Published On: Mon, Mar 14th, 2016

El-Rufai’s Journey Back To Popular Capitalism – By Dr. John Danfulani


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On Friday 4th March 2016, Nigeria’s famous privatization Czar from 1999 to 2003 Mr. Nasir Ahmed El-rufa’i committed ideological suicide while addressing the world at 37th Kaduna International Trade Fair through his resolution  to acquire the majority shares of Peugeot Automobile Nigeria LTD( PAN) along with other north western states of Katsina, Kebbi, and Jigawa. To demonstrate his resolve to get “government back into business”,  a dictum he loves to hate like midnight death and worked 24/7 to denigrate ,he declared; “our hope is that when we acquire the majority share of the company,we will restructure it to operate to full capacity of assembling between 90,000 and 100,000 cars yearly”. He went further and stated, “we are determined to bring back all industries related to Peugeot established in Kaduna as part of plans to ensure that every youth in Kaduna State has something doing”. This contradicted the overall economic playbook of El-rufa’i, which is locally and internationally  known , long before now.

Gov-Nasir-El-Rufai-of-Kaduna-State

Gov-Nasir-El-Rufai-of-Kaduna-State

In October 2012 Mr.El-rufa’i authored his political economy holy book titled, “Privatization In Nigeria: The Promise And The Perils”. He set-go the discourse of his economic treatise by launching a quote from Vice President Atiku Abubakar then chairman of their regime’s economic think tank in 1999 through these words; “When the government owns, nobody owns. When nobody owns, nobody cares”.Mr. El-rufa’i’s economic sermon enumerated economic Tsunamis associated with State Owned Enterprises(SOE). And ruled that,citations  of countries like China, Brazil and Indonesia as paragons of successful “State Capitalism” are mere fairytales akin to the ones told round huts under shining moonlights at night in some traditional African societies.

He afflicted  hard knocks at a middle course  position like commercializations in his narrative.His postulations,seems to be say; there is no wisdom in sipping half a glass of wine, is it either you drink deep or taste not at all. The Bretton Wood recruit concluded that,even if commercializations excelled elsewhere, Nigeria represents a unique case that will naturally make it a still born. Here are words directly lifted from his discourse of October 2010, “commercializations wouldn’t work because of weak state capacity, dysfunctional institutions, and political culture that strives on patronage and complete disregard for competence and merit”. Walking down his argument on why any attempt on commercialization of public enterprises in Nigeria will amount to sowing seeds on rocky terrain,the Czar added the problem of a week justice system and poor bureaucracy to the list of problems.

Apostles of complete waving of a white handkerchief by government in business ventures always have a smooth sail because of their overemphasis on profit and lost, and display of statistics demonstrating how resources are being wasted in maintaining enterprises that are mere gigantic corrupt empires. Because most of their audiences are hyperactively gullible and extravagantly undiscerning minds, they caved in. Statistics  showing how ungodly and greedy exercises of auctioning peoples common heritages will go along way in breaking bottlenecks in critical sectors are usually their best weapon of crushing and flattening opponents of this  philosophy that creates “economic apartheid” that unmeritedly gives enormous wealth of the nation to a microscopic few ,leaves a vast majority in abject poverty,and expose them to exploitation through primitive accumulation of foreign bourgeoisie and their compradorial class in Nigeria.

Another reason responsible for the success of the crusaders of selling public enterprises  between 1999 to 2007 was political will. President Olusegun Obasanjo was captured by a troop of “Bretton Wood vandals”working and rendering consultancy services to some international financial institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund( IMF). When the same sugar coated arguments were bandied before him, he gave them unlimited powers to sell and reform any sector so desired.That was accountable for a scandalous bailout programme that a 1% consultancy fee was padded in the bill. A research of these financial institution’s  debts servicing  catalog shows that only Nigeria had the history of parting with that huge amount in two cheques and within six months. Even the most advanced countries in the world wouldn’t have paid such a large amount in that manner in the name of a bailout. There was more than meet the eye on the activities of the so-called experts that managed the bailout.

Worthy of note while exploring factors responsible for success of their advocacy was “victory of capitalism” in a long ideological war codenamed Cold War. “Victors” of the ideological duel made democracy the only political dress code and free market economy the only economic principle in the world. Less Developed Counties of Southern Hemisphere  were forced to shape-in or face consequences of denials of most of their facilities which were in dare need to close the gap the Warsaw Pac block created after the disintegration of Union of Soviet Socialists Republics( USSR). Because Nigeria was just coming out of some smart sanctions masterminded by Gen. Sani Abacha’s human rights records,President Obasanjo succumbed and bestowed on them all leverages needed.

As Minister of FCT between 2003-2007, Mr. El-rufa’i intensified his privatization programme by selling up houses constructed to address accommodation need of civil servants. And shares and equities owned by FCT in hotel businesses and many financial institutions. He jacked it to the zenith of leasing out Garki General Hospital to private individual(s). His effort towards doing same to National Hospital met its Waterloo. To him, the privatization scheme he embarked upon in FCT and in BPE are titanic success stories despite evidences of gross contempts  to pronouncements of courts in respect to some of his decisions, and failure of the exercise regarding NITEL and NICON. The senate committee on FCT headed by Senator Sodangi discovered several misdemeanors and direct conflict of interest. Proceed of the sells of the properties which was under one of his protege Mr. Jimmy Lawal disappeared to the thin air. All efforts by the senate committee to trace the monies went fruitless. There were scandals involving confiscation of some government’s guests houses and sells of  same between him and the former Vice President Mr. Atiku Abubakar. And revoking and reallocation  of pieces of lands said to be on green zone to his two years old kid.

