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The Passing Scene

By Bisi Lawrence

This page started its life at its first coming under the title of Bisi Lawrence. It was later known for short as Biz Law, and eventually settled for the descriptive title of The Passing Scene, all over a period of nearly three decades. The last handle, The Passing Scene was considered descriptive in the sense that it was meant to reflect and recount events of some currency both at home and abroad, across a broad spectrum of interest, since politics and personalities had increasingly taken over the minds of Nigerians.

We seem to have even forgotten to laugh at ourselves except through the instigation of stand-up comedians. This column here and now reverts to its original intention, to wit, to ramble over various events as they come, except when a particular news item is so important that it fills the entire horizon of our consideration. So, let us begin to have fun…even when it is not about what you would call funny.

Christine Lagarde, IMF Boss
Christine Lagarde, IMF Boss

Like the visit of the Chief Executive Officer of the International Monetary Fund to Nigeria. That is one item that is not splitting my sides with laughter right now. What is she doing here—and at this time? Or has she got the right to just bump in on us? We are a sovereign nation yet, aren’t we? I saw how our high officials were tripping on one another’s heels to welcome her, and I wondered what has happened to our sense of propriety. That is not the proper way to welcome the agent of an institution that has seen this country on the way to ruin.

Could we deny that we had not forgotten the ravages of SAP—the Structural Adjustment Programme that proficiently “sapped” our blooming prosperity beginning with the Babangida years? We are yet to fully recover from the devastation it wrought on our economy and the opportunities for our development.

You see, the SAP strategy was not a scheme that went wrong. It was designed to bring our economy to ruin, and it did. When the Western powers opened their eyes to the potential that fortune had thrown into our laps with the discovery of oil, they quickly held a meeting to evaluate the meaning and the effect to the world economy. They estimated that a country like Nigeria would emerge from the status of a supplier of raw materials to their destination, and shuddered at the concomitant interchange of economic power. That was the spur that led to the invention of SAP, a cruel machine fashioned to destroy the fibre of our growth as a developing country.

The prevailing situation, bolstered by the disadvantages of colonialism, had ensured an enduring status quo of international monetary system that would restrict the raw material-providing countries from being able to develop their raw materials. The prosperity of oil portended to change all that. The utter dependence on the vagaries of world market fluctuations would be severely removed, but it would not matter so much in the case of the economies that have no more than one or two raw material sources.

The danger would be in the case of a country like Nigeria, a former vibrant member of the OPEC— that had an abundance of raw materials it could develop on its own but, furthermore, offer a development base and inspiration to other developing nations. This is no moonlight fable, though it had somehow been shoved into the background of our predicament.

But there are documents to support these facts and the part played by the IMF. One, of such is a publication by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung which features a gripping deposition on “structural adjustment” by none other than Fernao C,B.Bracher, who was Director for International Affairs of the Central Bank of Brazil. And he ought to know as his country was affected directly by the awesome phenomenon of their own SAP.

It is important to add that the devastation which took place in Nigeria could not have happened without the active participation of Nigerians who were in a position of trust and who knew what was happening, but had their hearts and minds fixed on the filthy lucre which rolled into their personal coffers at the expense of the nation’s prosperity.

Those who succeeded them are now being reined in to face the music of their misdeeds. There were very many of them, and so it was no mere vindictive stance on the part of those who feel that the probe that now has Nigeria in thrall should have been extended backwards to involve those who wrote the book for the monumental misdeeds of the NNPC. It was systemic felony, fine-tuned to a rigid design to steal, and steal from the nation’s treasury, comprehensively, freely and even gleefully.

So what is Madame IMF doing here if not to institute some other forms of deviltry, now that the former streams are drying up? She says she does not wish to give out any loan under “conditionalities”, which is the chief weapon of destruction they brightly employ to trip up developing nations. They call it “facility”—as facilitating as a ball of iron fastened to the ankles!

When I was travelling to New Zealand for the Christchurch Games in 1976, I changed one naira for more than two pounds sterling. You can’t change one naira for any mentionable negotiable amount of pound sterling today. The naira has not just lost value; it is almost totally lost! That is “facility” for you.

We should however be

done with bewailing our past. I believe that President Buhari knows the score in this particular game. The Federal Government should swiftly dispose of any form of discussion with the IMF and give every indication that it would be the last for a long time to come. Rather, it should vigorously pursue, steadily, the trail of those who have almost stolen us blind. The figures that are being quoted make one’s stomach turn. But the Federal Government should let there be no let on. The only way to stop, or at least curtail, these crimes in future is to arrest and punish those who are found guilty now. And that is going to happen.

There are those who would find the steps being taken unwelcome. One of them is Femi Fani-Kayode, the former Minister of Aviation, who was himself charged to court in connection with his conduct while in office. Of course, it is on record that he was freed and may now pontificate as a lawyer on the limits of innocence and other matters. The ordeal of his trial was in no way relieved by the fact that it was followed by an outright rejection of his membership by the Peoples Democratic Party to which he had sworn an allegiance, and on the grounds of which he had found a reason, even where there was none, to criticise President Buhari, his party and his government.

His latest fuming, after a deserved hibernation, is that Buhari’s tyranny is “government-sponsored”. His definition of “tyranny”, however, might be slightly off-course with the normal proceeding of the misrule known as such, because it suggests that it could exist without the exertion of governance, or a governor. The point, in short, is that every kind, any kind, of tyranny has to be tied to government.

One had to pursue the issue that far to underline the fact that the man from Cambridge no longer seems to care for the meaning he is making out of what he desires to put out. That is sadly becoming a trait of the Buhari critics who desire to grab some notice as political analysts, or social critics. How can a SAN, for goodness sake, argue that a bail granted for a case should cover the plea for a fresh case?

And then there is the accusation against the EFCC that those who are being arrested for the mismanagement or actual stealing of government funds are mostly members of the PDP. But they formed the Goodluck government, and they were in the position to commit the crimes. They are therefore the people to answer for their deeds and misdeeds. And, in any case, there is the promise of more names to be called out. We wait, especially for the unexpected ones. All the same, we must plead that each case should be beyond the stage where a prima facie had been established before anyone was arrested and brought to court.

Let us wind up this session with the removal of the petrol subsidy. It is the unimaginable episode of a situation in which one got into debt from selling one’s own wares to the profit of buyers who sell the commodity back at a disadvantage to us the owners. It will take some time yet for it all to sink. Maybe one day I will be made to believe in the realty of this thing called subsidy. Till then, I may not be able to stop talking about it. Have you had fun?

Time out.



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