For the first time in many years, Ottawa, Canada’s capital, gave me cause to smile. At the average of $1.45 per litre, the pump price of petrol is reflecting the barrel price of crude. This should be a sad story for anyone driving a fuel-guzzling jalopy since it burrows into the pockets of car owners or simply demobilises them. However, once you remember that you are a Nigerian whose president just presented a grand proposal to the National Assembly based on the unstable earnings from petrol, you manage a smile as you tank up. You know that vicariously, you are helping to grow the Nigerian economy even so far from home.
On an anticipatory heavy pump price, President Muhammadu Buhari presented his Budget of Growth and Stabilisation sure that the god of oil would smile on him. As drivers are forced to reduce their junkets, Nigeria, a ranking member of the OPEC cartel, should be smiling to the banks. As our eternal petroleum minister, Buhari has stopped dreaming that the naira would ever be at par with the dollar. It’s not in his stars and so, he prepared a budget based on an exchange rate of N520 to the dollar. With the prayers and incantations of his prophets and marabouts, Buhari wishes that the price of a barrel of crude would keep climbing the mountain of dollars and never roll back.
At the last conservative count, Nigeria’s external debt stood close to $50 billion. To sleep better, do not calculate how much Nigeria has borrowed in your name without your express approval. Once upon a time, Nigeria campaigned for and received debt cancellation. Buhari believes he could still spin the wheel in his favour with his soporific speech at the UN while talking to China about borrowing more.
Never try to audit tangible projects or you might be forced to take to the streets to confront killer security agents. While begging and borrowing, it still takes over $400 million per year to feed the greed of an indolent rubberstamp legislature. By the time Buhari’s proposal has been padded and returned, we would have braced up for what it costs to keep the kitchen at the presidential villa, service and fuel 10 presidential jets and worry less about how our lives have improved. The poor majority are asphyxiating from perennial belt-tightening measures while their master-servants detect more tax havens to keep their stolen wealth.
America should perish the thought that Nigeria would disintegrate. According to Buhari’s New York scorecard, his policies have cemented unity, restored human rights and brought unparalleled peace, security and development. Just check the jails and the displaced camps! The so-called developed nations should start respecting Buhari’s Nigeria. Whether they like it or not, we determine their survival as long as the price of a barrel of crude continues to soar. Even China would soon return to genuflect at our feet. Any Nigerian friend of Elon Musk is a traitor. If cars stop guzzling fuel, what future do we have as Nigerians?
Our oil managers, the NNPC, that our incorruptible president so prudently supervises, is much respected for being the standard cesspit and grandmother of corruption that recently declared its assets. This monumental waste that pays jumbo salaries to people selected to be remunerated for doing nothing is buoyant. It pawns crude and borrows to import the refined product.
Next year’s budget, hopefully the final for the Buhari regime, is the most ambitious. However, critics could make us feel like Nigeria is the only country that feeds fat on debts. America just dodged the bullet of collapse so our critics should please calm down. Being a nation that has mortgages, the future of its children is not a bad resume for a wannabe nation. Except you have been studying the iconic proverbs of the late MKO Abiola; the hands of the borrower would not always be below that of the lender. Our brand of government almajirci comes via electronic virements masking the bad optics.
Nigerians know the futility of shock, surprise or even shame, as the budget is unfurled when it has passed. In APC, we have a government that is altruistic in strategic misanthropy and social service hocus-pocus. We all remember the bluetooth distribution of COVID-19 pandemic palliatives, TraderMoni, school feeding and sundry social security schemes designed to increase the number of billionaires the party has produced with subterfuge.
While waiting for credits to finance next year’s budget, government has announced scholarships for students in full anticipation of the shutdown of universities by academic and non-academic staff. Nothing beats the optics of wealthy students taking notes under leaking roofs, overcrowded lecture halls and living conditions worse than Hitler’s holding cells. With N75k or N50k in the pockets of selected students, President Buhari can sit calmly or take his usual London holidays without flinching.
As a patriot, one sees windows of opportunities for the president to finance this ambitious budget without borrowing from China. EFCC just reminded us that Diezani Allison-Madueke’s trinkets are worth N14. 4 billion. If Nigeria would auction those gems at bureau de change rate, our doctors would jettison the idea of slaving to Saudi Arabia and make money on botox and body enhancements.
If that happens, even those Nigerian youths swearing to buy their own chains preparatory to embracing Britain’s 21st century slave ships to avoid being turned back because ‘chain has finished’ would perish the thought.
Diezani’s chattels are worth N80 million, factoring in the depreciation of letting forfeited assets lie fallow since 2019. Diezani, the haughty lady, missed the chance of regaining control of her assets by refusing to decamp to the APC where all her ‘sins’ could have been forgiven.
It beats rational imagination that Nigeria goes borrowing from China when it has billionaires at home. Government should invite these emergency bourgeoisies to fund the budget instead of buying first class tickets for their girlfriends to make meaningless trips to Dubai, London, New York, Paris and Ottawa!
Religious bodies have enough to help Buhari’s hustle. Pastorpreneurs have collective wealth that could fund this country without borrowing. What more, their religion forbids usury. Those building cathedrals and buying jets during global lockdown and praying that it never ends surely should invest in their fertile soil.
Since Nigeria remains a veritable magnet for wealth-spinning theology that fails everywhere else, these businessmen and women should invest in this market that taps into misery and scaremongering. These people need the status quo to continue to succeed. They need it more than the inhabitants of Aso Rock and their dependants. Buhari should blackmail them into funding budgets or buying back debts without charging the nation interest. The prosperity and stability of Nigeria is in their corporate interest.
As for Nigerians in diaspora, whenever they buy gas; a litre of gas at $1.45 or more from minimum wages that range from $15-$17 per hour, they do so with a smile remembering that they are fulfilling their obligations to motherland even though the regime and its lackeys deny this contribution. As they say in some circles, may Nigeria succeed!