Lack of knowledge doing more harm than corruption
When an individual demonstrates the inability to learn and change, we may describe him or her as one with learning disability, an untrainable, incorrigible and unprogressive person. What do we say when a nation thinks and does the same things that do not build nations for decades, expecting different results? Would you say that the stagnating nation is dying for lack of knowledge? Nigeria has been a stagnating nation. But I would rather describe Nigeria’s persistence in thinking and doing things that do not promote rapid progress as a consequence of lack of knowledge. This is because, corruption, history shows, is indeed a consequence of poverty – poverty in knowledge and poverty in material. Quite importantly, our research shows that young nations are usually poor and experience the problem of corruption. In young Britain, the corrupt parliamentarians were known as the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ (Travelyan, 1948). The United States, decades before 1900 witnessed corruption and greed. The political parties – the Democratic Party and the Republican Party were referred to as parties that had no principles or distinct tenets, though they had certain war cries, organisation and interest enlisted in support of getting or keeping the patronage of government (Norton, et al., 1984).
There were about 50 nations in Africa in the 1980s. Of these, over 30 adopted the African Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in the early 1980s. I consider the adoption of the African SAPs as the second major disgrace for the Black Race. The enslavement of many millions of Africans in the period approximately 1470s-1880s and the colonisation of the African continent in the period 1850s-1990s by the Caucasian was the first major disgrace for the Black Race. Germany was subjected to what may be described as the German SAP in the period 1919-1923 because Germany did not have $33 billion to pay as war reparation to the Allied Powers after Germany and her Axis friends lost the First World War. The German SAP could not have been a development programme designed by the victor for the vanquished. The German SAP mandatorily devalued the German mark from 4.2 units to the US$1 in 1919 to 4.2 trillion marks to US$1 in 1923, disgraced all Germans and Germany and probably caused the Second World War. Considering the disgraceful economic, political and social conditions in Nigeria and other African nations today, was the adoption of the African SAPs not a disgrace? It certainly was. It must be for lack of knowledge that over 30 nations including Nigeria, adopted a punitive programme as a development one. It must be for lack of knowledge that a continent would adopt a programme that would humiliate a race for the second time. Sadly, all Nigerian governments since 1986, including the Buhari administration have been implementing the African SAPs.
Corruption is by far a smaller problem than ignorance or lack of knowledge in Nigeria and other nations of Africa; it is lack of knowledge of the development process that is the major cog in the wheel of progress in Nigeria. Consequently, although Buhari’s government was voted into power because it promised to bring about CHANGE (probably hinged on fighting corruption headlong), its achievements in all aspects of life including fighting corruption would be limited by lack of knowledge.
The main elements of the Nigerian SAP are: (1) the mandatory currency devaluation machinery – the foreign exchange market, now known as the Flexible Dutch Auction System; (2) privatisation or sharing of liquid public assets to the wealthy and powerful; (3) declaration of crude capitalism as Nigeria’s economic philosophy; and (4) declaration of government as the private business of those who win the ridiculous things illiterate Nigerians call elections. These elements have been the fundamental basis for managing national life since 1986. This is the reason one can rightly say that Nigeria is still operating the programme called African SAPs.
I analysed SAP in the book entitled, “Understanding Why Privatisation Is Promoting Unemployment and Poverty and Delaying Industrialisation In Africa” (Ogbimi, 2007). The analysis showed that SAPs lacked growth promoting elements. Those who formulated it – the World Bank and IMF and other economists do not understand the workings of an economy. Consequently, rather than promote true economic growth, the programmes have been promoting mass unemployment, low productivity, high inflation, prevalent poverty, unprecedented corruption and de-industrialisation in Nigeria and other African countries. African SAPs have transformed all African nations into purely speculative societies repeating clichés like privatisation, commercialisation, deregulation, appropriate pricing, infrastructure deficit and building critical infrastructure, capital investment, the investor, foreign direct investments (FDIs) every hour, every moment, while the economy stagnates and poverty and violence escalate.
The Buhari administration, following the dictates of African SAPs has rapidly worsened the social, economic and political conditions of the Nigerian during the past 19 months. Two major decisions were responsible. The increase of petrol pump price from N97/litre to N145/ litre and the rapid devaluation of the Naira from about N200/US$1 to about N500/US$1 have precipitously increased the level of poverty and hopelessness in Nigeria. The two decisions were taken for lack of understanding of how an economy is managed well.
All that Nigerian governments have been doing since 1986 is practising crude capitalism, acquiring public assets, trying to decree the private sector into existence, lamenting the scarcity of foreign exchange for importation, borrowing indiscriminately for the erection of critical infrastructure, and increasing poverty level and hopelessness due to lack of the knowledge for promoting national development.
History shows that all the prosperous nations of Europe and Asian were poor when they had agricultural economies. They became prosperous after achieving industrialisation. Sadly, they achieved industrialisation after toiling for 2000-3000 years. They suffered for that long because they neglected learning – education and training. The United States achieved industrialisation and achieved a world power status in just about 300 years because the nation emphasised public education and training quite early.
Nations achieve industrialisation through learning – education and training. Contrary to the belief among social scientists, especially Nigerian economists and lawyers, nations do not achieve industrialisation through mere capital investment; nations do not achieve industrialisation through erection of infrastructure to attract foreign investments; nations do not wait for the private sector to lead rapid industrialisation effort. Abramovitz (1956), Solow (1957), Gerschenkron (1966) and Ogbimi (2003) have demonstrated unequivocally that mere capital investments do not promote Competence-Building-Growth (CBG). All structures (roads, bridges, rail lines, automobiles, houses, stadia, etc.) are Depreciating Assets (DAs). As such, nations that emphasise investments in infrastructure, merely invest in decreasing investment functions. They may be likened to the unusual man attempting to fill a profusely leaking water tank with water. This is why there is nothing for Nigeria to show for the N53 trillion budget of the nation since 1999. The learning people are Appreciating Assets (AAs) because the intrinsic values of the learning people appreciate with learning time and intensity. Learning results in relatively permanent changes in knowledge, skills, experience and other behaviours (Klausmeier, 1985). A nation which emphasises learning invests in increasing investment function. Hence, the growth of the intrinsic value of the learning people may be modelled by the compound interest formula. A nation’s competence to do many things increases as long as the citizens continue to learn. The economic transformation described as Industrial Revolution (IR), is reached after many millions of people have learnt sufficiently.