It might actually be a good thing that we are broke. If we will not willingly shed our weight as country, a broke back (or bank) will surely force us to.
Government cause it was meant to hold us back – Tupac (Panther Power)
We have clearly reached a different level of financial emergency in Nigeria when a public official’s badge of honour is delayed pay. It’s the kind of thing you imagine Armageddon is made of – except it’s our country’s reality today. A slightly related thought is how comfortable the government is with breaking labour laws it should really be enforcing. I mean, how a government can, several months late on its worker’s wages now chastise a certain ‘Duke’ on his reporters’ perpetually late (or nonexistent) wages. But, I digress.
* The thing is I’m beginning to think it might actually be a good thing that we are broke. If we will not willingly shed our weight as country, a broke back (or bank) will surely force us to.
The trouble with our unique fashion of binge spending is not just the unnecessary debt it leaves the next generation, or the wanton corruption it engenders, but the kind of value judgments its forces us to adopt given our economy and society reeks so bad of government’s unhealthy influence. This is of course the root of the average Nigerian’s obsession with government as a supposed force for good.
I remember recently telling a friend that it breaks my heart when anyone asks government to do anything. Why? Because we can almost always be certain that it will be a recipe for disaster.
The civil service is one case of where we have been stupid enough to beg government for bullets bought and loaded with our own cash. I hear at one point in our existence, it was the bastion of the best and brightest. Not just anyone could work in the civil service. Then the Nigerian people’s disastrous cries for a government that creates jobs led us to what we have today – a civil service that is in effect a welfare scheme for the politically favoured. Despite the fact that it gulps over 70% of our national budget, the civil service employs all and sundry but pays them incredibly poorly or not at all. When they are not poorly paid, they are poorly trained. When they are not poorly trained, they are ill equipped. And when they are not ill equipped, they are hopelessly corrupt.
Then there is the matter of education. I still believe that quality education will one day come to the average Nigerian, but not until we are willing to pay for it. Years of Awolowo inspired illusions about the cost and practicality of free public education has kept us in permanent regression in this area. Today, unemployable graduates litter our streets, a terrible reminder that a half-baked education is none at all.
Then there is power, where the government’s restrictions on distribution and transmission of power has kept us in perpetual darkness all these years even when state and local governments have expressed the political will to tackle it.
Then there is the National Youth Service, where the government conscripts young people into a year of inhuman conditions and minimum wage slave labour all in an insane quest for “national unity” – whatever that means.
Just like that, the year after University – the single most contemplative year of a young person’s life – is wasted on vain labours in the name of patriotism. Meanwhile their counterparts around the world are making the most of their time by brushing up on soft skills, building billion dollar companies or exposing themselves to other cultures by travelling.
Let us not even get into the destructive impact of our sharing politics, or our conspicuous consumption on our macro-economic fundamentals. The litany of government induced dysfunctions that have wrongly influenced our society is indeed endless.
That said, I believe the first step to getting out of this situation is to understand our insane dependence on government and its outdated ideas is killing us every day. We need to build institutions and communities that can operate outside of the government’s corrosive influence by saying no to government intervention once in a while.
There is no question that Nigeria is a land of immense potential, flowing with milk and honey but until we can get off the government’s drops of bottled milk, our genuine cries for more milk is the politician’s excuse to milk us silly.
Editor’s notes: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.
* Neither the Central Bank of Nigeria nor the Federal Ministry of Finance has confirmed that Nigeria is broke.