Political economy: Let’s talk about it

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Political Economy is the last in the series of ‘let’s talk about it‘ and it is as important as all the previous ones, or those that I have drawn attention to, in the past two weeks. Of course, there are many more. There is the issue of debt and the debt trap; the issue of poverty and wealth; the fuel subsidy and the misery of the citizens; the use of security and insecurity, the modus operandi of which cannot be discussed openly, and many urgent and less urgent issues that require attention and discussion. However, fixing the problems of these three problems can lessen the intensity of these other problems.

For ease of understanding, political economy simply explains the interplay between politics and economics without neglecting the social aspects. In this context, I have tried to examine the political structure, fiscal federalism and socio-economic/political relations. Each of them is conceptually broad but we can present them in a narrow formulation and discuss them in the broadest form.

There have been discussions about the type of structure of the National Assembly and we need to talk about it. Do we really need the Senate and the House of Representatives or only one like in the United States? If we need two, isn’t the number of representatives in each of the two chambers too high? In this case, the existing criteria should be reviewed and reworked by an independent body set up by the executive branch of government, collecting comments from the public. Another point of discussion here is that should NASS set its salaries and allowances or allow the appropriate national body like the National Wages, Incomes and Wages Commission to do so for fair play? By extension, should legislative work be full-time or part-time? Do we need local government as a level of government, and if we do what I think, how can we make them functional structurally and economically? Finding solutions to these issues should not be based on the country’s current precarious financial situation but should lay a solid foundation for the country’s present and future.

Concerns about fiscal federalism remained a thorny topic of discussion for many years, especially after the state governance structure replaced the regional structure and the military unitary mode of governance took deep root. But we have been running a democracy, or some semblance thereof, for over 20 years for the first time in Nigerian history and the time has come to start dismantling the centralized governance structure. The NASS, which represents the hub of democracy and is expected to champion discussions on this issue, seems uninterested in decentralizing or decentralizing power.

Every state has natural resources or resources that can be harnessed to contribute to the national or federal accounts, but many states have become so lazy that they wait for largesse from the federal account for spending, but every year they get engage in deficit budgeting. Is it really laziness or are they waiting for some states to finish exploiting their resources before they start exploiting theirs and probably change the rules? Or do they encourage illegal activities in the exploitation of their resources with the resulting personal enrichment? We have heard of illegal mining in some states.

The federal government must also generate its own funds without relying on rent-seeking sources like oil or borrowing. This country was one of the creditors of the International Monetary Fund because of its financial situation which allowed the Fund to grant loans to other countries. This country has the Nigerian Trust Fund, managed by the African Development Bank, as a source of loans for less developed countries. In the recent past, this country has a sovereign wealth fund of over $20 billion in addition to a foreign exchange reserve of around $60 billion which, if well invested, should earn the country respectable revenues. Federal and state governments, in the current circumstances, are focused on spending, not generating money. Only Lagos State can stand on its own as it has done so in the past through creativity and resilience.

We have to talk about strong or weak center and revenue generation. Current fiscal federalism laws encourage laziness and manipulation, thus requiring fundamental changes. Let’s talk about what we want since the legislator who is supposed to do it is concerned with other things.

The issues of socio-economic and political relations, in general terms, have been addressed in the above, but certain specificities are still necessary here. For some time we have been hearing that Nigeria is divided into six zones. What is the economic relationship between and among the members of each zone? They can have economic relations on the basis of comparative advantage with each state specializing in the production of what it can produce cheaply and the services it can render expertly. This will form the basis for the exchange of goods and services between – and among – them. However, this does not prevent a State in one zone from having an economic relationship with a State in another zone, but the benefit of contiguity in interactions is easier in zones. Just as Amotekun is gaining relevance as a security force in many parts of the Southwest, the same can happen in the economic sphere if well planned and agreed upon. For the Southwest, the economic structure already exists, the Odu’a Group, but may need to be empowered by the owners. A regional economic plan, drawn up by a coalition of universities in the area should be a way forward, but let’s talk about it.

Within the framework of socio-economic and political relations, it is necessary to consider the question of the state police and the federal character after 60 years of independence of the flag. We need to start asking questions why a state governor is waiting for directives from Abuja to ask the police to take urgent action. For pure military organizations like the army, navy, and air force, one can understand the need for a unitary system because their activities are not day-to-day affairs. They are supposed to have little interaction with civil society but the case of the police is different.

The need for a policeman or woman to understand the terrain of the areas of operation and the language of communication is of vital importance. The response time of the police services is immediate in most cases. Since the workload and cost of living are different in different states, police in one state may earn a higher salary than police in another state and be more productive. So what does the federal government gain by keeping a centralized police force, paying the same salary to a policeman in Lagos and Ondo or Kano and Kebbi states, Anambra and Enugu or River and Bayelsa? Allowing the states to handle policing will also relieve the federal government of the burden of the cost of policing, including salaries and wages.

Finally, we must speak of the federal character after decades of independence. I think the question was introduced on the pretext that certain regions of the country were lagging behind in development, particularly in education. We cannot say that it exists now. If a part is still underdeveloped today, it is because this region is part of Nigeria. Nigeria, however, remains underdeveloped. If we examine the nominal list of establishments of the federal government where the federal character is supposed to operate, it will be clear that certain sections of the country excessively dominate in all establishments to the detriment of others in the name of the federal government. personage. Is there a state that is not able to present candidates for ministerial posts every time a president assembles his team? We should now be looking at qualifications, experience, commitment and the factors that enhance productivity rather than federalism, which fosters nepotism, inefficiency and divisive relationships.

What is the modus operandi of our discussion on these issues? This is the same open system using Zoom or Microsoft classroom for global discussion among Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. The discussion can be coordinated and facilitated by private media, organizations or NGOs with multidisciplinary objectives. Again, non-Nigerians will not come to solve our problems. It is therefore up to us to ask ourselves how to get out of the impasse of underdevelopment by tackling head-on the problems raised so far.

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