The Senate recently accused the current Economic Management Team (EMT) of incompetence. This may or may not be true. What is true however, is that the economy is going from bad to worse and there seems to be disconcertingly little agreement amongst those in authority on either the causes or solutions. While President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) blames our problems on corruption and past governments, his Vice-President blames Niger Delta militants, and his Minister for Budget and Planning blames oil prices. While the Minister of Finance says interest rates must come down, the Central Bank Governor says the opposite. Disappointingly there is open confusion within the ranks of those supposedly assisting PMB achieve his goals. It doesn’t inspire confidence. The majority of Nigerians don’t understand the complexities of economics or monetary policy, but do understand that leadership must exude unity and speak with one voice.
Lamentably top government officials are publicly contradicting themselves and the failure of PMB’s administration failure to have an immediate positive impact cannot be divorced from this lack of agreement coupled with the fact that there is little relevant expertise in key positions. It’s difficult to fault the Senate Vice-President’s view that round pegs have been placed in square holes. For example, the Ministers for Works and for Budget and Planning are both lawyers, the Minister for Labour is a medical doctor, while the Minister for Transport studied English Language!
On October 1st Nigerians will again be asked to have faith in government and the nation. Yet in truth there is increasingly less reason to do so. Faith is mostly associated with religion. The two major religions of the world developed faithful followership because of the consistency and clarity of their messages and the exemplary lives of their prophets. The ostentatious life styles, contradictory analysis and different solutions of the EMT, National Economic Council (NEC), and National Assembly (NASS) cannot possibly inspire faith. If the present leadership is truly sincere, rather than continue begging people to have faith, they should concentrate on earning the love and respect of the citizenry. As it stands government is completely out of sync with the aspirations of the populace.
PMB may be honest to a large extent but he surrounds himself with sycophants and political jobbers who can only provide lame proposed solutions to our problems. NEC and so called “Captains of Industry” support selling off our national assets. There is a widespread belief that the latter are bent on acquiring the assets for themselves and there is every justification for such scepticism. Nigerian “Captains of industry” are on the whole crony businessmen, rent seekers, and commission agents who depend on government patronage and duty waivers. They want to expand their business empires by buying off profitable public assets. Selling national assets at a time when political leaders enjoy outrageous, undeserved perks of office is ill-advised. Disposing of our property to meet short term needs is unjustifiable especially since past privatisation has never benefitted the populace. Worse still this just isn’t the right time. Prices are at an all-time low and it makes little sense. To add to the confusion, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) opposes the idea.
Truly there is nothing to be applauded in selling off inherited properties, rather it’s a sign of incompetence. There’s no accountability in government to justify any trust that the nation will get commensurate value from either selling our assets or from spending the money. According to the Debt Management Office government incurred N2.2 trillion domestic debts in the last one year without any visible impact. The sole response of this administration to the economic recession appears to be borrowing more money which indicates a not only a lack of creativity, but a decent into unconstitutionality. The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) which outlines the steps to be taken in obtaining national loans isn’t being respected. Loans and asset sales are supposed to be used for capital expenditures, but in clear violation of the FRA this administration borrows merely to pay salaries and attend conferences.
The way things are going all we will bequeath the next generation is massive debts and no assets. This administration’s time worn mantra that agriculture and industrialisation will provide mass employment illustrates how out of tune they are with modernity. Society has progressed from mechanization to computerization and now automation. Large scale production whether industrial or agricultural no longer entails large scale employment. Modern factories employ robots and large scale farms are cultivated using mechanized equipment. The truth is that aged ideas cannot solve Nigeria’s problems and the nation urgently requires the services of visionaries to provide creative solutions. After 56 years of independence we continue to suffer from a lack of national ethos and direction. We are yet to either establish a unity of purpose, or agree on a fair and just means of administering our affairs. The current recession should excite innovation not cause confusion and justify unconstitutionality.