Joblessness and long-running poor political leadership at root of Nigeria’s social strife – Olumide Ìjoṣé

July 2, 2016

General, Nigeria

Being the contribution of Mr. Ijoṣé on “the Nigeria problem etc” to an online group. It is being shared here with his knowledge. TOLA.


“However, the effectiveness of a crackdown on corruption has to be clearly demonstrated in a legal system that can efficiently prosecute and pass judgement on cases of corruption, no matter how highly placed the suspects are. And at the moment in direct investor circles,there are huge question marks that the will to do that is there and a lingering suspicion, that the crackdown will end up being the detention of some highly placed individuals, a dance in the legal system, and a hope that, that is sufficient signal to investors that  Nigeria is open for business.”


We have been discussing the big issues: return of violence to the Niger Delta, scenarios around a market determined Naira exchange rate, the effectiveness of war on corruption; remote causes of the Nigeria problem etc.

 I am writing this because of the writing limitations on Whatsapp to do a thorough analysis and even then, I will be brief and will leave out a lot of truly relevant topics to the premise of this short piece which is:
The deep root of the social strife in Nigeria is a lack of jobs and the deeper root cause of that is long-run poor political leadership.
As a young teenager entering GCI back in 1972, I felt that Nigeria was a great country and still felt so when I left. Today, it is clear that the economic promise of the country from the 1960s and 1970s have largely been destroyed and not by simply by the national political leadership since then, but also by the national political leadership of the 1960s and 1970s themselves.
A obvious observation will suffice to buttress this point. If there is any region of Nigeria that should be flush with good jobs, it is the Niger Delta, home to tremendous oil and gas reserves and lush tropical mangrove forests. Like Texas, the region should be replete with all manner of value added oil and gas activities, including engineering research and development and consulting. The mangrove itself, should be a major global ecotourism location, but instead, in recent years, it has become a haven for gangsterism, terrorism, kidnappings, all manners of violence between Nigerian brothers and sisters, and one of the worst polluted places on the entire planet. How did it come to this?
Continuing, daily events, in the last 25 or so years, indicate that the far North is seemingly embracing the radical version of Islam, with gruesome murders and beatings of non Muslims and the killing of tens of thousands of ordinary law abiding and innocent Muslims by Boko Haram jihadists. How did it come to this?
In the South East, a growing movement to declare a sovereign Biafra Republic, decades after the end of the civil war is being fought by the central government. That such a movement is occurring at all, tells us that there is an element among ordinary Ibos, that is dissatisfied with the region’s economic progress and outlook. And in the South West, the excellent economic, education  and institutional gains of the 1960s has mostly been lost with decaying infrastructure, poor educational outcomes, and tremendous loss of factory jobs. And on top of that, the threat of a religious crisis is afoot in the region. How did it come to this?
On the plus side, the past 56 years have not been all doom and gloom. There has been serious improvement in the human capital base, only that too many of the really qualified don’t live in the country, and those that remained have not mostly utilized their talents to the fullest professionally, regardless of their personal wealth. In addition, the makings of the infrastructure depth the economy needs is there is apparent, with airports, seaports, and institutional arrangements, like a democratic political system, an economic system anchored by a Central Bank, and a legal system anchored by a Supreme Court, though none of the institutions are sufficiently robust or productive by any stretch of the imagination and infrastructure quality is still a long way off far as far as job creation and a fast increasing national standard of living is concerned. In fact national institutions have proven to be too easily compromised.
So how do we get out of this rut that was self created over so many decades? For me the answer is jobs, jobs jobs. However, job creation is a function of effective political governance. On that score, many believe that without restructuring into a regional based federation, the political system will not be supportive of job creation. Other believe that the current system can work, if only merit is enthroned and if only political parties also institute internal democracy practices and disavow electoral malpractices such as rigging. Yet others would like to see the country split into different countries on purely ethnic (or politically negotiated in a sovereign national conference ) lines. They point to the myriad of small countries in Europe, as evidence that standards of living can be high for all in an Oduduwa or Ijaw or Biafra, or Hausa Fulani republic.
For me, the answer is still jobs, regardless of political system and geographical boundaries. So the key question remains (as it does for every country from the super power United States of America to the poorest nation on earth), assuming there is an enabling political arrangement, what needs to be done to create good jobs? I analyze at this level (rather than examining the prerequisites for an enabling political environment), not being a political scientist, but a student, researcher and proponent of national economic competitiveness.
It is clear, that assuming that the political arrangement is supportive, the key driver of job creation will be skills and capabilities. That is the extent to which a critical mass of skills and capabilities needed to transform the abundant raw material in the country, into value added goods and services and in doing so, leverage the country’s geographical proximity to the rich European and North America markets while taking advantage of developing and emerging markets of sub Sahara Africa, including in Nigeria itself.
Quite frankly, allowing the market to determine the value of the Naira will only but help. It reduces the cost of importing capital, but the real question is, is that enough to attract the tens of billions of direct (and not portfolio) investment, the economy requires for job creation? Tightening up fiscally by having government revenues lodged into a single account, or making states sign up to and implement processes and practices that will make them fiscally conservative, are important but not enough. Likewise, the emergence of lean governments across the board and an effective war on corruption will not be enough.
In essence, Nigeria needs effective political, legal and economic institutions and as I see it, the Buhari government is finally beginning to create one; credit must also go to president Jonathan for peacefully giving up power, when it was clear that he had lost the last presidential elections.
However, the effectiveness of a crackdown on corruption has to be clearly demonstrated in a legal system that can efficiently prosecute and pass judgement on cases of corruption, no matter how highly placed the suspects are. And at the moment in direct investor circles,there are huge question marks that the will to do that is there and a lingering suspicion, that the crackdown will end up being the detention of some highly placed individuals, a dance in the legal system, and a hope that, that is sufficient signal to investors that  Nigeria is open for business.
