The squandering Senate and Nigeria’s debt
Politicians often flirt with words as they promise to improve the lives of the people during election campaigns. But that becomes a distant prospect once they assume office as they launch out immediately on what is without question a perfect calendar of cluelessness and rampant misappropriation of public funds that continue to plunder the nation’s treasury.Therefore, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo the other day, while opening the 60th conference of the Nigerian Economic Society in Abuja said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic policies will improve the living standard of Nigerians, he was half right. This is because if you picture in your mind’s eye the type of programmes and policies Nigeria’s political leaders have presented since independence, if holistically implemented the country will not be in the current mess it has found itself today.
The implication of this is that, all these years, Nigerians have been suffering from lack of good governance because good governance relies on the assumption that government and its officials will not bend the rule for their own purpose as it is often the case in Nigeria. For instance, politicians are quick to render offensive defence of their large chunk cuts from the ‘national cake’ and such excuses cannot fail to arouse surprise or confuse the people to believe that such selfish action is justified. A case in point is the N5.5 billion SUV cars for Senators that the 9th Senate leader, Yahaya Abdullahi recently registered his displeasure to a cross section of journalists for the ‘hue and cry’ that greeted the move among members of the public as insult to the Senators.
Hear him “…For you to say a Senator of the federal republic cannot drive a jeep (sic) today, come on, that is an insult. Go and tell the people that the work we do is more than the work ministers that go about with a retinue of official cars”. One of the great unanswered questions in Nigeria’s politics is why do politicians not apply the ingenious solution to strengthen the weak economy and stabilise the ravaging inflation which is growing in astronomical proportions under the current government with the alacrity they attach to their own selfish affairs?
As far as one can tell, nobody, not even his political rivals can match President Buhari incorruptible status. If anything, critics are more likely to charge him with displaying too much enthusiasm on issues concerning herders and cattle. A long cherished bond of the oligarchy and Buhari’s conviction is never in doubt as the federal government recently released N100 billion in support of National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), a programme many see as a nephew to RUGA or cattle colony. Hence the south-east governors rejected the plan irrespective of the fact that it is optional for states to key into the programme. Anyway, Nigerians are hopeful that NLTP should be able to meet its primary objective, arrest the incessant conflict between herders and farmers as well as lift many out of poverty by creating employment and help the economy to grow faster. Because, there is no gainsaying that Nigeria is the world most populous black nation and the giant of Africa yet it keeps emitting poverty indices on daily basis.
However, let us imagine for a moment that Buhari’s government has conquered poverty therefore, the consuming battle of our age for survival is now in our rearview mirror. And so, we can look back to see how government might have managed to dramatically change the ugly situation of the Nigerian people through institutionalising policies that stabilised the economy. This is because every government around the world at one moment or the other decides to wake up to reality and begin to understand or see signs that the economy is not healthy, thereby need some invigoration. Thus, the desire to set-up an economic team to steer the nations’ economy in a fresh direction becomes imperative. In this regard, it is not enough to applaud the super-classic economic team the president just assembled but it is important for President Buhari to adhere to its advice, even if it means swallowing a bitter pill of drastically slashing the executive arms of governments’ salaries and huge allowances.
The most compelling explanation for the rise of poverty in the society is governments’ ‘Oliver Twist’ attitude towards borrowing, rather than looking inward and thinking outside the box for home grown solutions. This is because when a nation borrows, it automatically becomes a remote control by its creditors. While the future of young generations of the indebted nation remains in chains of slavery until the debts are paid. In spite of the nation’s (federal and state) 81.274 billion dollars total indebtedness to China, Africa Development Bank (AfDB), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others the Buhari’s administration is in continuous search for loan.
According to World Bank’s vice president for Africa region, Hafez Ghanem if World Bank grants Nigeria the fresh loan of 2.5 billion Dollars it currently seeks, it would shoot up the country’s debt burden to over 83 billion Dollars. In Ghanem’s wisdom, “…it is important to resolve the problems of the power sector in Nigeria to bring in more investors/investments because you need to bring down the cost of power to make the economy more competitive for the development of industries”. At the moment, Nigeria vies with South Africa for Africa’s biggest economy. But it seem a mere show off for Nigeria as the nation made a sluggish recovery from the 2016 recession making its growth of average two per cent in the last two years not enough to reduce poverty.
Of course, there is no doubt that the economic team’s timing is right. It came at a time the economy is in dire need of rejuvenation. However, for the government to succeed, the political atmosphere of the country must be relieved of suspicion. Although, the biggest threat to Buhari’s success comes from within his own party, the need to clear the fog of distrust that shrouds the ruling party from clear vision is necessary. More so, government must address the atmosphere propelling society in a sequel of differences along ethnic and religious lines.
Indeed, much is desired to be done because a lot has changed for the worst since the ruling government took power. Over the years, the burden on the masses is unimaginable as prices of food items skyrocket daily, utility payments like electricity has tripled without adequate supply of energy, roads across the country are in bad shape. To add to the woes, value added tax (VAT) is on its way to rooftop, a move that is poised to liquidate some small and medium scale industry. Of course, the images of killings from banditry to kidnapping, herders and farmers conflict scares the daylight from the people. No doubt, national security remains a huge challenge and question for the ruling APC government to find not just an answer, but a lasting solution.