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To my brother Agric Minister

By Dele Sobowale

“Tell the truth; and let the devil be ashamed”. Anonymous.

Many Nigerians over the age of 60 would recollect that statement. Right from our homes to our primary schools and, if we were lucky, our secondary schools, that moral admonition was drummed into our heads. Tell the truth.

Because the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Dr Adesina, is “my brother”, it might be easier for him to understand what I am trying to say to him by using a Yoruba adage, “Eni to gbin ogorun isu to ni oun gbin igba; to ba je ogorun isu tan, a bere si je ogorun iro” [translation: a farmer who planted one hundred yam tubers and claims to have planted two hundred, will harvest and eat hundred yams and hundred lies”].

Perhaps no other Minister had deceived us, in the last two years, more than this ebullient, academically brilliant and enthusiastic appointee of Jonathan’s than Dr Adewunmi. And, if indeed, wishes were Mercedes Benzes, all Nigerian beggars would be cruising around in Mercedes 500s –latest model.

Almost since he assumed office, Dr Adewunmi had been assaulting us with projections about food security and superlative agricultural productivity and 3.5 million jobs to be created by 2015. Given our self-defeating dependence on food imports, it is easy to fall prey for someone who, like the operators of “Wonder Banks”, promise mouth-watering returns on investment which the depositors never receive.

Dr Adesina Minister of Agriculture
Dr Adewunmi Adesina Minister of Agriculture

Officers like Adewunmi know Nigerians very well. They readily fall into the same trap, because as David Oglivy, one of the greatest advertising practitioners of the last century said about repeated advert campaigns, “We are addressing our-selves to a moving parade; not a standing army”.

That was Oglivy’s way of making the same observation as P.T. Barnum, the American circus master, who at the beginning of the last century told the world that, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. The fact that a fool is born every minute explains why any government official in Nigeria today is guaranteed standing ovation if he can boldly announce that he will create so many million jobs without providing the details of how he would do it – state by state; job category by job category.

I challenged Dr Adewunmi to provide these details in this paper months ago; failing which he would be branded a liar. Till today, there has been no answer. Nigerians deserve better than these purveyors of falsehood as Ministers. If they have no solution to our problems, the least they can do is to stop deceiving us. Jonathan does not “give a damn” whether his Ministers dispense truth or falsehood, as long as it sounds good. But, we care. We want to know the truth about achievements.

NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS OR PROPAGANDA UNIT OF PDP?

There are three types of lies; lies, damn lies and statistics, Mark Twain, 1835-1910.

Once upon a time the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, provided professional data – without an eye on the political calendar. It also confined itself to what its professional studies can reveal to us about various subjects.  Under the current Director-General, Dr Yemi Kale, it actually started out that way.

But, in the last two weeks, NBS has turned into a home for voodoo economics and an organization laying the foundations for release of monumentally fraudulent statistics just in time for the 2015 elections.

First, Dr Kale announced to a startled global audience, as if he were talking to dim-witted kindergarten pupils that Nigeria would reduce the percentage of people living below the poverty line to 27.5% by 2015 from the generally accepted figure of 70%.

So, in a mere two years, instead of 102 million, only about 44 million our Fellow Countrymen will be classified as poor. In short, 58 million Nigerians, without receiving any additionally income from government or from jobs provided, will miraculously be transformed and enriched.

It is not clear whether Dr Kale dropped this joke in an address delivered at a function, after too many drinks had gone under the belt; and the newspaper reports also failed to report whether the audience clapped or rolled on the floor. But, I could smell a rat.

Just as we were still digesting the import of that first jest, Kale was again at his humorous best. On Tuesday, April 9, 2013, the DG-NBS, presented another hilarious one. According to the reports, Nigeria’s GDP may be re-calculated in 2014 – conveniently a few weeks before President Jonathan declares his intention to seek re-election. Non-economists might be wondering, “what is the palaver all about?” It is easy to explain.

At the moment, Nigeria’s economy is the third largest in Africa – with a GDP of approximately $250 billion; South Africa stands at $385 billion. By rebasing, meaning another set of metrics, we will magically pump our GDP up to $350 billion in order for the Federal Government to be able to claim that our GDP had grown by double digit in the last five years under President Jonathan.

Whatever else statisticians call that sleight of hands, economists call it cheating. In order to make a useful comparison, once you rebase your economy and pump it up by a factor, you must adjust all the other nations’ GDP by the same factor. For instance, everybody realizes that it is sheer folly to measure one person’s weight in pounds, say 80 pounds; and another’s in kilos, say 75 kilos and conclude that the former is heavier.

Dr Kale was also reported to have made some statements about economic projections. Well, a “little learning is a dangerous thing”. It is difficult for an economist to determine the quality of a statistician but the DG’s economics is all wet.

We know we can’t catch South Africa, which is ranked 30 in terms of GDP by 2020. So we dope up our GDP before the 2015 elections to make VISION 20:2020 happen by cheating. There is a name for that nonsense. It is called intellectual dishonesty.

Dr Kale will be well-advised to focus on providing honest data and leave the propaganda work to the spin doctors in Aso Rock. He runs the grave risk of becoming the first DG to politicize NBS.


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