Many Nigerians worry about the sloppy growth of the nation, we at the same time compare Nigeria to nations like America, Britain, Germany, Botswana, and Rwanda. These are nations that are economically stable. Researchers like Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson attribute the success of these nations to their ability to build sustainable structures. That is, inclusive institutions that “encourage participation by the great mass of people in economic activities that make best use of their talents and skills and that enable individuals make the choices that they wish” (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p.74). These nations never started off being inclusive, but for the effort of people-oriented individuals who worked to create the right and near perfect structures we admire today.
In the 1860’s America saw the sprout of great business owners (also known as robber barons). Individuals like Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, John Pierpont (J.P) Morgan and many others who led the creation of the United States with their advances in the railway, oil, and steel business. They paved way for America’s economic and technological trajectory. These tycoons started their businesses as capitalist ventures which were void of inclusion: that is, their businesses did not create an option for the poorest in the nation. Also, the notion of self and profit allowed for a capitalist economy which is the result of inequality in the United States today. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson note that these business owners created competition: the formation of market monopoly and wealth inequality (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 320). The robber barons controlled the nation and the means of production, and their activities were also supported by political leaders.
However, with a reformer as former President Theodore Roosevelt ( who served from 1901-1909), the early twentieth century business practices took a new turn. President Theodore Roosevelt implemented the antitrust laws (Sherman Act) to curtail and to restrain the power and the business monopolisation activity of the Robber Barons (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 322). History.com writes that “In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court found Standard Oil [owned by Rockefeller] in violation of anti-trust laws and ordered it to dissolve. [And so,] During his life Rockefeller donated more than $500 million to various philanthropic causes.” This act paved way for more donations of Robber Barons in education (known as endowment fund) and other philanthropic causes. According to the movie series, The Men Who Built America, these Robber Barons built and structured America, to what it is today. Therefore for new Nigeria, we need political leaders who would ensure the rich invest in humanitarian causes. Also, leaders who would not enrich themselves at the detriment of the populace.
The Glorious Revolution (1868-1869) broke the vicious circle for Great Britain. An inclusive institution was created by breaking the powers of the vicious circle that was created by the monarchial system of government. The Glorious revolution limited the power of the king and replaced it by the supremacy of the parliament and this paved the way for Britain to move into a democratic system (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 102). The inclusive system began by the Glorious Revolution heralded the industrial revolution (late 1700s to early 1800s). The industrial revolution was an era of Britain’s technological advancement in manufacturing, which became a turning point in the history of the British economic growth (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p.191).
Great leadership created an inclusive system in Botswana. Botswana is Africa’s most successful nation with the highest per capita income (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p.409). After colonisation the nation was fortunate enough that the British had little or no interest in it and was gifted with great leaders as Seretse Khama (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 411). After independence in 1966, it was left as one of the poorest nations in Africa but “with a history of institutions enshrining limited chieftaincy and some degree of accountability to the people” (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 411). After Botswana’s independence, diamonds were discovered and “Khama instigated a change in the law so that all subsoil mineral rights were vested in the nation, not the tribe.” This collective reasoning in managing the mineral resources for the benefit of every ethic in the nation presented the inclusive structure the nation enjoys today.
The truth about these nations is that they were able to break the power of extractive systems created by business monopolization, Monarchial system of government, and colonialism.
Therefore for a great Nigeria, we need individual we are interested in building people-centered structures. More so, the success of the nations we admire were provoked by individuals who were concerned about growth and development and were tired of seeing extractive institutions that “concentrate power in the hands of the narrow elite and place few constraints in the exercise of this power” (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 81).
Inclusive institutions “encourage participation by mass of people in economic activities that make the best use of their talents and skills and that enable individuals to make the choices that they wish” (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2012, p. 80)
Acemoglu Daron., and Robinson James A. (2012). “Why Nations Fail.” Penguin Random House: New York.
History.com editors. (2010). John D. Rockefeller. History. Retrieved February 16, 2019 from https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/john-d-rockefeller