Racketeers As ‘Patriotic’ Economic Experts, By Babayola M. Toungo

Nigerians were ripped-off by neo-oligarchs in the past and what we are seeing today is peer rivalry among this unscrupulous, vicious arm of the business class in collaboration with their comrades in government, trying to go in for the kill. Those who lost out in the past are the ones who are pushing you to auction the country to them.

There is worldwide economic recession at the moment. This is a fact and repeating it will only be stating the obvious. Most countries today are faced with one type of hardship or the other. Most people, the world over, are struggling to feed themselves, not caring for other comforts and luxuries. The rates of migrations from other countries to Europe and the Americas is indicative of the desperate situation many people find themselves in. Interestingly, countries worst hit by the recession are those dependent on oil as a major foreign income earner.

Individual countries have reacted to the recession in different ways. Those that invested heavily in infrastructure and other revenue earning ventures during the boom years are less susceptible to the harshness of the meltdown than those countries unlucky to be ruled by visionless and kleptocratic leaders. Nigeria is among the latter group. Even though investments were made in the power, oil and gas, transportation and other revenue yielding ventures, the accruals ended up in the pockets of a few and now all of us are paying the price. Most infrastructure were established about forty years ago and over time they have gradually atrophied because of the lack of vision of our leaders whose forte is to steal us blind without putting in anything into the maintenance of these.

Sadly because of this lack of vision, whenever we sail the country into turbulent waters, our reaction is all too well predictable and knee-jerk – the sale our crown jewels asset. It is of no significance to the proponents of the “sale campaign” that these asset were put up in the first place to generate income for the country by some foresighted men in the past. It is not the fault of the asset that those who took over from those that built them have been kleptocrats. I am yet to come across any suggestion that the asset being considered for sale by the Buhari government are not MAKING MONEY and have been haemorrhaging the economy.

If history is to be our guide, then recent experience tells us that we have gone down this road before without anything to show for it. Since the days of the TCPC, the number of government owned companies and enterprises that have been sold are well over 150. The most recent looting perpetrated by the ruling class was the doling out of power sector asset to cronies strutting the landscape as successful businessmen. We have seen how a sector that got an investment of well over $25 billion was sold for less than $4billion dollars. What happened to the proceeds? We are yet to be told.

Mr. President, I am of the strong belief that those who earlier lost out in the looting of Nigeria in the scramble for national asset like banks, power generating and distribution companies, telecommunication companies, etc. in the past, are those trying to bamboozle you into selling to them what little remains for 180 million people. They are not satisfied with buying fuel stations, so they want to buy refineries, gas liquefaction plants and oilfields.

Sir, the majority of Nigerians voted for you because of certain qualities which you possess. Part of these include your firmness on issues you believe in. We all know that you don’t believe in the selling of national asset, or in devaluing our CURRENCY or increasing the price of petroleum products. We know because you have said these several times. The summary of all these is that you are a man of strong convictions, which has led to your being labelled as rigid. Your bending backwards to project a Buhari that is different from the one Nigerians trusted and voted for is giving us sleepless nights.

In your desire to prove to crooks that you are not rigid, they have succeeded in making you eat the humble pie, thereby looking uncertain and feeble. Most of us who voted for you didn’t bargain for the policy summersaults we have been experiencing under your watch. We were hoping to see a reversal of the privatisation of the power sector, which didn’t happen. And suddenly, we are presented with a proposal for the sale crucial national asset by those around you. Putin reversed the sale in Russia and the heavens did not fall. Yukos, one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world was sold for one ruble by the late Yeltsin to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in a drunken stupor. Realising the importance of the company to the Russian economy, Putin did not hesitate to reverse this daylight robbery.

Nigerians were ripped-off by neo-oligarchs in the past and what we are seeing today is peer rivalry among this unscrupulous, vicious arm of the business class in collaboration with their comrades in government, trying to go in for the kill. Those who lost out in the past are the ones who are pushing you to auction the country to them. They bought all the government interests in oil marketing companies, banks, construction companies and manufacturing concerns. The same reason was given – injecting the proceeds into the economy to create more employment and opportunities. If this had happened in the past, would be where we are today?

Mr. President, we are in recession not depression. The only time in recent history that United States went into recession was in the 1930s. Roosevelt, from his wheelchair pulled the country out of the meltdown without selling a single government asset. He fought a war and even assisted in rebuilding Europe through the Marshall Plan.

Mr. President, act like Roosevelt. Be our Putin.

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