…I believe that as painful as the policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration may be, they honestly provide a sound foundation for the rebuilding of the nation’s economy. The resetting of our goals from that of a consumerist society to that of a production-minded nation remains the only viable option to sustainable growth and provides the way out of the current situation.
It was a certain anonymous wise man who once said that every living organism will in their lifetime experience a life-threatening pain. However, I dare add that what each of these organisms make of their pain – an indisputable fact of life – is what determines the trajectory that either leads to survival or destruction.
Today, Nigeria and Nigerians are in pain – a self-inflicted one. Stories of pain abound in the land. The media is littered with tales of desperate actions for survival by hapless and equally desperate Nigerians. And the grumbling and murmuring is growing louder by the day. What is however pathetic, as it is sickening in all of this, is that even those who are criminally responsible for the pain which Nigerians have been forced to endure now have the unmitigated gall to preach to Nigerians about the so-called “good old days”. Shior!
Good news is that there is still hope for Nigeria and they are Nigerians who will never give up on Nigeria. There are those of us who believe that what binds us together as a people is far superior to the variables that put us at odds with each other. Are they recurring issues with ethnicity and ethnic distrust amongst us? Of course. What trumps all that, in my humble opinion, is the need to ensure that the economic well-being of all Nigerians is top-of-mind to all those elected to run the affairs of state. After all, facts show that the ethnicity of the looters and pillagers of our economy over time did not matter as they heartlessly engaged in their criminal enterprise.
And reading through the paper titled: “Nigeria In Search Of New Growth” by the Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, which he presented at the 15th meeting of the Joint Planning Board and National Council On Development Planning, my hope for the nation’s economic recovery was strengthened in no small measure. He dealt with the sins of the past – which got him fired from his job at the bank – and offered his audience solutions on how to snap the nation out of its present state of recession.
“We knew this was going to happen. You can’t just keep borrowing money and paying salaries,” the Emir said “not building roads, not improving power and think this will not happen. Where did all these debts go? Did it go to roads, power, refineries, or infrastructure? No. The new borrowings were simply recycled into much higher recurrent expenditures.
“What that did was that it helped sustain a consumption boom. And the GDP was growing, largely driven by consumption spending. The problem is that there is nothing that we are facing today that we did not know would happen. That is the truth. We made mistakes. Many of them deliberate. We ignored every single word that pointed otherwise. Economics is a science. It is not perfect science. But, over decades and centuries, people have seen that there are certain things that,
when you do, will lead to certain consequences.
“If you take a brand new car and give it to driver who doesn’t have a license to drive it and you have an accident, you really can’t say you were surprised, unless you are some kind of idiot. If you take the example of an individual. You happen to know bank MDs and you can make a few phone calls and get loans. You borrow N1 billion here today and build a very nice mansion in Abuja. You borrow another N1 billion and let your family go out on first class ticket as you are traveling all over the world. You borrow another N5 to N6 billion and buy a private jet.
“We have very many people in Nigeria who you think are very rich. But who are really bankrupt because everything about them are being financed by bank debts. When one matures, they have enough connections to call another bank, borrow and refinance that debt. They are not earning anything. They have private jets. They have yachts. Their families travel first class. They go abroad and stay in the most expensive hotels. It happens. And it is happening today. These are very simple economic logic. You cannot continue doing the wrong things and expect to have the right result.”
I believe that Nigeria is not lacking in resilience in finding a lasting solution to the present economic predicament. What has been lacking in recent past has been visionary leadership and true love of country.
On how Nigeria can find its way out of the present recession, the Emir’s solution is so simple that it will have to take someone else to help you misunderstand it. Simply put, Nigeria will need to get back to producing her own goods, and seek to enhance the value chain of our raw materials. “Kano used to take pride in groundnut pyramids. I still have people who come to me and say: ‘You know Emir, you must bring back those groundnut pyramid’. But I don’t build groundnut pyramids. I want oil mills.
“It’s so bad in this country. Tomato paste that our wives use in the kitchens is imported from China. I went to my friend’s house the other day in Lagos and they gave me Moringa tea in a nicely packaged tin. That is the thing that grows wildly here in the Northern part of the country. Somebody takes Moringa, puts it in a tin, packages it. I did not even know it was called Moringa until I took the tea. They packaged it and gave it an English name. It was after I drank it that I knew it was Zogale as it is called in local language.
“If they had packaged it and called it Zogale, it would have been known as Zogale tea all over the world. Just like people know coffee from Ethiopia. And Hausa man does not know what Moringa is, and it is growing wild in his backyard. Then he takes pound sterling to import Moringa tea”.
Emir Sanusi also advised the government to take a look at growing the non-commodity sector of our economy as has been successfully done in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya and Egypt, as against Angola and Nigeria with economies that are dependent on oil and other extractive minerals with their built-in volatility. “And if you talk of today in Africa, they will think Nigeria and Angola are the richest countries. But, the truth is that we are the worst performers, in terms of investments to GDP.
“If you have high investment to GDP, you will deliver high growth that is also inclusive. If you continue working on consumption and rent-seeking model, your growth is not inclusive, which is why in Nigeria, you have, over the past decades, increasing income distribution inequalities.
“Look at the road ahead. You know that this is all a combination of old sets of policies. There are times in the history of this country when we had it right. But, we didn’t continue. A lot of reforms done in the second term of Obasanjo laid the foundation for sustainable growth. But, then we kept going back and forth.”
In conclusion, I have taken the liberty of quoting copiously from the Emir’s paper because I believe that he remains one of the finest economic minds of our time to whom we should listen. With minds like his, I believe that Nigeria is not lacking in resilience in finding a lasting solution to the present economic predicament. What has been lacking in recent past has been visionary leadership and true love of country. That is why I believe that as painful as the policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration may be, they honestly provide a sound foundation for the rebuilding of the nation’s economy. The resetting of our goals from that of a consumerist society to that of a production-minded nation remains the only viable option to sustainable growth and provides the way out of the current situation. No short cut will do.
This is not the time to score cheap political points. The pain is real. However, I am optimistic that Nigeria will rise again. But, there is a price to pay.
That is my position. And I stand by it.
Charles Anyiam is Editor-In-Chief, The African Times-USA.