Nigeria’s fiscal policy does not mesh with monetary policy

Nigeria’s fiscal policy does not mesh with monetary policy

Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:54 pm

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

By Bola Tinubu

*Trade policy undermines industrial policy, thus ease of doing business is inhibited

I am honored to address the National Defence College and you, the participants in Course 25. I thank the Commandant, Rear Admiral Alade, and the staff of this esteemed institution for the privilege to deliver this lecture. The Defence College has a special role to play in reshaping Nigeria. This institution is that special place where the best talent in the military may engage in fertile intellectual exchange with some of the brightest in our civilian institutions and from other nations.

The laymen often mistakenly view the military as an inflexible, often unthinking collective. This is a distorted view of the military. APC leader, Bola Tinubu Some of the best minds in our nation are found in the military. No military can be successful over the long-term unless it has the intellectual agility to adopt its doctrines and practices to the challenges of a dynamic and chaotic world as we have today. Like any large organization, a military overly resistant to change will find itself on the wrong end of history. It will not answer the questions an incessantly changing environment places before it. The Nigerian military was established to respond to challenges resident in Third Generation or Trinitarian Warfare.

The genesis of standard military philosophy can be traced to the works of classical and neo-classical theorists and practitioners such as Sun Tzu, Jomini (Joe-me-knee), Clausewitz (Clau sah vits), Alfred Mahan, Giulio Douhet (Do-hay), JFC Fuller and Basil Liddell Hart. Today, much of the world’s military challenges have little to do with the confrontation of standing army against standing army. You now must adapt your concepts and your very institution to Fourth Generation or Non-trinitarian Warfare. Here, you deal with the intersection of ideology, politics and highly weaponized non-state actors whose membership, tactics and aims are fluid and inconstant. In the space of the last ten years, the Nigerian military has had to face violent militants in the tropical Niger Delta, then turn to battle wicked Boko Haram in the Sahelian Northern Nigeria.

The principles of Jomini and Clausewitz have to be materially reinterpreted to apply to these battles. Yet these conflicts are of a different nature than what these 19th century thinkers encountered, but these modern conflicts are as brutal, and strategically important to the state as traditional warfare. This modern version is even more difficult to master and to win due to the fluid, almost clandestine nature of the adversary. Today, you battle not against standing armies; but against vanishing ghosts. I commend the Nigerian military for what it has achieved against Boko Haram. You have battled and bested this evil enterprise. This vile force has been reduced to where it no longer poses a strategic threat. You have done as well as a military can in putting down this amorphous danger. The nation thanks you. I must say here, however, that we cannot lower our guard. We have learned cardinal lessons from the Boko Haram crisis.

First, we must govern justly and for the benefit of the people to prevent the recurrence of violent extremism in the future. Unjust allocation of resources Widespread poverty caused by an unjust allocation of income, wealth and resources provides fertile ground for extremist ideologies, that run contrary to the inclusive democracy we seek to perfect. Protracted years of gross mis-governance are a down payment on the rise of extremism. Second, the armed forces may contain violent outbreaks but they cannot fully resolve strife originating from a nation’s political and social imbalances. Some type of political resolution is needed. The military is hamstrung because it must restrain operations in order to protect the civilian population, which is the prime duty of the military. A paradox of fourth generation warfare becomes apparent. The duty to protect the state is rendered more complex because of the restraint that must be exercised in combating domestic insurgencies. However, engaging in less discrete operations may be easier done but this always proves counterproductive in the end because of the risk of alienating the local population.

Third, the longer an unfair political economic situation goes unattended, the more extreme become the views of the disaffected. The more difficult a political situation becomes, once the situation degrades into violent insurgency. There is little room to find a political solution and almost no mutual trust to attempt to locate that finite space. As a result, the nation is compelled to resort to force, to resolve non-military contradictions. This means the more the military has to expend itself in a contest of diminishing military returns. The more time that passes, the more the military is degraded. A conventional military is not structured to be on perpetual war footing. More resources have to be spent to prevent the military from diminishing its current state of readiness. The insurgency becomes institutionalized with each passing year. Insurgent ideology gives way to institutional inertia. Insurgency becomes something its members do simply because they have been doing it. It is no longer a means to an end; the insurgency becomes the end in itself…

What I have said underscores a crucial point. The civilian and military worlds do not occupy distinct universes. They are but different points along the spectrum of collective human endeavour. For a nation at our stage of evolution, any politician who cares about internal security must be somewhat versed in military concepts and strategy. Any military officer who cares about the future progress of the nation must be conversant with the different political and economic themes contesting to govern the moment.

“Strategic Leadership: My Personal Theory and Practice.

