By Dr. Edwin Ndukwe
Without consulting any particular school of thought or institutionalized framework of opinion, an observation this writer has made over the years on the socio-economic disequilibrium rampant in most developing countries of Africa is a reason which has informed this piece.
The subject of isolationism as extracted from most contemporary library of linguistic refers to a policy often institutionalized by a leader or leaders who believe in distancing one’s country from meddling in the affairs of another. Those who adopt this model argue that it protects local labour force that would otherwise go to non-locals or what may be considered as expatriates. They also defend their leadership modus operandi by stating that it fosters peace within borders. Yet still, those in disfavour fiercely charges isolationist nations as being protectionist and often dictatorial. Nigeria is by far not a protectionist nation and therefore not isolationist. The Republic of North Korea and Cuba are two distinct examples of our current day isolationist nations.
Stretching further the interpretation of isolationism includes what this writer calls “socio-economic isolationism.” To better understand the term, it is pertinent to closely look at the apparent socio-economic divide between the wealthy and the poor in our society today. Nigeria, by all globally acceptable yardstick for measuring a country’s wealth, ranks about 30th in the world with regards to GDP, although it ranks 2nd amongst other competing developing nations both within the African continent and elsewhere. Economists have placed Nigeria as the next economic frontier, a strong emerging market with significant expansion in finance, telecommunications and most recently agro economy. Impressive, one would say!
In spite of the somewhat economic thesis above and the vast hydrocarbon deposit in the Delta region which is now gradually being depleted, only one per cent of the oil revenue actually trickles down to the populace while 80 per cent goes to the government (and by default into the hands of a few cabal or clique), with 16 per cent going towards cost for operations and four per cent to investors. To make matters worse, oil exports to America has fallen sharply in the last few years due to the discovery of vast shale deposits. Beyond the oil sector, Nigeria’s economy is fractured and frankly inefficient.
But the perceived growth and buoyancy in our emerging economy is held under lock and key, and kept in the hands of a few ghost-like cabals. These few bad men control the swing of the economic swivel and therefore, have co-opted bold machineries to extract gains from the 80 per cent oil revenue highlighted above. This trend is however, strengthened by a corrupt environment dominated by corrupt leadership. With such money and the inherent access to power, key sector policies like energy and economics are framed around the whims and caprices of this cabal. The implication of this is that they have prime access to the “first fruits” associated with any policy modification. It is nothing short of “insider trading”!
More often than not, the exclusive group covets their position and guard it jealously. Interactions, both social and otherwise, are kept within these exclusive members. It is an on-going conspiracy that a few business elite colludes with the political den to recycle wealth within the isolated group. They further instigate division in the polity, wielding ethno-centric and religious rhetoric. In such a mood, the weak and the poor are disillusioned and lose faith in its leaders, thus creating disconnect between the few wealth hoarders and the rest of the masses.
Encapsulated in this economic and social bubble, they are out of touch with the realities of the poor and hence unwilling to share ideas or render support to the less privileged. That is what socio-economic isolationism is about. Those outside the exclusive group grapple with the biting economic challenges of the environment while the few within the exclusive group amass more and more wealth and splash it with disdain at others.
The outcome from the above is a leadership that fails to connect with the ruled, a leadership that has grown insensitive to their true obligations to the state and numbed to the woes of the polity. Socio-economic isolationism exists, not just at the top but also at the bottom. You can find it at every level in our society including the community level and even among clans. It exists such that it has become part and parcel of our evolving democratic process and a cankerworm that seems not to wish to go away anytime soon.
How then do we resolve this hydra-headed monster that has placed us on the threshold of under-development? There is no solution in sight other than to re-orientate the mass of the people to enable them wake up to the realities that confronts them. When the masses are armed with much orientation, they could therefore be enlightened to take swift action against the domineering status quo led by the cabal. The swift action here is not a call for revolution as that automatically nullifies whatever changes the masses intends to make or achieve. If the mass of the people wish to live in a society that is near utopia, now is the time to deal with the socio-economic isolationism of a few elements within the society. Simply because their number is quite infinitesimal, it is not hard to effect a transformation that will not only change the course of our faulty structure but place a smile on the faces of our yet unborn children.
Dr. Edwin Ndukwe, firstname.lastname@example.org