CONFESSION OF FAILURE ON NIGERIA’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY.
And nothing to look back to with pride
And nothing to look forward to with hope.
Robert Frost, 1874-1963
President Buhari has my sincere sympathies. Those who handed him the October 1, 2020 address did him a disservice. They exposed one of his deepest faults for the world to see. A more modern national leader, who had read widely, would have known that the address he delivered to the world, apart from being badly written, was totally empty of ideas. An occasion which more astute leaders use to catalogue their demonstrable achievements and exhort the citizenry to follow the leader into a glorious future was characterised by boring repetitions of grievances against his predecessors who achieved something. So far, Buhari has achieved nothing; and there is no hope for the future. Our President seems to possess one idea about governance – grumbling about the past.
“A statesman is judged by results. If his policy fails, he goes. It may be unfair, but there is a kind of rough justice about it. Baron Robert Boothby, 1932.
All over the world democracies are differentiated from other forms of government by the fact that even after being overwhelmingly elected, a government still serves everyday at the pleasure of the people. In nations where politicians have developed appropriate levels of shame, Presidents and Prime Ministers have even been known to voluntarily quit when their failures and incompetence became self-embarrassingly apparent. Africa is the most backward continent because we are led stubbornly by failures who still refuse to leave and allow the nation to move on. Nigeria is now stuck with a leadership hell bent on ruining the country beyond repairs by the time this government departs in 2023 – which seems like eternity right now. Here is why.
“GDP growth is projected to be negative in the third quarter of this year. As such, our economy may lapse into the second recession in four years, with significant adverse consequences.” President Buhari, delivering the 2021 Budget to the National Assembly, NASS, October 8, 2020.
Next to a full-blown economic depression, which the world last experienced in the 1930s, a recession is the worst indication of economic policy failure a government can present to the nation. Few elected governments last much longer than the duration of the first one; it is a rarity for the same leader to stand before the NASS and announce “the second recession in four years”. Did the NASS explode into applause? Or were they so shocked they wept quietly?
Readers need to be reminded that Nigeria has experienced recession only thrice in our history. That was in 1984; and the Military Head of State then was one Major-General Muhammadu Buhari. So, as the third recession rolls in, “with significant adverse consequences”, history will for ever record three recessions against the name of one leader – Buhari. That is a terrible way to enter the history books. But, the fault is not entirely Buhari’s. There are many individuals and groups waiting to share the blame for what will appear to posterity as a period when the entire country lost its senses. There must be something wrong with Nigerians if all elected officials of the NASS sat glued to their seats to listen to another drivel. One example will illustrate why the joint sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives was a bloody waste of everybody’s time.
“However, we are working assiduously to ensure a rapid recovery in 2021. We remain committed to implementing programmes to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next ten years.”
The NASS listened to that laughable declaration with rapt attention. Those who scripted that nonsense for Buhari were once again doing the President a disservice as will be demonstrated shortly. But, Buhari did himself worse damage by delivering it. Perhaps, if the President had been able to observe the political-economic absurdities involved in that statement, he would have struck it out of the draft presented.
After 2021, Buhari will not have ten years to lift 100 million out of poverty. He would have only two years and it is doubtful that he would have reduced the number of those living in poverty by one soul. On the contrary, his policies will most probably add more than we have now. Again let me explain.
“Buhari said the exchange rate would be based on N379 per dollar, GDP growth projected at 3.0 per cent. PUNCH, October 9, 2020.
Before returning to the past, we need to take a quick look at the projections in the 2021 to answer the question: will this budget, even if implemented fully, lift 10 million out of poverty by December of next year? The clear answer is NO! It is an abiding axiom of economics that if a nation’s GDP growth is equal to, or lower than, the population growth rate then it is impossible to reduce poverty. As it is, the Nigerian population is estimated to be growing at 3.2 per cent every year. So, count 2021 out of the ten years Buhari is talking about. What is left after that? Only two full years.
Imagine, if you can, a head of family, known to the entire community including his kids, for promising monthly more than he/she can deliver from legitimate income. Debts which keep piling up are sought to make up the shortfall all the time and for five years loan service consumes an rising percentage of revenue. His household is becoming more threadbare every year. Then, on the sixth year, he promises a bigger package of benefits. Who on earth will believe him? Yet an old man stood before the NASS of the Nigeria and did just that in 2020.
