Technocrats: assets or liabilities?

Politics rules our every breath. Tragically, it is ruinous in such extreme. It is mostly responsible for the current global economic mess with insatiable fraud by the “corporate fat cats,” completing the recipe for the current disaster. Nigeria is worse off. Everything that should help her economic cause always ends in throes of sickening politics. But there seems to be a silver lining. The current administration says it is now ready to seek help anywhere and everywhere and I hope that includes avowed political enemy’s territory. This page is also determined to cut out of the politics crowd and add to the economy recovery debate. The piece below is one of such interventions. Many of these are also welcome from readers. Maybe, someone somewhere would just receive the inspiration for that badly-needed “Clue” for a new beginning around here.

AfteR about five years of sojourning in government, I still wonder if the Nigeria political class really needs professionals or technocrats to support its critical efforts to rebuild the nation and I also wonder, if the time is ripe for such engagement. My encounter with the unusual elder statesman and my reflection while resting in Canada informed the article that I am presenting over the next few weeks. In the first part, I shall be looking at the timing of using professionals in government. I received “a shot in the arm” last June and it came from Baba, our own democratic general, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who flew on Delta Airline’s plane with me on my way to Canada. Initially, I didn’t know he was on the same flight, until we left the airplane and we were moving towards the immigration. I reasoned it must be one of his usual numerous global assignments on humanity, the specifics of which I did not bother to ask because I was sure it would be on conflict resolution, peace keeping or global initiatives on socio-economic development in Africa.

Immediately I sighted him behind me, I went back as a Yoruba boy to do the needful, that is, straight to the ground. I prostrated to greet him and on my way up, I reached out for his bag and collected it. I reckoned he was in a hurry to catch his connecting flight to New York and this was applicable to me too. I couldn’t wait to get into Canada, to rest and reflect thoroughly on the events in Nigeria and my activities in the last five years; an opportunity, which I have not had since 2013. Baba looked at me and said “Omo… (identity hidden) pele o. He paused suddenly and asked me if I was still in government. I wasn’t too sure of the answer to give. He held my hands and said don’t tell me you are leaving. He continued “this place (referring to Atlanta airport and United States of America) works because they get their best hands from private sector and put them in governments to bring in efficiency and professionalism and to ensure the system works. He said with high sense of fulfillment, “I pioneered this in Nigeria and I believe so much in it.” Realising he was in an hurry and knowing this issue will be part of my reflection, I nodded and promised to come and see him. I figured it out that by then, I would have an answer, without being “politically incorrect,” after all I was also the chairman of the Buhari/Osinbajo APC Campaign Committee for my Ijesa North Federal Constituency and the party delivered the maximum votes, it has ever delivered to the progressives in the constituency.

Of course, this is the appointed time considering the status of the economy and the empty treasury, inherited by the Buhari administration. President Barrack Obama as “the Leader” relied on the private sector professionals in 2008 to help fixed the United States economy, after it has entered into economic depression, the greatest ever experienced since 1942. It was an economic depression coupled with global financial meltdown. Meltdown is a term used in solid-state physics to describe a sudden transition of the state of a matter, without change in the measurable physical parameters. The economic team marshaled the plans and began to turn around the US economy, beginning with the sectors that could deliver values most. They succeeded in getting Americans back into jobs, in creating sustainable economic growth and in pulling many Americans out of poverty.

The beauty of engaging the professionals, especially in a private sector driven economy, is that they know “what is wrong” and the other players in the system know they know their tricks. Without compromising, the players will play according to the rules and commit to making things work for national progress and it becomes a game of “I know that you know that I know.” The professionals are likely going to appeal much more to the altruistic emotions of the “players” and they will be able to compel the economic players to contribute to the national economic growth and socio economic development. Therefore, if we allow the professionals, they have the courage and the determination required to pull the economy out of the woods and to solve the economic problems confronting Nigeria.

In this second part of the article, I shall be examining the working environment required to bring out the best from the professionals in government. It is obvious that Nigerians are no longer interested in the old stories of the economic potential of their country, its huge population, its huge gas reserve, its natural resources and minerals or vast agricultural/arable lands. All the blah blah! They know they are confronted with a myriad of socio-economic problems such as youth unemployment, restiveness in the oil-producing areas, inadequate power supply, poor infrastructures, e.t.c, that seem to be insurmountable in the face of the low level of foreign reserve, the unabated high importation that cannot be justified by the low industrial capacity, the poor export earning capacity resulting from oil installation/pipeline sabotage, the current price of crude oil in the international market and the lack of strong non-oil exports earnings.

Bolorunduro, Ph.D, is a former Commissioner for Finance in Osun State.

To be continued