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Is Nigeria lacking deep thinking?

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Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola

And unless we have the Supreme Court that thinks deeper (…) the society will be worse off (…) and those who are going to do the thinking are the academics (…)” Justice Ayoola – former Chairman ICPC.

A review of a budget already passed, and for just one year exercise, is a clear evidence of absence of deep thinking like stated above by the former chairman of ICPC, Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola. Beyond force majeure which calls for the entire world to come to the rescue of victims, or warrants re-insurance entities’ intervention, a mere budget proposal for a mere nation that claims to have intellectuals, with its 174 universities – public and private – which serve as communion grounds for the past, present and future of a people, as the youths work hard with their lecturers to produce knowledge that is expected to make for sustainable development, Boko Haram’s mantra of leaders that make education look like haram, pervades in Nigeria.

From all indications, Nigerian leaders seem to be supporting Boko-Haram ideology of Western education is useless. Excess Crude-Account meant to cushion the effects of the pricing fluctuation of crude oil, was a well thought out process for strategic thinking, and people like Amaechi, leading former governors, fought against it and it earned him accolade for further greater responsibility. What a shame! Today, the Minister of Finance is calling for Budget Review as if the budget, in the first place, represented any good thing for Nigerians – 200 million people for N10.59 trillion; that is about N530 for each Nigeria for one year. Check out the South African budget – which is expected to be in competition, for the first economy in Sub-Sahara, with Nigeria – 59 million people for R1.95 trillion, that is about R33,050 for each South African.

A ratio of 1.5:2000; that is, for Nigeria about $1.50 to $2000 for a South African, and the Finance Minister feels comfortable about that and Nigerians seem to think that, indeed, they have a better economy than South Africa which has called on Dr. Okonjo – Iweala to be part of advisory team to help it widen more the gap between South Africa and Nigeria. And reading Andersen Tax Digest, it is evident that company income Tax Act in Nigeria, has no deep thinking process and that some companies (foreign ones) pay tax on moral conscience basis not that efforts are made to get them to pay.

The best way to evaluate governance in Nigeria must be on how the leaders are generating ideas and knowledge as well as putting in place facilities and infrastructure that could enable a Nigerian – and they are many – to produce wealth for the nation not necessarily incapacitating those who are trying their best by imposing undue taxes. Taxes are willingly paid when all indices of better human living are seen working well. Taxing without commensurate facilities to enable the payers work is slavery in another guise. Again, how do you motivate people to work and pay tax when the tax collector acts like a horse rider on individuals with no moral suasion component; and even those making great profit just pay by pitying Nigeria.

Imagine South African budget where the bulk of the expenses is to empower the people to learn and be socially integratable – with a sub title “Learning and Culture” – to the already known performing groups who are contributing tax, to generate the expected revenue, not necessarily counting bars of gold or diamond the government is to sell like Nigeria counts barrels of oil. It is indeed a poor accounting attitude to be talking of barrels of crude as means of revenue generation instead of other name like tax accruable from oil exploration. It can only be in crude and unknowledgeable economy like it is known in some part of central Africa, where transactions are carried out on physical counting of money and goods.

South Africa spends R396 billion and R309 billion for both learning, enculturation and social security – one third of the budget. So, why should Nigeria ever think that it surpasses South Africa in intellectual approach to governance as well as GDP performance indicators? Effectiveness and Efficiency are well observed in the South African process – the former is administrative, the latter is management – that is, having the mindset of being and intrapreneur in any given governance process, not just mere tax collector with a cane on overburdened horse or horses as Nigeria’s case stand. Directors of Treasury, now deployed to agencies as mentioned by the Finance Minister must present their budgets for revenue haunting, indicating how and what target of revenue is expected of each of them, not just sitting as another king in the agency.

I personally saw that approach at Johannesburg’s airport where all hands were on deck to canvas revenue from passengers in tourism directorate manners. What most people do not know is that Black South Africans antagonizing those they call Nwangaga or Kwekwereke, including Nigerians among them, is because they make their government see them as lazy people who wait upon social security to feed – meal ticket – in some cases. As suffering from uncaring government Nigerians are forced to opt for migration but they should also be mindful of not hurting their fellow Africans who are cared for by their government, as they migrate to their countries. However, social security and empowerment of the weak population is very necessary to bridge the gap of inequality. And Nigerian poor need such gap bridging which this budget has not provided, hence why talks of review? Nigeria’s budget as presented does not have such components.

In effect the highest component is debt servicing which gulps almost 40% of the budget. It is indeed made to pay “dividend” to investors who had managed their resources better than others and had invested in high risk Nigeria, and are in position to reap benefits which you must not deny them in the name of budget review. At worst you beg them for rescheduling, or at best, like it was done in Idiagbon time, you canvass for debt/equity swap, as there are many performing assets in Nigerian that they could buy into as the Lagos Stock Exchange enters into demutualization phase.

Knowledge power and deep thinking is the current phase of the world economy, it is not for weak people to decide. Oil price fluctuation is also knowledge based, and deep thinking driven. It is assumed that the target is Russia as it has proved stubborn in helping fuel antagonism among those making life unbearable for the Saudis, including their princes trying to re-align their interest; and it is a coordinated approach to get Saudi Arabia to re-think its alignment strategy. Corronavirus is also affecting the most decisive communist enclave, and the progressive countries must re-align to re-assert their lead; and followers or margin economies in the economic chessboard of the world like Nigeria, must learn the best way to approach it. In marketing they say, learn to carve a niche if you are neither a challenger nor a great player. Nigeria must learn to carve a niche with AfCTA and derive the benefit of the most populous black nation and not help in deriding more the black race. It requires deep thinking.
Ariole, Professor of French and Francophone Studies, wrote from University of Lagos.


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