You can easily see why Buhari and his speech writers – obviously economic illiterates – can only render cheap propaganda as budget presentation. Nothing in that document can possibly make sense. Unfortunately for the President, nobody knows who wrote that fraudulent statement which he delivered with a straight face. History will remember it as a big deception or a presidential joke which was totally uncalled for on such a grand occasion….
To be continued
MORE ON IGBO PRESIDENCY 2023
“2023: Igbo must be on the same page to actualize ambition – Ezeife, Kema Chikwe” VANGUARD, October 6, 2020, p 13.
Dr Kema Chikwe, former Minister of Aviation, summarised the situation better than I can. So, permit me to render it without editing before making my own comments in support.
“If indeed the Igbo want to produce the president, they must show commitment to the project. It should be seen as a communal project and not as a personal one. The Igbo must integrate other parts of the country by building good relationships with them and counting on their support. Women and youths must also be carried along in the quest for Igbo presidency in 2023.”
Madam, I doff my hat for what must be a heartfelt appeal. I cannot agree more. I am not waiting for our Igbo friends to come looking for me. I am on the look out for them. All Nigerians must participate in this project. At the risk of being accused of repeating myself, we are seeking to elect a Nigerian President who is an Igbo. He/she will be my President as much as that of Dr Chikwe.
“Charity begins at home.”
That said, I need to star my own integration from VANGUARD; and with my Igbo colleagues who have expressed various views on the issue. Surprisingly, almost without exception, they have given less than total support for the project. One even gets the feeling that one or two don’t support the idea for various reasons. That is most unfortunate. Without naming the authors of the positions, I hope they will consider my alternative views. Their opposition to the Igbo presidency 2023 project can be summarised two ways.
1. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the best qualified candidate to be Prime Minister in 1959, was shunted off to the ceremonial role of President. Then Dr Alex Ekwueme, who was President Shagari’s Vice President was denied succession in the 1980s and then had the PDP ticket snatched from him in 1998/9. Consequently, there is no point in trying to get an Igbo candidate elected in 2023 because the North will not agree.
2. We need to restructure first – evolve into a confederacy, parliamentary system, etc – before Igbo Presidency can be considered.
There are other reasons advanced for not giving total support to the project. But, let me try my hands at trying to persuade my colleagues holding out to re-consider their positions.
To be quite candid, it is difficult to determine who is the “best person” to lead a government in a democracy. The rules are clear – the majority determines who should be leader. Azikiwe, as well as Awolowo, knew that the British had rigged the election by first conducting a census which declared the North as the most populated region and gave it more seats in parliament. Our two Southern leaders could have opted out of the pre-independence General Elections. But, each of them thought that they could persuade enough Northerners to vote for the more enlightened opponents of the Sardauna of Sokoto. It was a cardinal mistake.
Azikiwe still had a chance to be Prime Minister because the combined seats of the NCNC led by Zik and the Action Group, led by Awolowo, would have formed a majority. Azikiwe was persuaded to form an alliance with The North by Yoruba NCNC politicians like Adeniran Ogunsanya, TOS Benson, Richard Akinjide, Adegoke Adelabu, Olowofoyeku, S. L Edu and non-Yoruba, Festus Okotieboh instead of teaming up with Awo and be PM. It was a Southern blunder; and we are all still paying dearly for it. So why hold the present generation of Nigerians responsible for a decision they did not make and one in which the “best candidate” himself threw his chance away. My father was a staunch NCNC protégé of Zik and I recall how adamant he was that on no account would they go into an alliance with Awo. It was awful.
Alex Ekwueme was VP in a National Party of Nigeria government from 1979 to 1983. NPN, like other parties – NPP, GNPP, PRP and UPN – became extinct in 1983. The former VP re-emerged as Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in 1998/9. I search in vain for the reason why anyone would expect the PDP to undertake the obligations of the NPN – even if all the members were the same. They were not. The succession plan of the NPN died with the party. Nobody, Ekwueme included, was entitled to claim it.
Ekwueme was cheated out of the 1999 ticket, not by Nigerians, but by the military. The details are in my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED. So, why hold civilians responsible for the crimes committed by soldiers?
It is a new ball game and I plead with my colleagues to get behind the vehicle and give it a push. It will be too embarrassing if the objective is achieved without them. There is still a God….
To be continued