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ISSUES | Buhari’s Irritable ‘16 Years of Waste’ Mantra – By Yemi Adebowale

By Yemi Adebowale

I am always depressed and very angry any time President Muhammadu Buhari blames the previous regimes for Nigeria’s existing economic woes and the deficiencies of his 11-month administration. Our president has spent the last 11 months telling us stories about how the country was badly managed in the past 16 years. The man who was voted to bring about ‘change’ has spent virtually the last 11 months blaming his predecessors while the country wallows in darkness, unending fuel queues, poverty, disease, hunger, unemployment and malnutrition. For me, this ‘waste’ mantra is a mere propaganda to cover up the failings of the government. Buhari was aware of the country’s economic situation before he promised ‘change’. Our president was at it again on Monday, telling a delegation that, “in the past 16 years, we made a lot of money without planning for the rainy day. We showed a lot of indiscipline in managing our economy, and that is why we are where we are today.” He spoke at a reception for a delegation of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), led by its President, Dr. Bernard Aliyu, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The truth be told without sentiment; the economy handed over to Buhari on May 29, 2015 was a fairly good one with consistent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and industrial capacity utilisation. Under Obasanjo, late Yar’Adua and Jonathan, industrialists and SMEs were running their businesses with little encumbrances. The Naira and supply of fuel were fairly stable. The forex policy was also friendly to industrialists. That was why industrial capacity went up in the last three years of the Jonathan administration. So, how well-managed has this country been in the last 11 months under wailing Buhari? Are there positive stories to tell in areas like the value of our currency, economy, electricity, fuel supply, manufacturing, job creation and so on? The truth is that in just under 11 months, this administration has squandered virtually all the gains of the last 16 years. I challenge the president to point to a single tangible achievement of his administration in critical sectors like security, education, health, road, economy, power, housing or fuel in the last 11 months. All we hear of is the war against corruption while the country depreciates. The last 11 months brought pain, blood and tears to Nigerians, with thousands of businesses and manufacturers gasping for breath. Thousands of Nigerians have lost their jobs in the last 11 months.

The Naira, our symbol of nationhood has never had it so bad. At a point, it was trading for as high as N400/$. This is the same Naira Buhari inherited at about N220/$. In this country’s 55 years of nationhood, the supply of petroleum products has never been this bad. In the last two months, Nigerians have been forced to turn fuel stations to second homes. Under Buhari’s watch, petrol is selling for as high as N400 per litre in government-approved fuel stations in some states. The corruption we are witnessing in fuel stations across the nation today is unprecedented in the history of this country. Which corruption is bigger than buying petrol in a government-approved fuel station for N400 per litre?

Now, let’s go to power. The Buhari administration inherited a daily power generation capacity of 5500mgw and could not sustain itwithin 11 months. It is now struggling to do about 1800mgw daily. As a result, this hapless nation is perpetually in darkness. The epileptic supply of electricity, coupled with the piercing fuel scarcity has crippled this nation’s generator-economy. Many small and medium scale enterprises have crumbled under the weight of this twin monster. Homes and schools are also crumbling.

The crippling forex policy of this administration has also led to the crisis in the manufacturing sector, with so many plants shutting. In the area of security, under Buhari’s watch, over 3000 have been killed by Boko Haram; the same Boko Haram that had been restricted to Sambisa forest on May 29, 2015. This is the same Boko Haram he promised to eliminate within two months. He eventually shifted it to December 2015 without result. So, what is our president talking about? Buhari has so far failed to sustain virtually everything he inherited from his predecessors, let alone improving on them.

Yes, this country did not get as much as it should from the previous regimes in the last 16 years. Yes, there was so much waste, ineptitude and corruption. However, it was not a complete failure as being chanted by Buhari. It was clearly not 16 years of waste. The undisputable facts are there. Industrial capacity utilisation rose to 49% between 2012 and 2014, as confirmed by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. Maybe Buhari has suddenly forgotten that during these 16 years under review, Nigeria’s economy became the biggest in Africa, pushing aside mighty South Africa. We surpassed South Africa and our economy is now the largest in Africa and the 26th largest in the world. Between 2011 and 2014, GDP growth hovered around 7%per annum, the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a World Bank data, the Foreign Direct Investment in just the first six months of 2014 stood at $9.7 billion. Over $27 billion FDI flowed into Nigeria under five years of Jonathan; the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. The moribund automotive industry was revived during this ’16 years of waste’. Vehicles are currently being assembled in Nigeria after over 30 years comatose. Unfortunately, we have been losing all these gains in the last 11 months of the Buhari administration.

The GSM phone Buhari is holding is a product of these ‘16 years of waste’. The GSM companies created thousands of jobs, paid trillions of Naira in taxes and contributed significantly to our GDP. Under Goodluck Jonathan alone, 13 federal universities were established. This ensured that every state of the federation had at least one federal university.

