By Adisa Adeleye

A friend took me to task last week on what he described as a “notorious” bias against the current President by the Nigerian media.  To him, many commentators have not shown enough understanding of President Jonathan’s Transition Agenda.  Like all apologists of the present federal government, there is always a lively progress report to make.

As a matter of fact, going by statistical reports, the economy has shown signs of improvements in the last two years of the present federal government.  Inflation which has always been the scourge of the economy has been forced down from about 12% to an average of 9% recently.  Though the taming of inflation as reported statistically bears little or no relationship with the reality in the layman‘s market (inflation of about 20%), the achievement is praise worthy and commendable.

The growth in the national income by about 6% could count as a success in a situation where the GDP rate of growth in many economically advanced countries is about 1 to 3%.

In a parrot-like fashion, my friend reminded me by his forceful argument of the increase in foreign exchange reserves, and also increases in earnings from non-oil exports.  I was also told of the modernization of the country‘s airports and building of new roads and the maintenance of the old ones.

That these achievements should be noted by impartial analysts, I have no serious argument against. And perhaps, in the defense of the often maligned commentators, their observations are often based on what they see and not on what they are told in the absence of official guided tours.  Some would believe in the common saying that, “seeing is believing” and the rhetorics of ‘pictures don‘t lie‘.  The lack of effective communication should not be the fault of the commentators.

There is no doubt that the present federal government is trying its best in the prevalent tough economic and political terrain of the country called Nigeria.  Some say it is just a geographical expression while others believe that Nigeria is many ‘nations forced into one.  It is sad, if not painful that the Nigerian governments (federal, state and local governments) would like analysts and commentators to be sycophantic rather than being objective and subservient, instead of appearing factual.

Many apologists often take critical assessments of events and actions as direct attack on the person of the President or character assassination of certain governors.  Far from it, it is logical to assume that the action of some commentators is driven by objectivity and patrotism.  It might have nothing to do with the height, colour, religion or tribe of the incumbents of official posts.

It is noted that before election, politicians of every shades and colours from all parties would promise peace and prosperity through full employment, less inflation in a corrupt free society.  But what is the situation on ground?  It is a panorama of a corrupt society, divided into very rich and extremely poor segments.  At present, the statistics are impressive on macro-economic stability but with heavy urban unemployment and rural poverty.

To objective analysts, the present economic policy of the federal government lacks sound objectivity and required flexibility.  It does not make economic sense for an import dependent nation to adopt a low value for its currency – an action which would affect adversely its domestic price level, work against the fortunes of its exports and encourage imports (through smuggling or otherwise).  Such anti-growth policy would ruin and has contributed to the closure of otherwise vibrant manufacturing plants in the country despite the Central Bank‘s indirect incentives.  High cost of necessary modern production equipment and spare parts pose great danger to the revival of the manufacturing industry.

A glaring weakness of the economic transformation programme is its stubborn reliance on paper growth based on the mortal fear of rising prices.  Of what is the worth of a rise in the rate of GDP and mass unemployment or as President Jonathan noted on the statistical figures that don‘t translate into food on the table or good treatment in the hospital?.

The evil of poverty (through unemployment and faulty distribution of income) is with us – insurgency and sharp rise in criminal activities (senseless killings, armed robberies, prostitutions, etc).  The Nigerian people had lived with moderate inflation for a long time without facing the prospect of untimely death.  Therefore, a modest rise in price-level could be an added incentive to stimulate effective demand and create additional employment.

Within its economic transformation agenda, there should be room for injection of more funds into the real economy for infrastructural developments; it should also accommodate a phase of ‘cheap money‘ (easy access and low lending rate of interest) as it is being done in other developed nations.  However, it looks like as if the progressive fiscal policy of Dr (Mrs) Okonjo-Iweala is being undermined by the conservatism of the Central Bank and its conservative Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).  The President, to some observers, is looking unconcerned but gazing lustily towards 2015.

As the economy is trying to battle its way out of threatened depression nurtured by the tough monetary stance of the Central Bank (assumed to have the blessing of the President), the political horizon continues to be hazy and rather confusing.  Some political parties have shed their individual identities to wear the toga of a single party in order to provide the alternative government of the federation.

This is good news even if there is yet an announcement on a definite policy change from the one being pursued by President Jonathan on specific issues – structure of the country; cost of running government; fiscal federalism; accountability; security and corruption.

However, the most disturbing aspect of the nations‘ politics is the instability of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).  That great party, presumably found and initially funded by the old military generals to bring one of them to power, seems to be on the path of self-destruction.

The problem is that it may be difficult to remove a divided ruling party at the centre because of other extraneous factors other than performance only.

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