Tackles trail Soludo’s ‘honesty’ at APC governors’ forum
The event was the governors’ 4th Progressives Governance Lecture Series with the theme: “Building the Economy of States: Challenge of Developing Inclusively Sustainable Growth” which took place at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua Hall, Murtala Mohammed Square, Kaduna, last Thursday.Soludo’s successor at the Central Bank , the Emir of Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, had a few days before, been very critical of the economic direction President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was taking the country and the governors hoped Soludo would counter Sanusi’s submissions.
They also hoped the Professor of Economics would provide an economic model for the government to tap into in driving solution for the ailing economy.At the forum attended by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, traditional rulers, legislators and other top government functionaries which he said he had thought was going to be an executive session with the APC governors and some specially invited guests but which turned out to be an open session, Soludo promised to be honest and like Sanusi , ‘spoke truth to power.’
The Emir of Kano had criticized Buhari over the worsening economic situation in the country, warning that his administration could end up like former President Goodluck Jonathan’s after four years in office in 2019.“If this government continues to behave the way the last government behaved, we will end up where Jonathan ended. You may not like it but that is the truth. You have to listen.
“You don’t have to be an economist to know that any system that allows you to sit in your garden, and with a telephone call, make one billion naira without investing a kobo is wrong. It is unsustainable. And just so we are not always blaming the previous administration, we have also made mistakes in this administration .If a policy is wrong, it is wrong and it has to be changed.”Alhaji Sanusi argued that many of those advising the government are only voodoo economists and demagogues.But, chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Chief Rochas Okorocha in his opening address had given the Buhari administration and other APC state governments a pass mark.
According to Okorocha: “Regardless of the downturn in the global prices of commodities particularly Nigeria’s earnings from crude oil which has in turn imposed difficult economic realities on our people, the APC is totally committed to bringing the much desired change.”
Okorocha who is also the governor of Imo State curiously contended that with the crude oil revenue on the downward trend and the current economic recession, “states have employed more personnel in service, many capital intensive infrastructural projects had been started and the expectations of our people have ballooned.”
But Soludo blamed the APC leaders for allowing the nation’s economy to nose-dive under their watch, while he proffered that only long term structural economic measures can salvage the nation’s economy from total collapse.He said there was no better topic to be addressed at this time of unprecedented shock to Nigeria’s economy than “the topic that I have been assigned to speak on: Building theEconomy of States, Challenge of Developing inclusive and Sustainable Growth.” Soludo lamented that Nigeria is now listed 13th among failed or fragile states under the current world economic index.
“Despite all the odds, all the challenges that Nigeria is passing through today, I still see hope, I still see greatness that await Nigeria in the future.
“I want also to say that I believe that the collapse in oil prices is a blessing and an opportunity for Nigeria for a new beginning and this is predicated on the fact that I believe that the trajectory that we have gone through before was not a sustainable path. Therefore, the collapse of oil prices is a clarion call for us to press the reset button and start afresh on a more sustainable path. I see that as a blessing.”
Soludo argued that since the first National Development Plan of 1962, the focus has been on how to create an inclusive national economy, pointing out that “till today, it is still the issue”.According to him, until the Federal Government decides to address the critical problems confronting Nigeria’s economy, the future will remain bleak.“We are dealing not just an oil price shock, not just an economic shock, it is also a political shock and how we respond would depend on how we interpret the shocks.”
He said if Nigerians think the shocks are temporary and therefore in a couple of months, one or two years the country would return to normal, then the response would end in failure.“But, if we believe that the shocks are permanent shocks that they are here with us for the next couples of years, even decades, then it calls for totally different kinds of response and I will say well, it’ s either we face the reality or we are in serious problem.
“Let me start by making a thesis in response to the topic that I have been assigned. “My thesis is that growth in Nigeria and the states will not be inclusive if we don’t break the dynasty of poverty and maximize the states’ and Nigeria’s comparative and competitive advantages.“It is not going to be sustainable if Nigeria is not secured and politically sustainable. It will not be sustainable if we don’t deal with the demographic and the environment as well as loosening the stranglehold of Abuja on the states.
“But, let me say a word or two about this: maximising the comparative advantages of the states and that of Nigeria that is the easier path, making it inclusive is harder.“One fundamental fact of our economy is that there is partial and individual concentration of wealth and poverty. Much of what we call the front line states- 11 of them- are in deep poverty. That is also coincidentally the states of the highest rate of population growth.
“Those happen also, to be the states where desertification is encroaching massively. Productivity level of agriculture in those states is down by about 20 percent. What it therefore tells us is that we must deal with the demographics. How can we deal with that of geography and more importantly how do you empower the people to be able to participate in the growth process?
And I want to argue that as we are today, if growth is supposed to be a long-term phenomenon, you cannot have an inclusive growth unless you design an educational system that breaks the dynasty of poverty today”.Prof Soludo who also urged the nation’s political leaders not to continue to dwell on issues they canvassed during their campaign in 2015 while watching the nation’s economy nose-dive, stated that what is now important is how to rescue the economy and polity from problems.
“The background that is important is the Nigerian economy itself which faces both challenges and opportunities. The first big challenge to highlight is that Nigeria is a fragile state , ranked 54th in 2005 of a failing state in a ranking from number one which is the worst to the last, which is the best.
We deteriorated to the 14th position in 2010 and 2012; 14th position in 2015 and now 13th position in 2016.”
Though Vice President Osibanjo and Kaduna State governor, Nasir El Rufai in their addresses attributed the challenges facing Nigeria today as problems inherited from previous administrations and promised that the Buhari government take the nation’s economy out of the woods, Soludo has come under fierce criticism .Senate Committee Chairman of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chairman, Domestic Debts, Shehu Sani said Soludo can’t proffer solutions to Nigeria’s economic woes when it was his policies, as head of the apex bank, that brought the country to its present terrible state.
According to Senator Sani who is also an All Progressives Congress Senator, representing Kaduna Central, though Soludo was entitled to his opinion, it was good to
remind him of the role he played as CBN governor in bringing down the country’s economy.“It’s too early to forget the legacy of cronyism, elitism and vindictiveness that occasioned the past administrations.
“Soludo was lucky to serve under a government that was powered by $140 per barrel and without the headache, heartache and bloodshed that has become of Niger Delta and the north east. Soludo needs to be reminded that most of those today on trial for stealing our public funds were the same people rooted in the government he served before Goodluck Ebele Jonathan .
It’s not in contention that blame game by this administration on the last administration must end but under three Peoples Democratic Party governments for 16 years, hardly a day passed without the same blame game on late Abacha.”Sani also criticized the APC governors for inviting the former CBN governor to speak at the lecture, saying: “Those who invited Soludo did that to rubbish Buhari’s economic policies which they themselves don’t have the balls.”