In the area of politics, there were gains in the last 16 years with a stable democracy. Jonathan greatly deepened democracy in this country with consummate respect for free press, freedom of expression, human rights and virtually all democratic ethos. We must also note that Jonathan allowed a strong opposition party to emerge without ‘influencing’ INEC. That was why the then opposition All Progressives Congress emerged. Buhari benefited from this by emerging president last year.

In the health sector, the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan in 2013 successfully carried out the first open heart surgery in the hospital; the first-ever in its over 60 years’ history, thanks to the massive refurbishment/modernisation of federal health institutions across the country by Jonathan. The UCH, just like many federal health institutions benefited in terms of world-class equipment and the training/re-training of its manpower overseas. The hospital has since carried out more open heart surgeries.

The Aviation Master Plan and Road Map approved by Jonathan in January 2012 was passionately implemented. It was the first time that such a grand plan for the Nigerian Aviation Industry would be initiated and implemented ardently by any administration in this country. There are now two additional departure and arrival wings at the Murtala Mohammed international Airport which reduced queues during passenger processing. Some terminals in airports across the country were remodeled and upgraded. Regrettably, these projects have been stalled by this administration. Again, for the first time in the history of this nation, an international airport took off in the South-east. This is the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, upgraded by the Jonathan administration.

Things changed on many federal roads across the country. There was a pleasant massive rehabilitation, reconstruction and expansion of major arterial highways by the Jonathan administration. This reduced travel time between most origins and destinations on these arterial routes. Take a drive on the new look Benin-Ore axis, and you will understand what I mean. The “Operation Safe Passage” launched by the Federal Ministry of Works in 2012 has led to the repair of the failed sections of many federal highways. This is visible on roads like Ilorin to Jebba, Lafia to Makurdi, Aliade to Oturkpo/9th Mile, Enugu to Port Harcourt, Kano to Katsina and Odukpani to Itu. The Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Road is also looking good.

It is also not true that previous regimes did not save while making good money from crude oil. Under Jonathan and Obasanjo, this country saved for a rainy day. During Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s first time as finance minister, she established a stabilisation mechanism and opened an account for the oil surplus, which posted up to $22 billion. In 2008, when prices fell from $148 to $ 38 a barrel, Nigeria did not suffer because the country was able to tap into this fund. When she returned to the same ministry in 2011, the account had been depleted to $4 billion by our squandering governors. Many will still remember the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) initiated by the Jonathan administration. Billions of USD were saved in this SWF, thanks to the impeccable economic management of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Again, our squandering governors mounted pressure on Jonathan and depleted it. Even after that, $1 billion was still left in the SWF and was handed over to Buhari by Jonathan.

It is also not true that Buhari has not been making good money in the last 11 months. I have heard Buhari’s legion of sycophants arguing that he is failing because there is no money to execute his plans. They attribute this to falling crude oil prices. This is not true. It is mere propaganda. This administration has been making good money from non-oil sources, including revenues from solid minerals and taxes. Good money has also been coming in from the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG). As a result, the three tiers of government in the last 10 months of the Buhari administration shared over N4.352 trillion from the Federation Account. The federal government alone got precisely N2.29 trillion as its share in 10 months – May 2015 to February 2016. Yes! N2.29 trillion. So what did our president do with this huge money? There is no single completed project in 11 months by the Buhari administration to justify this colossal amount. Contractors have abandoned virtually all federal projects across the nation.

Just as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said, the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government has failed in several fronts in its promises to the people. In response to public outcry against the excruciating pain faced by Nigerians, the NLC is to declare a one-day nationwide strike. Also, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said: “Nigerians didn’t vote change for suffering. We didn’t vote change for agony; we didn’t vote change for tyranny. We fully endorse NLC resolutions for strike.” This planned action by the NLC is clearly a good step in the right direction. Nigerians need to send a concrete message to our president that he has failed and must wake up from his slumber.

Our dear president should stop his persistent excuses and get down to work. He must stop his globetrotting and spend quality time at home tackling the crisis this country is struggling with. This morning, I urge Buhari to reflect deeply about the recent statement of the Spiritual Father of the Holy Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Movement Church (CSMC) Worldwide, Most Reverend Samuel Abidoye. He said: “This administration will be a year in the saddle, yet, little has changed in the status of Nigerians, despite its posturing, its anti-corruption moves and general reform initiatives. Poverty has become a way of life for many Nigerians who could barely feed once in a day. This is not what they voted for. They voted for a better alternative. They want better lives for their children. They desire improved social condition for young graduates. They want to see infrastructure improved. Anger, frustration, fears and disappointment is building up among the people. The government needs to be concerned; very concerned.”



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