Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Killing The Economy To Kill Corruption

By Abraham Ogbodo    
The battle against corruption has become the sole purpose of the Buhari Presidency. It is being prosecuted as if all other things that define good governance shall follow automatically as soon as victory is proclaimed. I can go ahead to suggest that the appointment of ministers in this month of September, which has only 10 days to finish, as early promised, be shelved. It is no longer necessary since the entire business of government has been consolidated into a single effort – war against corruption.
One man or at most one ministry to be called Ministry of War Against Corruption can do the whole job. News that Buhari has branded ministers as noise makers is very encouraging. No serious war anywhere in the world is fought and won with noise makers. In the spirit of the new revelation, a proposal for amendment of the operating constitution to make the appointment of ministers by a sitting president discretionary can be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration.
I am not even too sure if the NASS itself will fit properly into the new order. The members are even noisier than the ministers. They are rascally and violent too; often using fists like junior school pupils instead of debates to settle issues. They are also very lazy. They work for one week and go on recess for four weeks. This war against corruption is neither for noise makers, rascals nor lay-abouts. All of this considered, we can push for another amendment of the constitution to operate this democracy without the NASS. It sounds alarming but since kings can legitimately kill to survive in a Machiavellian setting, we cannot go wrong if we allow the robust end of achieving a permanently corruption-free Nigeria to push us to disband the useless National Assembly.
With PMB, we have one in a millennium chance to catch all the thieves in Nigeria and change our circumstances. And so, if he asks to shut down the banking system, as he has done, to catch thieves who hide their stolen dollars in domiciliary accounts, he should be obliged. He is working to preserve the life of Nigeria and as we all know, in the rule of life, self preservation comes first. On this note alone, the threat by one self-appointed global regulator called JP Morgan to punish Nigeria on account of Buhari’s approach should be completely ignored.
JP Morgan or whatever it is called is not a very reliable teacher. It teaches nonsense and this has serially got it into trouble with the authorities in Washington DC and to which it has paid billions of dollars as fines. Besides, what does JP Morgan know that our own dear JP Clark or any other JP in Nigeria does not know better? And by the way, who made JP Morgan judge over Nigeria that is presided over by PMB?
The Central Bank as directed by PMB (since there is no finance minister till perhaps September 30) is doing a fantastic job. The point is that when there is too much money in the system and the citizens are behaving like lunatic astronauts, going to the moon to build houses, the thing to do is a serious mop up to precipitate a liquidity squeeze that will instill some sanity. This is what Buhari has done. It is a fundamental micro-economic principle and one does not need a certification by Harvard Business School to understand it. I don’t understand why JP Morgan, which should know better, is nagging over this like a bad house wife.

People are talking of absence of an economic blue print in the Buhari’s approach. It sounds too much like a cliché and I am almost tempted to ignore it. Na blue print we go chop? We have had too many blue prints that led nowhere and if Buhari, in his original Fulani wisdom, is coming with a black or blank print to run, all by himself, Africa’s biggest economy, he should be offered a chance to prove how and why blank or black is better than blue. More than this, results do not change if the processes remain constant. It is like hoping to land in Japan when the air plane in which you are moving is headed west.
 Put differently, Buhari is saying there is just one effective way of tackling the challenges facing Nigeria. That is, if Nigerians have become monkeys because there are peanuts to eat in the garden, they will return to humans if the nuts get mopped up. The scenario can be re-adjusted for the same effect. If what is available at current consumption is too little to last because of greed, a way out is conservation or more specifically starvation to gain sustainability. I make bold to say however that neither of the approaches shows creativity. Both are sanctimonious posturing meant to morally rearm Buhari as a leader for the moment.
In the first instance, it could very well be that Nigerians have become primates because there is no human meal available in the garden while conservation in the second instance does not approximate wealth creation or material progression. A man does not starve to death his own children to make a point about prudence and disciplined consumption. Rather, he doubles efforts to increase his resource base to meet current consumption level while he isolates and deals with the bad children.
Locking down the entire economy in search for thieves or in the name of instilling fiscal discipline is myopic to put it mildly. Corruption is not an economic activity. It is a crime against mainly the economy and killing the economy because of it amounts to double jeopardy. The best approach is to isolate corruption for extermination while the economy is allowed to breathe.
Buhari may not know this which is quite unfortunate. But even more disturbing is the fact that those who should whisper to him quietly, preferably in the Daura dialect of the Hausa language for easy understanding and assimilation, have allowed themselves to be mobilized into a crowd of frenzy supporters that promotes every miss step of the president as a new and effective style of catching treasury looters. Buhari’s interpretation of his role as a change agent even at 72 is not helping matters. He thinks change should be measured by the degree of the unconventionality of his action and so the more bizarre the act, the bigger the change content.
As it is, a lot of quarters need a re-orientation to fit into the prevailing mode of doing things. It is the reason the lamentation of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) is not invoking sympathy in high places. The association is lamenting a drastic loss of industrial capacity in the last three months due mainly to the CBN’s monetary policy to stem the slide of the naira and which has made access to forex to fund the importation of industrial spares and consumables most herculean.
The new rule is that everything can wait for corruption to be killed first. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) is also part of the efforts to kill corruption. The banks have been totally drained of public sector funds which have been migrated to the Central Bank for safe keeping.
Buhari is making it look as if the value of money is in its physical worth and not in what it can create. What is the logic in saving money in the Central Bank when retail banks are looking for money to fund the economy? This is besides the effects of the TSA policy on agencies like the NNPC, FAAN, NIMASSA and others which, in operation and structure, are not any different from the organized private sector and cannot in all sincerity, be made to wait for budget approvals by the National Assembly before they work.
Today, the statistics across board are frightening. There is growing unemployment, declining industrial capacity utilization, disinvestment, sliding value of the domestic currency and a comatose stock market, among other gloomy indices. But we have been conditioned to give Buhari space and free hand to effect a change and to also hack down anything, person or idea, including free enterprise that constitutes or may constitute a hindrance to change in Nigeria.
*Abraham Ogbodo is the Editor of The Guardian. This piece was  first published on September 20 2015 before the appointment of the federal cabinet, but it is as relevant to the issues of the day at it was about a year ago.)


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