Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, sacked Vincent Azie then acting Auditor-General of the Federation

Vincent Azie: Does Nigeria Need Good Technocrats?

Nigeria has suddenly been counselled in retrospect that it is impossible if not foolish to expect a government to be dominated by genuine technocrats even if it was aggressively promised at election time and is the basis of a famous electoral victory. As such, Nigerians are told that it saddled with the reality that old politicians that have deliberately failed and underdeveloped the country simply to line their pockets with fabulous wealth from state resources, is its most pragmatic national choice. Kleptocracy, thus, is the fate of Nigeria i.e. a government of thieves, by thieves for thieves. One may ask if outstanding technocrats actually exist in the country.

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170 million people and counting and all Nigeria has to show for its administration are chameleonic and persistent kleptocrats. As politicians would say “where were the technocrats when the politicians were cooking the soup”? The staple rapacious sinecures of Nigerian politics have metamorphosed from “national cake” sharers to “political soup” potters; the butterfly has evolved back into a slug. The ‘eternal baby syndrome,’ which was hitherto blamed on the military for starting the calendar of progress from zero when a democratic government comes into power is now freely used by politicians when a new party comes into power. Growing up into political maturity is not a reasonable object of Nigeria’s democracy.

Nigeria does not in reality need good technocrats for anything or any purpose. Genuine technocrats work and are not content to benefit from occupying a sinecure. There are examples of this. When Vincent Azie was made acting Accountant General of the Federation he had two choices; either to enjoy sinecure for privilege and power or do a thorough technocrats job in truth and with justice. Azie chose the latter. He did an impeccably fine job in auditing the nation’s accounts and found corruption everywhere, quantitatively i.e. with hard evidence.

However, since the political economy as governed by “Owners of Nigeria Technostructure” (ONT) has no value whatsoever for a diligent technocrat committed to work and service to the nation with bureaucratic morality and duty, his boss at the time, President Olusegun Obasanjo, fired him for doing an incredibly fine job. The ONT expected that Azie would be thankful for the appointment, enjoy his sinecure and retire a fabulously wealthy man. Azie simply wanted to serve his country as best as he could.

Vincent Azie’s sacking was not just a punishment for the truth and justice with which he did his job, considered to be naiveté on his part, but also as a warning to others who would attempt to do the same. Technocrats have been routinely given the implicit options of enjoying their sinecures or resigning. It would amaze the public how many genuine technocrats have resigned from the service as such. That is a side of potential good governance most Nigeria never hear about or see.

Vincent Azie: Does Nigeria Need Good Technocrats?

Vincent Azie who was sacked in 2002 was able to do a far better job in anti-corruption than the whole of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) established in 2004 could ever do. You can see why Obasanjo sacked a man who makes Nuhu Ribadu look like a novice in comparison. The creation of the EFCC was just a ruse to make Nigeria appear “aid and investment” worthy to donors and investors, ticking the checklist of good governance. Real good governance is not about box-ticking but genuine hard work, discipline and vision. However, Vincent Azie has remained true to his professional technocratic values in retirement while Nuhu Ribadu sold himself down the river with the reversal of the outcomes of his works as a popular “corruption czar” to achieve elected political office.

Since General Murtala Mohammed’s purge of the civil service technocrats, they have increasingly become a dwindling breed in government. Of the technocrats that exist most are “wards of public relations” rather than “people of true merit”. But those of genuine merit will not get a chance to upset the agenda of the ONT with their good service. Nigerians should forget about the governance of technocrats for the time being.

“Prayer politics”, “prayer economics” and “prayer business” should seriously be established as new fields of study in the academy since “prayer” has been elevated to the status of “technocrat” in Nigeria. Nigeria is a nation where if a bank or manufacturing industry is being opened or commissioned, the owners invite men acclaimed to possess monumental spiritual powers to say prayers that will make the venture very successful. The same happens when a new government comes into power.

Praying for the success and protection of a kleptocrat who puts all his capacities into robbing his own treasury dry, is quite a prayer. One should wonder what the Lord Almighty thinks about answering such prayers. If people believe prayers will answer all Nigeria’s government problems it has to be still in the Middle Ages and the evidence will support such. God did not make advanced rich country advanced or rich, men and women, particularly technocrats did.

  • Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot

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