June 5, 2016

Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (3)

Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (3)

Lai Mohammed

By Douglas Anele

Read Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (2) here

For instance, there is no way Nigeria’s economy could have been successfully diversified just after three hundred and sixty-five days in office. This is because, assuming that the federal government puts in place appropriate policies that, if implemented, would lead to increased output from the manufacturing sector or guarantee more efficient and profitable exploitation of solid minerals and other viable sources of foreign exchange, several years of consistent and determined efforts are required before positive results would begin to manifest in these sectors. And, concerning the campaign promises to achieve parity with the dollar and increase Nigeria’s share in the international oil market, it is clear to anyone with a simulacrum of knowledge about the determinants of global currency regime and uncertainties in the demand and supply equation of oil that none of these promises can be realised in this dispensation. Having said all this, I am sure that President Buhari and the sycophants around him are aware, as already pointed out, that one year is indeed enough for well-informed Nigerians to reach a reasonable judgement on the overall direction his government is headed regarding the key sectors of our national life.

One of main planks of APC’s campaign against former President Jonathan is the issue of fighting corruption, which was the strongest appeal of a possible Buhari presidency in the minds of a broad section of Nigerians.

Going by media reports, the EFCC seems to have woken up from slumber suddenly, although its activities are targeted largely at prominent members of the PDP who worked for Jonathan. Of course, it is impossible to deal with all cases of corruption simultaneously, and if the news about some key players in the previous administration who brazenly mismanaged public funds and assets were true, focusing on them for now is justified to some extent. I commend the President for allowing the EFCC deal with avaricious PDP stalwarts who mismanaged public funds so shamelessly. However, focusing the anti-corruption searchlight mainly on PDP members whereas several APC chieftains with stinking reputation for corruption are moving around freely suggests that Buhari is not living up to his pledge that he “belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody.” Based on his pronouncements about treating different parts of Nigeria to reflect how they voted during the presidential election, the on-going northernisation of key federal appointments, and unwillingness to look into allegations of corruption against top APC members who made his presidential ambition a reality, President Buhari obviously is key member of highly influential power blocks that determine who gets what and when in the present government. In otherwords, it is probably fair to say that Buhari belongs to the inchoate amalgam created by hegemonic conservative elements in the Northern establishment and the Tinubu-led faction of the Yoruba political elite that helped him defeat Jonathan.

The suggestion by Lai Mohammed and Prof. Itse Sagay that anyone with proof of corruption against APC chieftains should contact the EFCC is unacceptable, extremely dishonest and disingenuous. Must the commission wait for petitions from individuals before carrying out its assignment? Who sent those petitions (if indeed there were any) that triggered the on-going investigation and prosecution of Olisa Metuh, Femi Fani-Kayode, Godsday Orubebe, Sambo Dasuki and other members of Jonathan’s administration? Did the EFCC investigate thoroughly corruption allegations against Rotimi Amaechi and Babatunde Fashola before the President appointed them ministers? In my view, inasmuch as President Buhari deserves our support for allowing the EFCC to do its job, the one-sidedness of the current situation gives the impression of a witch-hunt reminiscent of the time when Chief Obasanjo used the commission to harass and intimidate his political opponents. Similarly, disobedience of court orders in the pretext of fighting corruption brings to mind the odium associated with the military dictatorship of Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon. It is emotionally satisfying to see looters dealt with summarily, but in a democracy such touch-and-go approach is anathema. Government officials and Buharimaniacs should stop sermonising as if corruption began and ended with the PDP, as if APC bigwigs are immune from the same terrible disease, because the aetiology of corruption transcends party affiliation. I am certain that if an independent forensic inquiry were carried out with respect to the billions of naira APC spent to fund its electioneering campaigns, some of the politicians parading themselves now as ministers and “defenders of democracy” would be convicted and jailed for corruption.

What about the economy – has the federal government moved quickly to lay the groundwork for economic reconstruction as promised by Buhari? Putting aside dwindling oil revenue arising from both unfavourable local and international circumstances, President Buhari has performed below average in the economic domain, the strengthening of which is essential to genuine change and social transformation. Some experts claim that the President is still wedded to the inappropriate antiquated central command economic paradigm he applied as a military head of state thirty-two years ago, instead of implementing an expansionist economic blueprint characterised by decentralisation of key economic parameters to boost spending and employment. A typical example is the rigid application of the Treasury Single Account currently stifling activities in our public universities. Besides, data from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that unemployment has risen to 12.1% in the first quarter of 2016, a figure several economists consider too conservative. The rate of inflation is 13.7% generally, although prices of essential commodities such as foodstuffs have increased far beyond the official figure, ranging from 60% to 80% in the last one year. For the first time since 1999, Nigeria recorded its lowest economic growth rate (0.36%) in 2016. Recently, a two-day meeting Monetary Committee Meeting of the Central Bank of Nigeria ended without a bold and imaginative monetary strategy for tackling the myriad of problems in the foreign exchange market: it merely announced a flexible foreign exchange policy designed to achieve parity in the interbank and parallel market for the value of the naira. Buhari’s promise of acting quickly to create more jobs has fallen flat. An alarming number of companies are closing down mainly because of sharp decline in electricity supply coupled with corresponding increase in energy costs, and steep drop in the value of the naira in relation to other foreign currencies; others are retrenching their workers to stay in business. Given the low purchasing power of the naira and over two million job losses in the last one year, there is no doubt that our economy is in crisis right now.

Another indicator that this administration might be incapable of dealing with our economic challenges is the 2016 budget just signed by President Buhari. Even if we ignore the confusion generated by reports of “missing budget” and “budget padding,” it is obvious that the ruling party does not intend to fulfil its promise to give a monthly stipend of five thousand naira to twenty-five million unemployed Nigerians or provide one meal a day to primary school pupils nationwide. Actually, after Buhari became President, Garba Shehu acted in bad faith by repudiating the populist campaign promises of his party, which made millions of Nigerians vote for APC candidates during the elections. Of course, N500 billion has been earmarked for social intervention programmes in the current budget. However, overall the document is consumption-oriented, just like previous budgets, with a disproportionately large percentage of the funds set aside for maintaining the obscene and ostentatious lifestyles of members of the executive and the legislature.


To be continued