Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


IMF can't solve Nigeria's problems

I would very much like to comment on the Whispering Drums (With Maigani) article on Nigeria and the IMF. Reading between the lines I can deduce that he is in favour of Nigeria taking the IMF loan notwithstanding his concession that he is not an economist and is therefore not in a position to offer expert advice. Yes, we all know Nigeria has economic problems but would going to the IMF solve the problem? To me the answer is NO. Taking the IMF pill is going to be an economic 'harikiri'. Look at the conditions.

Devaluation of the Naira: We all know that the purpose of devaluation is to increase exports by making them cheaper and reducing imports since they become more expensive. 90% of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings is still from crude oil. The price and production quota are determined by OPEC. So how does the country gain from devaluation?

Removal of Petroleum subsidies: The inflation rate will be unprecedented in Africa's Economic history.

Trade liberalisation: This implies opening up of the Nigerian market to all sorts of foreign goods. Nigeria becomes a dumping ground and our scarce foreign exchange is wasted on useless imports. Our local manufacturers would be thrown out of the market. What a nice way of protecting infant industries.

I would suggest some measures to the Government which can be vigorously pursued to brighten up the deteriorating health of the economy.

The Government should place emphasis on the development of Agriculture in order to reduce our high level of importation of foods and to meet a target of over 75% of local sources of raw materials in order to conserve foreign exchange.

The Government should adopt an aggressive marketing strategy to ensure that the country retains its share of the oil market and possibly win new customers.

Measures should be introduced to plug leakages in the system due to the activities of illegal oil bunkers and smugglers of Petroleum products across the country's borders and other anti-social activities of petroleum marketers.

Measures aimed at redressing the imbalance in the external sector should be vigorously pursued, such measures can include the planning of all visible items of imports except prohibited goods under specific import licence. A foreign exchange budget should be introduced to rationalise both the outflow and inflow of foreign earnings and the payment of current transactions on current basis while the approval and insurance of import licence should be considerably stream- lined (not on a party basis).

The Government can embark on new bilateral trade agreements with friendly countries (call it countertrade if you like) for the supply of raw materials, spares and manufactured goods, get good favour for money but also con- tribute towards the cooling of inflationary pressures.

Above all the country needs leaders who match their promise with performance, who have the country's progress at heart, not just to loot the country's treasury and abscond. All these coupled with sound economic management and prudent financing will take us somewhere.

Anthony Olufemi Alufe-Aluko,

The Nigerian coup: any lessons?

The news of the coup d'etat in Nigeria on the morning of Tuesday August 27, 1985, came as no surprise to anyone who has been following events in the country of late.

The reasons given for the coup are not new. They have become almost a ritual that the world expects to hear whenever there is a takeover: mismanagement of the economy, worsen-ng of the economy, corruption, inflation, shortage of essential commodities, the worsening plight of the masses, etc.

The question that comes to mind is that given the intractability of the problems facing not only Nigeria but also the rest of Black Africa, are military coups inevitable? Some of the problems such as corruption, sheer incompetence, etc, are caused by factors internal to the countries themselves, while others are caused by the general world economic recession and therefore well beyond the control of the leaders of these poor countries. This question will demand a much broader analysis than time and space will now allow. The objective of this letter is very limited. It is to suggest a lesson that Buhari's overthrow may have for the new Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, and which hope he may learn from.

There is no way any soldier, be general or master-sergeant, can hope to stay in power longer than three or four years without becoming either thoroughly corrupt or callously repressive, and in the process alienate himself from the masses and the paving the way for his eventual overthrow. Corruption and repression become necessary conditions for continued stay in power. Amin, Mobutu, Acheampong and Doe examples par excellence.

After the excitement of the overthrow of a corrupt regime has died down, the masses much sooner than later begin to clamour for real change in their material conditions of life. Invariably, the soldiers in power are in no position to deliver on the many promises they made, neither are they willing to hand over power. They therefore resort to corrupting every potential rival or incarcerating or hounding those that cannot be bought out of the country. Unfortunately these are necessary conditions for another military intervention.

One reason given by the military regimes for prolonging their stay in power is their declared intention to clean up the economic mess and bring the economy out of the woods before handing over power. The tragedy is that some soldiers actually do believe that they can do this, refusing to admit that they are part of the problem. A classic example is Acheampong. soon becomes clear that this is nothing other than an excuse to hang on. What they fail to realise is that the longer they hang on to power, the deeper the crisis. For, by this time the military leaders would have come to realise that there are perks that come with being in power. That is when the lean and hungry look begins to be replaced by full cheeks and rounded faces. No longer do the collar bones show.

One inherent weakness of military regimes is that everything is by WHIM. There is no recognised form for debate or discussion of policy. Neither is there accountability. Finally there is timelessness about them that is very irritating. The decision to hand over power is the prerogative of whoever is in power! In the absence of a declared timetable for return to representative government, military regimes are seen as self-perpetuating.

They are unwilling to give up power even when it becomes clear that they have outlived their usefulness and they represent nobody but themselves, their cronies and their kinsmen. In contrast to this state of virtual anarchy, provision is made for orderly change of government under constitutional and properly elected civilian regimes.

The only time military intervention might be justified is when a civilian administration becomes unpopular, refuses to allow genuine elections and threatens the independence of the judiciary as well as the legislature. Even so, a definite programme lasting no longer than 3 to 6 months to return the country to orderly civilian representative government should be announced immediately on the assumption of Nkrumah clearly expressed it, the army has no mandate to rule, and I hasten to add that the army lacks the ability or competence to undertake the complex task of managing an economy.

So if General Babangida does not want to suffer the same fate as his predecessor, he should lift the ban on political activity immediately and announce a firm programme of return to representative government. The freeing of politicians, journalists, etc, detained unlawfully by the Buhari government is all right, but it is not enough! It is a publicity stunt meant to generate political support in the early weeks of the coup. It is only a matter of time when the prisons will begin to welcome a new set of inmates thrown in by the new rulers. It happens all the time. This musical chairs game must stop.

Kodwo Mhir Bulland

talking drums 1985-09-16 2nd anniversary issue - fall of kaduna mafia - rawlings enters world stage