Recent events that will shape the economic welfare of Nigerians and the response of our government leave reasonable men and women with a few conclusions. Take the example of the discovery and exploitation of shale oil by the United States of America and its impact on our oil economy. The United States started by reducing their import of Nigeria’s crude oil and as of now, they have stopped importing our crude.
China is also reported to have large quantities of shale which it may soon start exploiting. We are beginning to find it difficult to sell cargoes of our crude oil and the price is even reducing in the international market. What is the response of government and our political class- business as usual? We are still bickering about the revenue sharing formula and who gets what out of the oil pie. No one is thinking of how to increase the pool of resources available for sharing. Rather, it is a sense of rights, entitlement without a corresponding sense of duty.
Still on the same oil, the managers of our economy still find it difficult to understand that the continued importation of refined petroleum for local consumption is not sustainable in the short, medium or long term. In the name of some dogmatic ideology, they prefer to create jobs in foreign refineries, generate taxation for foreign governments and provide new avenues of money making for foreign shipping companies. To the managers of our economy, it makes no sense to refine crude petroleum at home and save costs used to import same; it makes no sense to establish refineries with capacities in excess of Nigeria’s needs and the excess can be sold to other countries in Africa. Our economic wizards continue to export crude without adding any value and they are internationally acknowledged experts and stars that have received and continue to receive all manners of awards for their excellent performance in the Nigerian economy. It is not that we are not yet adding value but there is no plan to add value. And in this entire scenario, all is normal and no one is complaining.
During the days of Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, there was so much noise made about exploiting bitumen, its potentials and the billions of dollars expected from it. The government even had a media show about licences being awarded to some companies to start exploitation of this new revenue source and there it ended. After the initial noise, everyone went to sleep and continued the search for the rewards of sharing crude oil revenue. In the present administration, all the promises of improved electricity generation, transmission and distribution which was expected to impact and improve production and service delivery has vanished into the air. Listening to recent explanations on the incubation period for the expected improvements simply makes the heart to sink.
That gas investment and deliveries take so many years and we are told that gas availability is one of the key things holding back the reforms. Cast your mind back a little, this is the same storyline we have heard over the years relating to electricity; challenges are unveiled one after the other in an endless cycle of excuses for failing to deliver on promises. The big picture is never anticipated or seen by the leadership at the inception of a programme. Rather, projects that should be part of programmes are designed on an ad-hoc basis so that apologies will be in perpetuity.
What are we waiting for? The doomsday scenario when government revenue will nosedive and we will not be able to pay workers’ salaries or maintain overheads; when capital project funding will become a luxury item. And then, we will declare an economic emergency. I can hear some people label the author a doomsday prophet. With the continued decline of the Excess Crude Account and the ascendancy of the clamour about its unconstitutionality, let us proceed to distribute all in the fund to states and local governments and then, the price of oil falls below $70 per barrel, then the doomsday scenario will crystallise. If we refuse to use the resources and faculties given to them by God, sooner than later, the bubble will burst and we will now have the opportunity to come back to our senses and think of a new beginning.
The 2015 elections are some months away and you do not get the feel, the beat and the heat of the issues that will inform Nigerians in making their choice of government at all levels. The discussions are a little bit mundane and we do not have aspirants coming up with concrete issues around developing our economy and putting the bulk of the youths to work. I do not mean just mere promises of job creation and industrialisation of Nigeria. I mean the candidates and aspirants with some form of actionable ideas and frameworks that stand a chance of successful implementation.
We are tired of being insulted by candidates demanding that it is their turn to rule because of where they come from or an incumbent insisting that it is his right to do a second term without accounting for what he used the first four years to do. Nigerians should brace up to reject impostors, people who have nothing to offer and empty barrels that have sought to exploit our weaknesses.
Before the election is the key outstanding issue of constitution amendment for which the National Assembly has collected billions of naira. The polity seems to have forgotten that one and it is in apparent limbo. Nigerians should insist that the National Assembly concludes that transaction so that we can have a little value (not full) for all the money spent on that exercise. It is particularly important we remove the hand of the thieving governors from the accounts of local governments by abolishing the joint account that allows and licenses governors to steal local government funds. Unfortunately, after the decision made by the National Assembly, the decision will need approval by state Houses of Assembly who have already been pocketed by the same governors. It is left for Nigerians to decide on who actually has sovereign powers; whether we will allow a group of 36 overwhelm the sovereignty of the people.
We recently celebrated our 54th independence, the official position is that it is well and we have made progress over the years. It is not about the fact whether we are still at the same place and level as we were in 1960; it is about whether we have been able to compete and match our peers. A 54 year old man or woman who revels and ranks himself with teenagers cannot be regarded as a reasonable fellow. He is suffering from arrested development, some form of stunted physical and intellectual progression.In the final analysis, Nigerians need to wake up from their slumber. We have been misgoverned because of our docility. Yes, supine and submissive people breed ravenous wolves and lions. There will be no flesh-eating lion if there is no lamb available to be devoured. The carnivore will be forced to eat grass if that is the only option available for his survival.