By Emmanuel Onwubiko
English philosopher and psychologist Herbert Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” (1820-1903).
He is famous for his doctrine of social Darwinism, which assert that the principles of evolution, including natural selection, apply to human societies, social classes, and individuals as well as to biological species developing over geologic time.
In Spencer’s day social Darwinism was invoked to justify laissez- faire economics and the minimal state, which were thought to best promote unfettered competition between individuals and the gradual improvement of society through the “survival of the fittest.”
Laissez-Faire in economics is a staple of free- market capitalism. The theory suggests that economy is strongest when the government stays out of the economy entirely, letting market forces behave naturally.
Nigeria’s socio-politico situation under the government of president Bola Ahmed Tinubu represents a perfect dramatis personae of this sort of social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer who was British. The multilateral creditor institutions such as the World bank and IMF are the kitchens whereby the policies that mimics this theory of Henry Spencer are cooked and forced down the throat of the government of Tinubu and much of the grossly underdeveloped or third world nations.
Henry Spencer’s baby which is the phrase “survival of the fittest,” flashed through my subconscious when yesterday noon, I read through a highly offensive news headline in one of the news blogs operated by a trained Nigerian journalist that screamed “World bank wants fuel sold at N750”.
This Singular news headlines is weighty in many dimensions.
I was initially so angry that a professional journalist like my humble self can be this animalistic to highlight this toxic news headlines to a population that is already at the brink of economic principis. The publisher of this blog that ran this screaming but poisonous headline is also a member of the hoi poloi because he too, like most erstwhile members of the middle class, has been displaced economically and is therefore an economic internally displaced person or ECONOMIC-IDP.
But after a thoughtful reconsideration, for a while, I got calmed down because of the fact that professionally, in news writing, bad news is good news.
But this reflection is not about professional journalism class of news pyramid.
I am in a very deep contemplation about the democratization of absolute poverty that has been systematically unleashed by the evil economic policies of the president Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government since May 29th 2023.
The be-all and end-all of the cumulative offensive and anti-people’s economic policies of the current government in Nigeria, is the decision to hike the asking pump price of fuel.
I am not here to argue for or against the so- called withdrawal of subsidy payments to private importers of fuel into Nigeria. Nor is it the remit of this piece to interrogate the rationale behind spending over $3 billion USD to embark on turn around maintenance of four publicly owned crude oil refineries, but for over 8-years, not a drop of fuel is refined from those cash-guzzling contraptions which are simply cash looting platforms for officials of the Federal governments in the last 9 years with the president as Petroleum minister.
That aspect of the debate has already been done many times by this writer.
The fundamental telos of this piece is about how the phrase “survival of the fittest,” has fittingly become our national life style in Nigeria. This is even shocking because even if we argue on the side of adopting social Darwinism as an ideology, what is in practice in Nigeria is not ideologically rooted but substantially influenced by politics of brazen act of corruption and vandalism of public resources by officials of government. Somehow, IMF and World Bank that constantly induce politicians in Nigeria to follow the foot steps of social Darwinism, those officials of those Bretton woods institutions, who are largely Americans, do not practice such in their countries because in USA and even in the United Kingdom which is the homestead of Henry Spencer, government engages in social welfare and hasn’t totally divested from business.
But sadly, in Nigeria now, the only set of citizens who gain the rare entry into political offices are majorly those who operate by the mantra that says “Might is right.” Somehow, they now twisted and weaponise survival of the fittest in such a way that the official economic policies they impose in Nigeria, are those that progressively impoverish the greatest percentage of the citizens just as a very tiny minority constituting the ruling political class, are the ones enjoying the commonwealth.
Worst still, decency, merits, competencies and expertise, have all but fled from Nigeria’s public space.
This political degeneration which is the opposite of the teaching of Plato that only “philosopher Kings” should become political leaders for a society to make acceptable progress, has now unleashed the very dangerous lifestyle of “Survival of the Fittest,” in a way that it takes sophisticated crime technique to remain above the waters of economic insolvency.
The side effect of this kind or mode of operation is that poverty is now spread in massive scale and the middle class has totally disappeared to such a critical level that even those who are living well, do not accept to share a fraction of their wealth with the majority who do not have.
And because in Nigeria now, the middle class is no more, the few who are in power politically, and wield the influence to say how the national wealth should be redistributed, have severely limited the scope of the beneficiaries to their very intimate class of friends, political associates and a few who are comfortable to eat from the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.
Also, the national economic hemorrhage has escalated because the number of those ‘masters’ willing to admit the members of the ’hoi poloi’ into their closets to benefit from the crumbs falling from their rich tables have significantly reduced.
This is why poverty is biting significantly and affecting significant majority of the citizens.
Another key factor why this offensive national lifestyle of political occupiers of public offices is being sustained is the general or collective sense of gullibility and unwillingness of the poor majority to resist the cannibalistic economic policies unleashed on the citizenry by the few wicked elites in political offices.
These politicians are propelled by extreme toxic policies handed down to them by such capitalist institutions such as the World bank and IMF.
How else can one explain that even when people are already starving due to high costs of living exacerbated by the increment in pump price of fuel and the floating of the value of the Naira, the World bank is still very insensitive to ask that fuel price be upped or further hiked?
The World Bank has said the federal government may still be paying fuel subsidies considering that the country’s fuel price of N650 is currently not cost-reflective.
