State Control of Production and Why Most Nigerian Leaders Fail – Japheth J. Omojuwa

There is so much to do to fix this country and, naturally, anyone who becomes president believes s/he has to do everything. That is the very reason they mostly fail. It often starts with the election promises: they promise almost everything and the people genuinely believe such promises. Against the promises alone, most of them who eventually get into office end up failing. There certainly has to be a way out.

There is so much wrong with this country and this has accumulated over many years. What a leader who really wants to make change happen must understand is that s/he cannot do it all. If you cannot do it all, what then do you do not to be seen as a failure? There are critical areas of government that drive other parts– these are the parts that must be focused on. Once these critical areas start moving forward, the rest are naturally in line to experience the same forward movement.

Despite their best efforts, virtually every Nigerian leader has failed to ensure the people have access to power. For the most part, they failed because they wanted government to be the source, owner and distributor of power. In a country of about 160 million people, with several years of failure to produce power and incessant corruption, it is almost impossible for the often inefficient government to produce power.

Like the country eventually did with telecommunications, the business of ensuring Nigerians have power for their homes and industries has to be the business of private individuals.  Run in a free market that does not allow for government control of prices or the control of prices by government cronies, this ought to be a profitable enterprise in a country of hundreds of millions of people and for an essential commodity like power.

What the current deregulation has done is not even deregulation in the real sense of the word, it is just government handing off the generation and distribution of power to mostly cronies who within a few months were already so broke to need government subsidies to run their businesses even though that didn’t stop them from making donations to the president’s campaign war chest.

Even when Nigerian leaders know the right thing to do, they always find a way to do the right thing the wrong way. Otherwise, one could be hopeful of enough power for the nation over the next few years in a deregulated market but what we currently have is a sort of compromise between quasi government control and control by select interests. Government still dictates prices. How is that a deregulated market?

The educational system remains dilapidated. One of the claims of the current administration is that it has now ensured every Nigerian state has a Federal University. That on paper makes it look like every Nigerian who intends to attend university has access to one in his state of origin or residence. But what sort of access? Is it access to the same sort of education where the closing of schools by university lecturers and even non-teaching staff stays lurking around the school calendar?

There was talk of universities’ autonomy, which would have ensured each university is free to run according to the dictates of its own management. This would have meant that competition amongst the universities would have ensured the promotion of best practices. Then, it would be virtually impossible to have all the government universities down tools at the same time. As we speak, that sort of autonomy remains a pipe dream. We are exactly where we were in 1999.

To cut the long story short; to succeed as a Nigerian leader, you must prioritize your focus. Wanting to fix everything that is wrong with this country is the very first step to failure. Accepting the fact that government’s only business with fixing some of these things is to create the enabling environment for the private sector to provide such solutions helps in a lot of ways. Partial deregulation and liberalization may sound like unburdening government partially but if we agree government’s hands must be off, why not keep them off completely?

The major candidates in the 2015 elections have again started promising to do it all once elected. They will need to do a lot of explaining when like many before them they get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of challenges that this nation must surmount to even get started with moving forward.