Budget 2018:Living on Borrowed Time

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The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

 

While experts are still dissecting the 2018 appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari on Tuesday and what it means in concrete terms for the average Nigerians, even laymen like me can see that when you combine the amount earmarked for debt servicing with the allocations for recurrent expenditure and then subtract that figure from the total, not much money will be left for capital projects if the budget were based only on our revenue earnings not padded by any borrowing.

What that therefore suggests very clearly is that we are still trying to dig ourselves out of the big hole we have put ourselves as a result of several years of irresponsible living. What is even more worrisome is that the Fiscal Sustainability Index of the states, as released by Seun Onigbinde’s BudgIT, presents a distressing picture: Only Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Katsina, in that order, can meet salary obligation to their workers without resorting to borrowing. The situation of some Niger Delta States is particularly pathetic despite the hundreds of billions of Naira that have accrued to them from the federation account in recent years.

Meanwhile, given that the dire economic situation has pushed the nation in the direction of an aggressive tax drive, which is where we ought to have started in the first place, the authorities should also be aware that such monies are meant to fund critical infrastructure and social services, not pay for the indulgence of public servants who store ill-gotten wealth in some ‘paradise’ havens even as they continue to live large at the expense of poor citizens.

While this is a conversation we must have someday, it is important that we come to terms with the reality that the fundamentals of our economy remain very suspect. And to successfully deal with the problem, we must also begin to fix the politics.

 

 

What Tokini Peterside Teaches

On Tuesday, as ‘Celebrity Constellation’ cruised on the Mediterranean Sea, following a three-day stop at the Israeli ports of Haifa and Ashdod, I decided to explore the ship, by walking the length and breadth of the 12 decks. Although the exercise took me more than an hour to accomplish, I made an important discovery in the process.

Placed strategically on the wall of the rooftop terrace (which has big and small swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts as well as other sporting facilities) were framed black and white photographs of women hairstyles that looked uniquely Nigerian. Out of curiousity, I moved closer to read the inscription on the name tag that was also pasted on the wall beside each of the frames, and then the find: ‘D. J. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, B. 1930. Nigeria.’

The first thing I did on getting to my room was a Google search which came up with several writings about the photographer whose works were “included in the arsenale section of the 55th Venice Biennale d’arte, ‘Il Palazzo Enciclopedia’ curated by Massimiliano Gioni in 2013”. More revealing was that this man, described by Giulia Paoletti as “one of the greatest African photographers of the twentieth century”, died in February 2014 in Lagos at the age of 83 and I never heard about him before.

While I accept my failings that it would take a foreign ship to learn about such a distinguished Nigerian professional on whom foreign journalists did fascinating reports, that omission is also a reflection of how our society treats artists. For instance, the works of Ojeikere which adorn the cruise ship must have been purchased from some foreign arts promoters who would have made a kill from what probably fetched the late photographer no more than pittance. Beyond that, the fact that we place little premiums on artists and their works accounts for why our prime artifacts are outside the country, many of them given away cheaply by those who could not appreciate the priceless possessions that are part of our heritage as a people.

Given the foregoing, we must commend the vision of Ms Tokini Peterside who has decided not only to give Nigerian artists a platform to shine but also to put our country on the global arts map. This is all the more remarkable, coming at a period several of our young men and women are going into visual arts with all the frustrations that can come with such endeavour in a society where artists are underappreciated.

Explaining what fired her interest in arts promotion with the launch in 2016 of ART X Lagos—the second edition of which held last week in Lagos—Tokini said in a recent interview that it all started when she visited Venice Biennale, the world’s largest and biggest art exhibition in 2015. “That experience, for me, resonated in a number of ways. It was very exciting to see African artists positioned on the world biggest stage in such an even way. It also stressed for me that at home we needed to develop more platforms that could similarly bring the world to see the potential of the art sector in Nigeria.”

Following series of conversations with artists, comprising mostly members of her generation who were finding fulfilment in their crafts abroad, Tokini came to the conclusion that something needed to be done so that those who choose to stay home can also be rewarded for their talents and creativity. This was the way she put it: “Majority of them were no longer living in Lagos and some of them living in Lagos were looking for ways to leave the country. I thought these artists needed to be present in Nigeria. How do we stop our country’s brightest stars from leaving? How do we ensure that many more of them can stay in Nigeria, thrive in Nigeria, sell their works to Nigerians and also to the international market? I then decided to think about what type of platform could do that”.

