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April 12

April 12 OPINION PAGE 42 As one year approaches By Eugene Enahoro Many political commentators and supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are reluctant…

April 12


As one year approaches

By Eugene Enahoro

Many political commentators and supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are reluctant to highlight the shortcomings of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and his administration. In just over a month they will celebrate one year in office and in true Nigerian style the media will be overflowing with congratulatory messages. It’s become almost taboo to criticize PMB under any circumstances. Yet despite a general consensus that he hasn’t had enough time to solve our major problems and make a marked difference, there is no excuse for things getting worse. One of the tests of good leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency, and PMB increasingly appears to focus on the anti-corruption war to the detriment of everything else that requires urgent attention especially the economy which is in a mess. Everyone agrees that all is not well. The micro-economic indicators are not looking good, our currency is becoming worthless, and with a quarter of the year gone the 2016 budget is yet to be signed. President Goodluck Jonathan (GEJ) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may be responsible for the present economic mess, but they are not responsible for the shortcomings of this administration. Nigerians would have re-elected GEJ if they wanted to keep blaming him for their problems. Having got rid of him, there is nothing to celebrate almost one year after his departure. In the 2015 election there was an “us” and “them” scenario in which the APC campaigned as if they were morally superior to the PDP. It seems this administration believes good intentions and solid reputations are all that is required to run a successful government. They are mistaken. The latest World Bank analysis of our economic prospects indicates that as commendable as it may be, recovering looted funds shouldn’t be our priority. According to the analysis for every N1 lost on corruption, the nation has lost N10 to what they term “legal sovereign incompetence”. (e.g. Ajaokuta, NITEL, Nigeria Airways etc.). In other words government habitually squanders far more than is being stolen. A cursory examination of the proposed 2016 budget confirms that the squander-mania continues. There is work to be done. The current crisis has been exacerbated by the fact that when APC came to power they had no economic roadmap, no council of economic advisors and basically no plan other than winning the election. It took PMB five months to assemble a cabinet and five months later they are yet to start meaningful work. It was a serious mistake to think a new cabinet could author a meaningful budget in under two months. New ministers proved no match for long term civil servants. PMB’s anti-corruption war concentrates on recovering looted funds rather than actually stopping corrupt practices. The 2016 budget fiasco is evidence that this administration had no plan to deal with long entrenched selfish interests in the civil service which frustrate probity and progress. For Nigerian bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing, they habitually incur expenditure with no tangible results. Fortunately for PMB one year after the elections the opposition is in disarray. In spite of his reputation for integrity he reneged on both the APC’s “100 Days” campaign promises and the September 30th Cabinet deadline. He is also guilty of arbitrary handling of monetary policy; issuing policy statements through foreign media; imposing stamp duties on bank transfers; a whimsical and unprofessional reform of ministries, and a disdain for the rule of law in anti-corruption matters. However no one sees a PDP government as a viable option. The nation urgently requires the appointment of an experienced economic management team to resolve the many contradictions in our economic policies. Government imports petrol from nations where the government doesn’t regulate the price of fuel. Government wants to increase internally generated revenue, but fails to provide necessary infrastructure for business to thrive. Nigerians live, work and study abroad enjoying all the benefits of free open markets, but our government prescribes “banning” and “import substitution” as the remedy to providing a better life for our citizens. Whatever seems important to PMB he wants to take care of personally. As Minister for Petroleum he must accept responsibility for the mess in fuel supply. The buck stops at his table because responsibility cannot be delegated like authority. To avoid such unnecessary embarrassment in future he must embrace the concept of delegation and stop micromanaging. Nigeria has become a never ending tale of failed leaders and failed expectations. It is hoped that PMB will break the jinx but personal integrity and probity are not enough. The nation requires a president who understands modern economics and how free markets work. To all intents and purposes the plans and targets being articulated by this government are no different from the 1970’s era plans that failed.

