Nigeria: Partying rulers and the relegation of economic freedom – Japheth Omojuwa


It is not enough that Nigerians are desperate to feel the essence of democracy beyond excuses and promises, they now have to watch those at the helm show little or no care for the cause of the nation’s prosperity. Government cannot make the people rich but government can get in the way of the people’s prosperity. Over the past fifty years or so, military rule hindered Nigeria’s path to economic freedom but Nigeria’s experiment with democracy since 1999 has not shown any major difference in terms of this reality.


The numbers outside the control of the Nigerian government tell the truth better and show a reality that reflects the general poverty of the Nigerian people. The Nigerian economy is one of the least competitive in world. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index (GCI) ranks Nigeria at 127th of 141 countries in its 2011-2012 rankings. This means that government control of the means of production remains high despite years of understanding that the fastest path to economic prosperity is economic freedom. More than any nation in the world, we should know that our government only knows how to fail at doing business on behalf of the people. Nigeria Airways, Nitel, NEPA amongst other institutions have revealed the inability of our various governments to do business. They continually fail us at their primary responsibility, which is to offer leadership to the people. How then do we expect them to do better at a responsibility that should ordinarily not be theirs?


In the 2013 Heritage Foundation’s Degree of Economic Freedom Index, the country is ranked 120th freest country in the world. As if our global number is not bad enough, we maintain a dismal 21st position out of 46 Sub-Saharan African countries put up for study. This is not where a self-acclaimed giant of Africa should be. More often than not, the degree of economic freedom is directly proportional to the poverty rate in a sampled country. That some 70 per cent of the Nigerian people are poor tells the story better. Considering the fact that we have been enjoying a consistent economic growth rate of over 6 per cent over the better part of the last decade, something then must be wrong in terms of our priorities for growth. We are carried away by the outlier product petroleum, which definitely pushes the growth numbers forward while offering very little in terms of jobs and development. It is stated in the degree of economic freedom report “rampant corruption, high crime, and insecurity continue to weaken the rule of law. The entrepreneurial environment remains burdened by time-consuming and costly regulatory procedures.” The report went further to state that “the judicial system is susceptible to political interference, the rule of law is weak throughout the country. Growing social unrest further threatens wider stability.” As Nigerians, we know these to be the truth.


That we are where we are is not as big a problem as seeing those at the helm pretend we are being transformed into Atlantis on a daily basis. No weekend passes by without Governors, Senators, Ministers and their subordinates attending one social event or the other. This is not bad in itself except that the resources of the state are deployed for these private endeavours. They exchange turns in hosting themselves buying Aso Ebis that cost as much as N300,000 (sometimes more) and going on a weekly splurge that no one ever accounts for. Those at the helm are living large on the people. This is what happens when governments are bigger than they are useful for.


Our governments complain about lack of resources but these complaints never reflect in the shows they put up for their weekly social events. Many of these events go unnoticed by the general population until something happens that calls everyone’s attention to them. Take the helicopter crash of the late General Owoeye Azazi and the recent faceoff between Governor Amaechi and President Jonathan. It was like this between 1979 and 1983 when democracy had a chance to prove its difference and failed woefully. Again democracy is here and the only difference it has proven is same difference; whether in khaki or agbada, Nigeria’s economic prosperity remains a pipe dream in the proverbial pipeline.


~ @omojuwa

Nigerian rulers are on a splurge