By Dele Sobowale
“Tis well said that you Florentines are blind. It appears to me you need but a diet of hay to make cattle out of you.” Anthony Trollope, 1815-1882.
Trollope wrote in the nineteenth century, but might as well have been referring to millions of Nigerians, especially those suffering from the famous Aso Rock disease. From the utterances of some of the officials of the FG, inhabiting a place Reuben Abati informed us is the abode of demons and witches, it would appear that some of them have been fed with grass to make “malu” out of them.
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If ever there is a subject that the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its presidential candidate should not touch, it is Buhari’s economic track record. No Federal government since independence had such a disastrous economic performance over a period of three years, and perhaps four, and no government has so persistently lied about it as this one.
For instance when the FG asserts that its had fulfilled all its promises to the people of Nigeria, the FG either conveniently forgets that an Appropriation Bill laid before the National Assembly, NASS, is a cardinal promise to the people – on which the lives of almost 200 million of Nigerians hang. Three examples from that budget will prove beyond reasonable doubt that we have a leader who either does not know the meaning of the word promise or dispense them without any thought to redeeming them. Anyway you look at it, this is not a President for the modern age. Unfortunately, he is now surrounded by people, ordinarily intelligent, SANs, Professors, Doctors, Engineers, and even Quantity Surveyors – who have eaten too much inside Aso Rock. They actually clap when their Oga utters falsehood which any secondary school student able to read newspapers can easily disprove. Something must indeed be wrong with Aso Rock.
The 2016 Budget promised positive Gross Domestic Product, GDP, growth of 2.6 per cent. Instead, the economy went into recession for the first time since Buhari threw the economy into one in 1984. The same budget promised N500 billion for the Social Intervention Programme, SIP, but only N110 billion was delivered. In fact, if as our forefathers had told us “morning shows the day”, Buhari’s maiden budget should have warned us that we were in for a rough ride – perhaps leading to economic disaster.
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In an article published in VANGUARD in September 2016, titled ANOTHER FAILED BUDGET FOR 2016, the following observations were made.
“We are releasing another N350 billion. There will also be the funding of about N60 billion in the Social Intervention Programme…which will take our total capital release to date to N770 billion.”
Minister of Finance, NATION, September 17, 2016, p 6.
The economy ended in a recession despite assurances by FG officials that they were on course to deliver on the budget. The second year was only marginally better. In 2017, it was not until the second quarter that GDP growth turned positive. From the self-congratulation of Buhari’s officials one would have expected the year’s final results to come close to the three per cent projected in that year’s budget. Instead, it ended with an anaemic 0.8 per cent. Thus at the end of Buhari’s second year, the GDP fell below the level of 2014. Rather than feel embarrassed and sacking the incompetent Economic Management Team, headed by Vice President Osinbajo, the FG went into over-drive with excuses, blaming previous administrations – with its trademark lies and half-truths. Among others, Buhari claimed that no road had been built since he left office in 1984. He conveniently forgot that it was Babangida’s government which moved the seat of the FG to Abuja and commenced the construction of roads to the FCT – which others built upon. The ten-lane expressway from city centre to the airport was certainly not there in 1984. The President forgot? Or just wanted to spill a yarn?
FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD
Whatever it is, the habit is contagious. The President’s ministers almost all release whoppers at random to cover their ineptitude. The take-off date for the Lagos-Ibadan commuter train service has shifted so often many people have lost track of it. It was in April 2017 that the Ministry of Transportation announced that work would commence on that line – which would be completed by December of that year, or latest first quarter of 2018. Today, the line has been reduced to Lagos-Abeokuta – which was supposed to start operations before elections. To the best of my knowledge, nobody is queuing up to buy tickets yet. Again, Buhari probably forgot that promise; and the Minister, also. Additionally, Lagos-Calabar line was also promised. But, nobody talks about that any more.
Second Niger Bridge was again promised to Nigerians – not just Igbos – during the 2015 campaign by Buhari. Almost four years after, the bridge still remains a mirage. Along the way, Vice President Osinbajo once proclaimed that billions have been allocated for the construction of the bridge when Anambra Governor’s election was approaching in a failed bid to capture the state. With the election lost, the promise was quickly forgotten – until this year when Buhari was again in Anambra to campaign for votes. How stupid do these people think Nigerians and especially Igbos are.
PHONY FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Just as this article was being concluded, a case brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against former Governor Rasheed Ladoja and which was prosecuted by the chambers of Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, now spokesman for the APC, was concluded at the Federal High Court in Lagos. After 11 years of being portrayed as a corrupt person, the court discharged and acquitted Ladoja. But, the real story was the tongue-lashing Justice Mohammed Idris gave the FG, EFCC and Keyamo. According to him “This country cannot sustain the fight against corruption in the manner in which this case has been prosecuted, where those that should be proper defendants in the case were shielded from prosecution.” He went on to admonish Keyamo by pointing out that “Prosecutors must be committed to promoting a justice system founded on fairness, equity and compassion.” Those are qualities lacking in the FG, Magu and Keyamo in this case – and most likely other cases.