Excellent strategic political leadership is based on commitment to a political vision. A leader must have a coherent objective in mind. Strategy and tactics are then fashioned to work toward that vision. This is an essential consideration. There cannot be strategic leadership without a conscious objective. Political leadership in Nigeria generally has fallen short in this regard. Leadership has been short-sighted and fixed on narrow, immediate objectives. Because of this, leadership has been more transactional than strategic in nature. It has been more focused on the retention of power and control than on the substantive results and long-term consequences of its policies and actions. This state of affairs results in a cruel paradox. Fixation on the details of numerous transactions produces a mirage of control and order over every event and episode.

However, when all the pieces are brought together, they give a picture of disorder and even chaos. Excessive control over individual parts comes at the sacrifice of harmony of the whole. The parts do not fit well together because they were not created as a unified whole. Things become as confusing as a labyrinth, with many entrances but no exits. It is as if we take 20 authors asking each to write a separate chapter of a book, without coordinating with each other. In this way, we protect ourselves from the writers plotting against us. While that objective is achieved, there is little chance that the book will be a coherent tale when we tack the chapters together. Each section will be fine in isolation. When read together, they constitute nothing more than literary confusion, intelligent babble. The totality of the work becomes less than the sum of its parts. So much energy expended towards almost no discernible purpose, except to control the process no matter how dysfunctional the outcome. This is the bane of our political economy.

We have so much talent in the nation but it has not been engaged and engineered to function in unison. Fiscal policy does not mesh with monetary policy. Trade policy undermined industrial policy, thus ease of doing business is inhibited. Overseas peacekeeping missions do not always harmonize with core foreign policy interests. No national system is perfect. In each, exist some contradictions. This is but evidence of the imperfection of human nature itself. However, a nation in progress seeks to minimize, not harvest additional contradictions, otherwise its leadership strategy is doomed to fail. These dilemmas arise in governance because there is no accepted overarching vision or strategy to achieve that vision. In the absence of these essentials that give definition to inputs and outcomes, coherence gives way to happenstance. Unaided by a greater purpose, governance and its institutions become ends in themselves. Their primary aim will be to exist, not to achieve. Leaders likewise become imbued with the same blindness. They occupy power because power needs to be occupied. I was fortunate to recognize early in my political life that a true political leader distinguishes himself by marrying principled vision with practical strategy. In combination, these things show you the way home and how to get there. Just as importantly, they help you determine what not to do or where to avoid as a good compass keeps you from going south when your destination lies north.

Developing vision and strategy are easily said but hard to attain. Thought, diligent planning and constant reflection are needed. President Dwight Eisenhower once said: “In preparing for battle, I have always found plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” The deeper meaning of this statement is priceless. You may set forth intelligently crafted plans. Once the complex enterprise begins, war or politics, unforeseen events and untold chance stirs the dust and changes things so quickly that the strict letter of our plans loses utility. Any general or leader who stubbornly adheres to preconceived notions has written his own tombstone: here lies a leader who defeated himself. No matter the beauty of your intellectual constructs, they cannot subdue reality; they must adapt to it. The plan can be a prison but the planning is essential. It conditions the mind to keep an eye on the objective so that you may adapt to changing conditions without losing sight of the prize. At this juncture, I am reminded of the tale of a farmer and his son.

The farmer’s corn fields were plagued by ravening birds. Saving the harvest clearly became his objective. His strategy was to have his son gather stones, early every day, then toss them at the crows to scare them off. This went on daily for several months. One day, the crows did not come. The boy spotted the birds in the adjacent fields of his father’s worst enemy. Conditioned to bothering the crows, the boy hauled rocks to the other man’s field so that he may pelt the crows. While the boy was gone, wild pigs came and trampled the much of the cornstalks. The father spotted the boy and scream for him to come home. The boy came running. The father asked why was he being so disobedient. The boy was perplexed, saying you wanted me to chase the crows away. The father answered: “No.” I wanted you to protect our corn. While here, the birds were our enemy. Not here, they are just birds. When they are in that man’s field, they are even my friends. “My son, you forgot the purpose of what you were doing. So you set yourself elsewhere and left the field unattended to bother birds that were doing us no harm. By your mistake, you just undid all the toil of these months and you put the harvest at risk.”

My constant vision has been the transformation of this nation into a robust decentralized democracy with a diverse industrial base, to provide sufficient jobs to a growing urban population; and a sufficient agricultural base, to achieve food security and provide a decent livelihood to the rural population. We have made some progress toward this vision. But we have a long way to go. I want to sketch out the journey thus far and offer my thoughts on how the future might unfold.

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.