In the heat of the election to halt the Peoples Democratic Party’s 16 years rule in 2015, the new coalition of opposition political parties that formed the All Progressives Party brought in a renowned American political strategist, David Axerold, to help develop and implement the strategy that facilitated the demise of the former ruling party.
For those who may not be aware, Axerold was the chief strategist for President Barack Obama’s successful campaign in 2008 which made him the first black president of the USA. Axerold also served in the same capacity for the re-election of Obama in 2012.
The renowned political strategist is currently a director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, USA.
Recall that before the engagement of the American expert in political strategy, the opposition parties had failed in three previous election circles, 2003, 2007 and 2011 to unseat the PDP as the ruling party.
Muhammadu Buhari was a presidential candidate in all the three times vying on the platforms of three different political parties and failed to win the contest until the APC leveraged the expertise of Axerold in the last presidential election in 2015 and won.
The justification for relying on an American political strategist to facilitate the APC ‘s success is in part borne out of the fact that Nigeria operates the presidential system of governance which originated from the USA and the expert whom the APC engaged had a good track record of achieving victory for Obama twice .
So, I posit that for Nigeria to dig herself out of the economic hole that it is currently stuck in, it will be wise to also resort to seeking assistance from the US for a development strategist because that country remains the biggest economy in the world which has probably experienced the most economic booms and bursts in the history of capitalism.
If President Buhari decides to take the bait of inviting accomplished US economists like Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, it won’t be an oddity because even Great Britain hired the current Governor of Bank of England, Mark Carney, who is a Canadian.
Considering that Britain was once the colonial master of Canada, it could have been considered demeaning to seek help from a vassal state, but in the spirit of globalisation and perhaps mobility of labour, Britons did not shy away from choosing the most viable option required to solve an identified challenge.
What’s more, the managing director of the ubiquitous and highly successful Emirates Airline, owned by Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tim Clark, is a Briton not an Emirati, which is quite remarkable.
Krugman and Stiglize, who are Nobel Prize winners in economics and have at one time or the other served as advisers to the World Bank and the IMF, are also consultants to numerous countries including serving as advisers to presidents in their home country, USA and also Japan, China as well as Greece amongst many others in Europe and Asia.
The wealth of experience of the aforementioned economics juggernauts earlier listed cannot be overstated, but suffice it to say that virtually every economic principle propounded by John Maynard Keynes, father and purveyor of supply side economics school of thought, in the past three decades have been improved upon and advanced by Stiglitz and Krugman among others.
While Stiglitz is the director of the trail blazing, Earth Institute based in the prestigious University of Chicago, Krugman is a professor of economics in the City University of New York and a columnist with New York Times.
Working with a host of equally good Nigerian economists who are authorities in their rights and who were part of the transition committee of the government that facilitated the transfer of operations from the last administration to the present one, as well participants in the recent government’s parley with the private sector, Nigeria can leverage both local and international experts to realise her latent economic potential which have remained untapped even after 56 years of Independence.
Now, some hardline proponents of homegrown development may argue against the idea of inviting international economists to assist in forging a new economic path for the nation on the basis of the fact that Nigeria is not lacking in that regard.
Such an attitude will not be surprising, because in the past, some Nigerians were averse to the engagement of foreign football coaches to train our teams to attain Olympic and World Cup standards. They also hinged their objections on similar precepts; however, the team coached by foreign experts went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, USA in 1986 and Nigerian players also went on to occupy prime positions in European football clubs which dominated the leagues until recently.
Evidently, just like the resistance to reliance on foreign football coaches to train our footballers by some members of society, the argument against looking towards the advanced society to source economic experts to help recalibrate our economy may be hinged more on emotions derived from patriotism, rather than critical thinking.
Whereas it may not be easily discernible that Nigeria is in dire need of out-of-the-box ideas to pull her economy back from the brinks warranting headhunting beyond Nigerian shores, that is not an indication that the nation is suffering from a dearth of economists.
In the light of the crash in global crude oil price, which is Nigeria’s main foreign exchange earner, the devastating actions of aggrieved militants on oil and gas infrastructure in the oil-rich Niger Delta which has resulted in lock-in or leakages of crude oil, sometimes in excess of one million barrels that could have been exported daily, and the consequential rapid decline in the well-being of the masses, the urgency to fix the Nigerian economy by changing tactics from sole reliance on oil, becomes more poignant and urgent, hence the need for international experts to aid diversification efforts of the government.
Both the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo-Udoma, already recognise the benefits of external help hence they made provision for external borrowing of approximately $4.5bn to augment the 2016 budget of N6.8tn.
In fact, Adeosun has often repeated in her public speeches that Nigeria is contemplating sourcing part of the funding for budget 2016 from euro bonds and other external sources.
Given the foregoing decisions already taken with respect to shoring up the Nigerian economy via external funding, seeking the advice of international economists to further help strengthen the weakening economy should be a next useful step.
Furthermore, there are several other benefits to engaging the calibre of experts earlier listed. Such advantages are the enhancement of Nigeria’s chances of gaining privileged access into certain pools of international funds to lift up the economy which ordinarily would not be available to her, particularly because our current economic managers lack the clout and reach to accomplish such feats.
Take for instance Nigeria’s debt of about $12bn which was part of the debt owed to the World Bank and the lMF of which a debt write-off was secured under the watch of President Olusegun Obasanjo with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as finance minister.
Without doubt, it was a combination of the international contacts of both Obasanjo as a member of the Eminent Persons Group, a panel of ex-heads of government of Commonwealth countries and Okonjo-lweala’s experience as a former World Bank managing director, that enabled Nigeria secure the unprecedented debt forgiveness.
Also, consider the billions of Sani Abacha dollars stashed away in Western banks and still stuck there about 20 years after his demise. Involving creditable economists like the ones earlier mentioned would give Nigeria’s quest to repatriate the funds, a positive stamp of credibility and facilitate speedier return of the loot for badly needed socio-economic development back home.
Being big wigs in economic affairs globally, famous financial experts can put in good words for Nigeria in strategic economic and financial fora such that the country can gain similar shine as countries like the Republic of Georgia, gets when experts use them as positive reference points for successful economic reforms.
With the erudite international financial experts with trackable records of accomplishments, working with local economists to plot Nigeria’s exit from the present recession trap, l have no doubt that the country will return to a growth path so that citizens’ well-being will improve sooner than later.
Onyibe, a development strategist, is a former Commissioner of Information in Delta State