Friday, April 7, 2017

Nigeria: When ‘Clueless’ Is Better Than Calamitous

The present government of President Muhammadu Buhari would, in a few months, be two years old. Ever since the government was sworn in, save for the euphoria that trailed a new government and the expectation of Nigerians looking for change, if truth has to be told, Nigerians have not really got anything to show for all the change that they were promised. There is hardship in the land occasioned by the poor state of the economy. Nigerians are hungry. Prices of essential commodities are soaring. Food items are no longer affordable. As for social amenities, Nigerians experience more of darkness than light as power has worsened. Former Lagos governor and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Raji Fashola has not been able to find solution to the problem.
*Jonathan and Buhari 
Most of the people who aided and supported this government such as former President Olusegun Obasanjo have equally signaled their dissatisfaction with the way things are going. He told the government to concentrate on clearing the mess inherited instead of complaining about the situation. In the early days of the administration, it was the in thing to blame the Goodluck Jonathan administration for the rot in the system. If the present government would continue to have its way, it would still have preferred to continue blaming the previous administration. But this would have shown the new government as lacking in initiative – for still blaming its predecessor at nearly two years of taking over.
Come to think of it, does this present administration have initiative, creativity? I do not think so. As much as Nigerians admire the person of President Buhari for his honesty, integrity (I equally do), he has fallen short of the expectation of so many Nigerians. This is not just about criticizing the president for the sake of it, but criticism is coming because the president, in the past 20 months, has shown his unpreparedness for governance. I want him to succeed but wishing is different from the reality. The reality is that nothing is working. Companies are finding it difficult to continue and jobs are being lost.

I have written about the fact that there is no clear cut economic blue print and so many other Nigerians, who are in position to know this, have said the same. It is what former President Obasanjo described as administration by “adhocry”. Looking for quick fix solution without an in depth understanding of the problem. It is what led this same administration to China like other administrations before. Obasanjo visited China twice, late President Umaru Yar’Adua, President Jonathan equally visited before President Buhari’s visit in April.
Prior to that trip, the government had made us to understand that solution to the problems we are facing especially as it concerns the dollars would be found in China and that the focus on that country would reduce the over dependence on the dollar.  I had sounded a warning that the China trip would not solve our problem as it was an ad hoc solution. We were told that many agreements were signed in areas of power, solid minerals, etc. I am yet to see any of these taking off. Why not against such a trip, it should have been taken as part of a larger picture of our economic policy. If we have an economic policy, the question would have been; how does China fit into the overall picture?
Still on the economic direction of this administration, as said earlier, the president seems unprepared for revamping the economy and bringing us out of recession. He had contested for the presidency of this country on three different occasions before his fourth attempt got him the presidency.
We are talking of a period that is not less than 10 years, are we saying the president was only interested in campaigning to win election and would retire to his Katsina ranch after every election loss, that he did not prepare anything in terms of “to do” if he eventually got the job which he actually did in the last attempt?
In essence, the president, in over a decade of contesting for presidency did not assemble a team of experts to identify the problem of the country and proffer solution that would eventually come into use in the event of his presidency. But that is the reality.
So what then is the vision that is driving the country? What are his own visions? Running a country is not all about fighting corruption or insecurity. You can’t be doing this to the detriment and survival of the people who look up to you. Obasanjo fought corruption and recovered money stolen during the General Sani Abacha era. He equally paid off our debt, Nigerians did not suffer as much during that period.
Then a barrel of crude oil was $16.56 in 1999. It rose to $27.39 in year 2000 and came down to $23 per barrel a year later in 2001. As at November 30, 2016, a barrel of crude oil is $49.44. It is still more than what Obasanjo got as president. So people saying the slump in oil prices has adversely affected governance should empathically shut up. Also blaming corruption during the last administration will also not fly. I am not in support of corrupt tendencies, but the truth is that corruption is not new to Nigeria and there is no government that is free of the tar of corruption. It has always been part of us. It is just a click away. Wikipedia has a lot on it. From pre and post independence Nigeria to the present day. The military government of General Muhammadu Buhari also has a section there. So enough of this corruption cry.
Not too long ago, the government through the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced its intention to buy crude oil from Niger Republic and in the process construct 1000km of pipeline from that country to the Kaduna Refinery. Immediately I heard this, what occurred to me was, ‘another foolish, ill-conceived project’. The reason given does not make sense in this period. We will be developing the Niger Republic’s economy to the detriment of ours because we will be paying for the crude oil. And the last time I checked , Nigeria is still regarded as an oil producing country and a member of OPEC.
With the government’s intention, we would spend scarce resources (in forex) to construct the pipeline. This is money that should be channeled into something more productive to the economy especially in this period of recession. The idea should be discarded unless there is an agenda beyond what is obvious to all of us.
On a last note, there is nothing that stops this government from assembling a team of economists and financial experts from within and outside the country to brainstorm and come up with solution to the economic problem. Their solution should come with a timeline that should indicate what should be done and when including what the result would be. There should also be room for review. To most of us, the administration does not seem to have a clue on the economic problem and this is definitely calamitous.
*Bolaji Tunji is a commentator on public issues (

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