By Saadu Umar
“Privatisation is the most tangible manifestation of the withering of the state….” Chris Cramer (1999).
Before the furore over the sale of six of Bauchi State’s assets by Qaura to his friends at knockdown prices settles he has hurriedly heralded the sale of Yankari Game Reserve.
For context, Yankari is an area equal to the size of Lagos State – less than a third of it. And in terms of value, how can Qaura value it? A million or a billion? Yankari cannot be sold; even for gazillion grams of gold. But then, I will expect Qaura to auction it for a pittance to his family and friends.
After Yankari, Qaura plans to sell some more. Baba Tela, the dumped and disgraced Deputy Governor said it: “More industries and entities have been slated for sale and we will continue to do it as long as there are those enterprises”. Hmm! Owners of Bauchi are talking!
What more assets and companies does Qaura intend to sell? Everything. Qaura will privatise water, education, healthcare, pensions and if given the chance, the air we breathe!
Bauchi better beware. Qaura’s already put in place a legal framework for some of this.
And there’s precedence. When Qaura was FCT minister, he sold everything saleable. All the lands from Garki to Karshi, from Kuje to Abaji and Bwari the land of Gwari were butchered and auctioned.
But why would Qaura like to butcher Bauchi this much, isn’t that madness? Yes it’s. And here is the method to Qaura’s madness.
Qaura wants to entrench neo patrimonialism in Bauchi. Qaura and co are in government to get rich. And boy they are rich! Filthy rich. They see the Bauchi state as a “rent sharing coalition by which elite dole out economic favours to one another and that’s their motivation for being in politics”. Apologies to Fukuyama.
That’s why Qaura gave to himself a 3.5 billion Naira contract using Adda Nigeria Ltd. And it’s the same reason that he sold the Fertilizer company to Shafa at a low price. Examples abound. Indeed, In this government, every sale, contract, favour, work and everything is for Qaura, his family and friends.
However, in their attempts to deceive people into privatisation, Qaura and PDP resort to casuistry.
Before taking these arguments let me speak to the origin of privatisation which we all know to be a policy formulation of the USA treasury, IMF and World Bank – Washington Consensus.
Unless one is stupidly ignorant these institutions don’t exist for the benefit of the poor, blacks or third world countries. They exist for the privileged whitemen – the capitalists in Washington, London and Paris. Privatisation won’t help any ordinary man in Bauchi.
Privatisation has many critics. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in Economics criticized the theory behind privatisation as “weak” and lacking “strong theoretical justification a priori”. Privatisation has proven to be terrible worldwide. Especially in Africa, Asia and even Russia.
Hear how Stiglitz described what privatisation did to Russia: “Both GDP and consumption declined. Living standards collapsed, life spans became shorter, and health worsened. Russia achieved a huge increase in inequality at the same time that it managed to shrink the economy by up to a third. Poverty soared to close to 50 percent from 2 percent in 1989”. It’s this Russia Qaura is taking Bauchi to. God forbid.
Now, to the arguments of Qaura and his cheerleaders. Their arguments can be summed up under five headings: efficiency, job creation, economic growth, healthy companies and whataboutism [the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.]. These arguments are as strong as a cobweb.
First, that privatisation brings efficiency is just not the case. Nellis (1999) states that there are few differences between state-owned and private firms. In fact, privatised companies perform worse than some publicly owned companies. Stiglitz also said that when it comes to efficiency “privatization may not be the most important policy” as “Chinese rapid economic growth has not been driven by privatization”.
Second, the claim that privatisation brings economic growth is specious. Because “a move from state to private ownership alone does not automatically yield economic gains” according to Prof John of Harvard Business School.
Third, Baba Tela said the companies are ailing. Ugly lie. The companies they are selling are healthy. Yankari, Wikki Hotel, the Fertilizer company aren’t sick. Even if there’s a sick company, it’s Qaura and people in government that infected the company with diseases of corruption and strangulation. Chomsky’s privatization technique, if you will.
Fourth, the whatabout NNPC mentioned by Kashim is also false. NNPC Ltd is 100 per cent owned by the government. Kyari and others confirm this fact.
And the NITEL case is a sad story. The PDP government nuked NITEL – a sound, strong and profitable Nigerian enterprise – and craned MTN, a South African firm formed by the government of South Africa. 9mobile too is owned by the UAE. These two are making profits in trillions for their governments while Nigerians are forced to endure an expensive and sometimes poor services. So, what’s here to be proud of as a Nigerian? Traitors.
Fifth, Kashim hypocritically and cynically suggest that privatisation creates employment. Evil lie. Studies by scholars like Stiglitz and Loveman have confirmed that privatisation leads to job losses and unemployment.
Before PDP sold NEPA, ministry of power had 50,000 workers but now only 700 are left. (Fashola)
Again, the sorry Steyr story in Bauchi belied all Qaura’s arguments. The same arguments the PDP advanced than when they butchered Steyr. Now the rotten fruits of that terrible sale are unmistakable. From a company that was doing very well, where 2,000 workers were assembling 5,000 tractors, 4,000 trucks and buses annually, Steyr has since become dead incapable of assembling one single hoe to weed the weeds covering the company’s compound!
Sickeningly, It’s this same sorry Steyr story Qaura is revisiting, telling us to believe and accept it again. Annoyingly claiming it’s in our interest to do so. We will not accept it. We don’t have an interest in Qaura’s selfish, devilish, criminal, anti-democratic privatisation.
Because, the results of it will only be a concentration of “political power and economic wealth” into the hands of Qaura and elite while it’ll be tears, unemployment, job losses, misery, poverty, inequality, asset-stripping and death for people of Bauchi.
That is why the APC and good people of Bauchi are urging Qaura to pause and reverse course. We have suffered enough under Qaura and the PDP’s poor policies, corrupt practices, bad governance and insults.
Yes, Kashim can contemptuously tell the people of Bauchi to go to hell for demanding the preservation and protection of our collective assets from being siezed by butchers and vultures. But the good people of Bauchi will not go to hell – we will go to heaven. The people that will go to Hell are the liars, the corrupt, those who siezed public property unjustly, defrauders, traitors, hypocrites, promise-breakers and criminals, says the Qur’an.
Lastly, for the resilient people of Bauchi, I say this: don’t despair. There’s good news. Help from Air Marshal Sadique is coming.
This October Sadique will unveil a progressive plan to reverse the privatisation, provide employment, reduce the cost of living, alleviate poverty, pay pension and gratuity, fight crime, stop government stealing, put more money in education to return our children to boarding schools and put out of school kids back in classes, invest in human infrastructure and put Bauchi back on the right track.
Saad is a lawyer, Deputy Chairman, APC Publicity Committee Bauchi and former Director-General, BASEPA.