Buhari’s Moral Benchmark and Moghalu’s Strategic Thinking -By Adeolu Ademoyo

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Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

 

…the implication in Molaghu’s suggestion that an economic road map, which is desirable, is compatible with a modicum of corruption in our situation is suspect. Given our peculiar experience, Nigerians must strongly reject this implied proposition. Our foundation and beginning as we move on must be a strongly nationalistic zero tolerance for corruption as we have it in civilised societies.

Dr. Kingsley Moghalu’s essay which interrogates President Buhari’s anti-corruption and anti-terrorist agenda and his economic vision has generated some interest. Moghalu was a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank. Hence his views should be taken seriously.

While Moghalu’s main argument is “how we can put more capital in our capitalism”, his concern is that there is a dissonance between how we can put more capital in our capitalism and Buhari’s fight against corruption and terrorism.

I believe that views such as Moghalu’s are useful, for they reveal in a subtle manner another side of our problem. Sadly many readers of his views mis-read him to be saying that the fight against corruption is less important. I do not think he says or implies this. This is because the talk about dissonance implies talk about two or more things. That there is dissonance (if it is a sound claim) between two or more things does not imply a rejection of any of these things.

In more populists less academic terms, the talk in global economies is about manufacturing, knowledge production, job creation and solving the economic challenges of unemployment and poverty. This is where Moghalu is right even when he seems to be saying the obvious. Buhari himself acknowledged this major challenge in Benin Republic recently.

When some Nigerians asked him what he has for them because they want to return home, he asked them to stay in Benin for now so as not to add to the problems at home. Though not a long lasting solution, it is an indication that he knows the enormity of the problems before him.

But for Buhari to acknowledge the problem is one thing, to have a clearly stated economic vision that will put “capital into our capitalism” and generate employment as Moghalu correctly suggests is another. This is the challenge Moghalu seems to tag as “dissonance”.

However, what Moghalu calls “dissonance” which then led readers to think that he is ignoring the cancer called corruption is not dissonance. That we need to challenge Buhari to clearly articulate an economic vision is an important task. And on this Moghalu cannot be faulted. But to claim that there is “dissonance” between that all important agenda and the need to ruthlessly deal with corruption as Moghalu suggests is wrong.

Contrary to Moghalu, there is no dissonance between the need for a ruthless fight against corruption which is part of the ethical foundation for building a global, business friendly Nigerian economy and environment and a clear economic agenda that will build on whatever we had before Buhari and engender serious manufacturing, and knowledge production, thereby massively creating jobs.

It seems Molaghu believes that an anti-corruption commitment without an economic road map that will engender knowledge, manufacturing, jobs, eliminate poverty and underdevelopment creates a dissonance and that an economic road map with a modicum of corruption is tolerable. While an economic road map in our situation is sine qua non, and without it our development will remain archaic and stalled, however the real “dissonance” is an economic road map without an anti-corruption commitment. We do not need to go too far to show this. Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan’s wasted six years is a good example of such dissonance. Under him we had all kinds of useless economic “vision” without a single commitment to fighting corruption. Hence, ex-President Jonathan set us back in a way that is making us start all over again after 55 years of independence.

And the implication in Molaghu’s suggestion that an economic road map, which is desirable, is compatible with a modicum of corruption in our situation is suspect. Given our peculiar experience, Nigerians must strongly reject this implied proposition. Our foundation and beginning as we move on must be a strongly nationalistic zero tolerance for corruption as we have it in civilised societies. In actual fact, President Buhari must be challenged to go beyond fitful fights against corruption and locate his correct rejection and zero tolerance for corruption in a clearly worked out new ethical agenda for the Nigerian environment. This is because anti-corruption no matter how well conducted is an aspect of a bigger ethical issue. How to frame such big question of ethics in our polity and society is what we all should challenge Buhari to lead to do while every Nigerian in her/his private capacities provide the rear guard assistance for the country on it. The big question of public ethics in our polity is where ethics touches upon every aspect our life – from economy, to politics, to law, law making, law enforcement, private and public.

