By MA Iliasu
More than seventy years ago, the American or rather the undeniably global economist for all that he has influenced with his precise textbook, Paul A. Samuelson, wrote an article titled “Intellectuals”. He uncovered the fallacies of the established Intellectuals of the American society. To him, how they author books that only their friends and students can read, venture discourses only they can engage in, and prescribe policies that have zero respect for emotions, feelings, cultural intelligence and any mortal touch that may agree with common decency epitomises their names: “The Intellectuals”.
In Nigeria, we’re not short of them. Currently, we’re in an international political menace in which Russia put efforts to decimate Ukraine. The moral, ethical, physical, metaphysical, philosophical, epistemological, and even the economic motives and justifications flow freely on the internet. I will not tell you my own, but I’m relaxed knowing about others’. However, “The Intellectuals” are only interested in prescribing books and journal articles, publishing eccentric articles with dense grammar to vividly show they’re not for public consumption but only produced to satisfy the demand of their inner circle. Meanwhile, they bastardise, thus urging the public to take every piece of information on the conflict they may get from the BBC, VOA or CNN with a pinch of salt like the tyrannical antisocials they’re, despite not giving the public any alternative. That’s “an intellectual” for you.
To be precise, this is not a musing on Russia and Ukraine. It’s about the nerve-racking fuel scarcity that has bamboozled the Nigerian federation over the previous month and current. The one started with the speculation of the economically controversial subsidy removal that triggered the ever wicked economic class into succumbing to their Animal Spirit through hoarding. After all, which non-God-fearing mogul would allow the chance to double his revenue off the oppressed lower class without any effort? There’s none!
Discussions on the Nigerian political economy, especially outside university classrooms, are more dominated by the fake, impractical ideal of national consciousness and patriotism. And it takes place even though at no point does the term “Nigeria” ever mean the same to everybody; the poor wanderers, the profit makers, capitalist exploiters and the political hoodwinkers. And still, the Intellectuals want to build our economic skeleton upon that nonexistent psychological pillar. Is it possible?
Nigerians are the brilliant species who have gained relevance by declaring “Economics nothing short of common sense”. And that’s why they despise efficiency and efficacy despite their horrible love for eccentricity. But, if that’s not the case, how do you justify persuading people to buy what’s expensive when what’s cheap and of superior quality is available?
Through patriotism, they say. After all, people should use their hard-earned money to fund the ego of the anti-logic system of governance. For in the future, they say, there’ll be wonders. Meanwhile, the only wonders we’ll ever see is the one that reflects on the ironic, unethical, inefficient and anti-liberal, unreasonably orthodox, the often mix of the two, logic of the Nigerian Intellectuals that I’ll disclose below:
“Let’s stop importing fuel till we achieve self-sufficiency. That should be our way. A country with the mineral muscles of Nigeria should not be importing fuel. Let that be our moral standard. Let’s endure all the suffering for now. Let’s be patriotic. We’ll be alright shortly afterwards.” – isn’t this a lovely musing?
Do you disagree? Yes, I know you do. You’re an economist! What I want to ask is, why do you agree with the same pattern of thinking and logic when it’s used on Rice? – One reason:
Fuel scarcity & inflation is pressing every aspect of my society, up to the bottom, thus the outrage. And mostly the rich, who have limousines and Corollas to drive home from work and to the wedding evenings at the city parks, to power gigantic generators for their freezers and air-conditioners, and to calm their nerves from the so-called working stress. Then the industrialists who power their workshops and trade zones. And the artisans who harness all the profits. And that’s why nobody wants to hear anything long English Language, solution or no!
But rice scarcity & inflation, that one only press the poor, the bottom tier. That’s why every time we speak, they quote the models of David Ricardo & Keynes. That’s the only time they remember Ricardo and his comparative advantage or Keynes and his misunderstood, poorly-implemented government intervention. That’s the only time they want to disagree with Audu Ogbeh. So maybe Economics is more than common sense, after all. Thus they even go deeper into the mathematical models of Euler and Nash.
Everybody is acknowledging the need for government to take off its hands from fuel because it’s unfriendly for the lords at the top and the intellectuals at the middle, which is a policy prescription that sanity has advocated forever. But nobody wants to acknowledge the need for government to take its hands off the food industry, perhaps because the top dogs eat what they want from wherever they want, while it’s the bottom tier servants of God that are dying of hunger and historical inflation.
But why the lack of consistency?
Confusion is the reason, which can also disclose the lack of coherence along with discussions of such relevance. In Nigeria today, you’ll see an acclaimed intellectual who’ll die for his liberal romanticism supporting the economics of border closure. It makes me curious how possible it’s for Friedrich Hayek and Paul Samuelson to eat at the same table without arguing? Well, I think that’s the probability of the logic being consistent & cogent. Likewise, the essential orthodox wondering around the idea of ‘unpolice-able’ modern technology despite every magnum opus of their scholarly background suggesting otherwise.
The problem of the American society we love to imitate when it suits us (to quote Chinua Achebe) is that they believe in economics too much. But, interestingly, in Nigeria, they don’t believe in economics at all. And that’s why both are paying the price of extremism while hiding behind Keynesianism. In their experience, greed has taken over everything. But in our own, the economy has become a prison. And the wardens holding the keys are the intellectuals who will rationalise anything.
MA Iliasu wrote from Kano via email@example.com.