The economy must be such that there are alternatives in both supply and demand, writes Victor C. Ariole
The dilemma of Africa… is the incidence of a “premature dis-industrialisation where the path of growth which run from agriculture to industry then to service and ultimately to digitalization seems to have broken down.
… Prof. Ezike, Unilag
For Ezike, Africa fails to be proactive on quick thinking for alternatives; and Soludo goes to the extreme for his call on disruptive change which is always like breaking from the past like his re-capitalized banks that wrecked down many nominal shareholders and created fictitious rich owners. I have an uncle, first set of University of Nigeria’s Economics graduate where Soludo made first class, who just past on last week, Clement Okpara.
The way he presented economics to me as a child still lingers in my mind; viz: When there is no sufficient cassava, cocoa yam is the alternative and when there is no butter, crush groundnut serves as purpose. In effect the language to be spoken to a child was what he used and today I see it as economics being the study of constantly, and proactively, seeking for alternative of any usable or consumable item.
And for Finance, Prof. Ezike, occupying the chair of UBA in Unilag in his lecture, on the 19th of November, sees it as ever alternative repackaging of your beauty as a country so as to attract foreign investors who are always looking for alternative ways of making profit, either significant or insignificant profit depending on the beauty, risk wise, of the country that attracts them.
On the same day, earlier on, one was at the Nigerian Institute of Management as one of the Fellows invited to listen to the Vice Chancellor of Niger Delta University, Professor Samuel Gowon Edoumiekumo on “59 years of the Nigerian Economy: Matters Arising”. The lecture centered, basically, on missed opportunities from 1960 to date; that is, not knowing the next alternative that could be relatively sustained while visioning for another alternative. According to the lecturer with graphs displayed, it has been all along, in Nigeria, leading on hand-to-mouth visioning.
In effect whether comparative advantage or market forces, the lecturer insisted on the fact that functional education that would have prompted the migration for another functional alternative ways of keeping our economy going had always been missing except in cases where the free education introduced by Awo and Jakande anticipated what people like him had enjoyed living in the western part of Nigeria. And it says what constant reform of the curriculum, to anticipate where the world is heading, is important.
When the leaders of the leading nations like USA and Russia thought of alternative to energy resource, they moved on to space exploration with the available resources to them as well as remake the education process to accommodate space exploration discoveries like internet, solar energy, etc., and igniting the search for helium which is another new energy but greatly stored in the moon sphere.
So, even if you intend to manufacture aeroplane, it is not a specific country located manufacturing activity, like the space exploration is never one-country affair. You source the components form different countries and use your knowledge of entrepreneurship to assemble or gather knowledge for it. This is where Nigeria ought to lead in Africa to contain the dilemma Ezike expresses as border closure is inimical to that entrepreneurial spirit. As all around Nigeria, the Francophone African countries see Nigeria as the leader that can move them partially out of euro-dependence if not totally.
How would Nigeria be asserting its great human resource if it can’t handle the enormous opportunities that ECOWAS presents? Houphonet-Boigny asserted it when Côte d’Ivoire was in his hand by strengthening UEMOA – Union Economique et Monetaire des Etats de l’Ouest Afrique – as he encouraged free movement of trade and labour upon which he even created a town for cheap workers from Burkina Faso in Côte d’Ivoire. That Union endures informally or unconsciously till today notwithstanding ECOWAS.
It is a leverage for the entrepreneurial spirit of Cote d’Ivoire among its francophone peers. Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, and even closer to Nigeria, Niger adhere to it. When the V.C. of NDU claimed he endorses border closure, I shuddered because it is akin to the analogy he gave of poor Deltans who rejected pipe borne water provided for them because it makes their children always available at home, and negates the elders’ targeting them being far away, fetching water in the streams, so as to allow them mate at such time; as they all, children and parents live in a clustered room. Like Prof. Ake Claude once said, each community must be involved when a given or perceived development plan is supposed to be embarked for them. Functional housing was their immediate need before other needs.
Just like “militarily” closing Nigerian borders when the civilians that see such borders as mere artificial boundaries do not adhere to it. Their need like the anachronistic attitude of the leaders is immediate food; hand-to-mouth economy. Check out Niger Republic and Nigerian side of the border and see whether it is ever working and know also that Niger Republic is part of UEMOA hence a futile exercise. Nigeria’s enormous human resource is not to be restrained from effective use of knowledge power for alternative pursuits. Many Nigerians, especially the educated ones, needed to stray into other African countries and repatriate funds for Nigeria’s development, after providing great knowledge-base service or industry for them.
In all, Clement Okpara’s economics remain valid; ever search and constant research on alternatives even re-adapting your brain performance for alternatives like the Nigerians in the Diaspora, doing and repatriating almost what makes those of us in Nigeria look unproductive. I know Nigerians who studied Arts courses in Nigeria and are now Health Services officials out there; they seem more adaptive to Clement Okpara’s economics than to anyone of the brands our leaders are prophesying now. Nigeria’s economy must seek for alternatives in both supply and demand, using brain processes to create them in Africa.
Ariole is Professor of French and Francophone Studies, Unilag