17 April 2019

Nigeria: Of Government of Debt and Lamentation

opinion

It was a bright cold day, the other day, the morning sun gleams alluringly. Such is the day Nigerians from all walks of life enjoy to see and be happy about. It enables farmers to work on their farm land like giants.

Traders enjoy the cool atmosphere as a form of ease of doing business. While pupils assimilate quickly without much explanations from teachers. Of course, input from civil servants will be double as there won't be any reason to complain of harsh weather that may trigger leaving the office to cool off somewhere. But on this particular day, came news too from the mass media that made Nigerians to ponder and feel uneasy to hear President Muhammadu Buhari at the inauguration of senior executive course 41, 2019 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, Plateau state.

The president lamented that the inability of his government to address various health challenges have caused the nation to cough out over N400 billion naira yearly on medical tourism.

Without mincing words, Buhari is a people's delight any day. For his honesty, they cherish and marvel. For being upright and transparent he got accolade that frighten his rivals. He is not like those dishonest politicians who invoke the 'no comment' stance to put the masses in the dark and turn the peoples' focus away from their inept leadership. To be candid, Buhari's lamentation about health tourism has nothing to do with his frequent medical trips abroad.

As well as, the all too often awful government officials who are committed to global trotting in search of adequate healthcare for themselves and family members. Of course, their actions loom large enough to announce globally that Nigeria has no adequate healthcare facilities.

Incidentally, Buhari's concern about the huge foreign exchange spent on health tourism offers a roadmap to put the nation's healthcare facilities in shape.

Don't raise your eyes brow yet because public conversation has taken its course on the issue and critics have demanded that Buhari should tell Nigerians what happened to the millions of naira spent on the Aso Rock hospital.

Yet health tourism abounds among government officials and some privileged Nigerians. It is disheartening to note that, many Nigerians prefer the traditional alternative medicine of using herbs to treat all kinds of ailments because one has to pay exorbitantly to get good healthcare.

Government apologists believe it is baseless to accuse the ruling government of neglect in the health sector. This is because the rot, they argue, has been decades long and that it will definitely take time to clear the 'sixteen years' mess of the PDP.

If one may ask: Why is it now that President Buhari suddenly became aware that the nation is losing heavily on health tourism? Could that be the reason his administration refused to disclose what it caused the nation for his treatment in a London hospital at the early part of his first term? It has become obvious that lamentation and blame game have been entrenched as the style of the Buhari's administration to cover up its inability to produce positive result.

Before the current administration birthed, the party told Nigerians that petrol subsidy was a fraud and that they would not be a part of such unpatriotic and fraudulent payments when in government.

Also that, the price of fuel will be reduced considerably. Of course, the first public assault by the Buhari's government was to increase the price of fuel.

According to available statistics, what the APC government spent on petrol subsidy in 2018 is higher than health, education, infrastructure and defence all put together. The annoying issue is that more than one quarter of the 2018 budget is used to subsidize petrol which benefits the elite more than the masses.

A friend the other day said there is cause to worry as the country is entering 'next level' fraught with risk. According to economic experts, the nation's external debt burden has risen monumentally.

The failure to control borrowing and pull Nigerians out of poverty has undermine president Buhari's integrity and that of his party's holier-than-thou-attitude.

Political analysts reckon that poor leadership continues to pressure Nigeria to borrow, irrespective of the fact that some creditors like China continue to dangle loans and 'Greek gifts' before the ruling government.

At the end of the day, these creditors could exploit the nation by imposing conditions that peel Nigerians' skin away in payments. The recklessness with which the Buhari administration is heaping up debts is dangerously alarming and has raised fresh questions about the future generations whose shoulders the burden in terms of payment may lie.

In the face of all these debts that have no clear indication when to pay it off, an overzealous Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu believes that Nigerian children will inherit a self-reliant nation that will not rely on importation of goods and services.

This gentleman should be informed that young Nigerians are already exporting (migrate) themselves out of the country having lost confidence in the government with all the glaring failure of leadership.

Many young Nigerians prefer to take their destiny in their own hands and go through ordeals like crossing the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea, with their inner-power as hard-as-steel determination to embark on a freedom-or-death journey to Europe, to escape a wretch life at home.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lent its voice and warned Nigeria of its rising debts profile. It noted that, Nigeria's debt rose from about N11trillion in the last five years to a whooping N24 trillion as at December 31st, 2018. Currently, Nigeria's desire for loans could be likened to the ants love for sugar.

An inseparable union you may say but definitely one that ends in obscure consequence. It is not surprising therefore, that the Buhari's government is increasingly reliant on loan and borrowing to survive.

So far, the government is warming up and waiting for the bank alert in the current wave to borrow to finance the 2019 budget. Of course, borrowing may be politically satisfying and justified but the line of payback comes at a very huge and rough cost on the people.

From all these facts and figures, one does not need a soothsayer to be informed that our leaders lack vision and the determination to be self reliant.

Recently, the Auditor-General of the federation, Anthony Ayine lamented that none of its audit report has been fully considered since 1999 by the National Assembly. Such action is not only unpatriotic but lack good governance and accountability. Also, it encourages corruption, which has stifled economic growth and development in the country.

The way government and its officials handle issues concerning the welfare of the nation shows that government care less about the people. No one expects an overnight transformation of the economy. The concern is that Nigerians need basic human necessities.

Also the ruling government must have genuine interest to prioritise rapid funding in education, health and infrastructure for Nigerians.

Government investment must be bolder in terms of financing its policy and it should cut down bureaucratic spending. Democracy demands more than four-yearly elections. They also require the rule of law, transparency and strong institutions. There is no hiding the fact, Nigeria is struggling amid plenty because poor leadership has made corruption endemic, while the oligarchs continue to dominate politics.

The nature of Buhari's rule with regard to political intimidation and lopsided appointments fuel the suspicion that the government is both obese with the letter of the law and totally disrespectful of its spirit. Of course, with these political shenanigans, it is hard to be enthusiastic about the 'next level'.

However, it is in the character of Nigerians to endure, hope and pray for the best. No matter the situation we will survive. But the leaders should chew this up: 'there is God ooh'.

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