Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The Historical Significance of the Fight Against Corruption in Nigeria —by Albert Okwudiba Nnoli


2 October 2019 

If and when the fight against corruption is won, its benefits will be very significant for national development. They include: 
1. It will expose the massive corruption in the country. 
2. Such corruption will show  its pervasiveness not only in the public sector but also the private sector. 
3. A vast amount of money will have been liberated for national development. 
4. The absence of corruption will show that Nigeria is not a rich country. People will be able to see the stark poverty of the country in its nakedness.

Above all, what will be uppermost in the mind of history will be the opportunity provided by this victory to reappraise the role of the public sector in economic enterprise. For more than a century now this role has been effectively undermined by bourgeois ideological propaganda against the involvement of the Nigerian state in economic activities. This propaganda has persisted in spite of the equally massive corruption in the private sector, which this propaganda extols as the engine of development, and the utter failure of that sector in national development.

More significantly, this propaganda ignores the historical evidence of the stellar economic performance of state economic enterprises in various parts of the world and various times in history. 
For example, the Soviet Union moved from Third World status in 1918 to First World and Super Power status in 1958 on the basis of state monopoly of economic activities. Thus in a mere fifty years, which began with the devastations of the First World War and the massive destructions of the Second World War, the Soviet Union made a phenomenal progress. Its demise has nothing to do with its state economic activities as bourgeois propaganda contends. 

Rather, it is the result of the imperial ambitions of Russia, its ill-advised military competition with the United States of America, and its consequent neglect of the economic and political yearnings of its people within and outside the state economic enterprises.
     
Similarly, in twenty years, 1949 to 1969, China successfully reorganized its economy away from dependence on the West and from a semi-colony to an independent and self-reliant one. Although the private sector was reintroduced in the mid 1970s, state economic activities still control the country's economy. With this control, China has now moved from a very backward semi-colony in 1949 to the second most powerful economy in the world today. It is presently seriously challenging for the number one economic power position. 

The 2019 Forbes Fortune 500 Global List of the world's best performing banks has the best four from China: 
1. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. 
2. The China Construction Bank Corporation. 
3. The Agricultural Bank of China and 4. The Bank of China. All of the four are fully state-owned banks.

During the struggle for independence, our Founding Fathers understood the wisdom of state economic enterprises in the struggle for national economic independence. Hence they set up increased numbers of them, and insisted that the Commanding Heights of the Economy should always be dominated by state enterprises. They realized that Nigerian national power is greater at the political than the economic level. 

Economic power would be leveraged by political power in state economic enterprises. Most of these state enterprises have now been dismantled and privatized on the flimsy excuse of corruption. Of course, typical of the Nigerian petty bourgeois the reactive solution is " don't fix ", " abandon ". Instead of fighting the corruption, they decided to privatize.

The result is the total reliance of our development on foreign investment since the competitive ability of national capital is incapable of growing the economy. But such a reliance on foreign investment is doomed to fail from the very beginning. The private sector has completely failed, not as the so-called captains of industry claim because of inadequate support from the government but because they rely and have relied on foreign investors for capital and especially technology. 

Scapegoats are sought in such diversions as ethnicity, religion, gender, age, nature of education, corruption and bad leadership.

The truth is that in the world economy, around 80% of the required Foreign Direct Investment in 2016 went to the six countries of the US, UK, China, Japan, Germany and France. The remaining 20% was dominated by India, Brazil, the Netherlands, Ireland and Singapore. How much does anyone seriously think that Nigeria can get from this cutthroat competition for investment? For this reason history will judge Obasanjo and Atiku very harshly for their ignominious role in dismantling the nation's fledgling public sector instead of fighting the corruption within it.

Thus, history demands that the present war against corruption must take precedence over all other economic and political challenges. At its successful end the public sector must be returned and given a dominant role in the economic scheme of things. This must go hand-in-hand with a socio-cultural and political transformation of the society to make it congruent with the existence of a dominant public economic sector. The people not capital must be the basis of economic progress.

Down with Econometrics!! Up with Political Economy!! Down with the rule of the people, by the petty bourgeoisie, for the petty bourgeoisie and foreign interests!!!! Up with the rule of the people, by the peasantry and working class, for the people!!!!


Albert Okwudiba Nnoli is a professor of Political Science 



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