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Why PDP is critical of Buhari – Osita

The spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, in a radio debate with the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji…

The spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, in a radio debate with the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the federal government under Buhari has no economic policy. Do you agree with him?
It’s either the national publicity secretary of the PDP is mischievous or ignorant.
Has the APC-led government formed an economic team?
No. The point is about the economic policy. Let’s start with the policy content. I said it’s either he is ignorant of the economic content of president Buhari or he is just being partisan or mischievous. Otherwise, from the APC manifesto, the commitment and belief of Buhari and his support base has always been people. The welfare of masses of this country has always been his concern. That is what the economic policy is trying to rest-wellbeing of the populace. Buhari is saying that he welcomes private participation, but the state cannot retreat from economic activities. That was part of the reasons why he was overthrown in 1985. He refused, as he did today, to devalue the Naira. He refused to accept the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said he did not believe that everybody was a thief in as much as we had bad people in every society. He believes that he could superintend and make sure that the state-owned enterprises exist side-by-side with private sector-driven enterprises. But he was overthrown. So, the IMF programme came. Even when we returned to democracy in 1999, some of us thought that the PDP could have abandoned that nebulous economic policy that government has no business in business. In the APC manifesto, why do we say that the government has to be involved? It is so because what they call business is critical social and fiscal infrastructure. Even in the United States, as late as 1963, there was the Federal Highway Act that strengthened the sprawling highways from California down to Washington DC, from East to West in America. The monorail lines existed for over a hundred years, as a state-owned enterprise, before it was privatised. When you hear that they privatise something in North America and Europe, don’t forget that essentially, it’s either done through state financing or mixed economic arrangement. They give examples of telecommunication. Was it not private sector that established that?  Did they set up the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL)? If NITEL had survived, it could have existed side-by-side with MTN and GLO. So, the economic policy of the regime is of the mixed economic variant because Buhari is building a foundation for a progressive country. That is where we derive the name of the party from, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Progressivism is of social democracy in the ideological spectrum. That is people are more important than any other things. We have nothing against the private sector. We do not want a system where we produce the richest Africans and the largest population of poor Africans. Section 16 of the 1999 Constitution, says the economy of the country under this Constitution should not be run in such a manner that it concentrates the means or mode of production in few hands or groups of persons. The primary purpose of this government is about the welfare and security of its citizenry. So, anybody who is saying that there is no economic policy wants Buhari to abandon the people. They told him to sell the refineries. He said no. I can supervise it and it will be productive. This is happening. They said he should remove the oil subsidy. He said no, but promised to curb corruption in the system. He did that. That is why we have fuel on the streets.
The man is plucking the leakages. They said they spent N2.3 trillion in 2013 on subsidy, and N1.1trillion in 2014. This is equal to corruption. He was once a minister of petroleum. He knows the average quantity of the product being consumed.
Are you saying that there is no problem with the delay in the constitution of the economic team or ministers?
We must look at the issue of the ministers this way: Section 5 of the Constitution vested executive powers on Mr President. It says Mr President can exercise it. He can delegate it to the vice president and the ministers. He can also delegate it to the officers of the public service of the federation. He has three latitudes.
Does this mean that there is no need to constitute the economic team because things are going on normally?
No and yes. No, in the sense that the indicators of our economic output have shown that, under two months, the foreign reserve has increased from US$29 billion to US$31 billion. Therefore, whether he has a team or not, certainty there is increase in economic output. The Single Treasury Account has returned more money to the coffers of the state. I know that Mr President will prudently administer it. You can imagine when an agency or a ministry has over 200 accounts. Some accounts have unknown names. But they administered the accounts the way and manner they wanted. Is STA not a policy of the state? It’s a policy of the state.
Mr President is believed to be living a Spartan lifestyle. So, he risks being accused of making efforts to introduce communist system of government. Don’t you foresee a clash when the economic policy of the federal government is not in tune with that of the IMF or the World Bank?
No. The most important point is this: if the IMF and the World Bank are concerned about gross unemployment in the land, the abject poverty in the land, they will never quarrel with president Buhari. But if the World Bank and the IMF are not concerned, they do not care whether there is unemployment which touches the heart of Mr President, whether there is gross poverty which also touches the heart of Mr President, then there will be a clash. Mr President, throughout his public life, has always been pro-people. That is why in the accounts he declared, he didn’t have more than N30 million. He has no foreign account. He has no oil wells, despite being a former head of state, GOC, governor, PTF chairman. I do not see any clash, unless they want Nigerians to continue to get impoverished.

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