Only a Marshall Plan Can Save the North – Prof. Lubeck

Professor Paul LubeckOnly a Marshall Plan Can Save the North – Prof. Lubeck
By Theophilus Abbah
Professor Paul Lubeck was in Nigeria recently. On March 21, 2013, he was at the Shehu Yar’adua Centre as a lead speaker at a seminar on how to revive the economy of the North in the face of the insurgency that has brought it so low. The audience was spellbound at the way he enunciated issues related to the northern part of Nigeria, with a conclusion that there’s need for a kind of Marshall Plan to redeem the region. Later, our reporter had an interview with him and he spoke on some of the issues that have led to the woes of the North. He is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Information Internship programme and the Center for Global, International and Regional Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since the 1960s, he has been doing a lot of work on rural development and Muslim societies in Niger Republic, Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico and Malaysia. Professor Lubeck did a long-standing research on the relationship between globalization processes and the Islamic revival in urban-industrial contexts. He has published extensively on globalization, industrializing states, African businessmen, labour, Islamic social movements and regional development strategies. In this interview, he spoke on the challenges facing the leaders of the North in the face of the insecurity in the region. Excerpts:
From your contributions at the seminar on northern economy, it is apparent that you have interest in the economic development of northern Nigeria. When did you become involved in this field of study?
I worked as an agricultural extension engineer in Niger Republic, which shares borders with Nigeria. I came to Nigeria in the 1960s during the war. I later came back and did research in the industrialisation and urban growth in Kano, and published a book on that. Then, I came back and worked on a research on Nigerian people and looked at ways in which Nigerian industrialists were using raw materials in developing industries, and later I did work on Muslim political movements – Izala. Now, I’m studying the Boko Haram insurgency.
From your earlier research, did you see the northern economy nose-diving, the way it has now?
The problem of crash from 1983 to 1986 was that the Nigerian governments had borrowed enormous amount of money overseas. There were 800 organisations that were borrowing money and there had to be a reckoning, a re-disciplining of the economy. The problem is that the government was never able to create a system where foreign exchange, hard currencies could be allocated to northern industries – northern manufacturing.
With that gradual process of abandoning industries, the industrialists felt abandoned, and they fear that there’s no strategy of re-industrialisation, and state governments have no agencies or promotion boards or state economic development corporations like other countries to help industrialists. Manufacturing and other industries employ large numbers of semi-skilled and school leavers, and this is the problem in the north. You have these cities that are full of unemployed young men and they become recruits to radical extremist organisations and to criminal groups.
This is true, not only in Nigeria but everywhere in the world. This year, it’s Boko Haram, and 10 years, if they continue, it will be something else. There has to be a strategy to revive industries to develop strategies of economic developments that will employ people and has to be public-private sectors efforts to the able to attract foreign investment. Northern Nigerians have to revive the cosmopolitan character of cities like Kano and accommodate people from very different regions of Africa to come and work there.
If you look at the walls in the old cities, you have names like Agadasawa or Tudun Nupawa, those are not Hausa traditional names. That means they were encouraging people to settle and engage in commerce and produce services. Northern Nigeria, most importantly, cannot wait for greater share of petroleum rents. They must organise themselves in order to produce goods and services that persons would purchase in the market. Waiting for the great oil money to come will only temporarily solve the problem. It is similar to addiction to any substance, in this case petrol addiction, but it would not solve the problem; they will not discipline the population; they would not provide employment. A small number of people get access to petrol rent. They build big houses, and now the youths are rebelling against the people that they believe wasted national resources and not taking care of them.
When you did you research on Izala, did you foresee the insurgency we’re facing now?
The problem with the Izala movement is whether the culture of tolerance and the acceptance of Muslims from very different perspectives conflict with the strict interpretations of the Izala. They had a lot of issues and conflicts among themselves and Izala had to split.
Now, it has become more unified. But there’s absolutely no doubt that the late Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram, was a Salafist and someone who was trained by his teacher, Jaafar Adam, who was affiliated with Izala. We didn’t see it coming this particular way, but we also did not see Nigerian Police reacting the way they did in 2009.
Many of us tend to be hopeless about the northern economy, because most industries (even in Kano) have gone under and agriculture is not what it ought to be. From your perspective, is the situation hopeless?
One of the interesting issues in Kano is how many industries are still functioning. No one has gone out to do field work on this issue to look at the industrial plots, to find out if anyone is producing. If you go out, you will find some people producing; the leather industry is booming in Kano. There are many tanneries.
They are producing leather, shoes, some textiles, some plastics, and there’s a large amount of food processing; milling of animal feeds. Some industries are surviving, some are producing insecticides. There are some industries employing people. It is important to remember that they’re doing this without any support from the government, without any industrial agency of the government promoting them as you find in other countries.
The roads are falling apart, they need power, but there is no initiative to bring independent power for industrialists. Also, there’s need to encourage people to purchase goods that are made in Nigeria. If you don’t have employment, you’re going to have conflicts and a long slide into chaos and despair.
In recent times, we’ve been told government should not have any hand in business. Do you think this approach is the best?
The problem is that the pendulum swung too far to the extreme from when the government was involved in everything, then under the Structural Adjustment Programme, to where every form of government intervention was unacceptable. In order to increase agricultural production in almost every country in the world there is price support, crop insurance, a kind of support for farmers in order to increase the raw materials they produce. That kind of support is needed if you’re going to have a revival of the textile industry.
The level of competence that can support industries needs to be increased, in terms of security, heath care, education, essential services. So they’re probably unable to manage industries in the way you find in other parts of the world. But developmental, promotion agencies could spur and create conditions in which people would come and invest in plant equipment and produce goods and services that would employ people. That’s the task for states. You have to move from the state that’s involved in production to a state that facilitates and supports investment and provides information to others according to the capacity of the states.
You earlier pointed out the consequences of the growing population of the North?
You already have an extraordinary crisis in the North, if the open rebellion, insurrection, bombing and attacks on security and emir, is not crisis, what is the crisis? Large numbers of poor people come into the city, very high rate of child malnutrition, very high rate of illiteracy among the population, weak schools. These are the problems that are consequences of growing population.
What social issues should be tackled to reverse this trend?
One of the big discussions is for northern politicians to change the distribution of petroleum revenue to the north. If there are new revenues to the north and the federal government should consider allocating more resources to the north because they’re paying for security, 25 per cent of the budget is allegedly for security, so as we say you can pay now or later. So it is probably wiser to attend to infrastructure: transportation, rail, Kano airport, irrigation (there’s a vast amount of water in the north that could be used for irrigation to product agricultural products and raw materials for industries).
The entrepreneurs and business people need to be encouraged, probably they need credit, some services could be provided by private sector to learn new technologies, they need roads, railways, etc.
The leather industry has a shortage of leather, for instance – the shortage of skins. Women invest in sheep and goats and they’re not being supported to produce better goat skins or larger animals, because the larger, healthier the animal the more value the skins have. There’s a whole way that sheep and goat could be developed by women in order to increase the income of women who manage the animals.
You talked about a Marshal Plan for the North. Who should design this plan?
The Marshal Plan comes from an American General in World War II who became the Secretary of State after the war. The plan was a set of loans distributed by America to rebuild Western Europe after the bombings during the war. The institution that implemented it is now known as World Bank. It provided technical services, loans.
What’s important is the funding of the Marshall Plan to revive the North, it has to have performance standards. You can’t just give money without performances. Civil society organisations should be monitoring the use of the money; citizens need to be brought into it. Another major issue in the North is the decline of local government authorities. There used to be 30 years ago, traditional authorities that knew who was living in what areas. Now, with a high rate of urbanisation, no one really knows who is living in the cities.
And the local government is absent. The report after the attacks on January 20, 2012 talked about the complete absence of governance. There has to be a revival of local government authority because that is needed to encourage people to participate in society and to find ways to employ and educate youths that are coming to cities.
At the present moment there are no local government elections in many states and there’s no local government authority that is providing services. The problem is, ‘who manages the pool of people coming to the cities, where there is no local government or district head?’ The Nigeria Police? You can go on Youtube and see how they manage them.

