Dear next president, this is the Nigeria you will lead
The incoming president of Nigeria will not have an easy job for the next four years. It is hard enough to govern Nigeria given the diversity and chequered history. Current realities make it all the more difficult. Let me remind you of the challenges ahead.
The National Bureau of Statistics tells us that unemployment in Nigeria was 33% in 2021. In 2010 it was only 5% and in 2015 it was 9%. Between 2010 and 2021, the share of Nigerians who are old enough to work and are looking but cannot find a job had increased 266% since President Buhari took office. This is very serious when you consider that it can only get worse if nothing is done about it urgently. If I look at UN population figures for our country, it says that 107 million out of 214.3 million Nigerians were less than 18 years old in 2022. Another 59 million were 18-35 years old.
A large number of these folks are so dissatisfied with the way things are in Nigeria right now that they just want to leave. So, as you prepare to assume office in May, please come with an answer to the question: how will jobs be created and how will I inspire hope among the youth? [Don’t ever think that entrepreneurship is a magic wand because it’s not made for everybody.]
Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) tells us that between mid-2015 and the start of 2023, every state in Nigeria recorded at least 10 kidnappings. The only two exceptions are Gombe (2) and Kebbi (6). Even in the Federal Capital Territory, 78 people were kidnapped between May 2015 and January 2023. This is in spite of all the promises to eliminate insecurity in the country that we have heard our past leaders make. When you add this to the fact that in 2021, one out of every five school-age children that are not attending any school anywhere in the world is a Nigerian child (that’s what the National Bureau of Statistics Nigeria says), you will understand why our insecurity problem can only get worse if we don’t deal with it quickly. These out of school children, as we fancifully call them, are easy fodder for radical and militant groups. So, as you prepare to assume office in May, please come with an answer to the question: how will I get the kids into school and keep them there until they finish? [Meeting violence with violence is not a viable solution here, neither is just throwing money around.]
Inflation and household welfare
The National Bureau of Statistics Nigeria tells us that inflation was almost 20% in 2022 – the highest since 2000 or thereabouts. Canned milk and eggs now cost at least 41% more than they did in 2021; bread, tomatoes, yams, beef and palm/vegetable oil now cost about 30% more; we now pay about 20% more than we did in 2021 for onions, rice and beans. Garri – even white garri now costs nearly 10% more than it did in 2021. So, as you prepare to assume office in May, please come with an answer to the question: what will Nigerians eat? [I’ve heard the joke about cassava and corn, and I personally don’t think it’s a good answer].
Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the official President-Elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will also need to look into the National Debt And Fiscal Policy. The Debt Management Office, Nigeria tells us that in 2012 our country owed $49 billion. When President Buhari took office in May, 2015. we owed just over $60 billion. By the end of 2022 our national debt was over $100 billion. Imagine that.
Some economists believe that there’s no big deal in a huge national debt burden so long as you have more money to invest in public goods. Don’t listen to them, no matter how highly placed or famous they are. A huge national debt does not make sense for a country like Nigeria that depends on only one product – crude oil – for nearly all of its government revenue.
Yet, between 2011 and 2022 the country’s crude oil production fell by half, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria. So, we can’t make money and still we spend so much of the money we’re not making on debt servicing. It is no surprise then that during 2022, we went broke as a country and for as far back as I can remember, we have operated a deficit budget, to the point of borrowing to pay the salaries of civil servants.
So, as you prepare to assume office in May, please come with an answer to the question: how will Nigerian make money? [I’ve heard the talk about increasing tax revenue. That’s ok so long as you only increase tax collection efficiency and not seek to tax us even further].
I skimmed through your campaign manifesto, Your Excellency, and I did not see much substance – not much specifics regarding the above issues. A wish is what it is – just a wish; a want is what it is – just a want; a will is what it is – just a will. True progress only happens if we will what we wish and we want it badly enough. The question is: what do you wish to see in Nigeria over the next four years and will you commit willpower to want it badly enough?
Dr Egbetokun is a senior lecturer in Business and Management at De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom.