By Venatius Ikem
I am not an economist but I think as a public servant of many years at management level, I can claim basic knowledge of basic economic essentials that drive a political economy. Fiscal policy, monetary policy, debt – GDP ratio implications for the economy, revenue – expenditure relationship and implications for the economy etc.
Pre-1999, Nigeria’s economic problems were summarized as debt overhang burden. A huge percentage of our budget was used to ‘service”, not even pay those debts! Solution : settle the debts, get a debt freeze or somehow get out of debt. Especially foreign debts. And we would free enough resources to advance our economy. Obasanjo employed NOI. With her knowledge of the Workings of the Bretton Woods institutions, we got even a better deal. About $18bn debts or so were said to have been wiped off! As part of the bargain, in one fell swoop, we paid up $12 bn! Many cried wolf! We were told that with this, we were good to go! It was celebrated, we could now develop our infrastructure! More than 10 years down the line, very little has changed!
2. As a follow up to this we hastily created NIPP to find a solution to our Power supply problems as a catalyst for economic revival. We bypassed all extant regulations to fast track this solution. Another $12-16 Bn down the line, more than 10 years later, our power generation has not stabilized beyond what it was (3,000-4,500 megawatts) before 2001 when Liyel Imoke left NEPA and later became Minister for Power and introduced the NIPP magic. Not one megawatt of electricity can be proven to have been added to the grid unless the figure he gave of 4,500-5,000 megawatts in 2001 were fictitious. Scandalous!
3. We were then told that our other problem of economic development is fuel subsidy. That once we remove that, we will be on auto pilot to economic revival. President Buhari has tamed that, yet we entered the worse economic recession in recent history without much hope in sight baring a miracle or a sudden resurgence in crude prices . When the rest of the world economy collapsed about 10 years ago we rode it, proudly growing our economy at an average of 6% through it all with substantial savings in the Excess crude Account. Now with debts gone, fuel subsidy gone, whither our economy?
Please spare me the talk about diversification! It’s an old song. It’s there in the first National Economic plan of the ’70s- ’80s captured in the best language possible. As visionary as the Dubai vision of its founders. The reality is that I have come to the conclusion that Nigeria’s problems are political NOT ECONOMIC! Maybe I am paraphrasing what Chinua Achebe said in his Book, The Trouble with Nigeria. That Nigeria’s problem is Leadership!
That’s why I respect Emir Sanusi. Nobody can tell me that PMB has a better supporter/friends he should trust more than him. He even suffered consequences for his political leaning. But when the need arises, he criticizes the President. He has not been declared an enemy still. The National interest seems more paramount to him than his standing with the president. If more people with the privilege of access do not speak up, this President will fail. And not for lack of effort or commitment but because we are not telling him the truth! We the followers must learn to tell truth to leadership for it to succeed not praise worship leaders to their doom in the name of “loyalty”!