Nigeria: PMB - an Uncommon Head of Government

Aso Villa, presidential residence, National Assembly, right (file photo)
4 December 2018

Recently, a research conducted by Brookings Institution categorized Nigeria as the global headquarters of poverty. In essence, it is believed that the majority of Nigerians live in abject poverty. By this, it means Nigeria has failed the key performance indicators (KPI) of development, most especially the human development index (HID) like life expectancy that revolves round healthcare quality in the rural areas and communities; level of sanitation and caring for the aged and retirees and infant mortality rate. Without being immodest, available evidence both recorded and documentary have shown that all the aforementioned indexes are at low ebb in our clime. The first lady (Hajia Aisha Buhari) recent outburst of lack of drugs and equipment and poor quality of healthcare service at Aso Rock clinic lend credence to this narrative.

Objectively, this is not the government that made Nigeria poorer but successive government who have ruled prior to the emergence of PMB have contributed immensely to the present quagmire that led to this economic recession which is prudently managed by the current government. It would have been probably worst under profligacy PDP government. Nigerians are profligate consumers of imported rice, chicken, fish and other assorted items which have rendered our production capacity absolutely zero comparable to our peers like Brazil, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Singapore who have ventured into massive production of agricultural and industrial production to salvage and secure their economy. Similar country like Nigeria, Venezuela which depended solely on crude oil experienced large-scale economic recession due to drastic fall in oil price in the international market. Its inability to prioritize it needs through financial discipline and prudent management of economic recession invariably led to worst economic depression ever experienced by any nation on earth.

Historically, PMB has been most unfortunate head of government who twice inherited debilitating economy from president Shehu Shagari and president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) respectively. In 1983, under Shagari, Nigeria economy was in absolute recession. Rice and basic provisions were out of the reach of the common man. Thus, through the government floated company Nigeria National Supplies Company Limited (NNSCL), Nigerians queued endlessly day and night for rice, milk, sugar and other beverages and wheat (Alkama) which were massively imported to cushion the shortage of gari, corn, yam flour, guinea corn, yam, beans and other basic foods items that were produced locally. Few months after Buhari emerged as head of state, Nigeria moved from worst crisis of scarcity (depression) to surplus (crisis of plenty).

Aftermath of this crisis, Buhari regime was toppled by the military Generals called the "Fifth Columnists" by Senator Babafemi Ojudu in his widely published article titled "Fifth columnists in our recent history". PMB second incarnation as a democratically elected government coincided with downward spiral fall in oil prices and debt-ridden economy which was not sustainable. Chronologically, GEJ inherited robust external reserve to the tune of 67 billion dollars at the demise of president Umaru Yar'adua in May, 2010, coupled with high price of crude oil towering above $100 dollars per barrel. The external reserves left by president Obansajo which the president Yar'adua fiscal conservative proportionally grew was radically depleted by GEJ without saving a dime out of excess public revenue accrued from crude oil which was sold above the national budget projection.

You cannot eat your cake and at the same time have it in your pocket, the aftermath of PDP spendthrift is the gargantuan local debts and backlog of unpaid salaries inherited by the PMB government as at 31st May, 2015. Apart from Lagos, Ogun and Rivers states, all other states in Nigeria cannot survive without statutory allocation from federal government. All states except Lagos owned salary at the inception of PMB administration. As the federal government under GEJ junketed across the breadth and length of Nigeria lavishing and dashing the traditional rulers and politicians of different suasion money to buy their vote and conscience, little did we know that the treasury was actually empty. It takes the ingenuity and fiscal conservative approach of PMB to lower the intensity of probable economic crisis Nigeria would have witnessed.

For sixteen years, PDP government sold peoples patrimonies to themselves and their cronies. Nigerian electricity was used as a conduit pipe to syphon unaccountable billions of dollars under Obasanjo, Yar'adua and Jonathan regimes. Unfortunately, what the PDP government cannot achieve in sixteen years are expected to be done by this government in four years. What an irony. Those who pilfered and benefited from the massive loots that characterized the old regime are crying wolf and resort to effusive lacrimation by accusing this government of non-performance just because of its effort to obliterate institutionalized corruption that permeated every nooks and crannies of the country.

This present effort in tax generation through FIRS, NPA, JAMB, Nigeria Customs and other agencies of government is unequal and spectacular in the annals of our history. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, rice mills sprang up in different states and Rice Farmers' Association came into existence. Banking practice is reformed and unified to reduce multiple accounts with diverse names and Treasury Single Account (TSA) instituted by president Jonathan which was put on hold (due to lack of political will) was activated by this government to reduce corruption in public institutions. Even, despite the paucity of fund, PMB effort in power generation, road maintenance and road construction is commendable. Almighty second Niger bridge which has been pending for 16 years under the PDP regime has come to fruition. Significantly, federal government ongoing effort of building affordable housing in all states of federation for the civil servants and members of public is praiseworthy. The resuscitation of rail transport and construction of railway line to link the six geo-political zones is a mega project that will outlive this government.

The N-Power is designed to empower the forgotten youths and it seems to be working to a large extent. The "Marketmoni" and "Tradermoni" programmes of Bank of Industry instituted and promoted by the Federal Government to provide soft loan for market women, traders, artisans, enterprising youths and small scale farmers and agricultural workers nationwide is a right step in good direction. Over the years, no policy has been designed to cater for ordinary masses who bear the brunt of elite mismanagement and misrule. Those who are making the loudest noise now are the people who profited from PDP large-scale corruption of the yester years. Having squandered and shared the national wealth among themselves, they pretentiously came out to say sorry and apologized for the PDP misrule and mismanagement. The questions that troubles the mind are; can you kill my mother and come out to say sorry? Can leopard ever change it spot? Time will tell.

Bello wrote this piece from Abuja

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