Now, why would  a man whose entire public life centred round promoting a philosophy that government has no business in business and won the crusade backslide after a few years? Dragging government to acquiring of majority of shares of PAN is going back to what he called “State Capitalism” in his October 2012 version of capitalist Economic policy command . Has problems like corruption, bad justice system, irredentism and bureaucracy been tackled to guarantee government’s reentering businesses and practicing popular capitalism he hated with a passion? President Mahammadu Buhari, their grand commander, has been complaining of the judiciary and level of corruption in Nigeria  in fora within and outside Nigeria. Has that suddenly changed? Nothing has changed, except one is returning from some distant planets cut-off from this earth.

Mr. El-rufa’i assured that acquiring majority of shares of the outdated automobile assembling company will boost its production capacity to 90,000 or 100,000 thousand cars per annum. Was government in control of majority shares of PAN when it was producing that much yearly?  PAN had been a private assembly plan without government’s participation when it was at its best. If government was part of them at their height and government’s withdrawal responsible for less production, then going in under the claim of returning production to its best  would have suffice. Even with that, his move presented a sharp ideological departure from his exclusive specie of capitalism.

On another hand, bailouts are known philosophies in capitalism. Recently, the global meltdown that stroke the captain of capitalism, forced a bailout of most Wall Street companies. That bailout was necessary because  total collapse of Wall Street Giants will spell doom to the U.S. economy, global financial institutions, and some international trade agreements. Even if it was  bailout policy that Mr. El-rufa’i announced, PAN  is out of the bracket because the mainstay of the state economy is agriculture. Fertilizers and other farm inputs were sold at the most exorbitant prices since the creation of the state in the 70s in his first farming season as a Governor. And no one needs to be told that agriculture sub-sector is in distress and in desperate  need of a declaration of  State of Emergency not even a bailout. But because bailout policies in agriculture will eliminate poverty of individuals not politicians and CEOs,that isn’t worth his attention.

PAN’s production dropped to an all time low level because of competition from serious Japanese and American automakers almost two decades ago. PAN has never been a credible player in the global automobile industry in the world. PAN has always been kept alive by African markets, especially by former French colonies in Africa. They got a space in Nigeria because others big time player’s   attention was far off our shores. Poor designs added to the pyramid of their tribulations with their Nigerians consumers.Another reason is government’s policy of monitization of vehicle to public officials . PAN’s greatest customer was government, lack of government’s patronage downed  their production .And if there is no demand, production naturally drops.This a simply economic dictums called the law of demand and supply.

For a while now, Nigerians have been seeing hazy signs of ideological suicides from economic grant children of Adam Smith and David Ricardo since leaving power in 2007. The so-called economic cream de la cream are in political matrimony with elements they described corrupt  politicians opposing PDP’s rule when they were dictating economic principles of Obasanjo’s regime and implementing Bretton Woods decisions from 2003-2007.From 2010 they formed a coalition of disgruntled economic experts that ousted from power the very party that accorded them a rare opportunity to implement their pure capitalists philosophy in 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Ideological differences couldn’t deter them from congregating and push forward a political agenda, thereof justifying a Bismackian proverb that ” politics is a game of all possibilities”. And the adage saying,  “there is  no permanent foe or friend in politics, what is permanent is interest”. Some have become Guest Columnists in back pages of some Newspapers, still advocating their disastrous bourgeois ideology. While others have become Director Generals of Bring Back Our Girls- a controversial campaign that helped in discrediting the regime President Jonathan and denied  it bid of renewing its mandate in 2015.

Mr. El-rufa’i’s case is one of its kind because his  isn’t an incidence of only committing ideological suicide economically but politically. His tenure as governor of Kaduna State is being characterized with highandedness, hyperactive intolerance of opposition, nasty arrogance, and brazen show of brute power- using state apparatuses like the law enforcement agencies to support his whims and caprices. He has taken uncountable executive decisions that has set tongues of legal luminaries rolling on their legality or illegality. Mr. El-rufa’i has resorted to using conclaves like State Security Council to manufacture heinous  resolutions that their mission is to strangulate necks of voices of dissents.

 

His  bill determining to censor religious activities constitutes a direct threat to freedom of religion and conscience.The bill was poorly packaged to the extent of forgetting to capture all religions  in the State. Even within the religions recognized, branches like Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria(PFN) and Moslem Brotherhood of Nigeria(Shites) were “erroneously” left out. More to this, the bill also pretends not to know that there are animists in Kaduna State and emerging religions like Ekankar, Resicrucial Order(AMOC) and Grey Message. Should the bill come to force,those excluded stand illegal in the State and will face the full wrath of the law. All we know is, the executive bill yearning to regulate religious activities will screw down a nine inch nail on the coffin of freedom and liberty in Kaduna State. And challenged tenets of some religions that commands faithfuls to pray without ceasing and evangelize in all corners of the world.

It’s no onerous endeavor comprehending that his tactical move on PAN has more than meet the eye in it. It was a simple ploy to use government to take over the ailing automobile assembly plan and transfer the shares to individual(s), using the same argument of privatization before the end of his mandate on 29th May 2019. The intention appeared immoral because of its vacillating nature , but in capitalism, primitive accumulation is a golden rule. It’s that bad, but it’s a reality capitalists and their compradorial cluster in Less Developed Countries can’t survive without it.

Johndanfulani@gmail.com

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