Nasir El-Rufai on Friday:Young Voices -Introducing Chinedu Ekeke
Chinedu trained as an accountant and works as one, but following the footsteps of accounting graduates Adamu Adamu and Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, applies his writing talent to draw attention to what need doing to make our nation better. His articles have been published by Sahara Reporters and many old and new media platforms. His more recent and extremely popular pieces include ‘The Audacity of a Rogue Regime’ and ‘Echoes from the Niger Delta’. Today, he writes about the opportunity cost of corruption.
It is my singular honour and privilege to present Chinedu Ekeke to you, with our best wishes and prayers that the insecurity, fraud and corruption we have been subjected to in 2012, will end with this horribly Jonathanian year! Amen.
- Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
The Opportunity Cost Of Corruption – By Chinedu Ekeke
First, corruption and national development are mutually exclusive. But I’ll get back to that.
The first sense necessary for leadership in any clime is the sense for common good. With such mindset, the dictates of common sense no longer assume the rigours of rocket science. The simplicity of having enough funds for investment in massive infrastructure no longer becomes an issue to be explained away. Twisting of facts becomes unnecessary. Seeking the validation of courtiers becomes unimportant to leadership. The secret is when leadership is burdened by the desire to work for the common good.
Without the love for country – and not loving Nigeria has been the single qualification for attaining leadership here – no suggestion, no matter how patriotic, will be taken by those who call the shots in the seats of power. That is why this article will not be taken seriously by those who need it most: the president and his team. They don’t run a government of common sense. They run a regime of miracles.
They squander billions in subsidy fraud, dubious budget for cutleries and banquet halls, and then ‘trust’ God with our national development. For leaders who love their country, an understanding of opportunity cost, a basic concept in Economics, helps in economic decision making.
The opportunity cost of anything is the highest valued alternative that must be forgone when a choice is made. It is the cost of any choice made, or activity involved in, measured by valuing the next best alternative not chosen or taken.
In my days in secondary school, faced with the trouble of having to reel out in full length the definition outlined by my Economics teacher, and to save myself the trouble of having to cram it for the purpose of passing exams, I resorted to just making do with the other phrase that sums it up; “Alternative forgone”.
Yes, opportunity cost is alternative forgone. It is actually a cost, like a loss. The ‘loss’ here means the loss of benefits derivable from the alternative not taken.
When we make the choice to erect corruption as a national monument, we have chosen to lose the benefits derivable from the national assets we would have built with the funds stolen.
When I did an essay on the ‘Time Value Of Corruption’, I highlighted what we are losing today, in monetary terms, by having allowed people steal our billions 20 years ago without making them pay back, and possibly go to jail. I went ahead to do a projection on the future value of the current billions and trillions that the Jonathan regime’s friends are stealing with reckless abandon. In analyzing the opportunity cost of corruption, I may not get absolutely quantitative to be able to pass my message, but I will be as expressive as I can to make my point clearly known.
As I said in my opening line, corruption and national development are mutually exclusive.
Recently, a Sunday Punch report revealed that over N5 trillion belonging to Nigerians has been stolen under the watch of president Goodluck Jonathan since he ascended the presidency. I wouldn’t have been as worried as I am if there has been any effort to bring the culprits of the earth-shattering criminality to book. The government is carrying on as if all is well, while Nigerians, who have become victims of over three decades of state-promoted roguery, languish under grinding poverty and unemployment, unable to afford even the most basic needs of life in a country so blessed by God.
As the president makes – and shows much comfort in – the choice of allowing his cabinet members, friends, and ‘privileged’ fraudulent business men fritter away our petro-naira unquestioned, it is critical we call his attention to the opportunity cost of that choice. We are forgoing many infrastructural developmental alternatives.
Let’s look at housing. The federal government hasn’t shown that it understands the need for housing for our huge population, that’s why slums abound in the cities with the slumlords boldly ripping helpless citizens off. With N5 trillion, and through direct labour involvement, we can build exactly 2.5million units of 2-bedroom flats at N2 million per flat. The houses do not need sophisticated designs or exquisite materials: just simple designs with simple but durable building materials. My interaction with builders has assured me that N2 million can build a 2-bedroom apartment through direct labour. Do note that we will not need to buy land because the land belongs to the government. Government will simply make land available. We will not also need to include the cost of contractors, because we will be using direct labour.