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Just in case readers get the impression that only the EFCC and Keyamo are deliberately selective in their bogus fight against corruption, then read what President Buhari said at the State House Abuja. “Only God can give them punishment.” “Them” meaning PDP looters and does not include those who were in PDP from 1999 till 2014 and even 2018 who also looted their states but have now been forgiven by Buhari and the APC. Where are the justice, fairness and integrity in that? Was it their money that was stolen that they are forgiving some people while hounding others?
Clearly, Nigeria will not have a credible fight against corruption as long as people who were PDP Governors in Akwa Ibom amd Rivers states from 2007 to 2015 are in the warm embrace of Buhari and the EFCC ignores petitions against them. Ngige stole the Governor’s mandate and gave away state funds to his godfather in a story that was widely reported and was allowed to walk away without punishment. Buhari’s “god” will not punish him obviously because his is an unfair “god” and not the God of justice which the rest of us worship.
Yet, next to security, a serious war against corruption is the most urgent task facing Nigeria. Economists estimate that this country loses close to two per cent GDP growth annually on account of corruption which results in mal-allocation of resources from those areas likely to yield the best returns on investment to wasteful ends – properties in Dubai, foreign accounts, billions stored in soak-away pits etc.
Buhari will not seriously fight corruption – if re-elected. He will only use the EFCC and security organs to victimise his political enemies and those who threw him out of Dodan Barracks in 1985.
ECONOMIC CONCERNS TO PONDER
The Central Bank of Nigeria, last week released a report revealing that the FG recorded N3 trillion budget deficit for the year 2018. That was about 22 per cent more than what the budget promised Nigerians. Now, the debt service ratio has risen to about 44 per cent of the budget. Thus when the President goes around proclaiming that he had fulfilled all his promises to Nigerians, one should ask him when he promised N3 trillion deficit to Nigerians and when he promised to increase the national debt stock to nearly N24 trillion – almost ninety per cent higher than what he met in 2015. In the characteristic APC approach to governance, Mr. President has chosen to ignore his short-comings.
Most Nigerians might not be aware of it; but, the last time we experienced 44 per cent debt service ratio was in 1984 and a recession followed. The Head of State then was Buhari. Another recession cannot be ruled out in the next four years if he remains President.
DECEIT ON PIB AND PRIVATISATION OF REFINERIES
Blame Jonathan. When he was President, the man from the Niger Delta did not know that the most important achievement he could make was to get the PIB bill passed and free his people from bondage. Today, President Buhari in a characteristically deceitful manner in one forum declared he will sign a PIB bill if presented. In another forum, he urges the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, including their members from oil-producing Niger Delta States to fight against privatisation of refineries. Even a village idiot knows that PIB is meaningless without the privatisation of refineries which are cesspools of waste and corruption. They drain billions of our funds and produce nothing. But, Buhari will keep them for patronage. Alhaji Dangote who can compete has already embarked on his own venture which will add value while NNPC will continue to be a drain-pipe.
So, rest assured that with Buhari as President, PIB is dead for the next four years. By, then crude oil might not even be as valuable as it is now.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2019-2023 UNDER BUHARI
Democracy is a system of government which allows governments to emerge by counting actual votes instead of fraudulently padding results to achieve pre-determined results. Personally, I am prepared to live with the result of the election on Saturday is free and fair. However, if the majority of Nigerians choose to re-elect Buhari, the following repercussions should be expected.
First, in no single year will the economy grow at three per cent or more. In fact, starting this year, which will end with, at best two per cent, 5.2 million more Nigerians will fall below the poverty line each year. That makes 20.8 million more in 2023. In fact, by 2023 those living in abject poverty will constitute an absolute majority of Nigerians.
Additionally, unemployment will rise, jobless youths will multiply and the army of kidnappers, yahoo boys, fraudsters will be enlarged. Any nation which relentlessly creates an increasing number of people with nothing to lose is actually creating a Devil’s army – millions of idle hands which form Satan’s workshop. The President has no programme and lacks the capacity to introduce economic policies which will prevent these disasters from occurring. On the contrary, he has demonstrated in 1984-5 and again 2015-2019 that all he can do is to destroy the economy he inherits. That will never change.
A vote for him is an invitation to catastrophe of untold magnitude. The choice is yours. But, if you still go ahead and vote for Buhari, be honest enough to get in touch in December 2019 and answer the question: is Nigeria better now four and a half years after Buhari became President?