Where Moghalu seems to be wrong is that he is suggesting that a ruthless fight against corruption, which is highly desirable in Nigeria will not lead to “capital being put into our capitalism”; will lead to disinvestment; is a disincentive to investment. To put it affirmatively, Moghalu is wrongly suggesting that a ruthless fight against corruption will or could lead to global disincentive to invest in Nigeria.

That Molaghu needs to re-think his “dissonance” and that our collective moral poverty looms large can be seen in the way we all ethnicise basic questions of lack of ethics when they arise when the average Nigerian is ever ready to defend the corrupt practices of members of his/her ethnic group. Depending on the situation, we tend to twist such corruption as “deep” and savvy” political acumen, crass legalism as some of us sadly articulated the corruption that gave Abubakar Olubukola Saraki Senate ‘President” and Ike Ekweremadu Senate Deputy “President”; and in the economy we see “smartness”, “business” acumen, “creation” and “contribution” to capital in situations of naked corruption dressed in legalism and officialdom!

This explains why individuals from all Nigerian ethnic groups always look for so-called “powerful” ministerial positions in the central government in order to be able to unethically twist and turn policy decisions immorally and upside down, in the service of corruption and greed. Members of ministers ethnic group are thus used as a big cover to realise such immoral sharp practices and unethical twist of government policy.

At basic everyday level, we no longer recognise corruption for what it is. This is a serious national ethical blind requiring a major centering of the big question of ethics in our public and private lives. Hence, the sound proposition that President Buhari should be seen only as a moral minimum, a moral benchmark below which we cannot fall and we need to challenge him to lead the way and articulate a bigger ethical framework beyond his legitimate and correct zero tolerance for corruption which is a sound and welcoming beginning (though inadequate) for a major engagement in how public ethics ought to systematically and coherently impact on our public and private lives.

Where Moghalu seems to be wrong is that he is suggesting that a ruthless fight against corruption, which is highly desirable in Nigeria will not lead to “capital being put into our capitalism”; will lead to disinvestment; is a disincentive to investment. To put it affirmatively, Moghalu is wrongly suggesting that a ruthless fight against corruption will or could lead to global disincentive to invest in Nigeria.

…Moghalu’s reliance on China and Malaysia to prove his point is flawed. This is because the political and cultural environments of China and Malaysia plus their capitalism explain the Chinese and Malaysian growth. In China and Malaysia we have a fiercely culturally nationalistic ruling class who will never sell their countries cheap the way members of Nigerian ruling economic and political class do.

One does not know where Moghalu got his views. It is strange how anyone that has anything to do with the local and global economy can suggest that there can be dissonance in providing a strong ethical climate for business and the growth of business itself. This is because Nigeria and Nigerians are butts of jokes globally when it comes to matters of corruption – we can no longer afford this. And beside the archaic Nigerian investment laws and environment, corruption is one of the major disincentives for capital investment in the country.

Characteristic of the empiricism of “technocrats”, Moghalu cited the examples of China and Malaysia as countries that combined some modicum of corruption with capitalist growth, job creation and solution to underdevelopment and poverty. Empiricism is the citation of raw data lacking in their dialectical, historical and conceptual linkages. It is a basic weakness of “technocrats” who zero their minds on data, data, and more data even when those big data can either be skewed, cooked or lacking in dialectical, historical, and political linkages, thus unable to produce a purpose and meaning we are searching for in the public and private lives of the country. We saw that in the poor economic regime of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala where Nigerians were bombarded with inert big data that had no purpose and no impact on their lived experiences.

This is why Moghalu’s reliance on China and Malaysia to prove his point is flawed. This is because the political and cultural environments of China and Malaysia plus their capitalism explain the Chinese and Malaysian growth. In China and Malaysia we have a fiercely culturally nationalistic ruling class who will never sell their countries cheap the way members of Nigerian ruling economic and political class do. Molaghu needs to include Chinese and Malaysian political and cultural nationalism as part of the crucial driving force of their capitalism.

Take health as an example. Both the Nigerian government and members of the ruling class have the money to build first class hospitals in Nigeria. But members of Nigerian ruling class prefer to loot our treasury, and take the money abroad to take care of their health and die abroad only for their corpses to be flown home.

