Recently, the Governor of Central Bank, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was reported to have called for the downsizing of Nigerian public workforce by half and the scrapping of the local government in order to maintain a sustainable economy. Mr. Sanusi maintained this position because according to him 70% of earnings go on salaries and entitlements of civil servant. The Trade Union Congress-TUC led by Mr. Peter Esele disagreed with Mr. Sanusi. Mr. Esele based his objection on two premises. First, according to Mr. Esele, Nigerian civil servant earns less than one dollar a day. Second, 170% of the country’s budget according to Mr. Esele “is spent on those in government.” Based on these premises, Mr. Esele concluded that Mr. Sanusi lacked the capacity to make the call.
I do not know what Mr. Esele means by “capacity” and how Mr. Sanusi lacked the capacity to make the call he made. Rather, I think Mr. Sanusi ought to be commended for attempting to substantively re-define the terms of our conversation in our country Nigeria from an ethnic one to a more social, and therefore more productive one. Whether his proposition is adequate or not he has correctly centered a problem, which is that we are not developing, we are only sharing natural resources; we are not producing, we are only earning salaries. If this is true, then there is something unethical about being mere consumers and sharers of finite resources such as crude oil and its crudity, rather than being producers of resources-both knowledge and finished products for export. If this is what Mr. Sanusi is struggling to say, even when he has not put it in these terms, then I believe he deserves to be listened to.
Though, Mr. Esele did not make clear what he meant by “capacity”, but if “capacity” means professional capacity, moral capacity, Mr. Sanusi’s social and economic class, in other words social capacity, then contrary to Mr. Sanusi’s critics, I think he has the capacity to make the call he has made. This is because Mr. Sanusi is one of the chief superintendents of the interests and interest rates of Nigerian elite class, thus he has the capacity to say what he is reported to have said. Also as one of the chief superintendents of the interests and interest rates of Nigerian elite class, he carries their moral burden for he is their moral spokesperson in the financial sector of the economy.
Paradoxically, in this matter and for our country, the truth lies in the middle of labour and the elite and ruling class. This is because if labour is right that Nigerian civil servant earns less than a dollar a day (though labour needs to be more forthcoming with more facts to prove this because the arithmetic may not bear this out and we need to know which civil servant labour means), and that 170% of our country’s budget is spent on those in government, then you do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that we are not developing and that we just cannot compete in the world. Also, if Mr. Sanusi is right that half of our workforce should be cut because 70% of earnings go on salaries and entitlements, I ask: do we need to be rocket scientists to know that we can no longer compete in the comity of nations? In other words, both Mr. Sanusi and Labour are potentially right (pending contrary statistics about our situation from more dependable sources), hence the moral we want to run away from is right there in the middle of Mr. Sanusi and Labour. We need to say this truth even if we do not like Mr. Sanusi’s face for someone’s objection to the way Mr. Sanusi has carried out his moral task on behalf of Nigeria’s economic and ruling elites ought not stop critics from recognizing the truth his vantage position as the Governor of our Central bank allows him to see and say. In other words, if we consume and simply eat and swallow natural and raw materials as we do with crude oil, and do not produce finish products and export, it is obvious that we are heading for the moribund, we are heading for extinction. In other words, we have unwittingly limited our capacity to be main and active participants in the global economy. That is the rationality in Mr. Sanusi’s claim but which the immorality of the Nigerian elite class he works for fails to make salient, plausible and acceptable for popular mass consumption of Nigerian working people.
In other words the uncomfortable truth, and soundness in Mr. Sanusi’s proposition is beclouded by the fact that he literally takes away from the conversation the moral and economic burden the Nigerian political elite has become on the neck of our economy. But Mr. Sanusi’s screening of Nigerian economic and political elite is to be expected. Mr. Sanusi has to commit a social and class suicide not to do that, and he is not ready to commit such class suicide. Thus, he must free members of his class from culpability.
The point being centered however is about wealth creation. While Mr. Oshiomhole, the governor of Edo state is right that labour is wealth, but that is only half the truth. Labour that is hired by a morally bankrupt and visionless economic and political elite as we have in Nigeria will not create wealth and may actually lose its traditional status as a source of wealth. Part of that bankruptcy is the falsity that government creates wealth and therefore must be a major employer. On the contrary, government does not create wealth, rather it creates and supervises- on the basis of law and order -the environment of wealth creation, and labour plays its part in that process.
Thus, the government ought not to be a major recruiter of labour –both working class labour and political labour of the political and ruling elites in the presidency, legislature, at the federal and state levels etc. In other words, while raising an important issue, Mr. Sanusi ought not hide his class from the conversation. And because a labour that is hired by an idle political class will also become idle like its employer, Mr. Sanusi must therefore help us ask members of his class-both economic and political- to start downsizing, and that includes downsizing the number of states for none- except one or two-is viable economically. The clock is tickling, it tickles every second, there is urgency, we must act or the world, which has left us behind, will abandon us. This is the truth in the middle or the middle in the truth. It is poor ethics for us to want to eat our cake or akara and have it. We just cannot be a participant in the global world with what we have.
Adeolu Ademoyo (email@example.com) is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
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