WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FOUR MORE YEARS OF BUHARI
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FOUR MORE YEARS OF BUHARI“History does not repeat itself; man does.” Barbara Tuchman, Harvard University, USA, Professor of History.
President Buhari was not surprisingly the flag-bearer of the All Progressives Congress, APC despite the fact that all economic indices point to a nation heading for another recession and perpetual low Gross Domestic Product, GDP growth under him. Most Nigerian politicians are so unpatriotic as to risk a full-blown depression and its consequences as long as Buhari is re-elected. That is to be expected. “In a sick country, every step to health is an insult to those who live on the sickness.” (Bernard Malamud in THE FIXER). The questions they never address are: are you happy with the economy as it is now? Will you like things to continue as they are? Are Nigerians better off now than in 2015? Do you honestly think Buhari knows how to the manage the economy and turn around the situation?
As a general principle, I have always believed that you can predict what a person would do in a situation if you knew what he did when faced with it the last time. When faced with tough situations, people generally resort to their instincts. Buhari is no exception. He has been managing the national debt the same way he did in 1984/5. Below is a report taken from the DAILY TIMES of NIGERIA, DTN, and kept in my archives since Monday, June 6, 1988.
The first and most obvious thing is the sudden change in the debt service ratio under Buhari. Below for quick reference are the names of the Heads of State representing each period:
· General Yakubu Gowon 1970-1975
· General Murtala Mohammed 1975-1976
· General Olusegun Obasanjo 1976-1979
· President Shehu Shagari 1979-1983
· General Muhhamadu Buhari 1984-1985
· President Ibrahim Babangida 1985 – 1987
Until Buhari became Head of State in January 1984, no government had recorded a debt service ratio of up to 20 per cent. The closest was Shehu Shagari’s government which ran it up to 17.8 per cent. Buhari was in power until August 1985 and had largely established the pattern of indebtedness which Babangida inherited and had to deal with in 1986. The objective reader can see how, two years after Buhari’s economic policy of “borrow and spend recklessly”, IBB’s government brought the ratio down to close to 20 per cent in 1987 and further reduced it to less than 15 per cent later on from 1989 to 1993. Meanwhile, the Nigerian economy recorded the first economic recession in 1984/85 under the same Buhari. By the time he was removed from power in 1985 Buhari had laid the foundations for our debt trap which lasted until Okonjo-Iweala came to rescue the nation – still on crude which sold for less than $40 per barrel.
It needs to be added that in none of those years was the price of crude oil over $28 per barrel; and the exchange rate never crossed N10/US$1.
Buhari’s return to power in 2015, without a good Chief Economic Adviser or a world class Minister of Finance, allowed the President who has very little of public finance to indulge in his old habit of thinking that a Federal Government has infinite capacity to borrow funds to prosecute its programmes without an accompanying plan to recover the funds borrowed in order to repay.
Last week, the Director of Budget in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Mr Ben Akabueze, announced calmly that “in 2017, our debt service ratio crossed 60 per cent.” Granted, most Nigerians are not economists; and even the few economists are not historical. But, it is difficult to look up at the 1988 report without being alarmed by the recklessness of government under Buhari and the consequences for Nigeria. The worst part of it is the fact that there is little to show for it — only horrible lies.
Recently, one of the top officials of the Buhari administration claimed that his government spends $1.8 million per day feeding school kids. Like most liars who need to understand basic arithmetic, but don’t, the speaker forgot that $1.8 million per day amounts to N540 million each day and N10.8 billion per month. Is it the same government which spent only N463 billion on capital up to October this year which funded school feeding by N80 billion in the same year? A survey of readers of a national newspaper revealed that five out of six people don’t believe them. All governments lie at one time or another. But, this is the first government which has made publishing falsehood a central piece of of its policy.
Buhari, if re-elected, will have eight years to lead us into another horrible debt trap. Is that what we want? His unpatriotic supporters want to destroy our economy for their own benefit.