When you talk about industrialisation in Africa, I look at China from the negative perspective, because they produce and dump all sorts of items on us, thereby discouraging local production. What’s your perspective on this matter?
Nigeria needs to have an industrial policy and they need to police its borders. The problem with blaming the Chinese is to take the blame away from the Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian government, for not protecting its market. Its market has to have borders that limit illegal imports, and if you go up to the border with Niger Republic or Benin, you’ll see hundreds of trucks bringing in illegal products.
Industrialists cannot survive unless the government provides protection of the customs area, to protect states that are producing. The other problem is the Chinese have multiple interests in Nigeria and it seems possible to begin negotiating with them to discourage them from dumping low value added products into Nigeria, that Nigerian manufacturers could produce for the local market.
Another issue is that Nigerians need to become nationalistic in consuming locally-manufactured products, like the Koreans and Chinese do. They take great pride in devoting themselves to national products. Eventually, this consumption of national products could lead to the possibility of producing international quality products.
What steps do you think the North should take to come out of this difficult position?
I think there is a great hope in Nigeria. I’m more confident than most Nigerians are. But this is a very bad period. Nigerians, traditionally, are very optimistic; they think their children’s lives would be better than theirs, but they need support and institutions that would provide hope and be able to shift the tide in northern Nigerian to one where the benefits of oil revenue are shown to improve the lives of the people.
That can be done in many ways: there needs to be a vision or plan by northern governors to talk about revival of industry and life in the North, and not to be passively waiting for the next attack. The North has enormous potentials.
I’m glad about the rise of Civil Society groups in the North. They have been promoting the rights of women, democracy, employment, etc and they need to be recognised and supported by the Nigerian population.
First published in Daily Trust on Sunday on Mar 31 2013 1:20AM

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