Go to China and beyond, Buhari

By Abu Najakku

Nigeria and China share the same birthday of October 1st. Currently, there is the all clear signal for all manner of relations between Africa and Asia’s two largest countries to blossom. Unlike America and European countries that invented aid “with strings attached”, China is a generous country that doesn’t so much compel its trading partners to behave in a certain way. In point of fact, during its Mao years, China had branded itself a Third World country and demonstrated a lot of solidarity with African countries. China was then struggling in a highly hostile world and so was in search of friends. Wherever it went, it left its national footprints; it either built you a friendship stadium, a strategic road or railway or factory. Remember the Tan-Zam railway that China built gratis in in the 1976 in East Africa which connects Tanzania and landlocked Zambia. Not long ago, China also built the magnificent $200 million African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. By donating such a masterpiece building, China must have exacted gratitude from the entire continent.

In the last few years, be it dams, roads or railways, China has built infrastructure that has broken world records. China’s thirst for power and energy knows no bounds. Chairman Mao Tse Tung’s country is the home of the notable three gorges dam, the largest hydro-electric dam in the world. Contrary to previous projections, at 18,000 megawatts, the three gorges dam supplies less than 10% of China’s electricity needs, neither has the presence of 86,000 dams assuaged the country’s desire for power.

The three gorges dam is 2.3 kilometres long, 185 metres tall, 5 times larger than United States of America’s Hoover Dam and generates 11 times more electricity than the former. The three gorges dam is so gargantuan that it literally slows down the rotation of the earth!

It is to this country, the world’s largest in terms of human population and now locked in perpetual competition with the West, that President Muhammadu Buhari travels to this week, and why not?. As long as he has the aviation fuel, a competent crew, an airworthy aircraft, is in good health and his hosts are willing to receive and accord him the necessary respect, President Buhari is free to go anywhere he wants, in the defence and promotion of Nigeria’s interests – and I want you to watch the Beijing reception for Buhari!

Buhari’s trip to China, his first, from all indications is necessary. Everyone that went to China, including Comrade Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s unofficial life President, never came back empty handed. Chinese loans, because they are mostly negotiated with the state, are given on very liberal terms. The disclosure that Buhari and his delegation are going to request for $2 billion loan to build power stations, roads and railways in Nigeria is heart-warming. What more can a dependent capitalist economy like ours hope for? At this material time, we just don’t have the money to rebuild our decayed infrastructure, so we approach those who are willing to assist us do so. If the Chinese can afford us more than $2 billion loan, Buhari should collect it to also construct the Maiduguri-Sokoto railway line. Nauyin bashi baya karya wuya!

This is the reason why I disagree with my learned country man, Femi Falana, who is opposed to the $2 billion Chinese loan. According to media reports, Falana has written a letter to the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, in which he objected to the loan and threatened to take court action to stay federal government’s hand from taking it. Falana was said to have written in the letter: “We were therefore surprised to learn that the (Buhari) administration had applied to the Chinese government for another $2 billion.”

Instead of “increasing the nation’s external debt of $64 billion” by taking additional loans, Falana wants the Buhari government to recover “outstanding revenue of $200 billion withheld from the Federation Account or stolen by looters.” No, Falana. The one action needs not stop the other; the government can take the needed loan and continue with the efforts to recover our stolen assets. Our rail lines are more than 100 years old, our people are dying on bad roads and we need to modernise them today, not tomorrow, so there is really no time to waste. I’m certain, however, that Falana has a role to play in the recovery of these stolen assets and the tenacity with which he applies his brilliant legal skills, when called upon, could determine the speed with which we have that humongous amount returned to the treasury.

It is true that in the past we had contracted billions of dollars in loans from foreign countries with absolutely nothing to show for it. However, there is no question that Buhari will put to good use every Yuan he borrows from China. Buhari has three more years to show results, so we are not going to grudge him undertaking the necessary trips to foreign land in so far as it will bring benefits to our country. A $2 billion loan is also worth the size of the delegation accompanying Buhari. I am confident that the engineers that will build the Mambilla Hydro-electric dam, the Kano-Lagos and Calabar-Lagos rail lines will land in Nigeria almost at the same time with the President. Buhari will also do well to tell them that he wants to ride on a qualitative Kano-Lagos railway before the end of his tenure on 29th May, 2019. Go where you want to go Baba Buhari, just make sure you return with good results.

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