By Omoh Gabriel
When the founding fathers of Western civilization adopted the capitalist philosophy, they realised that a free market economy is not efficient in resources allocation. They put in place social and economic measures to provide for those who may be left out of market provisions. Economics, generally, is of philosophical interest in three main regards. It raises moral questions concerning welfare, justice and freedom. It raises foundational questions concerning the nature of rationality. Leaders, in making policy and legislation put them through the crucible of the effect such policy will have on the well being of members of society, justice and equity for those to be affected. It is when such policies pass the test that they are unveiled to the public.
In the practice of democracy in Nigeria, it is uncertain if policy formulation and the process of legislation are conducted in the manner that takes cognisance of impact of such public policy. Every economic agent attempts to provide for himself and his future needs. The fear of the future has driven many in the face of stiff competition for daily needs into their early grave. Market failure occurs when the supply of a good or service is insufficient to meet demand. This results in an inefficient distribution of resources among market participants.
Under free market conditions, prices are determined almost exclusively by the forces of supply and demand. Any shift in one of these results in a price change that signals a corresponding shift in the other. Economic and social policymakers try to consider the market failures that will result from specific legislation, and, in most cases, they ultimately attempt to minimise market failure by finding a balance between protecting social or political interests and maintaining efficient markets.
In Nigeria’s political economy, there is no social security for any entity -the unemployed, retirees, students and the elderly. All have to depend on their family members in the event of unexpected. It is the desire to make provisions for the future and cater for members of the family – immediate and extended – that many Nigerian civil servants and workers today steal and bend the rules for financial gains. If every member of the Nigerian society is assured that no matter the circumstances, the state will take care of them through social security; many will not steal or take bribe. This was not the case in the 1960s, 70s and part of 80s.
Many civil servants worked conscientiously in government without joining the rat race for wealth acquisition. At that time, it was fame and integrity that was the passion. Family names were highly priced and jealously guarded. It was a taboo then to have a member of the family go to jail. Such families were ostracised by their community. Sudden wealth was rare. Every member of the society was held accountable and there was care for one another. Family members raised alarm when a member brings in unexplained income. Such men who defied social order to make wealth were never honoured or respected. Today, these people are everywhere and they run the lives of the rest of society because the nation now worships money. Nigerians must return to their roots and begin to ask question about the family background of those with sudden wealth.
In Yoruba land, no matter your wealth, they still ask, who is your father? Where are you coming from? It is not everybody that can be a Yoruba leader. The social security provided by the developed societies is meant to encourage the individual members of the society that the state is ready to provide the basic minimum for them. What is Nigerian government waiting for to look inward and come up with a Nigerian social security system that takes care of the minimum needs of the members of the Nigerian society? What form of economy is Nigeria even running? Is it capitalism, certainly not? Capitalism is about government providing an enabling environment for the private sector to become the engine of growth. It is rooted in free enterprise and freedom of choice. It is about availability of alternatives. It is not in the place of government to dominate key sectors of the economy. It is not about patronage of party faithful. It is not about powerful civil servants determining who gets patronage. It is not about private sector operators hawking around government offices for contract jobs. It is not about private sector reaping economic rent and flashing the money around little girls and in frivolities. It is not about ostentatious living with display of the latest state of the art cars around and building the tallest edifice in Abuja.
Capitalism is about investment. What are the investments Nigerian entrepreneurs are making? Apart from very few, Nigeria is a consuming nation. We import virtually everything into the country. Nigeria’s kind of capitalism is crude, raw and primitive. It is a zero sum game of winner-takes-all. This is why the few who find themselves in positions of power and politics do it by all means. Politics in Nigeria is about resource allocation. It is not about investing in people; it is about personal interest and aggrandizement. Until the welfare of all Nigerians takes the prime place in the day-to -day administration of the country, politicians and civil servants will continue to pillage and cart away the fortunes of Nigeria.
The way to stop them is by making the future of every Nigerian secure. When a civil servant knows that when he retires, his family members will not be asking him questions of how much he stole from public treasury, he will not take bribe.
If he knows that he will drag the name of his family in the mud if caught and publicized, he will stay off taking bribe. If politicians know that family members and society will denounce and deny them respect and a place of honour in their locality, they will behave. When a worker knows that if he loses his job, he will not be out in the cold, he would put in his best. This was the Nigerian way of curbing excesses and corruption.
The National Assembly must be a place for honourable men and women of integrity. Nigeria must return to its social value not adopting Western values wholesale.