Continuing from where our discussion ended last week: about two months ago, during a lecture on “Beyond the Global Financial Crisis: Monetary Policy Under Global Uncertainty,” he delivered at the University of Benin, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, warned that although the country has exited recession, she could slip back into it with devastating consequences for the country if certain measures were not implemented expeditiously. Recently, he reiterated essentially the same message at a media briefing held at the Central Bank building in Abuja where he presented the apex bank’s Five-Year Policy thrust effective from 2019 to 2024.
According to Emefiele, while some successes have been achieved because of several fiscal and monetary policies implemented by the CBN since 2014, the “pace of GDP growth remains fragile and is below the rate of our annual population growth at 2.7 percent. The recovery of our economy from recession has not resulted in a significant reduction in unemployment rate. We are yet to see a substantial increase in credit to the private sector by our financial institutions.” Stripped of technicalities and jargon, Emefiele’s remarks simply reminded everyone that the economy is still in bad shape in spite of efforts by government to revamp it.
However, for experts not beholden to President Buhari the CBN governor is economical with the truth. Dr. Dele Sobowale, a veteran economist, management consultant and newspaper columnist has argued persuasively in his articles that wrong policies by the Buhari administration, including retention of the fraud-infested fuel subsidy regime, Social Investment Programme (SIP) and excessive borrowing for financing recurrent expenditure are largely responsible for the deepening economic blackhole Nigeria is in right now. The fundamental issue here, in my view, is that for some obscure reasons (probably bothering on nepotism and inadequate knowledge) President Buhari has failed to mobilise the best brains in economic management to run the economy; moreover, his “re-election” has dimmed optimism that better economic managers would be recruited to put the economy on a path to sustainable growth. Irrespective of the optimistic claim by government officials that the country will move to the next level (next level of what?) under Buhari, the reality on ground is that our people should prepare for more economic hardship. It is irrational for the government to continue implementing the same set of incoherent economic policies with the same people and expect our economy to improve. In the real world where the economic game is played, things do not work that way.
Aside from Dr. Sobowale, another critic of Buhari’s economic policies is Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor and incumbent Emir of Kano. Speaking during a policy dialogue put together in 2016 at the federal capital territory by an economic think tank, the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD), Sanusi observed that the “problem of the current government is not having the right policies to fix the current economic woes.” To buttress his point, Sanusi underscored our pathetic insolvent economic predicament and stated that “I can tell you for free, if the Senate approves that we can borrow $30 billion, honestly, no one will lend to us.”
Aside from warning the federal government about the dangers of multiple exchange rates, growing reliance on hawkish Chinese for credit, industrialisation and infrastructural development, and the possibility that Nigeria would become bankrupt soon if the right policies are not put in place, Sanusi criticised the CBN for lending money “illegally” to the federal government. Of course, Sanusi is right on the issue of our ballooning debt profile since APC came to power because available records show that Nigeria has borrowed more money in the last four years than she did from 1999 to 2014, a sizeable percentage of which was spent on non-productive consumption.
Beyond Sanusi’s pessimistic outlook and statistics released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which indicate that key parameters for assessing economic health like inflation, unemployment, and manufacturing output are not looking up at the moment, the most compelling proof of this government’s incompetent handling of the economy is that the country has overtaken India, a country with a population of about 1.3 billion and second only to China, as the capital of poverty in the world. It is therefore not surprising that Nigerians have been witnessing daily the depressing symptoms of a country undergoing accelerated existential decline since 2016 – alarming increase in frustration, disillusionment, alienation, dehumanisation, senseless killings and suicide all over the place. Let us call a spade a spade and just say that our country’s economy under the APC is crumbling right before our very eyes.
Next, we look at the malignant cancer called corruption: it must be stated without equivocation that under President Buhari, Nigeria has moved two steps forward and ten backwards in combating the problem. Earlier, we identified some measures his administration has taken to check the disease. Unfortunately, one of the foremost international institutions that monitors corruption globally, Transparency International (TI), claimed that Nigeria’s standing in corruption perception index has worsened under Buhari. The only positive or significant thing APC has added to what PDP left behind in the anti-corruption arsenal is the whistle-blower policy.
However, Buhari’s protection and endorsement of his close allies from the arrow of corruption allegation even in cases where there is enough prima facie evidence of financial rascality and certificate forgery, his refusal to make public details of his health status and asset declaration forms, the unresolved but needless controversies concerning his educational qualifications, his retention, despite the parlous state of the economy, of a large retinue of mostly useless aides doing the same jobs that can be done even more efficiently by much fewer number of people – all of which imply that he is not practising what he preaches – strongly suggest that the President does not have a deep grasp of the meaning of corruption and that he is using his anti-corruption programme as a tool to consolidate APC‘s questionable dominant position in Nigerian politics.
This conclusion agrees with the proclamation by the garrulous chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, that once a politician joins APC his or her sins are forgiven. Musliu Obanikoro and Godswill Obot are well known beneficiaries of Oshiomhole’s ridiculous amnesty. Moreover, by shielding his acolytes and close political associates and using the EFCC to intimidate critics of his government, President Buhari has weaponised and compromised the so-called anti-corruption crusade.
To discerning Nigerians who followed media reports about Abdulrasheed Maina, Babachir Lawal, Kemi Adeosun, Okoi Obono-Obla, Danjuma Goje, and the leaked tape in which Emefiele was heard discussing with some top officials of CBN about how to cover up a whopping N500 billion allegedly missing in the bank, President Buhari is not sincere about fighting corruption. To reiterate: the anti-corruption programme is now a caricature because the federal government has corrupted and distorted the process by using mostly the EFCC to harass vocal critics while ignoring strong allegations of corruption against cronies of the President and prominent members of the APC who contributed to his electoral successes.
To be continued…