Despite vast resources and promises of economic recovery, Nigeria's economic index shows that the nation's economy has been in the doldrums in the last few years awaiting to be salvaged. Dr. Oscar Odiboh, Managing Consultant, Newsletters Limited and an Associate Lecturer, UNILAG, Akoka, told to Saturday Vanguard Business, that until the President musters enough political will to deal with the oil cabals in the country the country will remain under-developed. Excerpts:
How can you rate the performance of Mr. President vis-a-vis his promises on the economy before now?
The answer is very clear. He has not performed. People say he is slow and he acknowledged that himself, and we attributed it to be figment of imagination. It's very clear he is not focused. Looking at the various aspects of the economy: Power, banking, automobile, manufacturing, the real sector, the service sector, we have not seen anything to make it a joyful period and he knows it. Let's call a spade a spade.
You cannot eat what you don't have, and you cannot give what you don't have. He had made promises? Yes, and if it's by promises, he has done well. He had made promises more than any other administrations that I know in the last 20 years. Even in the face of failure, he keeps making promises. He has not done what Nigerians expected of him. He can't do everything, nobody is even demanding him to do everything, but to take one aspect of our lives and turn it around, we would be grateful.
Nigerians don't expect any leader to be a magician, but they want to see that aspect you can do and praise you for it. Power sector is one area that he has all the opportunity in this world to make a difference. There was a government in the past that came and brought GSM, telephone, and that was it.
And everybody knew that that government didn't do much but he introduced the GSM that turned everything around. Today, we moved from the era where we have one telephone line in a radius of about five thousand people to having ten handsets in a home. That is a monumental achievement.
That is the kind of turn around we are expecting from the present regime. We've changed from the time when NITEL officials will be carrying ladders up and down, joining wires and lines. We've moved from that to modern era where you can have your phones that tell you everything, that shows everything and that you can use to the best of your advantage, either in business or private life.
That is the kind of thing we are asking for. He has not done it. And I can tell you that if he tackles power today, and doesn't do any other thing, Nigerians will be grateful and he will be remembered. But today, where would you say he has performed? Education sector is in comatose. Academic communities are still at longer heads with him. Promises made before he came and those inherited were not fulfilled.
The Central Bank has been indirectly criticising his government, saying, you are borrowing too much, our external reserve is reducing, cut down on your overhead. These are subtle criticism of people even in his government. All these are indicative of failure and nothing else.
Recently, fuel scarcity is gradually crippling in again, queues returning to petrol stations, does that mean that FG and oil marketers have not decided who is in charge even the cabals?
The oil business like the President said is thick business and nobody that is directly or indirectly connected with that industry can stick out his neck. Nobody, not even the President himself, because the accolades of the President are in this business. That is the way they fund elections.
That is how they put money in people's pocket, siphon our hard earned resources, sell our country. So, who is going to bell the cat, nobody? Not even the President. The President knows the people he is dealing with. They are his accolades, living at his backyard, on his right and left.
They are behind him.What they have not done is fall inside him, but he knows them and they know him. It is not a problem that he can solve because it takes a man who has achieved a lot in other areas to get into that industry and do something fundamentally positive. These cabals have been there.
They have hijacked this country, and her government. They put their people in government in order to help their business thrive, and is as simple as that. They are stakeholders in governance and economy. They would never allow anybody in government or institution of government to derail their oil business.
So when we say remove oil subsidy even when we know there is no oil subsidy. They use oil subsidy talk to do what they want to do, take our money away. So, it would remain like that until we have a government that would look at the oil cabal in the face and tell them to hell with you, you can't continue to deal with our country like this.
But the question is, how would he get there, if they don't put him there? So we have a government that ab initio doesn't have anything to do with the oil cabal, he is the only person that can face them and tell them enough is enough. Until we have that, nothing changes. The President is powerless and he knows it. He has the power but he can't use it because before he can use that power his hands have to be moved and the people holding his hands are the oil cabal themselves.
What kind of economy are you expecting from the regime of President Jonathan in 2013?
There is an adage that says: "what the night is going to look like you see it in the morning". There is another one that says: "A child that is going to be sharp as an adult would show those traces as a baby". When this government was at its infancy, he didn't show any of those traces as a government that can make things happen.
This is somebody who was vice president for several years, and for those years he was vice president, his boss was not fully in charge of government. If he was somebody that was going to make things happen as vice president, we would have seen his hand.
Let's accept the fact that he was not able to do much, may be there were certain powers behind the throne pressing him down. We agreed. But he took over the remaining years of that administration and didn't do anything. Let's agree that he was trying to settle down and all that. At the end of that administration, he now became the President, having all the executive powers, nothing that was an obstacle that he could not have dealt with.