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REVIEW & OUTLOOK: The Politics Of Poverty And State Capture

REVIEW & OUTLOOK: The Politics Of Poverty And State Capture
  • PublishedSeptember 2, 2022



WE are in the season of political jockeying and all bets are off. With so much at stake, the hard-pressed economy stunted with diminishing purchasing power will see a stimulus as spending on political activities revs up a gear. The relief will be temporary of course, but thank God for small mercies.

The real issue should be, “Where is the beef?” An inconvenient question, but politics in a country at our level of growth without development should ask for something more than vacuous utterances and just spending on “politics”. It is more pertinent now at a time when the country is faced with existential threats on so many fronts. The daily carnage of terrorists is directly linked and is indeed founded upon a distorted economic foundation. The absence of genuine, sensibly structured Development Plans to be used as a roadmap highlight this. Disturbingly, a forewarning of impending disaster had being foretold by the report of the judicial commission of enquiry into the Maitatsene riots in 1982. Governments, both civil and military just ignored the warnings. The consequences of so doing are now dire with the country devoting roughly 20% of its budget on military expenditure. The figure is not going to come down anytime soon; on the contrary, it will go up because the root causes of the crisis is not been tackled. To paraphrase the election winning slogan of the British Labour party under Tony Blair, “We should be tough on terrorism, tougher still on the causes of terrorism”. 

To be tough on the causes of terrorism requires both a rethinking of strategy and crucially the political will. In a brilliant campaign in 1993, the late Bashorun MKO Abiola of much cherished memory captured the mood with his emphasis on saying a “Farewell To Poverty”. He meant it and certainly had the management nous and the intensity of purpose as well the commitment to have pulled off. Abiola’s manifesto was a reminder of the central thrust of the Action Groups 1950s emphasis on making “ Life more abundant “. They pulled it off with beneficial game changing effects which continues to resonate.

Nearer to now Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola reignited the progressive thrust by placing the role of the state in beneficial social intervention at the center of the political discourse. Aregbesola lived up to the position of the Italian political philosopher, Antonio Gramsci, that the clear essence of politics is to shift the territory of the discourse in the direction of one’s own position. Aregbesola redirected both thought and practice and has deservedly earned a positive place in history.

The country is in dire straits. We must seek solutions by looking at the valiant efforts made in the past by reexamining the thoughts of people like Obafemi Awolowo, Abiola and Aregbesola. It means jettisoning the inadvertent (it is to be hoped) glamourisation of poverty as a political weapon. This must be discarded and replaced in this season with a clear Aregbesola styled “Alternative Perspective” to break the chains of poverty by tackling the root causes.

Furthermore, the spectre of “State Capture” must also be confronted. The term State Capture originated from South Africa. It indicates the distortion of the state through the subservience of the superstructure of the state to the interests of individuals, special interests and groups. The end result of this is to act as a break on genuine development, competition and innovation. It has also become a very alarming stultification and is now acting as a break on the prospects of achieving sustainable development in Nigeria. It must be tackled. 

Finally, we must hope that those who believe in the progressive thrust must adopt and rally around a programme of social and economic rejuvenation rather than hauling brickbats. With population growth, rates far outstripping economic growth rates it’s time to think!

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