For sure, Nigeria can be very depressing when you reflect on so many things. But when I think about our country these days, I feel optimistic about the future because I look beyond the nonsense in Abuja and many of the states where governance is now synonymous with erecting silly statues to the creative energies being unleashed by our young men and women in several sectors. These enterprising Nigerians in their 20s, 30s and 40s are daily taking up available spaces to deploy their resourcefulness. Hopefully, very soon, these young Nigerians will also seize the political space from the carpetbaggers who have for years held our nation down and denied the people the prosperity that is possible.

That, for me, is the meaning of what Tokini in doing with ART X Lagos though it helps that she also comes from a family with considerable means. That is an advantage in two respects. One, in the short-run when she may have to invest a lot of resources, she won’t be lacking in such support and two, she can also use her father’s wide connections to draw the right crowd, as she did last week. Ultimately, as a niche player, Tokini will make good money but the true value of her endeavour is that she is going to empower many of our artists while enriching Nigerian history in the process.

I know that when we talk about cultural heritage, what immediately comes to the minds of most people are historical monuments and objects but what is often ignored is that culture includes intellectual endeavours and human creativity. And since heritage implies a connection between the past and future and an expression of a way of living that is passed from one generation to another, it stands to reason that works of arts are critical in building an inclusive society.

What Tokini therefore teaches us is that we can harness the power of arts to create economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for many of our young professionals. Beyond that, she also reminds us that if there is anything the great civilisations and cultures that we read about in the history books have in common, it is the success of their arts. I can bear testimony to that. In all the places we have visited on this voyage, either in Greece or Israel, we were regaled with stories of past societies through graven images, paintings and other artifacts.

That precisely was the point British arts administrator and journalist, John Tusa was making in his 2010 intervention, “The arts matter” where he wrote that “because they are universal; because they are non-material; because they deal with daily experience in a transforming way; because they question the way we look at the world; because they offer different explanations of that world … A nation without arts would be a nation that had stopped talking to itself, stopped dreaming, and had lost interest in the past and lacked curiosity about the future.”

Indeed, there can be no greater appreciation of what Tokini is doing than the publication placed in each of our rooms on the ship titled “Art Auctions on Board” by Park West, the world’s leading dealer of fine artwork that was founded in 1969 and “has brought fine art to more than 1.4 million collectors around the world”. Not one of the 39 artists drawn from all over the world profiled in the publication is a black person or an African. What that says most eloquently is that we need local promoters for our extremely talented artists to command global attention and that is the vacuum Tokini is trying to fill.

It is unfortunate that we live in a society that still does not appreciate our artists. I recall that on 15th June 2013, I was in Ogidi community in Kogi State as keynote speaker on ‘Ogidi Day’. On that occasion, there was no doubt as to who was the star attraction: Chief Mrs Nike Okundaye, an acclaimed artist who has not only been promoting Nigeria batik and fabric designs but our culture. The simple woman who by her own admission had no formal education (yet has taught at Harvard University) drew several foreign diplomats to her community through the power of arts.

While I do not know how much financial reward the late Johnson Donatus Aihumekeokhai Ojeikere in whose hands, according to Paoletti, “photography became a means to record the transient creativity that articulated Nigerian social and cultural life” got for his talent while he was alive, a line credited to him in the obituary by the BBC is very telling: “The (Nigerian) state has never really cared about the arts here and, although we have many people who are very rich, we also lack good private institutions for the promotions of the arts.”

That is the sort of story Tokini Peterside intends to rewrite with ART X Lagos and she deserves not only commendation but institutional support for her enterprise.

 

 

  • KWOY

    “Those who freely threatened to unleash unprecedented bloodshed on others they termed ‘dog and baboon’ are unable to accept even the mildest criticism and want to give the ‘dog’ the bad name of ‘hate speech’.”

    By Richard Irikefe, “RIGHT OF REPLY: Atiku Abubakar and the Death of Identity Politics”, Tisday Backpage, October 7, 2017

  • Daniel

    What Nigeria needs is economic reforms that are far reaching.

    We need redistribution of wealth.

    The huge money in the pockets of politicians and top civil servants should be cut deeply and transfered to ordinary hardworking Nigerians.

    People should earn based on their work, not mere educational qualification.

    That is why I say Buhari’s change has failed.

