The tragedy of our existence today is that we have, for reasons of political expediency, installed a man who has no track record of managing an economy. And here, I want to submit that Nigeria’s economy is in recession basically because of the type of policies adopted by the Buhari administration. And I want to prophesy again, that if we continue as we are presently going, in the next couple of months, we will go into depression. The signs of depression are becoming more manifest now.
In truth, managing any economy requires visionary leadership. It requires a leader who is intellectually capacious and willing to take responsibility for the outcomes of his policies; a leader who is not vindictive and vengeful; a leader who is passionate; and not one who will declare his preference of “who gets what, when and how” on how people voted for him. We do not have to look far to cite examples of such leaders.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States of America came to power at a time the American economy was in depression. He had an idea of what to do to reverse the situation. Within the first 100 days of his presidency, he put together and passed through Congress an economic plan under the New Deal that included banking and financial reforms, civil and public work of roads, dams and other projects, and large-scale job and employment schemes.
President Barak Obama inherited an America with serious economic challenges. He came to power at a point the US economy was in a meltdown. His predecessor had gone into several wars costing the government billions of dollars. The industries were collapsing and recession loomed large. Obama did not sit idly by to blame George Bush. He got down to work. He injected stimulus into dying auto-industries, banking sectors, real sectors etc and introduced new economic regime that has come to be known as “Obamanomics”. Obama has been able to rescue the American economy and place it once again on the front seat of global economic giants.
In nearby Ghana, late president John Atta-Mills defeated a sitting president after a tightly fought presidential election. Like President Goodluck Jonathan, Atta-Mills’ predecessor conceded defeated. In his acceptance speech after being sworn-in, John Atta-Mills declared the entire Ghana as his constituency and called on all Ghanaians to join him and his party in building a new Ghana, promising to deal with all Ghanaians on equal measure. He did not dwell on the failure of his predecessor as reasons for non-performance. He initiated practical economic policies, which at his death where inherited by his successor. Today, Ghana’s economy is very vibrant and one of the best in sub-Sahara Africa.
In many ways, the election of Muhammadu Buhari in March 2015 was similar to that of Roosevelt, Obama and Atta-Mills. Agreed, Muhammadu Buhari inherited a stalled economy with oil prices, Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner, in a free fall. Curiously, since the inauguration of Buhari in May 2015, the economy has taken a further downturn as measures of real GDP growth- unemployment, inflation, exchange rates and the misery index worsened.
What has been the government’s response to this worsening economic recession? Presently, Buhari and his journeymen are preparing an emergency executive bill captioned “Emergency Economic Stabilization Bill 2016”, which would allow the National Assembly grant him emergency powers to rescue Nigeria’s economy from recession. According to reports, the bill if passed, would give the President sweeping powers to set aside some extant laws and use executive orders for an economic recovery package within the next one year.
Among the powers being sought are to: abridge the procurement process to support capital spending on critical sectors of the economy; make orders to favour local contractors and suppliers in contract awards; abridge the process of sale or lease of government assets to generate revenue; and unilaterally allow virement of budgetary allocation to projects. Other provisions seek to amend certain laws, such as the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) Act, that will reduce counterpart funding requirements by states from 50% to 10%. As far as I am concerned, such powers would only serve as openings for corruption on a large scale, resulting in appropriating government assets for private gains by those in the corridors of power. So in truth, such emergency powers would not work.
I have always asked the question: Does Muhammadu Buhari has the capacity to turn around the Nigerian economy? I have my doubts for several reasons. First, Buhari lacks the mental capacity to drive the process of Nigerian’s rebirth. He lacks the focus and intellectual disposition to assume such task. His mindset in assuming power is self-defeatist. He believes that power has been wrestled from an “enemy” and that that enemy must be dealt with and put in his place. For him, we are his enemy and this is an opportunity to teach us a lesson.
This type of mindset is anti-development. During the last global economic meltdown, the USA and other Western governments dug deep into their reserves to inject huge amounts of funds into the economy in what was called “stimulus”. In our present circumstance, the government does not have the financial muscle to inject any stimulus into any sector of the economy. So what do we do to get out of this miry clay of economic doom? Yes, we may not have the money; but we sure do have alternatives. These alternatives require courage and huge political will. The first point is that we must go back to the basics, back to our traditional values and back to the structures adopted at independence by our founding fathers.
We need to constituionalize the existing six geo-political zones as the federating units and catalyze them to go back to their first love; to their traditional economic strengths. The regions or zones must be made to look inwards to exploit their relative advantages. Considerable powers must devolve to the zones to own and exploit resources within their areas. Every part of this country has significant amount of resources that can sustain it. We are not looking inwards. Our hope is built on nothing less than the oil in the Niger-Delta.
We cannot continue like this. The government must muster enough political will to tinker with the constitution in order to give the regions or zones the latitude to go back to 1963 arrangement and restrict the federal government to its traditional areas of influence. This is fundamentally the rudiments of restructuring. In real terms, this is the most available “stimulus” that can be injected into Nigeria now; basically because no foreign government or institution will inject money into our economy. There can be no alternative to this type of stimulus. Perhaps, through, we will teach the world a new strategy in statecraft
Written By Arthur Nwankwo.