprises can be allowed to collapse and liquidate – is patently wrong and needs no refuting. It refutes itself. This being so, the proposal that these enterprises should be “privatised” has two very dangerous implications. These are (i) Either in spite of their being vital to the country economically, militarily and politically the FGN should sell them into private hands where, among other possibilities, they should collapse, or (ii) that even while handing them, dirty cheap to private profit seekers, the FGN should hold itself ready to salvage them with the infusion of public money in the very probable event of their being poorly managed to the point of having to liquidate”
No comments! Except that it would be very interesting to listen to the privatisers and anti-privatisers around the president, debating this quotation with the president as the moderator. The quotation is 31 years old. Someone might be able to refute it. We may never know.
The last one is this quotation too: “I trust you will stand by our people, your only fort, your only shield, and by the long-term interests of this country, which you risked your life to rescue from a ruling group gone berserk. Let not the forces you vanquished defeat you, through ill-considered advice”.
On this too, I also have no new comments, having already relied on it to write two previous opinion articles to make my point. The first of such articles was “Guarding against a Buhari Paradox”, (see The Sunday Sun & Newsdiaryonline, 12/04/2015) and in a more recent essay, “Peter Ekeh and the Missing Leg of the Anti-Corruption War in Nigeria” to highlight how problematic it is to confront rentier mentality without anticipating a backlash if there had been no mobilisation against it.
Of course, the dynamics have and are still changing. One, General Victor Malu’s analysis that if the trial of the politicians for corruption in 1984 had been done openly before the very eyes of Nigerians, none of the politicians would have had the moral courage to surface today, organize and block Buhari’s second coming is being fulfilled. Two, the country is in an agitated mood against corruption although the use of the primordial trap to create confusion in people’s mind cannot be overlooked. Three, the degree of corruption has been so mind boggling that the moral authority of those involved is simply non-existent. Four, the collapse of Western teichopolitics, (the politics of walls, fences and other barriers against the influx of migrants) from their Hellish existence towards Europe has sent fears to European political leaders to ensure that resources of the Africans work for them or they too will be in trouble from the influx.
British Prime Minister, David Cameroon, spoke on January 24, 2013 at the Economic Summit in Davos as the Chair of the G-8, these were his words: “I want this G8 to lead a big push for transparency across the developing world, and to illustrate why let me give you one example. A few years back a transparency initiative exposed a huge hole in Nigeria’s finances, an eight hundred million dollar discrepancy between what companies were paying and what the government was receiving for oil – a massive, massive gap… Last year Nigeria oil exports were worth almost a hundred billion dollars. That is more than the total net aid to the whole of sub Saharan Africa. So put simply: unleashing the natural resources in these countries dwarfs anything aid can achieve, and transparency is absolutely critical to that end. So we’re going to push for more transparency on who owns companies; on who’s buying up land and for what purpose; on how governments spend their money; on how gas, oil and mining companies operate; and on who is hiding stolen assets and how we recover and return them. Like everything else in this G-8, the ambitions are big and I make no apology for that”.