With due respect to traditions, the dead and the living, but we must cite this most recent example if we must say the unpleasant truth (even if it is uncomfortable to some of us) and help our society. The most recent example is the Ooni of Ife who went for treatment and died in a foreign land. Yet this is a prominent first class Yoruba Oba and a strong member of the Nigerian ruling economic and political class who ought to lay a culturally nationalistic example that will, down the road, help the growth of capital or “put capital in our capitalism” as Molaghu correctly suggests. For example, to put capital in our capitalism in the health industry, there is no doubt that building world class health centres in Nigeria by members of Nigerian ruling economic and political classes will boost medical tourism and generate massive employment. But that cannot be done in a political and cultural vacuum (which must include the ethical) as Molaghu’s empiricism is suggesting.

The example of Ooni of Ife shows the lack of cultural nationalism (which will engender a morally appropriate disposition to the country’s fate) among members of Nigerian ruling class. This will never happen in China or Malaysia due to the critical political and cultural nationalism of their ruling political and economic classes, which drives their economy. Members of the Chinese and Malaysian ruling class will not loot their countries dry the way ours do and proceed to invest same looted treasury abroad like members of our own ruling economic and political class do!

Given their empiricist nature, which is a-historical and un-dialectical, Moghalu’s thought is a clear example of the limitation of the empiricism of technocracy and the seeming moral poverty in the professional thought of Nigerian “technocrats”. Some Nigerian “technocrats” are often imported from highbrow International organisations such as World Bank, IMF, so-called foreign research and policy centres etc without any moral and nationalistic commitment to–Nigeria–the country they are supposed to serve. Nigerian technocrats both imported and local often forget that a country’s economy is not an abstraction hanging in the air on raw data. Rather a country’s economy relies on the political in any country. And that political includes the cultural and the ethical.

Therefore contrary to Molaghu, given our Nigerian experience, a ruthless fight against corruption will create the political and moral will and environment for the growth of capital in a transparent manner in Nigeria. While we must challenge President Buhari to give us an economic road map as Molaghu has correctly done, we must simultaneously challenge President Buhari to be more comprehensive and more ruthless in his fight against corruption…

It is curious how Moghalu misses this point given his own Malaysian example that Malaysia’s current Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly received $700 million from a state investment fund into his personal bank account and he is being investigated. But here in Nigeria we have a Senate “President” Abubakar Olubukola Saraki who–historically–is allegedly involved in serial corruption of historic proportion–ranging from the collapse of a bank, Societe Generale and his tenure as Kwara state governor, but who has just received a compensation of a strange and unwarranted vote of confidence from his fellow Senators in the so-called Eight Senate whose leadership existence rests on an subsisting alleged forgery of national law making documents! And to crown this (Saraki paradox with Molaghu’s Malaysian example) with “legal technocracy”, there are prominent Nigerians–lawyers included–who defend Saraki’s emergence, actions and continuation as Senate “President” on crass technocratic legalism. This shows the limit of legalism and technocracy morally let loose and which is unguided by the ethical.

Therefore contrary to Molaghu, given our Nigerian experience, a ruthless fight against corruption will create the political and moral will and environment for the growth of capital in a transparent manner in Nigeria. While we must challenge President Buhari to give us an economic road map as Molaghu has correctly done, we must simultaneously challenge President Buhari to be more comprehensive and more ruthless in his fight against corruption as Molaghu failed to do for there is no dissonance in doing the two simultaneously. In real life there is a symmetry and a beautiful harmony and not dissonance in doing the two simultaneously.

Since this is not grounded in history or any experience, we must not suggest that a comprehensive and ruthless fight against corruption will lead to disinvestment of capital as Molaghu is wrongly suggesting.

Therefore, President Buhari’s beginning fight against corruption ought to be encouraged, motivated and seen as sound and legitimate moral benchmark for Molaghu’s strategic thinking and the good strategic thinking about our future by other Nigerians.

Adeolu Ademoyo, aaa54@cornell.edu, is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

 

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