past better than the future

By Adekunle Adekoya

A bothersome thesis is gradually gaining ground, propelled by growing loss of faith in the power elite to turn around the fortunes of Nigerians, and transform Nigeria into the functioning economy and equitable society she ought to be.

This thesis is premised on our experience as a collective, which points to the fact that the previous government was always better than the one in office. People compare life and living under Babangida, Abacha, Abdulsalami, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari, and always returned the verdict that we were better off previously.

In other words, food, housing, cars, clothes and other items that form the base of Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs hierarchy were more affordable under Babangida than under Abacha. As the situation changed, and Abdulsalami became Head of State, prices rose several notches and a few more items went out of reach. The same scenario played out under Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, and now, Buhari.

Cost of food items, air fares — local and international, exchange rate of the the Naira to major global currencies, prices of automobiles, etc., help to validate this observation.

In 1973, $1.00 exchanged for N0.658, or approximately, 70kobo bought one dollar. Ten years later, in 1983, the US$ had risen against the Naira, it exchanged for N0.724, or approximately 73 kobo. Fast-forward to 1999, when exchange rate was N21.89 to one dollar, and N88-90 in the parallel market.

By the end of the first two political terms in 2007, the exchange rate was about N140 to the US Dollar, a long stretch from what it was in 1985. Somehow, the middle class re-emerged and again, Nigerians were able to buy brand new cars. Now, the middle class has been wiped out; you’re either rich or poor, or a better description — you either have money, or you don’t.

If you bring the parlous state of our infrastructure, the formless educational system, the comatose healthcare system and others into the picture, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that life was better previously than now. And the exchange rate, yesterday, was N513 to one US dollar. For an import-dependent economy, it remains to be seen how life was not better under the previous government.

This will rile a few corpuscles, but very few of us ever thought that the day will come when Nigerians will look back and say life was good under a loathed military dictator than under a democratically elected administration. On October 2, 1994, General Abacha raised the price of petrol from N3.25k to N15, a quantum increase of N361.54 per cent, but quickly dropped it to N11 two days later on October 4.

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He promised to warehouse the difference and use it to revamp failing infrastructure. That he did by setting up the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, retired, now incumbent president. While the PTF had its flaws and was eventually wound up by the Obasanjo administration, the truth of the matter is that the body made some differences in the areas where it intervened.

Since Abacha, there have been 15 petrol price changes. If Abacha used the accruals from upward price reviews to create a PTF that was used to revamp infrastructure, what did the others do with it?

These are Abubakar-Dec 20, 1998: N11 toN25 (127.27%); -Jan 6,1999: N25 to N20(price dropped 25 %); Obasanjo -June 1, 2000: N20 to N30 (50%); June 8, 2000: N30 to N22(price drops 26.67%); Jan 1, 2002: N22 to N26 (18.18%); June, 2003: N26 to N42 (61.54%); May 29, 2004: N42 to N50 (19.05%); Aug 25, 2004: N50 to N65 (30%); May 27, 2007: N65 to N75 (15.39%). Then came  Yar’ Adua: June, 2007: back to N65(price drops 15.39%). Dr. Goodluck Jonathan reviewed prices four times -Jan 1,2012: N65 to N141 (116.92%); Jan 17, 2012: N141 to N97 (Price drops 31.21%); and Feb, 2015 N97 to N87 (price drops 10.31%). Buhari came in 2015, and on May 11, 2016 petrol moved from N87 to N145 (66.67%), and from N145 to the current N162.

All these price movements helped push up the prices of food, clothing, accommodation, automobiles, and other needs. Add this fact: when prices go up in Nigeria, they hardly come down. My fellow countrymen and women simply live with the rising prices. For how long?

Can you see the patterns? If you bring in the issue of corruption, then the picture will be clearer. If it is really true that life was always better under the previous regime than the one in office, then it is safe to assume that corruption will worsen in the years ahead. Not a few Nigerians blame General Babangida’s administration for the hydra-headed monster that corruption has now become. But hear the general himself react to this is his recent Arise TV interview.

 “You can’t compare it with the facts on the ground now. From what I read, from the analyses, I think we are saints when compared to what is happening under a democratic dispensation. I sacked a governor of a state for misappropriating less than N313,000. Today, billions are there on the streets. Those who have stolen billions, they are in court and are now parading themselves in the streets. So, who is better in fighting corruption?”

There you are, peoples of Nigeria. We are already primed for tougher times ahead, as if these times are not tough enough. Looking into the future, food, clothing, accommodation, cars, other needs will get costlier as the power elite sinks further into self-dug pits of ineptitude.

Our youths will react by continuing the exodus to other lands, while many of those that remain will continue to find immoral, unpatriotic means of making money attractive, and the masses of our people will continue to suffer.

Is that what really want? We must quit this road to nowhere. What we need from 2023 are jinx-breakers at the federal and state levels so we can end the narrative that life under previous regimes were always better under the current ones.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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