The election period is a chance to make some money and the politicians make it clear that they are willing to buy votes. Demand meets supply and our democracy becomes a joke.
The subsidy debacle that rocked our country in January reminded me of a great Greek tragedy, and serves as a snapshot of what ails Nigeria.
We have the government. It is without the moral authority to demand sacrifices, since it has never shown fiscal restraint and responsibility. The civil society and its lack of creativity in solving seemingly intractable problems, as the usual suspect, harp on stale and unworkable solutions. There is the labour movement and its shortsighted greediness and lack of integrity. There is the cabal (fuel importers) and their gorging on the Naira. And then there are the rest of us, the victims of all their evil. The play ended with a dozen dead Nigerians, fuel shortage and fuel hikes. No reasonable savings for capital projects and a transparently impotent government.
How did we get here?
Recently, Oby Ezekwezili tweeted: “Whenever and wherever the cost of bad behaviour is low and the profit is high there is an INCENTIVE that breeds more of it.”
I agree! We have made the cost of corruption ridiculously low and its rewards, huge. There is no incentive for good governance and further, no incentive for the governed to participate in governance. The election period is a chance to make some money and the politicians make it clear that they are willing to buy votes. Demand meets supply and our democracy becomes a joke.
But what if there is an idea that will increase the demand for good governance and solve most of our economic problems? Iran, Venezuela, India, Brazil, Mongolia, and Bolivia have all proven that direct transfer of revenue from natural resources can lead to an improved economy and a stronger demand for good governance. Nigerians are not special; they have shown that when cash leaves their pocket, they would demand better leadership. Recent examples are the subsidy protests and the Lekki toll protest.
Building an incentive for good governance is not rocket science. I will do it five steps.
Step 1: Nigerians are counted using a private biometric system.
Step 2: In 2013, NASS passes a law that changes the current federal allocation formula.
Step 3: In 2010, Nigeria made $59 billion in oil extraction most of which went into the Federation account and was shared between all government branches. A new law will state that a considerable percentage of oil revenue will be directly transferred to the owners, Nigerians.
Step 4: The government will tax the citizens after depositing the oil revenue in their account allowing citizens to know the cost of their government.
Step 5: Economy gets better, governance improves, Nigerians pay attention to leadership and the culture changes.
If we hold the population at 160 million, and around 80% register for the biometric exercise, then each Nigerian will stand to get an infusion of $460.00 per annum or $40 every month. The 23.5% of unemployed Nigerian can start businesses with that $40.00 a month or save up and start a small trade. Mothers can send their children to better schools; hospitals can charge for procedures but deliver better services. Trades are started in rural areas and local consumption increases.
However, above all, Nigerians will pay for the government and finally actively demand better governance. There will be no money to be made in politics and the cost of governance is shifted to the governed. This idea will not only help reduce poverty but will also help transform my countrymen from clients to citizens and even better, to active investors in the future of the country.
This will of course take incredible amounts of courage and operational genius. There are inflationary pressures that must be eased without hurting growth, and finally it will carry with it huge political costs. However, it is also a chance to be the one who ends corruption in Nigeria. A chance to be remembered by history.