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Obafemi Awolowo and Buhari’s budget presentation

By Simon Abah
21 December 2018   |   3:44 am
If Chief Obafemi Awolowo (rest in peace) were a member of the Nigerian legislature and was in the joint assembly to listen to President Muhammadu Buhari...

Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari presenting 2019 budget at National Assembly, Abuja….PHOTO: Twitter/CDDWestAfrica

If Chief Obafemi Awolowo (rest in peace) were a member of the Nigerian legislature and was in the joint assembly to listen to President Muhammadu Buhari present the 2019 national budget, he would never have barracked the president. He would have been years ahead of his colleagues in the opposition party. Thinkers such as the chief do not have the luxury of time to boo.  They believe in x-raying issues analytically, in synergy for development and in national emergencies.

While the country burns, people who do not have problems with their wages and perks, Bronx cheer a president on an important duty and before the world press, making condescension of selves and country’s democracy, robbing the masses the chance to know what hope and future lie in wait for them in 2019.

That great man Awolowo would have gone ahead to give the president a handshake, left the chambers and gone into his thinking room to emerge days later to tell Nigerians how impossible it will be for them to have a good life under the present administration especially with the budget so presented.

He would never spare the administration with his analysis but not with animosity. For instance, he would say that the daily activities of the government in power are not encouraging enough to turn the budget proposed into reality.

There is no synergy between states government and the federal government to alleviate poverty and that the president has not provided strong presidential leadership to do.

I often wonder if poverty alleviation can ever be eradicated in Nigeria. In states such as in Kogi, the young man who is governor doesn’t appear to have a governance model for investment, to collect taxes, he celebrates the owing of salaries and yet the president and his party leaders have not taught him developmental models. The chief reason Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Ogun, Abuja, Kaduna bear Nigeria’s burden in tax collection which all other states share.

Awolowo would have harped on the fact that the budget wouldn’t take us to the desired future state for we will still be a country that produces nothing in comparison with other nations that are wealthy.

After all productivity is a measure of how a country uses its human capital and its natural resources to produce essential goods and services.  Wouldn’t he have said that our environment is not competitive due to the absence of quality public institutions, of low technology and an aesthetic macroeconomic environment?

Awolowo would have had a lot on his head other than yelling. People who yell many times cover up ineptitude to provide hubristic instead of thriving leadership.

Aren’t lawmakers supposed to provide a stable and predictable regulatory environment, enhance the social fabric that binds people together instead of destroying it?

Little wonder we always rank low in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index and the global competitiveness index no thanks to folks who do not know the fierce urgency of the moment and collaborate for growth of country.

Can this country survive without taxes from Lagos and Ogun (proximity to Lagos) and without oil from the Niger Delta?

Some are busy feeding us with lies that our problem arose from the system of government that we practice and that we need go back to the parliamentary system of government. Heuristic biases, exaggerating issues, selective amnesia, and not taking risks, living with the comfortable and living lies, mental shortcuts are amongst some of the reasons Nigeria has yet to move ahead. Singapore a city state ranks higher than Nigeria on all count since the 1970s.

The Human Development Index groups countries on four levels, very high, high, medium and low. Whilst Mauritius, Botswana, Tunisia and Algeria from time to time make it to the high category, Nigeria everlastingly remain at the low category with smaller countries such as Senegal.

What with corruption. Eighty percent of proceeds from oil are used to take care of one percent of Nigeria’s population and the country does not have a utilization infrastructure for its natural resources.

The middle class is not growing; there is a wide skill shortage to transform the economy and with the lasting gap in infrastructure deficiency.

Would the Chief still have had the time to boo? He would have been bothered about how to get Nigeria out of the rut. The same way Netherlands overcame their Dutch Disease but we have yet to overcome our resource curse even with the availability of data cataloguing all of our problems, yet oil account for ninety percent of GDP clearly showing a death of all other sectors.

Awolowo would have torn the budget to shreds with his analysis harping that it is not enough to “promote high yielding value driven service sectors, nationalize agriculture and ensure manufacturing is kept alive to create wealth and eradicate poverty?”

He would have harped on widening the tax net not the tax rate to bring more people into the tax regime.

That famed chief would have been talking about the need for breakthrough leadership, for bolstering the national balance sheet by accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, for encouraging state enterprises which have all gone with the end, I weep when I remember our textiles.

Papa Awo would have canvassed for the reduction of taxes on products for low-income earners to eliminate extreme poverty, a budget to boost literacy levels, to boost gender equality, private sector engagement to turn the economy around, to move Nigeria to an innovation based economy and to reduce the infant mortality rate. It is highly dangerous for women to give birth in Nigeria.

He would have talked about a government’s stimulus package to influence demand and supply in specific government owned industries to compete with the private sector that together can account for 65% of the country’s GDP.

Reliance on oil is not enough to destroy an economy, neither is the systems of government responsible for the growth of a country, people destroy the economy and people are responsible for the growth of countries.
Abah, wrote from Abuja