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Oby Ezekwesili should show herself the red card

Oby Ezekwesili, a one-time education minister, one-time World Bank vice president and now full time noisemaker, was on Channels TV’s Sunday Politics programme claiming that the political class in Nigeria has failed and voters should show the red card to the two main parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the next (s)election.

As is typical with Ezekwesili, there was a lot of sound and fury, but very little substance.

Watch the programme below:

She said “something radical” needed to be done to arrest Nigeria’s decline, but there were no radical ideas from her.  She blasted the ruling APC regime for not having a clear/coherent policy direction.  She ignored her own memo on policy direction as, despite the passion, there was little coherence or clear policy direction from her.

Incidentally, her son, Chine Ezekwesili tweeted in December last year about mediocrity in Nigeria and the mother was wallowing in her own mediocrity on national TV.

Ezekwesili’s mediocrity has never stopped her from having many admirers in Nigeria and it was on full display in this programme.  She claimed that Nigeria had a “structural problem”, but she never really gave an adequate solution to this problem beyond saying there was the need to have a “conversation”.  She then stated that the country had stagnated in the last decade.  This seemed a clever ploy to remove the time she spent in government from the equation.  She was solid minerals minister from 2005 to 2006 and education minister from 2006 to 2007.  It was a shame that her host Seun Okinbaloye never bothered to ask her to give a single example of an achievement from her time in office.  Additionally, the suggestion that Nigeria has stagnated in the last decade implies the country was making progress in the period before that.  Ezekwesili was part of an Olusegun Obasanjo regime that hastened the country’s descent into failed statehood.

Two peas in a pod: Oby and Obasanjo

The former minister insisted that “we had to look at how we are organised in terms of security” to deal with the Fulani herdsmen crisis.  There was a lot of bombast from her on the issue, but as usual, she was short on concrete solutions or even a clear idea of the root causes of the problem.  She then moved on to advocating “restructuring” because it would allegedly encourage competitiveness with regions focusing on where they had comparative advantage.  Ezekwesili is clearly unaware that the “Law of Comparative Advantage” is orthodox economics that just doesn’t work in the real world.  Economist Vladimir Masch called it a “myth”:  LCA is invalid, inapplicable, and irrelevant in the real world of trade imbalances; global movement of capital, technology, research, and management skills; worker specialization; persistent large-scale unemployment; huge wage-level gaps between countries; “sticky” prices, wages, and currency rates; technological progress; “learning curves”; production overcapacity; geopolitical and economic instability; and unprecedented uncertainty.

But Ezekwesili was in full soundbite mode and had no time for real world solutions.  She argued we needed to know what it is about our structure that meant we always end up with the “lowest common denominator in leadership”.  Many viewers would have wanted to know what she saw in Obasanjo to serve under him and possibly exempt him from the lowest of the low in leadership.  There was also the small matter of her angling allegedly for a position in the current regime when it came to power in 2015.  Many have attributed her current faux activism on Twitter to her disappointment in not receiving the call from President Muhammadu Buhari.

She proceeded to whip out her red card for the political class (which should include herself) and said “enough of the failure and reward for failure”.  This was a bit ironic from a woman who has done quite well from failure.  She left the failed regime of Obasanjo to the VP position at the World Bank.  It is hard to establish what she achieved at that institution that has been at the forefront of economic policies that have failed many Third World countries like Nigeria.

Ezekwesili reeled out numbers on income per capita, life expectancy, literacy, etc to demonstrate that Singapore was a lot better than Nigeria.  There was little context – it is a bit daft comparing a small city-state that is a port on a crucial trading route in Asia with a huge and diverse country like Nigeria.  Maybe there wasn’t enough time for her to explain how Nigeria’s adherence to “Washington Consensus” diktats from the World Bank, alongside the incompetence and corruption of her former boss Obasanjo contributed to the poor human development indices that she was moaning about.

Ezekwesili’s only idea of a solution was to whip out her voter’s card in place of her red card and, in typical drama queen fashion, declare that she was calling time on the APC and the PDP, and Nigerians should vote them out.  No thoughts were offered on the alternative to those two kleptocratic parties.  No solutions were offered from this recalcitrant noisemaker.

As a matter of fact, she is right that Nigeria shouldn’t be rewarding failure.  It’s time that her failure stopped being rewarded with prime-time TV appearances.

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