The staff of Federal Housing Authority can, in conjunction with the staff of ministry of environment, supervise the project. The houses will be spread across major cities in the six geo-political zones with huge populations. This will help provide accommodation for people, lessen the pressure on the badly built and poorly maintained houses, and help clean our cities of slums.
So the opportunity cost of N5 trillion stolen under President Jonathan’s watch is 2.5million units of low cost housing for the urban poor and middle class.
But that is if we choose to invest the money in housing. We could choose to concentrate on electricity. With N5 trillion, we can build more power stations to increase significantly our electricity generation. If we had done that within the period we watched the privileged ones steal the money, by today we will not be gloating over 4500 megawatts of electricity that cannot serve even counties in the United States, let alone states. We will be talking about 15,000 megawatts or more, generated and distributed nationwide to revive moribund businesses and productive activities.
The opportunity cost of our stolen N5 trillion under President Jonathan is constant electric supply. We may also choose not to face any of the mentioned opportunity costs in absolute terms. We may combine them in a certain proportion, building a portion of this and a
portion of that with the N5 trillion. Even at that, the impact of each would have been so visible that it will be impossible for even the president’s enemies to deny him the deserved credit.
If we chose to build just 1 million housing units with N2 trillion and used the remaining N3 trillion for power stations, then the opportunity cost of the N5 trillion stolen under President Jonathan would have given us 1million units of 2-bedroom flats and say, about 15000megawatts of electricity.
We could, instead, choose to focus on health care. Instead of bearing the shame of having privileged Nigerians jet out in droves, every day, to India and the West to treat minor and major ailments, we could build world-class hospitals with state of the art equipment for the treatment of all kinds of ailment. In such cases we will not need to take emergency health cases off the shores of our country.
The opportunity cost of the N5 trillion stolen under the watch, and official inaction, of President Jonathan is the needless deaths of millions of Nigerians who cannot afford the cost of foreign medical treatments, the loss of money we incur from those who can afford it, and the loss of jobs we would have created for our people if we had built quality hospitals that can treat ailments qualitatively.
But it is not just about the stolen funds. There’s also the opportunity cost of profligacy and waste in government. For instance, in one very shameful demonstration of insensitivity, the president and his mediocre ministers approved the construction of a new banquet hall in Aso Villa. This is in spite of an existing banquet hall for the presidency. No serious president with about 112 million people in his country living in squalor will dare tolerate a mere mention of a new banquet hall from either a minister or an aide.
Every serious leader runs his country like a family. Responsible families do not stretch their expenses beyond their means. Our rulers are both irresponsible and mischievous, that’s why an issue as an unneeded banquet hall will even become a subject of discourse.
But the opportunity cost of that presidential banquet hall is well funded tertiary institutions that can compete with the very best in, at least, Africa, or well paved roads in some distant lands forgotten by the federal government.
There are even more.
The opportunity cost of spending N16billion to build a house for the VP is the pipe-borne water that should run through our houses.
The opportunity cost of paying N6.5billion – unaccounted for – to state governors as security votes is well-funded and reformed police with adequate personnel to protect our lives and property.
The opportunity cost of letting David Mark pay himself N600million per annum – an amount that will pay for ten years the United States presidents’ salary – is millions of jobs that we would have created for our teeming youths.
Equally, the opportunity cost of paying a Nigerian legislator more than the British Prime Minister is the millions of good jobs we would have created with the inexplicably huge amounts.
Because money is stolen in Nigeria – legally and illegally – with impunity, we have lost the opportunity to develop our country, and compete with the rest of the world. Corruption and national development are mutually exclusive, that’s why you should ignore the government official who comes on national TV to promise you development. The money for our development is the same money they have stolen.
We will only commence our journey into national rebirth the moment we take the stealing of government funds seriously. We can’t watch people empty our treasury and then still pretend we will build infrastructure. It is the money for infrastructure that has been stolen.
Corruption and infrastructural development are mutually exclusive.
Chinedu Ekeke can be reached on Twitter as @ekekeee.