The DAVOS 2014 CNBC Africa debate has inspired my first post in 2014 and I am hoping it will inspire more; the Ghanaian President Mahama referred to the African ‘Democracy Dividend’ a catch-all neo-liberal term that is worth analysing. Ironically the debate was about fostering intra-African trade (I may give my opinion about the debate itself in another post), but my mind wandered to a Nigeria specific dividend. The first thing I thought about was the Sovereign wealth fund, one of the dividends of our democracy/ good governance; it is the evolution and amendment of our constitution to benefit the populace and future generations.
The $1bn investment in Q3 2013 in the Sovereign Wealth Fund has sparked a new arena of accountability and visibility in Nigerian financial relations. The Finance Minister and Presidency by default have created the pattern of protection of assets for future generations, in lay speak, these are funds are now ‘traceable’. This is super significant as this new face of accountability may have a domino effect on political relations within Nigeria.
What does the Sovereign wealth fund mean for the 2015 elections?
Okonjo-Iweala seems defiant against grumbling Governor’s who would not like the expansion of the Sovereign Wealth fund ahead of the 2015 elections. The implications of Okonjo-Iweala’s growth fund agenda are in direct opposition to the ‘pockets’ of money politics required for re-election and election of suitable successors. Even pro progress Governor’s are towing the line that the Sovereign Wealth fund is unconstitutional, however progress can only be made in the face of opposition. The anachronisms of the Excess Crude account, herald a new phase of technocrats with global influence to chart the country’s financial future.
The Sovereign wealth fund is a political minefield because it charts the path of capital, which was historically hidden in Nigerian politics. Ironically the fund skews partisan interests, as it does not benefit any party directly but potentially the nation as a whole. I am not trying to argue that the Sovereign Wealth Fund will indeed provide guaranteed wealth for our future (because we are hedging our bets on the global financial markets); however it is a welcome traceable diversification strategy for the preservation of capital from our diminishing singular crude asset.
Is the sovereign wealth fund by default our ‘democratic dividend’; is this something that will benefit us all in our evolving democracy? Democracy historically has been simply defined as solely political, but this is perhaps our financial ‘for the people’ benefit, and has come at a crucial time. The Nigerian democratic dividend can thus be loosely described as the numerous aspects of our history and future that will determine the path for our growth and sustainability. The challenge is how to harness the transformational powers of our democratic dividend/s and use this theme as a guiding mantra to improve political and financial future planning.
Celebrating notable democratic dividends will inspire more significant departures from the political shackles of our history and create landmark progress for our future.