By Dele Sobowale
“Every country has the government it deserves,” – Joseph de Maistre, 1753-1821. Vanguard Book of Quotations, VBQ, P 80.
Every country also deserves the consequences of electing the government that manages its affairs.
Two cardinal duties of any government are associated with the management of security and the economy. Incidentally, one thread strings its way through the two – social harmony. Social harmony which is the bedrock of development has obviously been lost in every segment of the Nigerian society. Thus, although there is a national leader – the President – most of the followers no longer follow. They can see clearly that the nation is headed for ruin under the present leadership. Unfortunately, there can be no change until 2023. We are stuck.
Each of us as individuals or corporate entities must try to survive the next three years as best as we can. But, we need to be realistic with our expectations. Left to the Federal Government, we would be operating on the basis of their false optimism. We will suffer the repercussions of the self-deception.
No forecast by this federal government since 2015 had proved accurate. On the contrary, they have been invariably off the mark significantly.
We need to develop our own data and metrics in order to predict more accurately what the future holds for us. Fortunately, we have various guides to help us.
“I hold that man in the right who is most in league with the future,” – Henrik Ibsen, 1828-1906, VBQ, P 71.
Sadly, we are confronted with a trope of bad news from different independent organisations and individuals. Irrespective of what the government’s response might be to these disclosures (it is usually denial), we, at least, owe it to ourselves to know the truth and to act on reliable data and information.
“IMF further reduces Nigeria’s 2020 growth rate to -5.4%,” – Vanguard, June 25, 2020.
Some economists have developed their own models for forecasting the economic growth rate of the countries in which they are interested. Others collect information from organisations which have created their own models. I do both.
As a result, my forecasts are sometimes slightly different from those of the International Monetary Fund, IMF. For instance, when earlier in the year, the IMF predicted -3.2 percent for Nigeria this year, it was clear to me that the organisation was being politically cautious and did not want to alarm potential investors. It was not surprising that the growth rate had been revised downwards – depicting a more dire situation.
For Nigerians, the most important facts to bear in mind are the following: the impact of -5.4% GDP growth rate on jobs and poverty level. First, it is inevitable that more jobs will be lost and fewer created. That alone guarantees more Nigerians will drop below the poverty line.
Second, with the population still growing at 3.2 percent, instead of the 2-3 million more Nigerians expected to dive into poverty, close to 6-7 million will sink into it.
In fact, Nigeria’s per capita income at the end of 2020 might be lower than what it was in 2010. In other words, five years and seven months of Buhari administration would have left us struggling to catch up with living standards we once enjoyed in 2011.
Nigeria faces the worst recession in 40 years, says W’Bank,” – Punch, June 26, 2020, p 23.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. That was the verdict of an American comedian. Nigerians elected in 2015 a political party and candidate promising change. But the All Progressives Congress, APC, gave no content to the change slogan.
By the 2019 election, most right-thinking Nigerians had realised that we have been swindled. There was no specific set of goals established to drive the change agenda.
As Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, had reminded those who care to know such things, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” But the APC provided no timelines for the achievement of anything. They were, therefore, justified to think that any “achievement” was acceptable. That was partly our fault.
It was completely our fault that Buhari was re-elected in 2019. It provides little comfort to read or hear some of the Northern leaders who supported his re-election now lamenting their mistakes which will cost Nigerians dearly. And the damage will not be limited to this year alone. It will outlast Buhari. Here is why.
The growths recorded under this government were as follows: 2016, -1.4; 2017, 0.8; 2018, 1.9; 2019, 2.2. Now with the 2020 prospect expected, the cumulative growth rate for five years will become -1.9 percent. That is bad enough. The prospects for 2021 are just as discouraging.
“My worry is that it appears that the activities of the bandits would stop farmers from going to their farms; and if farmers don’t go to farms, there is a looming danger of an outbreak of famine,” – Governor Sani-Bello of Niger State, Vanguard, June 28, 2020, p 10.
Niger State is one of Nigeria’s largest food baskets. Its contributions are felt in everything from grains to tubers, fruits, and vegetables to livestock (fishery and cattle). In fact, if all the farmers in the state stop producing, very serious food scarcity will occur nationwide. That is the reason why Governor Sani-Bello’s alarm needs to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, he is not alone. There is no Northern state which does not feel the impact of bandits and kidnappers. The farmers, especially women and girls, are now reluctant to go to the farm for fear of kidnap or worse.
Farming is their occupation and sole source of income; as it is for millions of other Nigerians. They risk their lives by going to farm; they risk their means of livelihood if they don’t. While the farmers suffer directly from the activities of bandits and kidnappers, the rest of us suffer collateral damage when extreme food scarcity leads, first to escalating prices and subsequently to mass famine and malnutrition.
Furthermore, the forecasts by the IMF and World Bank, as well as other forecasters (including me), have made allowances for the expected reversals in the agricultural sector before arriving at their dire aggregate predictions. Also factored into the variables is the likely government response to the challenges faced by farmers nationwide. The menace of herdsmen was allowed to flourish by the government’s neglect or even complicity for four years. Farmers and the nation are now paying a heavy price for the blunder.
Nobody expects the government to be able to curb the activities of the herdsmen any time soon. Hence Nigerians should not expect cheap food any time from now.
Quite the contrary, food prices will continue to climb for the foreseeable future.
The most chilling aspect of these predictions concerns university graduates. In the past, every Northern graduate had a job waiting. Now some have joined the bandits – and even lead them, according to testimonies by my sources.