My critique of plans of top 2023 contenders – 2 | Dailytrust

My critique of plans of top 2023 contenders – 2

Let me state again that I have a bias for Bola Ahmed Tinubu and that is because of the slant of his stated ideas. Promising 25 per cent  annual budget for education and 10 per cent  annual budget for health may sound very ambitious but it tends towards the United Nations requirements and our needs in that sector. Someone already criticised the 25 per cent spend on education but was reminded that we have over 15 million children on the streets – a problem which requires a major emergency. Decentralization of police is long in coming. 

Nigeria has been grappling for long with the concept of a commodity exchange, which can help farmers sell in bulk ahead of time and cut post-harvest losses. Not a bad one. The idea of having a strategic reserve for fuel is novel and commendable. Ditto the targeting of double-digit economic growth. 

I have been an advocate of challenging ourselves to be far more productive for long. The targeting of 15,000 Megawatts of electricity through further deregulation of that sector (having more GenCos and DisCos covering smaller jurisdictions, and pressing in other sources of energy – such as renewables – is also modest and commendable. Tinubu promises a major public works and infrastructure focus, which will help in also boosting jobs in the country, but also includes that we need regional hubs for development – maybe not new bureaucracies but an initiative to focus on value addition to all the basic farm products from our regions, reduce post-harvest loss, and help target foreign markets while expanding the cultivation of our arable land. This is just for starters. I like his meshing of capitalist and social-capitalist ideas. We cannot ignore our people in the equation of development. It must, however, be said that another manifesto document came out a few days back, written by Messrs Femi Pedro and Babatunde Ogala, which was slightly different from the above. I believe that a more comprehensive manifesto will come out shortly.

For Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his economic goals are decidedly rooted in liberal economics. I also must confess that I am suspicious of that narrative, as Nigeria has tried same for decades but with disastrous results. Atiku wants businesses to thrive and believes that it is businesses that will provide jobs. Well, true, but companies are not in the business of creating jobs, but maximizing profits. A reliance on private sector may be disastrous. The private sector did not campaign to make the lives of our people better, politicians did. The entity with the biggest responsibility to ensure people have work to do, is the government. Again Alhaji Atiku promises to break government monopoly by selling off NNPC, TCN, and rail transportation. This is good on paper, but we should remember that our privatisation history, especially under Messrs Obasanjo and Atiku, has been very dismal and only marginally successful. Privatisation is not a silver bullet. Is there anything to sell in the refineries which have been vandalised, sabotaged and cannibalised in part? Are we going to sell to people who will cannibalise them further and asset-strip them? 

Also, the rail system everywhere has an input of government and people enjoy subsidy. You may not be able to run that commercially for now, else it comes in too expensive. I have studied this extensively.  Atiku unabashedly comes in from an extreme right angle. He may appeal to many of our liberal market, banker-type with his market economy refrain. I will only remind him that many people who love the ‘market’, have also come running for taxpayer bailouts from governments in the past – a case of privatization of losses and socialization of losses. Are capitalists conmen? Because the market is often flawed, rigged and mal-regulated in climes like ours.

No one can ignore the timeliness of some of Obi’s ideas. But they are skewed towards costs saving; moving Nigeria from consuming to producing nation, stop borrowing for consumption, cut down cost of governance, do away with Office of First Lady, stopping corruption and the sickness in leadership… all these ideas are good and much needed in Nigeria because we have already gone too far with our profligacy.  I also like Obi’s take on investment in education but I think the comparison of human capital investment and physical infrastructure is unnecessary. For one, this country has been training people for decades now, who should be able to step up and do any work. But yes, we are haemorrhaging human capital by leaving 15 million children on the streets. Still, let government continue with physical infrastructure BUT let government use mostly Nigerians and keep the money within the family. 

Obi comes from a tangent and talks about investing in our landmass. I align with this, especially if Obi is focused on meeting our food needs, banishing importation of food, and targeting Africa with trade. We have much arable land that we haven’t touched. But he veers off by repeating that government should invest more in MSMEs, suggesting that government gives MSMEs ideas and grants. 

Nigeria already has 42 million of MSMEs, where over 41 million are micro – businesses of people surviving on a thread.  I dare say that no nation has ever become great based on MSMEs who are all selling imported products. Drive around Nigeria, go to the markets, look at the stores. ALL of them are selling imported products. It is a sad scenario and portends more danger ahead. Somehow, we left our flanks open, took some of the toxic advices from you-know-who, and by the time we open our eyes, we were producing NOTHING but importing everything from abroad. Those guys convinced us that markets (where is Atiku) will help us balance everything out. The result has been more than disastrous.

If Tinubu can carry through, I will say he has the more radical ideas of the three. Double-digit growth, public works and mass mobilisation for mass employment and even our security crisis, commodity exchange, and a strategic fuel reserves sounds like someone has been thinking deep or listening to a smorgasbord of intelligent, deep, and out-of-the-box ideas. I believe others will fine-tune their ideas and come back strong. I will also review others like Wole Adebayo of SDP, Yabagi Sani of ADP, Ado-Ibrahim of YPP, and Kachikwu of ADC. Promises to be an exciting season.

 

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