Nigeria and the analogy of a Greek gift By Nasiru Suwald

To understand why it is historically wise to be weary of the Greek bearing a gift, it is important to explore the mythological origin and the etymological roots of the expression: Greek gift, was about military tactics and combat strategies of a bygone era, when men fought with the gods at their sides. At the height of the Trojan War, when Achilles the greatest of the Greeks and Hector the greatest of the Trojans had fallen from divine relevance, a seeming stalemate was slowly unfolding, with the two sides becoming evenly matched. Then the Greeks unveiled the cunning genius of Odysseus, who devised the idea of a Trojan horse, to be left at the gate of Troy, the Trojans thought the Greeks had left it as a pious parting gift, because they had given up and sailed home, they welcomed the gift and took it within their city walls, little did they know that the belly of the beast was filled with armed soldiers, who would soon destroy their city.

Thus, when, a fortnight ago, in the middle of the week, at the thick of the Farouk Lawan bribery scandal, the coordinating minister for the economy and Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, projected that just like Greece, the Nigerian economy is in danger of falling into a recession, an issue of the present imitating the past had arisen. The context, to be clear on this matter, was a state of perpetual altercation between the Nigerian people and their leadership, in a seemingly unwinnable war over corruption. Beyond context however, the real personage this time, just like in the ancient mythology, was a cunning Odysseus who emerged in the form of a legislator, claiming to represent integrity in an assembly of ill-repute and thus dealing the Nigerian people a deadly blow, as he fought corruption with corruption, employing sheer tomfoolery when the least expected of him is the smartness of a squirrel. At the stake, however, and Nigerians will easily recall, was a report that that drive a nail through the spine of the much reviled cabal, confirming the thieving perfidy of a group that funds ruling party politics in Nigeria, and cementing the fact of how greed finally killed the hope of the citizenry for accountable governance.

Unfortunately, When Dr. Okonjo-Iweala compared us with the Greek economy, she relied on indicators of a recessionary Europe, narrow indices from the economy of the United States of America, and the projected slowing down of the global economy. But a realistic appraisal of why our economy failed is far from the reasons that made Greece, the progenitor of modern democracy to fail economically.  The genesis of their financial problems could be easily traced to bad policy decisions, profligate spending patterns, speculative investment portfolios, and the general uncompetitive nature of the Greek economic system.

Nigeria’s systemic failure in economic management however, is simply premised on grand theft, with the nation seeming to have the uncanny ability to withstand different variety of scams in governmental administrative machinery, from the gargantuan fuel subsidy fraud, which fleeced the sum of over 2.1 trillion naira from government’s budgetary provisions, to the power sector scam that deprived the Nigerian state the sum of over 6 billion dollars and the pension fund mal-administration which stripped retired Nigerian workers of over 300 billion naira of their beneficial annuities.

Indeed the problem of the Greek economy, which is like the affliction bedeviling the rest of European nations financial systems, is pure un-competitiveness in an era where the cost of labor matters, for it determines the location, viability and sustainability of industrial production, as this has become the prime factor that determines the price of goods which the market aggregates. Thus in an industrial economy premised upon mass production of goods and services, any situation where a shift occurs in the demands of industrial produce, either due to the fact of uncompetitive pricing, untrendy crafts, or the fact of unfavorable spending patterns— such as slowing demand for the produced goods, leading to huge inventories, provoking reluctance for further production, redundancy at the work place and unemployment at the communal and or national level is bound to lead to the Greek situation. Of course, an economic crisis of monumental proportion is certainly bound to occur since governments draw taxes and generate income, while replenishing the treasury account for development purposes on this economic foundation.

Unlike the European world of industrial mechanization, Nigerian economy is solely based on a mono product of crude oil, which is unfortunately threatened at the axis of its production, as the upstream sector of the industry is afflicted with a debilitating and cancerous tumor of oil bunkering and oil theft, a fact fully acknowledged Dr. Goodluck Jonathan himself, at the seasonal question and answer forum called the Presidential Media Chat.

According to the Nigerian leader, just like the human variant possesses an obstinate character trait which has defied medical treatment, the criminal theft of crude oil averages a loss of over 200,000 barrels per day, an amount enough to cripple any economy in the world, due to the evident reality of the deprivation of the much needed lost income for development. Indeed a relative comparison with the globally celebrated Ghana economy denotes an attainment of newly found prosperity with a daily crude oil production of merely 150,000 barrels, yet Nigeria manages to lose six times the number and exclaim outside factors as the bane of our economic predicament. 

Fortunately for Nigeria and hard as it might seem to believe, our consequential economic problem is of more easier solution than the Greeks, for while the Hellenic nation had to dig deep in formulating policies, which changes the texture of its goods, thereby stimulating deep craving for its products, while at the same time reducing the cost of production by limiting cost of labor, a task that is visibly far from being easy. Nigeria only had to enforce the rule of law and the economy flourishes, as with everybody strictly adhering to the dictates of our codified body of laws, the untreatable cancer in illegal bunkering becomes a simple case which is easily prosecuted as any other crimes within the land. While the perpetual government frauds that has metamorphosed into grand thefts, devolves from an activity that is merely examined with taskforces and committees, into a mere common crime which every cop within the block investigates for onward transmission to diligent prosecution.

 


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