Friday, May 20, 2016

Sorry, Nigeria Isn’t Broke

I picked the title of today’s piece from the statement of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed while briefing journalists on Wednesday shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting. According to him, the country is so broke that they had to increase the petroleum pump price inorder to generate money to run the system.
It is not as if the APC spokesman’s statement comes as a suprise, what’s suprising about his statement is the fact that he had not again laid the blame for this parlous state of affairs by the doorsteps of the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan as usual. Unfortunately,  I disagree with the minister. I disagree because I know that Nigeria is not broke.
But before going into my take on why this country is not broke, there’s an aspect of the minister’s statement that bothers me. Alhaji Mohammed had said that because of poor earning, the government had to look inward to generate money, he said it was on this basis that the pump price of fuel was increased to N145 per litre from its original cost of N86.50.
My problem with the statement is that in order to generate more money to run the affairs of government, the burden had to be put round the neck of the poor masses who are already groaning. Just a few weeks back, the same poor masses had to pay more for darkness ( electricity is now a mirage) when electricity tariff was increased. The masses is being made to take on more burdens, more sacrifices.
The questions are; what are the sacrifices being made by our rulers? Have they cut down on their own material comfort? Was it not a few days ago that the Senate bought some exotic SUV for its members. In spite of the uproar on why the upper chambers had to buy foreign made vehicles instead of patronizing Innoson  that produces made in Nigeria vehicles, nobody has heard them reversing that decision. Is it not obvious that purchasing such vehicles from Innoson would also help galvanize the economy even at that micro level?

Jobs have been created and such jobs would also be sustained. On the part of the executives, what level or manner of sacrifice have they made? Have they cut down on expenses in line with the poor financial situation in the country? A few days ago, a letter written on behalf of the minister to the National Broadcasting Commission requesting for N13million for an official trip to China got leaked to the media. The minister was incensed that the memo got into the public domain, “I am so disappointed that an internal memo like that would be with SaharaReporters, it shows a lack of integrity in the ministry.”
But what he didn’t realize was the disenchantment by majority of Nigerians over the state of affairs in the country and his workers in the ministry are not exempted. We are not even talking about the breakdown of that money and how it was spent. If the minister could ask for such an amount of money, he should not come around to tell Nigerians that the country is broke. We only know of the information ministry. We do not know what happened in the other ministries where the supervising ministers also  made the same trip. How much was collected for the trip? In this season of sacrifice, did they take their estacodes or not?
Back to the issue of broke. I am convinced that Nigeria is not broke. The problem is that our leaders, take that to read politicians, have not applied themselves to the task of thinking out of the box and being original. Not only that, what sacrifices are they making? Some of these government officials have coterie of individuals on their staff list from personal assistants to senior personal assistants who would also have their own personal assistants.
Have they reduced these numbers? To solve our problems our top officials must also be willing to make a little bit of sacrifice, the sacrifices should not be on the part of the masses alone. And they can start this by cutting down on their material comforts. Massive entourage during official trips should be reduced. And above all, they should live by example.
It is when the followers see that they live what they preach that letters such as the one from Minister Lai Mohammed would not get into the public domain.

 *Mr. Tunji is a newspaper columnist 

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