Power at the top is white hot. It is not for the timid. Leadership is also not for those contented to follow the crowd – usually of human sheep. With the 2019 elections only seventeen months away and the two major political associations – the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party — in disarray, lacking leadership Nigeria is in deep trouble. We are in worse trouble because with such a small time left to 2019 elections and the economy much worse than in 2015 and declining further, the President we elect will have to dig us out of a deeper hole than the one in which Buhari found us after Jonathan squandered the biggest bonanza of any Head of State in history.
In any other democracy, several dozen candidates, including some from the President’s own party, would have thrown their hats into the ring. By now, the media would have been inundated with various ideas designed to chart a new course for Nigeria and to lead the country in a new direction – especially with respect to economic development. FG officials, their die-hard party supporters and those who feed from the current economic illness can claim not to know that the nation is sliding backwards and there is no solution on the economic agenda of the Buhari administration.
Since every organization is a reflection of the leader, having a self-confessed economic illiterate as President has condemned us to the quagmire in which we find ourselves. That predicament has been compounded by the fact that he does not even know how to select a winning team. We can do very little about the leadership between now and 2019. We can do a lot about the leadership from May 29, 2019. We can start by searching for a President who like others in the new millennium understands the rudiments of basic economics and who will select competent people to support him; not those handed to him by colleagues from a failed political association.
However, it is essential that the individuals who feel they can undertake the task must come forward now to address us about how they intend to get us out of seemingly irreversible slide down into the pit of poverty and destitution. We should not forget that the President we elect in 2019 will lead us until 2023 — more than six years away. One thing is certain; unless we reverse the trend downwards, the average Nigerian living in 2023 will be much poorer than he/she was in 2013. That should send a shiver down our spines. But, before briefly outlining some of the economic horrors that the 2019 President will inherit, let me quickly point to my reason for praying for Atiku (APC) and Fayose (PDP). There is no real effort to be non-partisan here. They just happen to be the only two politicians who have demonstrated the courage to declare their intention to run. Hopefully, others will soon join them. There is no point buying advert space on CNN to publicize your philanthropy. Have the courage to declare now. Nigeria needs people to come forward with innovative ideas about how to grow our economy at seven per cent per annum and rescue us from those who want us to dance in the streets for achieving 0.55 per cent. That is building a monument to a battle lost.
Nigerians now should expect from Atiku and Fayose well-reasoned ideas about how to get our country out of the economic rut in which it is now stuck. Empty political rhetoric will not be acceptable. Cheap promises about free food, free money etc will also be rejected. All 180 million Nigerians witness the swindle that the Social Intervention Programme, SIP, announced on May 29, 2015 has become. A purposeful President should spare us such fraudulent gimmicks.
Granted, coming up with a fresh and deliverable economic programme would require that each aspirant should assemble his own group of economic advisers as he goes along – at some cost. But, that is precisely what Presidential candidates do all the time. Our country cannot be different if we want to join the big league of economic powers.
Incidentally, the year 2020 will be tucked into the next tenure. Years ago, when it appeared as if 2020 was light years away, Yar’Adua’s and Jonathan’s daydreamers wasted a lot of our resources shouting about Nigeria being among the top twenty economies. It was based on nothing concrete. Even when the economy was rebased promoting Nigeria to the top position in Africa, few people, including Nigerians, believed it. We held a different view and at various forums labeled the Vision 20-2020 a hoax. Today, nobody in his right senses talks of Vision 2020 anymore. There is a lesson in that experience for Atiku and Fayose, as well as others who might be planning to run for office. Don’t engage individuals who will tell you what you want to hear. Get advisers who will first of all provide you with a good profile of the Nigerian economy. You will then understand the problems you will face in Aso Rock.
Of the two announced candidates Atiku would appear to be the more prepared of the two for obvious reasons. First, he has been through it before and can always be relied upon to do his home work. It is brother Fayose who needs all the assistance he can get. Courage is essential; but, it is not enough. Furthermore, two terms as Governor of Ekiti might not have sufficiently prepared him for the task in Abuja. Just in case anybody regards that as insult to Ekiti, permit me to declare that my mother’s father was from Ogotun-Ekiti. A departure from the mess in which we find ourselves must start with telling ourselves the truth. It will not be easy, but, not impossible, to transit from Ekiti to Abuja. We saw that when a novice moved from Bayelsa to Abuja. Experience managing large and complex units counts a lot. So does self-discipline.
Predictably, the two candidates have come under attack from those wedded to the status quo. That should not deter them. We have known for a long time that “In a sick country, every step to health is an insult to those who live on its sickness.” (Bernard Malamud in THE FIXER). Atiku and Fayose should know that nothing worthwhile is easy.
But, the rest of us should not leave them alone. Even if you will not vote for them in the end, each of us should encourage them to continue and should ask others to join the race. The most important question each of us should ask ourselves is: do I want things to continue like this until 2023? For those who might hesitate to say “No”, allow me to mention just two fairly predictable occurrences which will be devastating.
With a population growing at 3.2 per cent per annum, by 2023 over 34 million people will be added to the population of Nigeria. Now, the percentage of Nigerians now enjoying public water had slumped to about seven per cent. By 2023, the percentage is expected to decline to about five per cent. Few, if any housing estates or development areas will be served with water. Ask anybody in government what plans they have for reversing this dangerous trend and you might as well ask for snow flakes in the Sahara Desert. Nobody gives what he does not have.
From 2015 to 2017 the economy had contracted; the growth rate for 2018 is projected to be less than two and half per cent – if it is achieved. By 2019 the change from cars running on fossil fuel to electric cars would have accelerated. All the global car manufacturers now display only e-cars. In reality, the internal combustion engine had been given a death sentence. So has oil. The Nigerian president we elect in 2019 will leave office two years before most advanced economies would have abandoned petrol and diesel. But, would he have positioned Nigeria to survive without oil?
To do that, we would need a President who can sprint like Usain Bolt and run the Marathon at the same time. He should be physically strong.
Thank you Atiku and Fayose. Until others have the balls to come out, I have two candidates to consider for 2019.
WHEN SILENCE WOULD HAVE BEEN GOLDEN
“In addition, the Government’s current N500 billion Special Intervention Programme is targeting groups through:
· Home Grown School Feeding Programme…”
President Buhari’s Independence Anniversary Broadcast, October 1, 2017.
If there is any more proof that we need a President who understands economics and finance, Buhari’s address to the world on Sunday provided all the evidence we need. Anybody reading this patent half-truth, deliberate or inadvertent, would be under the impression that Buhari’s administration had spent N500 billion to the Special Intervention Programme, SIP, (a programme whose name keeps changing while the false narrative about it remains the same) or is in the process of spending N500 billion. Nothing can be further from the truth.
In 2016 and 2017 the Federal Government budgeted N500 billion each year for the SIP. In 2016, less than N100 billion was spent and only N6.6 billion on school feeding. With three months to go in 2017, nobody, not even Buhari knows how much has been released for SIP, but, it cannot be up to N50 billion.
Obviously, Buhari cannot distinguish between budget and actual performance. That is precisely the sort of President we can no longer afford from 2019.