  • Political Affey

    The arts alone can generate billions of Naira for Nigeria. Places like the National Arts
    Theatre must be renovated and the budget should reflect a sea change in the mood of the youth for arts and creativity. It’s about time for that rather than the madness of oil dependency.

  • Country man

    “the fundamentals of our economy remain very suspect”.

    Very apt description Segun.
    Going on an aggressive tax drive to fund recurrent expenditure and service debts is idiocy at its highest level.

    One of the things that can be done is to make a law whereby, senators, house of reps, ministers, and other govt and elected officials can’t earn more than 3 or 4 times the average wage in Nigeria. That means that if the average wage is say N50k, senators do not earn more than 200k. That way parity in society will be maintained and no over bloated salaries for the idiots in govt.
    This is one of the things the press can put on the ballot

    • Akins

      You are absolutely right but unfortunately this will not fly because the senators will need to approve it which they will not.

      • BankyMons

        So what is the way out?
        @disqus_ojdcG3C8tj:disqus is absolutely right.

        • William Norris

          The way out is for THE PEOPLE to push for such reforms in the same way they pushed for a retention of fuel subsidies in Jan 2012.

          The truth is that the Nigerian people love GOVERNMENT and government jobs and subsidies and price controls. The PEOPLE of Nigeria will resist such a salary cap even more strenuosly than the National Assembly.

          The PEOPLE are the problem. The MAJORITY of Nigerians voted AGAINST PDP, which was engaged in REDUCING GOVERNMENT….and voted in APC, a party that promised to ENLARGE government spending and power.

          I’m afraid the Nigerian Crisis, as of Jan 2012, became intractable.

          • bigdaddy

            Can you please give us examples of the steps PDP took to reduce government apart from the Orasonye report which they dumped into the dustbin as soon as it was submitted. I am interested in ACTIONS they took and not RHETORIC AND COMMITTEES.

          • William Norris

            Privatization & Deregulation of many sectors of the economy since 1999. This is common knowledge. Workers at NAFCON, various government cement factories and NITEL are no longer on government payrolls.

      • Country man

        I know they will never approve, that’s why I did not suggest taking it to them.
        The press can pressure INEC to put the question on a ballot and let the people decide. That way, the people get to decide if they should be collecting the fat pay they do now.

    • FrNinja

      No need for law. The legislooters and executive have bankrupted the country. Nigeria has one more oil boom left and then the crash. It will not be pretty. Luckily all the senators have houses and children abroad.

  • Cheta God

    First of all these discussions and recommendations do not make meaning when those we elected to drive development do not have the capacity to understand what we are talking about. Next time candidates for President and Gov must be allowed to debate their vision and answer questions as to the practicability of their vision. Last time APC shielded their candidate from TV debate which made many to vote blindly. Not any more.

  • BB

    Interesting timing of this article. When juxtaposed with Neysom Wike’s recent statements regarding scholarships to students in the arts and humanities, it is grounds for some thought provoking questions. Given the impoverished state of the black race-as epitomized by the African economy- when compared to other races , should we not begin to look inwards and see where we have got it wrong?
    Whilst Africa is blessed with an embarrassing abundance of natural resources and vegetation, we are still overly reliant on foreign technology for their manufacture and production. Take the case of Ivory Coast (I presume) that makes way less revenue than a chocolate company based in Switzerland that she sells her cocoa to, the black man is enslaved by his refusal to participate/invest heavily in Science & Technology. I do not attempt to make mockery or nonsense of the Arts and Humanities, after all, the Fela Kutis, KSA, Oliver De Coques , Wizkids ( and of course D. J. ‘Okhai Ojeikere) have in their own way helped with attracting FDIs to the continent, but to make any meaningful and sustainable progress, we must begin to invest in the Sciences and Engineering, or we continue to wallow where we are. Encouraging Arts and the like ought to take a back seat for now.

    • William Norris

      There are plenty of science educated Africans and Nigerians in particular. At least enough to form a critical mass for kick starting development and raise living standards.

      The question is –

      WHY are there about 3 to 5,000 or more Nigerian doctors working in the USA and UK, out of maybe 10 to 15,000 TOTAL that have been trained since independence?

      This despite the far greater and DESPERATE need for doctors in Nigeria? I already gave a shorthand answer earlier

      https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2017/11/06/an-unhealthy-population-is-a-sick-nation/

      A detailed answer would touch on free markets, religion, colonial mentality and Self Abnegation as a Black African norm.

