BACKLASH: From Transformation To Change
THE one coming on May 29 does not laugh anyhow, and this is going to be more so after disturbing reports last week that the one who has been doing transformation has transformed Nigeria back to the starting point of 1999.
The transformer is reportedly leaving behind a debt burden of $60billion, which is about twice the amount of the foreign reserves he has been able to accumulate for the country in six years and more than 10 per cent of the much flaunted half a trillion dollars GDP of the Nigerian economy.
This is not good enough and I do not see General (kindly permit the prefix till Friday) Muhammadu Buhari laughing heartily even on inauguration day when power will be handed over to him.
As I said last week, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had settled all the bills in 2005, because he got tired of the manipulations of the so-called London and Paris Clubs of creditors. The clubs kept expanding the scope such that even as president, Obasanjo did not know how much exactly Nigeria was owing them until Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was drafted in to do some tracking, after which, the President issued a fat cheque to pay off the debt and call off the bluff of the creditors.
Now, the thing has built up again and these clubs are going to start their disturbance. I can bet, Buhari is going to adopt a different strategy. It is only a foolish President that will follow the same path that led to a whooping $60 billion deficit; almost twice the national budget in less than six years. He is singing ‘change’ in place of ‘transformation.’ This is very reassuring. It seems under transformation, the emphasis was on spending and not earning.
The chief transformer was just spending without looking at the income stream of the matrix and did not know when he incurred $60billion deficit.
‘Change’ would, therefore, mean varying the emphasis to highlight conservation or extortion in place of expenditure in government business.
When government is earning more than it is spending, it is belt tightening for the populace in strict economic interpretation.
But in the Nigerian context, it could also mean redirecting politics from a money making vocation to something very stressful. Something as stressful as a man or woman offering four years of meritorious national service without the opportunity of making even one million extra bucks outside his or her legitimate income streams.
Nigerians will welcome this development, because the financial gap between politicians and professionals is getting unbridgeable and causing the steady loss of thoroughbred professionals to the vocation of politics. People now look beyond the lucrative sectors of the economy such as, oil and gas and banking to taking up jobs in politics.
One report says there are more professors in government as ministers, director-generals, special assistants, commissioners and even council chairmen, than there are in the universities. The report added that the lure is not service delivery, but to steal big money and become as rich as Alhaji Aliko Dangote over night. In fact, the same report said Dangote would not come close to being the richest man in Nigeria not to talk of the whole of Africa if Forbes Magazine were it to include politicians in its yearly ranking of rich people.
This is unacceptable in a developing economy where capacities are required in the critical sectors. I mean if every doctor, engineer, accountant, lawyer and so on becomes a politician, who shall grow businesses to sustain or increase the GDP and keep Nigeria as number one economy in Africa? Something is significantly wrong if politics becomes the best paying job in a developing economy where the minimum wage is a paltry N18000.
This is why I think every well meaning Nigerian should support this uncommon mission to move politics from a sweet ‘transformation’ to a very bitter ‘change.’ That way, people who stick to politics the same way bees stick to honey comb will have good reason to decouple and face other things. In the last two months, Buhari has received more visitors than he might have recorded between when he left office as a military head of state in 1985 and when INEC returned him as the winner of the March 28, 2015 presidential election.
Many of the visitors, who were in Daura, Kaduna or Abuja, the three known locations of Buhari, did not go to congratulate him on his victory, but to present their CVs for jobs and those who could not link up directly with him, did so indirectly through the other two entry points in Lagos and Adamawa. One insider said the President-elect may require the full compliments of a Federal department to deal with the volume of job requests on his desk.
The pressure is on and mounting. In content and form, only a very thin line may separate ‘transformation’ from ‘change’ and so Buhari shall surely need all the prayers in the mosques and churches to stay within the original template. He left for UK, on Friday, to take awell deserved rest, according to his handlers. He needs it. He will definitely return early enough for the handover on Thursday and the inauguration and takeover the following day. He needs to clear his head so that he can effectively communicate to all quarters that ‘transformation’ has ended and ‘change’ has begun.
As I write, oil workers are on strike over the allocation of Oil Mining Leases (OML) 40 and 42. What is their business with that? Are they workers or investors? They go on strike over anything and everything. If an oil worker fails to make his wife pregnant, he mobilises his colleagues to declare trade dispute and then strike to force government under the ‘transformation’ arrangement to do something about his condition. Aah, things have changed O and someone should tell these oil workers to adjust accordingly
There is also no public electricity in the face of the biting fuel scarcity. It means those with capacity (and I guess every Nigerian has been pushed to cultivate the capacity) to generate their own electricity are denied the fuel to do so. There is always a reason — ranging from vandalized gas pipelines to low water level — to under supply public electricity in Nigeria. The challenges are daunting and I am not too convinced about how Buhari will handle matters standing straight as a democrat.
Talking seriously, Buhari needs to lose his head to put the mad house in order. And one immediate ‘mad’ step that could lead to instant sanity is the conversion of Aso Rock Villa to a paying public park on May 30, 24 hours after inauguration of Buhari as President. The place is too big and it is causing government too much money to maintain in these lean times. Also, something about the villa isolates and insulates its occupants from the world around them. An alienated president is not any better than a foreign president. It is like making Jacob Zuma in far away South Africa the President of Nigeria.
Something very close to Buhari’s modest abode in Daura, Katsina State should be replicated as Presidential Villa in Nyanyan, Abuja and then wait for that minister, DG, SA, PA and even governor that will aspire to live in a more beautiful house than the official quarters of the President.
Also, instead of jetting out all the time to UK for a rest, Buhari can jet to Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State for the same purpose when he becomes President on Friday. That location is as serene and cool as any location in Europe. It is a lot cheaper too. There are a lot more mad steps that can be taken to sanitise the Nigerian House, but for now, these two are enough to set the right tone.