In Nigeria, it has always been hard to ignore the heavily politicised and radical overtones that suffuse popular dance music. After suffering a terrible civil war that killed three million people in three years, and a police state giving way to a military dictatorship, working-class and middle-class Nigerians were not just worn out after the 1970 coup but also bitterly angry that they were seeing no benefits whatsoever from the discovery of huge oilfields or their country’s membership of Opec. The gulf between the rich and poor could not have been wider. And it was in this atmosphere that the charismatic and rich-voiced Arakatula released the low-slung, agitated prop disco banger Wake Up Africa in 1979.
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Here is a list of all (?) of the officially recognized parastatal organizations in Nigeria. Recall that a parastatal is an agency or a company that is, to some degree, government owned and/or directed. The parastatal possesses political clout and is nominally separate from the government, but its activities serve the state, either directly or indirectly.
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1. Carefully clean house. Buhari’s reform agenda probably faces its greatest threat from corrupt, old-school politicians within his own All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari should neutralize some of the APC’s shadiest figures, who could emerge as “veto players,” as described in Carl LeVan’s recent book. Admittedly, housecleaning carries political risks for Buhari…
2. Pare down the parastatals. Buhari has an opportunity to realize immediate savings by eliminating or merging some of Nigeria’s more than 500 federal parastatals and boards. Parastatals are government-operated companies or commercial agencies. Pundits allege that past presidents used parastatal appointments to cultivate national political allies and provincial cronies.
3. Tame the white elephants. Buhari’s apparent determination to revive two “white elephant” economic sectors — domestic oil refineries and steel mills — worry industry experts. Nigeria is replete with these kinds of investment projects where state-owned enterprises are funded for long periods even if they incur huge losses. For decades, Nigerian leaders have thrown good money after bad at these projects because, as Robinson and Torvik argue, white elephant projects yield short-term political gains…
4. Rein in subnational debt. As Buhari tries to put Nigeria’s public finances back in order, the balance sheets of the country’s 36 states are sinking deeper into the red. In a decentralized federal system like Nigeria’s, state budgets typically affect the lives of ordinary citizens more than federal spending does. Since taking office, Buhari has already bailed out 27 cash-strapped states to the tune of $2.1 billion. States’ borrowing trends are risky and need to be addressed, according to a recent report by the African Development Bank.
5. Legislate for the long run. Nigeria will need to feel the “Buhari Effect” (the sense, evident in a recent New York Times article, that there is a new sheriff in town) long after the president’s tenure is over. The best way for him to protect his legacy is to partner with the National Assembly to enact legislation enshrining key reforms. With few other politicians like him on the horizon, Buhari should put his legacy in writing.
PBS NewsHour’s unprecedented look inside Africa’s richest and most populous country. The four part “Nigeria: Pain and Promise” series with Special Correspondent Nick Schifrin explores the country’s ongoing battle with Boko Haram, economic promise, corruption and treatment of gay Nigerians.
Part One: The Halliburton Case and Corruption in Nigeria
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