      The Black African as a collective has less less survival instincts than a Herd of Wildebeest.

      • bigdaddy

        Your figure about doctors trained in Nigeria is way off. I graduated from Med school in the early 90’s and my registration Number is 29,000 plus. Currently, it is up to 39,000 plus. Not all doctors trained in Nigeria even register here but jet out immediately. There are about 9,000 Nigerian doctors in the U.K. The US has about 15,000. Just giving you info.

        • William Norris

          Thanks. There are all kinds of numbers bandied about, I did an estimate based on the number of medical schools before and after 1999.

          Whatever the numbers abroad, I’m sure the percentage is high.

        • onyema22ohaka

          They jet out to saner climes where the brightest and best are respected and not in project Nigeria where quota system is the order of the day and merit is thrown to the dogs.

          • bigdaddy

            Your right. So also do other professionals. The earlier we instil a merit based system, the better for this country. Only 5 of ours out of 12 that specialized the same year from the hospital i trained are still practising here at home.

  • William Norris
  • RumuPHC

    The sad state of the arts in the national space and painful reality of the 2018 national budget. A thought provoking reminder of a visionless nation adrift in the doldrums.

    Our inability to “see” through the arts and our euphoria when we “see” some of the arts on display by politicians, both sum up the forces behind our underdevelopment as a nation.

    Overtime we have gradually developed a bizarre taste to be entertained not by the true arts but by those arts which are true portrayal of the sad realities of our nation.

    Otherwise how can even Segun Adeniyi be oblivious of the contributions of Ojiekere to the arts, and Nigerians gladly accept a presentation that under-projects revenue estimates , provides so much to service past debts and proposes to borrow even more , a national budget?

    Nigeria a multi ethnic nation of 180 m people lacks beffiting national museums or art galleries yet budgets hugely on indebtedness and for debts. What a shame!

  • Jon West

    The Government is embarking on an aggressive tax drive, in order to fund what, if I may ask? The bloated renumerations of the clowns at the National Assembly, grasscutter Lawal, the Aso Clinic that has neither medicines and hypodermic syringes?, the Police Pension fund that bled 2 million USA dollars a day to pension thieves?

    I personally will never voluntarily pay tax to this Federal Government or any State Government, for the simple reason that corruption, fed by incompetence and an unsustainable political system , will ensure the loss of my hard earned income.

    Your last statement encapsulates the solution to the problems of this blighted country. To begin to get a resolution, we must begin to fix our politics. However to do that , we can do without flip flopping Afonja genre journalists always talking from both sides of the mouth with forked tongues.

    Tokini Peterside should be encouraged an applauded for her great efforts to bring culture and the arts to the fore in the Nigerian narrative, walking in the footsteps of the cultural icons of the past, like the photographer whose photographs adorns foreign cruise ships but probably died poor in the slums of Lagos.
    Culture and its appreciation, require a certain level of intellectual development, which is sadly lacking in this very backward country bequeathed to us by really backward military regimes headed by the children of the hitherto poor and wretched, one of them, Yakubu Jackass Gowon, who ordered the curator of the National Museum in Lagos,to provide a rare Benin Bronze statue, just returned by the British museum, to Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Nigeria in the 1970s.

    He had no knowledge of the value and the history of that artifact and was therefore, as the son of the poor ignorant man that he was, ready to give it away again, after it had taken fifty years to get the British to return it.
    Now, we are back again begging the British museum, which the bemused Queen gave it to, to return it to our National museum. How stupid can a people be? But we are here again repeating history by voting in a man who would do what Gowon did and for the same reason- ignorance, fed by poor education and a backward background.
    To hell with Nigeria!!

    • Fidelis A.

      Aptly situated. A very sad tale of the Nigeria situation.

    • Hah!

      ..but the western Jon is voluntarily paying the ground TAX of his palatial home at the highbrow area of Abuja. So also the Oil company where he serves as a non- executive director. What a contradiction?

      • lord of jaspers

        obviously u do not undastand d concept of voluntary!

    • lastp

      I just wish you can seek asylum from a better country and leave Nigeria the way it is. You have enough evidence base on your past and present posts to get an asylum . I hope with your uproars, you are making changes in your community. Talking alone is cheap. Finally, people like you don’t believe if you loose one fight, there are more fights ahead to fight.

