I will describe Nigeria like an accident victim or a victim of the onslaught of marauders. The victim sustained life threatening injuries to vital organs and is bleeding from various parts of the body. The injuries and bleeding are the result of wounds inflicted on Nigeria by successive administrations and public office holders especially in the field of corruption and mismanagement of resources.
The first treatment for the victim is a first aid to stabilise the patient so that bleeding will stop and thereafter, the patient needs to see experts in different fields of anatomy and medicine to determine the real extent of his injuries and their implications for his continued survival. But preliminary tests indicate that the patient will require multiple operations to survive and live a normal life and the doctors have recommended some medicines to be taken by the patient pending the final tests and ensuring operations.
I will liken the actions and steps of the current administration as that necessary first aid to stabilise the patient. This will involve recovering monies that have been stolen or mismanaged, plugging the leaking pipes of corruption, punishing offenders and creating guarantees of non-repetition. Considering that corrupt actors are yet to be charged to court and what we have presently is a commitment to ensure that they face the full wrath of the law, one can state without equivocation that the first aid treatment has not even reached an advanced stage at a time the patient continues to bleed. But the first aid is the first stage; for the sake of the proverbial patient, the doctors need to move to a new level and combine their examination and therapies to achieve the desired result. In essence, beyond the war on corruption, the Buhari administration needs to start rolling out its agenda on social, economic and other fronts. Without diminishing the struggle against corruption, Nigeria would not be successful even if we recover all stolen monies (which is impossible considering the Abacha experience) and plug all the leakages. The quantum of resources available in Nigeria at the present rate of value creation and addition will not propel the nation towards proper nationhood and sustainable development. There is therefore the need to engage the nation into a new gear that attacks the challenges of underdevelopment including corruption in a comprehensive and institutionalised manner.
Last week, the National Bureau of Statistics reeled out statistics to indicate that economic uncertainty hampered foreign direct investment in Quarter 2 of 2015. Investors are adopting a wait and see attitude to the Nigerian economy and the stock market has nose dived to an all time low. The initial Nigerian Stock Market bounce after the presidential elections could not be sustained because of lack of policy clarity.
There have also been reports about the economy not creating enough jobs compared to previous quarters. Also, the price of crude oil which is Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner has nose dived below the benchmark price used in the 2015 budget. The economy of China, a major economic power is taking some bashing while United States of America stocks lost a good deal of value towards the end of last week. All major capital constructions anticipated in the 2015 budget have been stalled evidently because of lack of funds to finance capital projects. Also, the Budget Office of the Federation has stopped reporting on budget implementation to the extent that even the National Assembly is not briefed about the state of capital budget implementation. There have been no preparations for the 2016 federal budget less than five months to the beginning of the New Year.
All the foregoing developments point in one direction, the need for the administration to take steps to make clear its policy positions – proactive and reactive positions to current economic crisis and the unfolding scenarios in the world. Critical issues such as the official position on fuel subsidy have been left hanging. The President without taking a position indicated that reports which he has so far read on oil subsidy removal are shallow.
And Lai Mohammed, the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress indicated that the government is still studying the situation. Of course, we have been told not to expect ministers until the month of September 2015. In all these, the administration apparently thinks that it has all the time in the world. But time waits for nobody and investors are taking positions and steps in other parts of the world while Nigeria is still to make up its mind one way or the other in many important issues.
Even the National Assembly seems not to understand its role and task in the current dispensation. The lawmakers after their inauguration adjourned for over a month and when they came back, they elected principal officers and thereafter without considering any bill proceeded on vacation. I am at a loss at their understanding of vacation. What they have done amounts to reporting to start a job and thereafter demanding and getting leave and holidays. Pray, I thought that vacation comes after a hard years work. So what work have they done to deserve a vacation? Thus, the executive and legislature are taking things too slow for comfort.
It is imperative for the administration to understand that towards the third year of the government, political permutations will trump governance. The quest for a second tenure or a successor will consume the time of key officers of state. Let no one think that 48 months is in the kitty. We have seen politics trumping governance over the previous administrations and this administration will be no exception. Even if the administration does not initiate the move, the opposition will charge at it and it will have no alternative but to abandon governance for self preservation.
What is wrong with the executive sending the heavy bills such as those on Constitution Amendment and the Petroleum Industry Bill so that the legislators can become busy and engaged at this initial period? Will the heavens fall if we know the official position on the agriculture and automobile policies initiated by the previous administration? Should it take months to take a position on the continuation or removal of fuel subsidy? Why keep everyone in suspense and at the end of the day, no economic actor is able to plan and make reasonable projections?
The earlier the administration, especially in the executive and legislature, begin to do the heavy lifting in terms of laying its card on policies and laws on the table for all to engage, the brighter its chances of success. Otherwise, it will be rushing at the late hour to do things it should have done at the earlier periods.
Nigerians want to see this government succeed and we do not want apologies for failure. The timing and preparation for the first aid is taking too long. Let us start the operations and life-saving therapies. Let us move to the next level and take the next steps.
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