“A fool if offered eternity will not know what to do with it” — Epicurus, 341-270 BC
By Dele sobowale
THIS is the season for second term seekers in Nigerian politics. What Nigerians should be asking each of them is one question: what did you do with the first term? A corollary to that question is: are Nigerians better off today than when you came in? Judged by the irrefutable evidence at our disposal, the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, is a failure. When late American President Harry Truman, 1884-1972, left the world with the declaration “The buck stops here”, he was making a statement to which all great leaders subscribe and which helps them and their people. Nigeria’s current political leadership is bereft of that great sense of responsibility. At every turn excuses are offered for what went wrong. At other times, the leader could be called The Buckpasser-In- Chief, BIC. When the National Population Commission, NPC, announced that Nigeria’s population is now 198 million, economists can read more into that statement than other Nigerians.
When your population is 200 million and growing at three per cent per annum, it means that six million people are added every year. In four years, at least twenty-four million more Nigerians will have to be fed, housed and provided with water, health care, education and security. The obvious question is: is there any plan to meet the demand of these additional people given the fact that the 198 million alive now are under-fed, under-educated, badly housed and close to eighty per cent lack potable water – even in Lagos (Centre of Excellence)?
Don’t look for deliverance at the Economic Recovery and Growth Programme, ERGP, developed and vigorously promoted by the Minister of Budget and National Planning. Even if ERGP succeeds absolutely, all it will achieve will be to bring the nation’s per capita income back to 2014 levels. If it fails, then Nigerians might experience poverty levels not known since the 1980s. The question then is: where is Plan B?
Bill Gates came to Nigeria to tell truth to power. He should have stayed home or should have been talking to a wall. The APC leadership in Aso Rock dismissed his suggestions; the APC leadership in the National Assembly, NASS ignored him. Central to Gates’ proposal was the need for human capital development. The idea was old and new at the same time. It was old because our own dear Professors Pat Utomi and Tella have for years been preaching the same sermon to deaf ears in Aso Rock to no avail. It was new because this is a new set of transient occupants of Aso Rock who swindled Nigerians with their change message before the 2015 elections. Their reaction was as old as there were occupants in the highest office in Nigeria. Instead of learning from the message, they quarreled with it – meaning they would not consider it.
Gates, Utomi and Tella, as well as other modern thinkers like them, are greatly mistaken. They assume they are talking to people who can understand their message. Nothing can be further from the truth. All anybody needs to know about the APC can be learnt from following how they have handled the annual budget since 2016. On April 13, 2018, Nigerians read that 20 Senate Sub-Committees are delaying 2018 Budget. That was the complaint by the Senate President – the third ranking elected APC official. Nothing has been heard from the House – where the fourth ranking official presides. Meanwhile, the nation’s number one citizen is in London visiting the Archbishop while the nation’s budget is almost four months behind schedule for approval.
Obviously, there can be no human capital development when the leadership of the country consists of leaders needing a great deal of development themselves. Just as clear is the fact that with the Presidency and the NASS under the control of the APC and yet budgets have been delayed for three years in a row, expecting a different result by voting the same set of individuals into office amounts to a waste of our own time and self-destruction.
At the risk of being accused of repeating the same point permit me this observation one more time. The primary duty of elected governments everywhere is to pass the appropriation bills on time so that both government and the private sector can plan their own economic activities in ways that will promote rapid growth. When the Presidency and the National Assembly fail in this primary duty repeatedly, they have demonstrated their unfitness to rule the people. They have abdicated their responsibilities. They imperil the nation’s economy.
A ruling party which is failing to provide for 198 million now, and which has no feasible growth plans will certainly not be able to provide for 224 million in 2023. The request for second term might turn out to be a request for Fellow Nigerians to commit economic suicide by re-electing the party which has no plans for our future survival.