“We promised to secure the country, revive the economy and fight corruption. None has been easy, but we have certainly made progress.” – President Muhammad Buhari, January 27, 2021.
Since this is the Business/Economy page, very little will be said about security. If after almost six years in office, in addition to one and eight months in 1984-5, Buhari has not learnt that security and good economy are inseparable, then he will never learn. Indeed, there is abundant evidence to prove that we have a leadership class in government which as a whole is incapable of learning anything new. The saying – “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – fits the All Progressives Congress, APC, government, as if it was written with them in mind. But, Buhari deserves some credit for making a statement which is half true.
By admitting that redeeming promises had not been easy, he is a shade better than his Minister, spokesman, who had repeated several times that “we have fulfilled all our promises.” Each time Minister talks, I rush to Instagram to read his comments.
Since Buhari did not elaborate on the progress made, we will examine the assertion. Attention will be paid today to why Buhari had difficulties delivering on promises. The promises made – like restructuring – were not kept.
“Promises like pie-crusts are made to be broken.” Jonathan Swift 1667-1745.
VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 203.
Buhari, like his predecessors in office since 1999 is fortunate; just as Nigeria is unfortunate, that we have repeatedly voted into the National Assembly, NASS, some unpatriotic individuals who are in Abuja only for what they can get. And, Nigeria be damned. Like Donald Trump’s Republican party members, those in the ruling party give the President whatever he wants, accept any result and together repeat the same mistakes every time. That is close to the Chinese definition of insanity – except that those engaged in these activities rule us.
ANNUAL BUDGETS AS PROMISES
“Every government is run by liars; and nothing they say should be believed.”
I F Stone, 1907-1989, VBQ p 80.
My study of governments from time immemorial indicates that there are two types of governments – those lying occasionally and those lying all the time. Nigerian governments since independence have fallen into the second category. Lying to the public is frequently the foundation of government policy. Propaganda and force are then applied to impose falsehood as reality. Most promises made were known from the start to be impossible to redeem. They are made anyway and repeated often in the hope that some gullible individuals will accept them – despite glaring facts to the contrary.
Take for instance Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years. That promise was made when delivering the 2020 budget to the NASS. He had earlier uttered the fallacious statement during his second inaugural address on May 29, 2019. One would have thought that as President he would have found out how China and India did it. Those two countries managed to grow their economies at over 8 per cent per annum for several decades. They created millions of new jobs and distributed the aggregate national income more justly.
By contrast, the Nigerian economy under Buhari had failed in four years to grow by up to 2 per cent. More Nigerians had been driven below the poverty line in his first four years than ever before. So, how could he honestly pledge to lift 10 million out of poverty in 2019 or 2020? As it turned out, we are all living witnesses to the fact that in 2019 and 2020, more Nigerians had joined the dreadful number of those living in extreme poverty. Characteristically, Buhari repeated the same vow when presenting the 2021 budget to the NASS. And, they clapped. All any lawmaker had to do was to review the last five budgets presented by Buhari and they would have known that they were again served a bowl full of illusions.
Annual budgets are promises made by governments to the people. In the 2019 and 2020 budgets, Buhari proposed N10 and N11 trillion respectively. In 2019 less than N5 trillion revenue was collected. Debts piled up. It is now certain that again in 2020 less than N5 trillion would have been collected. More debts will pile up. As we move into the second month of 2021, it is certain that January 2021 revenue will fall far short of what is proposed in the budget. So, the budget is predictably lagging behind from the start. What has been summarised in one paragraph is a series of promises made by Buhari which, at the time they were made, he knew could never be delivered.
Buhari could have escaped the self-made trap of serial failed promises if he only he can stop being emotional and become more objective in his decisions. His Ministers and Advisers serve him bogus lies; which he regurgitates without question.
In five years Buhari has only managed to grow the economy by an aggregate of 0.4 per cent.
Per capita income today is less than in 2012.
More farms are now lying uncultivated than any time since 1986.
“FG deficit rises 17% to N4.45trn in 10 months.” News
“Oil export revenue declines 41%.” News
“Nigeria drops in ranking, now second most corrupt in W’Africa.” News
The lowest number of oil rigs for more than a decade now operate in Nigeria.
Our latest ranking on corruption should constitute a major embarrassment to Buhari. After almost six years in office, the corruption we are now talking about are those of his tenure.
So, let us return to the beginning and Buhari’s statement. The question is: where is the progress Buhari is talking about when the nation is littered with promises like bounced cheques serially issued by the same person?
LAST LINE: President Buhari can generate at least N1 trillion more this year and next if only he and his advisers can think outside their boxes – meaning heads. They should engage others to join the thinking.