As the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde winds down her four day trip in Nigeria, following meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari, Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, ministers, senators and the Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele, with both sides preaching the supposed benefits of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation, it would be prudent for the Nigerian officials to watch and learn from an old speech from the man they called “Mwalimu” (“The Teacher”) – Julius Nyerere.
Nyerere echoed the sound economic advice that has been given by the likes of the former World Bank Vice President Joseph Stiglitz, who condemned the policies of his former employers, development economists like Ha-Joon Chang and Dani Rodrik.
Watch the speech here:
The former Tanzanian president argued that it is “nonsense” to hand over the direction of your economy to the private sector. This is the “nonsense” that comes out of senior circles in Nigeria. While the apostles of globalisation at the IMF and the World Bank put pressure on countries like Nigeria to open up their markets, Nyerere argued that you can’t open up your markets to big competitors when you have no power to compete. He likened it to boxing in which there were different weight divisions and said putting a heavyweight in the same ring with a featherweight was not boxing, but “murder”.
Nyerere rightly claimed that Japan, Britain, Germany, South Korea, etc did not do what the West pressures “stupid Africans” to do. They nurtured and protected their industries until they were strong enough to compete. Their governments and leaders controlled their economies and it is “ignorant people that have been deceived” to hand over their economies to the private sector.
When you witness the obsequious behaviour of Buhari, Adeosun and Emefiele towards Lagarde, you can’t help but wonder if the ignorance Nyerere spoke about was on display. It was a bit reassuring to see Senator John Enoh, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, on TV last night reject as “insensitive” Lagarde’s suggestion that one way out of Nigeria’s economic mess was to increase a regressive tax like VAT.