In essence, so serious investor will be satisfied until concrete and sustained  evidence of a working legal system appears, though there is good faith hope that president Buhari, will follow through on his campaign promises and provide the leadership to ensure the outcome that says loud and clear, you steal from the commonwealth and you go to jail.
Aside from the challenging legal system, challenging because many of the corrupt are rich and powerful and because some of the rich and powerful corrupt are a part of the ruling government, the ability of educational system to ramp up the production of skilled workers, managers, entrepreneurs and professionals, especially engineers and business managers, is a real concern.
There is very little evidence, of any national planning, that has identified the country’s best areas of competitive advantage and has created an educational blueprint for leveraging it quickly. There is also as yet, little evidence of an understanding that the qualification for the minister of education position is not political patronage, rotation, or any manner of methods the FGN has used for filling the position in the past. Nigeria has developed a brilliant infrastructure development master plan, but not a brilliant skills and capabilities development master plan, and that is a huge gap that requires urgent national attention, right now!
The fact is, it will be significantly easier to implement a skills and capabilities development master plan, than to attract the direct investment needed to implement the infrastructure master plan. And going further, the infrastructure development master plan, will only but be implemented slowly, if investors are not convinced that the skills and capabilities they need can be sourced locally. And the fact is, Nigeria does not have anywhere close to a critical mass of internal skills and capabilities, including hard currency, to ramp up in any significant scale, without direct investment from outside. The need is that great and the efficacy of the stock of tangible and intangible resources currently controlled by the country, that little.
One does not have to go too far to understand the reasons for the above. For one, it is all to easy for politicians to erroneously believe, that direct investment is queuing to enter Nigeria, after all, they promise to create jobs and they understand that without job creation, their tenure in office will be properly judged as wasted. So government officials continuously waste money traveling overseas to solicit for direct investment, shout that Nigeria is the darling of foreign investors, conflate portfolio investment with direct investment etc.
The truth is, the stock of direct investment in Nigeria is totally insignificant, relative to the economy’s needs. This means, that perhaps the biggest political job in Nigeria today, is communicating to the people, that an enabling environment for attracting direct investment has to be created first, and that this means years of investing to create the right skill and capabilities sets.
The government has begun by announcing the creation of a Doing Business committee that (aside from the capable ministers of Finance, Trade and Investment and National Planning) I await to see, who it members will be. The first pointer, will an understanding that the entire world should be scanned to select only those that are most capable to be on the committee. This means displaying at the highest level, the political to resist the powerful overtures of those that will definitely seek to use their political connections, religion, ethnicity, and access to political godfathers and godmothers to become members. Without members with a deep understanding of issues that have been discussed so far, the committee will definitely under perform.
For me as an individual, when I see an efficient legal system, a serious effort to restructure the educational system, the inauguration of a knowledgeable and dynamic Doing Business committee, and the implementation of a brilliant communication strategy for taking Nigerians along on what will be a difficult and challenging process, I will start to believe that within the next 10-15 years, the tens of billions of dollars we need to build out the electrical grid, the fixed line telephone system, a fast and capable Internet broadband system, and most importantly an ability to manufacture intermediate inputs, from simple precision alloy nails, to specialized steel to electronic parts, will be in the offing.
Nigerians have to understand that after decades of mismanagement, there is no short cut to creating the jobs we all want to see. Nigerians have to be willing to put up with the significant and long pain that will come with restructuring. Nigerians have to be made to understand that any politician promising a short cut, simply does not know what he or she is saying and should be rejected at the ballot box.  T
The restructuring of the country focused on the real ability to compete for direct investments on the global level, is the only way forward. Success at doing that is the shortest possible route to leveraging the country’s demographic advantages and create gainful employement for the tens of millions of the naturally brilliant Hausas’ Ibibio, Igbo, Kanuri, Isoko, Yoruba, Egun, Edo, Efik, Ijaw, Jukun, Idoma, Tiv etc. that abound in the country.
There is actually no real short to medium-term alternative. There will be many challenges, including countries that seek to continue the centuries-old subterfuge and exploitation that benefit them, and Nigerians seeking after personal, tribal and religious interests, but after being left so far behind politically and economically, and with increasing social tensions in the country, let’s hope the politicians listen, understand and above all execute in a transparent, honest, and constructive manner, devoid of any kind of bias but based strictly on merit.
I know it is a big Ask, but who knows. It must happen, and the quicker the better. Thanks for your attention and please feel free to share with other people.
Olumide Ijose, PhD
SATURDAY, JULY 2, 2016. 11:10 p.m. [GMT]


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2 Comments on “Joblessness and long-running poor political leadership at root of Nigeria’s social strife – Olumide Ìjoṣé”

  1. Latif Opawoye Says:

    Even though joblessness is the bane of our current problem plus lack of good leadership at the helm of our affair, the day when Nigerians will be capable to vote for those who truely will work for them and not for their own personal purse as we have now , progress will not be far fetched from this great country. In the developed countries, any areas where minerals are discovered benefit immensely from the royalty derived but the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

    The agitation growing in the Eastern part of the country is based on the simple fact that those who are benefiting from the oil /gas extraction are not from their area. This is part of the injustice that must be addressed before Nigeria can really progress.

    Corruption must be eliminated regardless of how powerful those caught are. As it is rightly said “Devil finds work for the idle hand”. Job creation must be faced squarely not only by the government but by those who have benefitted immensely from our common wealth.
    Latif Opawoye.



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