Viewpoint

May 22, 2024

Nigeria will prosper, but at what cost?

Nigeria will prosper, but at what cost?

By SUNNY IKHIOYA

THE science of economics does not always agree on a uni-directional solution to problems. That is why economic theories are often laced with caveats such as “on the one hand, on the other hand, ceteris Paribus – all things being equal.” But, in real life, things do not always remain equal or the same. For example, in thoughts and words, the ‘tinubunomics’ – economic policies of President Bola Tinubu – appear to be well researched, but in the course of practicalities, people are having a different experience. 

Removing fuel subsidy and deregulating the petroleum industry appear sound in theory, but you have to factor in local production. All the refineries must be put to work and adequate measures taken to ease transportation so that the impact or burden will not be too heavy on the people. When you add the fact that the government is not playing its part in the area of belt-tightening, you will understand why the policies seem to be crumbling. 

From the LBS breakfast session presented by Bismarck Rewane, this month after 12 months, instead of ‘breaking out’, our economy appears to be ‘breaking down ‘. Fuel scarcity is rearing its ugly head again, and the naira continues to weaken. This has resulted in transportation disruptions, increased production costs, decreased business investments, reduced consumer spending, higher prices for goods and services, and others. The resultant effect of all of these, is that the people are experiencing more hardship, people are dying in numbers and the agricultural sector, where over 70 percent of the population earn their livelihood, is stymied, because of the activities of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and others. 

In a sane environment, by now, the hardships endured by the people these past nine years should have yielded positive turnaround, if we factor in all assessment indicators but ours seems to be like the curse of Sisyphus. The only thing available is hope, and that is what the government is selling to the people. But, people ask: for how long shall we continue to hope? With people dying in droves, at this rate, how many will remain to reap the fruits of their sacrifices? 

In the course of propagating the fuel subsidy removal, agents of the ruling party and politicians were saying that fuel subsidy only benefits a few individuals and the rich. We are seeing it now, live! Who is bearing the burden of the removal more between the rich and the poor? In the sociology of the rich and wealthy nations, the route you use to climb to prosperity matters, you cannot say that, because you want to attain wealth status at all costs, the weak and the poor should be eliminated. It never works out that way. That is why I am feeling very uncomfortable with the manner decisions are reached and executed in this country. You have focused boldly on taxing the people  – tinubunomics – without a care of how the people will survive this. Many economic experts have espoused the view that increasing taxes on the people alone does not make a nation prosper. Why not focus on the productive sectors of the economy, increase manufacturing, increase local production, make the right investment choices, set clear priorities for short and long term goals, streamline your budgets and really tighten your belt and, above all, be open and transparent to the people. We are still running an opaque system of government. 

The impression they are giving the people is that they don’t really care. This can be seen in the manner they are handling the Lagos- Calabar Coastal Road construction project. At the end of the day, the truth about the project will come out and we pray that it doesn’t end up as another abandoned project, because, from past records, Nigerian leaders do not really care about consequences. If the politicians are refusing to change their ways, it is a good thing that we now have a crop of vibrant youths, standing by and monitoring all of their activities; no room for hiding anymore; the day of reckoning will surely come. 

My advice to present rulers is to make sure that the children they will be leaving behind are not made to bear the brunt of the judgement burden. You cannot turn back the hands of the clock for those officials of the World Bank, IMF and others egging President Tinubu into these harsh and inhumane policies, trying to stifle the growth and development of African countries. The neo-colonial arrangements, which make Africans economic slaves to the rest of the world will be dismantled and Africa will be released from its bondage. We, in Africa, must first settle our internal distortions. That is what one expects from President Tinubu, not the unbearable agenda that he is introducing now. People love to cite his records in Lagos as a big accomplishment. 

Researching into his time in Lagos as state governor, we see a repeat of what is unfolding at the Federal Government level. Tinubu’s policies do not favour the ordinary man. It is survival of the fittest. The last time we saw real concern for the masses in Lagos was during the reign of Lateef Jakande, who built low income houses, introduced mass transit transportation, and grassroots level-affordable schools. Successive governments after Tinubu have followed in his footsteps. In Lagos today, the ordinary trader or business man is always on his toes: the government never relents in its taxing of the people, those who could not afford it have migrated to neighbouring states and communities. Whether this model will work at the federal level is yet to be seen. 

From what happened in Lagos, Tinubu won the hearts of residents by first clearing the debris of human wastes and the construction of a few strategic roads, with road sign posts indicating: “Tax payers money at work”. People started paying taxes willingly. The music changed when government started introducing other taxes, heavy tax regimes that have become a big burden to the ordinary man trying to eke out a living in the city. Will this work at the federal level? Yes, it can. The Federal Government must be ready to show the people what it is using their taxes for, not the executive junketing and jamboree of our National Assembly members and open display of opulence and conspicuous consumption by those we have entrusted our common patrimony for safe handling, while the people live in misery and want. As you pursue development and prosperity for a nation, you must consider both the interests of the rich and the poor accordingly. 

There are different ways to achieve economic prosperity without causing multiple deaths and suffering on the people. The average Nigerian now cannot afford basic health care. It is boom time for local traditional medicine producers and religious leaders, those are the ones they could afford. 

Ikhioya wrote via: www.southsouthecho.com