    • moribund9ja

      I don’t even know when Nigeria hope will materialize…for over 60yrs we keep living that future is bright

  • William Norris

    1. Aggressive collection under current tax law will be counter productive.

    2. Abolish income taxes and replace with a property and consumption, VAT or sales tax…..on easily recorded property and transactions.

    3. Make it illegal for ANY government to borrow….just ban borrowing.

    4. Privatize and deregulate prices on everything possible. Especially the NNPC.

    5. Abolish the forex subsidy….. Float the naira. Crude oil prices are over $60, this is the time to do it. This is a similar opportunity to Jan 2012.

    • Darcy

      Don’t forget to stock up adequate gas and bullets for the inevitable protests. That is if you’re not toppled in a coup first.

      Sometimes I wonder if you Libertarians just enjoy making politically untenable suggestions as a form of intellectual masturbation?

      • William Norris

        Understood. The PEOPLE of Nigeria are living with the consequences of popular mass decisions made in Jan 2012 which was essentially a rejection of free market policies, formalized in the March 2015 elections.

        I have NEVER suggested force or a strict implementation, there’s room for tinkering. There’s nothing new here. Such policies have been deployed since 1999….in banking, broadcasting, telecoms, cement….with good results.

        On the other hand, government take over of primary & secondary schools in 1975 has led directly to the ruination of education. Compare private and public schools in Lagos.

        What I’m clear about is this – policies along the lines I’ve suggested are the ONLY way to make Nigeria prosperous while maintaining the current Unitary structure.

        As for debt, well INTEREST PAYMENTS on current debt takes up over HALF of all REVENUE. It’s clear Nigeria doesn’t have the POLITICAL WILL for fiscal discipline. Most of that debt has been accumulated to pay workers at public companies who produce NOTHING….NIPOST, sports stadiums, NTA, FRCN, NEITI, the Refineries, Ajaokuta, Nigeria Iron Ore Mining Company, all the Federal Universities, Nigeria Civil Defence & Security Corps….I could go on and on.

        The OTHER option is POLITICAL restructuring to adopt extreme TRIBAL AUTONOMY.

        What I’ve listed is the ONLY way. The National Experience of the last 16 years is clear evidence. Nigeria can also continue with the present futility.

        Thanks.

        • Darcy

          This is much better. Gradualism over shock therapy.

    • bigdaddy

      WN, lets be realistic:
      1. Every nation borrows in situations such as ours.
      2. You must subsidize/provide free primary education at the minimum.
      3. Every responsible nation subsidizes agriculture in some ways.
      4. You have to leave income tax in place and impose property and consumption tax. VAT on luxury items is ridiculously low. Needs to be jacked up to 20%.
      5. Stop regulation of imports? Come on WN, every nation has some degree of protection of its economy and its currency. China quickly comes to mind.
      There is nothing as a truly unregulated economy.

      • William Norris

        See response to Darcy above. I commented on education.

        YES, there can’t be anything like a completely free market. It’s a continuum. On a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is a completely free market, Nigeria is presently at 15. My suggestions are that it needs to move to 75.

        SOCIALIST policies work better in COHESIVE nations….countries that are dominated by one TRIBE or religion or something like that. Nigeria has multiple and discordant schisms that make it unsuitable to public ownership of resources and regukated pricing. This isn’t THEORY, it’s FACTUAL.

        Thanks.

        • share Idea

          I don’t know if any body could have presented your facts better. Thanks for the apt comment

    • Akins

      “Implement the above and Nigeria will become a very prosperous nation
      within a generation and there will be plenty of money for
      infrastructure, healthcare and everything els” who told you that money generated will be used for infrastructure or statues like Okorocha is doing in Imo state. Agree there is less money for government than it was years ago, the wastage are still there e.g Duplication of Ministries, unapproved RAMFAC payment to the politicians, security votes,over- inflated contracts etc. Until we the populace put a stop to all these, no matter the money generated, it will still be the same story.

      • William Norris

        There will always be CORRUPTION in Nigeria, just like there is corruption in EVERY nation on this earth. A cursory Google search will show that China, USA and UK are far more corrupt than Nigeria. The real question is where the perception is strongest and where burden of corruption falls.

        That being the case, the best thing to do is put laws in place that generate personal incomes via massive job creation and business revenues for the PRIVATE SECTOR….because the private sector ….business and individuals and families…have proven to be better managers of resources than government.

        Government management is even worse when the nation in question doesn’t have a dominant tribe or religion or some other potent social cement.