The Left Should Leave Yar’Adua Alone
It is the forward-thinking approach from the right that will tackle our challenge of development.
Midway into Sam Amadi’s commentary titled “The Left Should Own Yar’Adua” and published in a Sunday edition of Thisday newspapers he tried to justify his predilection that the loving embrace of the state should continue to hold down our economy. He dissed the economic reforms of the Obasanjo administration as “tilted too dangerously to the right” and called on the leftist collective to seize the opportunity of Yar’Adua’s ascendancy to redirect our economic reforms policy towards the left of centre. In doing so, his animus towards the neoconservatism movement of the right was self-evident. However, nowhere in his ideological preachment did he either define the ideology of the left or even mention its verifiable success stories. There is a myth that often clothes leftism in a fashionable garb of pro-poor advocacy, but I know that “the hood does not a monk make” and so I now offer a differing viewpoint.
For a start, what does it really mean to belong to the left of centre? This is a quandary that has led so-called leftists to vacillate their allegiances through Marxism, communism, socialism, welfarism, progressivism and lately liberalism, yet each one offers its own variant of this infertile ideology.
It all began with Karl Marx’s articulation of the Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels who In identifying class struggle as the primary dynamic in history, described the modern world as simply a stage for an eventual confrontation between the ruling bourgeoisie (the capitalists) and the downtrodden proletariat (the working class). In their worldview, the capitalists are driven by an insatiable lust for profit which leads them to subject the working class to a perpetual state of exploitation. Energized by this warped interpretation of the structure of the society, their proselytes have roused any rabble that comes their way by posturing as the ‘defenders of the masses’, even to this day. This is the sentiment that Amadi spins to lay claim to the left’s ownership of Yar’Adua.
Following Karl Marx’s death in 1883, many socialists differed on how his communist utopia could be attained and later, even questioned its workability. Over the years, this domestic melee in the House of Marx has exposed the left as an ideological illusion in a desperate but elusive quest for a definition and a poster child. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the undeniable failure of leftism as an alternative to its opposite number. Two years later, its seraph, the Soviet Union, simply disintegrated and expired. Today, the left cannot point to any country that has successfully exited mass poverty through the leftist track. Amadi mentioned Britain and China but I consider them as dubious examples. Take Britain for instance, the Thatcher-led Tory victory over the leftist government of James Callaghan in 1979 ended the country’s sobriquet as the “sick baby of Europe”. By unleashing such right of centre polices as privatization and monetarism, she toppled the welfare state even as Nordic countries in Europe continued to toy with socialism and state ownership. She privatized hitherto nationalized industries like British Airways and British Steel turning them into the world’s most productive enterprises. For that and more, she won three successive elections. Even the immediate past British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was jeered by his colleagues as a “closet Tory” for recasting the Labour Party’s ideological stance and presiding over what many older left-wing activists lamented as the death of socialism. But the British people appreciated him because they were better off with his move towards right of centre domestic policies. Like Thatcher he also won three successive elections. Moving eastwards to China, the demise of the country’s revered leader and Communism’s high priest, Chairman Mao ventilated the system for capitalist thinkers like Deng Xiaoping to breathe the air of capitalism into a putrefying and moribund ideology which was on its way to extinction as the Chinese wisely realized that they did not know what they were doing. It is from the economic right that China has now become an economic superpower and in its wake jolted large populations out of poverty. I can go on and on to prove that leftism is an economic basket case. It has failed in its stated desire to defend the masses by lifting them out of the crushing burden of poverty. As a political system, history has proved that despite its pretensions of aligning with the masses, leftism remains an anti-democratic credo. The poison implanted by this feeling of “us versus them” germinates into autocracy, tyranny and dictatorship and one needs not look further than the defunct Soviet Union and her proxy countries in Eastern Europe, a testament that is self-evident in Castro’s Cuba today. However, it is in social values that the modern despicable leftist ideology lays itself bare as a force against nature. The remnants of the left wing, especially in the West are leading apostles of abortion and gay marriage. Is it this ideological leaning that wants to come from the left and own Yar’Adua?
In contrast, our view from the economic right supports the primacy of the free individual in an open, competitive and free market to direct the affairs of the society. The rightist’s approach to political economy liberates enterprise and innovation. Enterprise drives the engine of the economy while innovation puts new knowledge to work for the economy. In his treatise, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith propounded that there is an “invincible hand” that leads every individual, in pursuing his or her own good, to achieve the best good of all. He surmises that this “invincible hand” is the market. According to William Easterly, economics is about the incentives that cause people to solve their own problems or other peoples’ problems. That is why the right-wing capitalist model crafted by Muhammad Yunus in creating the Gramaen Bank to provide micro-credits to poor people in Bangladesh is a phenomenal success in breaking loose from the poverty trap. For us in Nigeria, the deregulation and reforms of the telecom and banking sectors has not only boosted the competitiveness and efficiency of their respective industries, it has also created jobs in numbers that would never have been achieved in the socialists’ utopia of dirigisme. Across the world, the facts speak for themselves: laissez-faire countries that led the industrial revolution have abolished more poverty than the previous redistributive schemes of welfare states. One then wonders why Amadi wants to open up old wounds by repeating the old canard that “the government, not the market, has both the incentive and accumulative and distributive power” to transform the economy.
The right has also protected the laws of human existence in respecting the sanctity of the life of unborn babies and insisting that a values-based society must be built on the family as the foundation of that society, based on the acceptation that the institution of marriage is the holy union of a man and a woman.
During the medieval bargains of the Middle Ages, it is such conservative institutions as the Catholic Church, aristocracy, nobility and gentry that extracted what we now refer to as ‘the rule of law’. In his classic on European history, Guido de Ruggeiro wrote that “without the effective resistance of particular privileged classes, the monarchy would have created nothing but a people of slaves.” Today, capitalism has underpinned the promise of democracy by creating an independent class of businesspeople who are now the dominant force in every advanced society in the world. Drawing from their experiences, many of them enter public life and government and push for free trade and free markets as the reasonable track to prosperity. That is why the global spread of freedom and democracy is the stated mission of right-wing ideologues even if it requires the overthrow of evil regimes like the one that was once led by the Butcher of Baghdad and I have strongly argued that Nigeria has to take the lead in vigorously supporting a regime change in Zimbabwe that will uproot the Hooligan of Harare.
Fortunately (and contrary to Amadi’s assertions), President Yar’Adua’s excellent testimonial on development as Governor of Katsina State and his attitude to democratic reforms shows that we are on the same page with him and there is nothing in his speeches that suggest otherwise. It is the forward-thinking approach from the right that will tackle the challenge of development and institute a system of social order to create a regulated and truly representative democracy. All in all, the left should leave Yar’Adua alone but my fellow neoconservatives must now become more vigilant and not succumb to the blackmail propagated by the zeitgeist of mass confusion from the discredited and cantankerous left that right of centre policies are not “people-oriented”. The enthronement of right-wing economic reforms in Nigeria was therefore long overdue. It is the maturation of an ideology whose pride of place in history is assured.