The bank’s Lead Economist for Nigeria, Alex Sienaert, disclosed this during his presentation of the Nigeria Development Update, December 2023 edition titled, ‘Turning The Corner (from reforms and renewed hope, to results) on Wednesday, December 13, in Abuja.
During the hybrid event, he said that fuel should cost N750 per litre according to today’s official exchange rate.
Sienaert said: “If we estimate what is the cost reflective of retail PMS price of the would-be and assume that importation is done at the official FX rate, it does seem that petrol prices are not fully adjusting to market conditions so that hints at the partial return of the subsidy.
“Of course, the liberalization is happening with the parallel rates, the main supplier. The price would be even higher. These are just estimates to give you a sense of what cost-reflective pricing most likely looks like.
“We think the petrol price should be around N750 per litre more than the N650 per litre currently paid by Nigerians.”
He emphasized that to ensure the government reaps the rewards of its audacious reforms, the bank advises it to take further actions.
If the World bank is not populated by haters of the poor Nigerians, how else can they justify this satanic verse?
At the current extremely high pump price of petrol of N617 per litre, an average head of a young family, who earns N200,000 Monthly, can no longer afford to fuel his second hand car so as to drop his children at school.
Those children will either be withdrawn from such schools and put into rickety schools near where the person lives or the head of the family would have to device another way of generating extra income just so your children keep being dropped in their school of choice.
Then, if the head of the family is a middle level civil servant who earns as I said earlier N200,000, there is no possibility of him establishing any income generating business.
Let us even concede that such a distressed head of the family, runs into the good fortune of obtaining funding assistance from a rich family member struggling for survival in Europe, America or Canada, and then set up say, a barbing saloon. The viability of such a small business is almost zero due to lack of constant supply of electricity from the national grid.
The only option is for such a person to sell off his Jalopy car, or still beg for more assistance so he can buy a small generator to power the operations of the barbing salon.
The head of the family who now has a barbing saloon will still be in constant debts, because the cost of fueling the generator, may not be recovered by the revenue generated since in all probability, his barbing saloon may not be the best barbing saloon to attract the kind of clientele who can pay at least N5,000 per a hair cut.
Tell me then how come that it is such a difficult time for millions of households, that the World Bank and their ‘home boy’ President Tinubu want the poor house holds to make extra income to set up income generating businesses?. Then when you look around you in Abuja, what you see is a political class that live in opulence and profligacy off the tax payer money.
Only yesterday, Adams Oshiomhole, a Senator, did the nation a good service by exposing the secret that the minister of trade and industry, is requesting for N1 billion Naira from the public purse, to fund just one foreign trip to attend one useless seminars probably organized by the World Bank that is insensitive to the widespread poverty in Nigeria. The minister said the money is for running a part of her office in Europe or whatever. But when Oshiomhole exposed the secret intention to waste N1 billion to embark on a Europe tour, she said nothing but came out of the Senate to issue a rebuttal when the news of the encounter with Oshiomhole made major headlines in the mainstream media in Nigeria.
Doris Uzoka, minister of trade, industry, and investment, on Tuesday came under scrutiny when she appeared before some senators to defend her ministry’s budget.
Uzoka was answering questions from the national assembly joint committee on trade and investment about the 2024 budget proposal.
The minister told the joint panel that N905 million is earmarked for overhead costs while N8.1 billion is allocated to capital expenditure.
After presenting the figures in the budget, Adams Oshiomhole, senator representing Edo north and a member of the committee, frowned at a line item which provides N1 billion for a single trip to Geneva, Switzerland.
“I see that you intend to travel to Geneva next year and you have budgeted over one billion for that,” Oshiomhole said.
“We cannot keep going on with over-bloated teams on foreign trips. Use the experts we have in your offices in those countries to save costs.”
The lawmaker also asked the minister where the country’s balance of trade stood, especially with China.
What is our balance of trade, especially with China? Those countries importing things to Nigeria are expected to build factories in Nigeria,” he said.
“We have to take advantage of our population to grow our industries.”
However, the minister told the joint panel that her ministry does not have such records.
“Sir, I regret to say that we seem to have no record of our balance of trade or at least it does not exist in the ministry and that is why we initiated a new unit called the trade intelligence unit to ensure that such data are generated and stored,” Uzoka said.
Not satisfied with her response, Oshiomhole told the minister that he did not agree with her submission.
“No Madam, I do not agree that there is no data. Such data exists with the CBN, customs and other agencies,” the former governor said.
“Sit in your office and work for Nigerians.
“I have gone there twice. You are always in the BOI. If you preferred BOI, you should have declined the president’s nomination to be a minister.
In response, she said her office is under renovation, adding “I assure you that I can work from anywhere and give Nigerians results”.
The National Assembly members themselves now have N160 million worth of exotic foreign made jeeps for each of the less than 500 legislators. The President the other day, travelled to Dubai with a very largest entourage of over a thousand government officials and actresses to attend a climate change conference. There are widespread corruption in the armed forces, police, aviation sectors under the government. Yet, the government is focused on spreading poverty, frustration, job losses and death because the citizens are so gullible to fight for their right. And so, the entire country is possessed by the GHOST OF SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST and MIGHT IS NOW RIGHT.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) And was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.