Ayo Fayose’s letter to the Chinese authorities is politics taken too far

Governor Ayo Fayose’s recent letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, advising the Beijing authorities not to grant the $2 billion trading loan to Nigeria, has continued to generate fierce criticisms. First, Fayose sent a letter via his chief of staff, Chief Dipo Anisulowo, through the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Gu Xiaojie, vowing to personally deliver a copy of the letter to the Chinese leader. Then, he did just that when he visited China recently. While there may be nothing wrong with an opposition politician taking a different position from that of the government in power, especially in the area of the economy, we dare say that Fayose’s letter is clearly wrong.

In the letter, Fayose said he wrote as one of the major stakeholders in Project Nigeria, and a governor of one of the 36 federating units. He also drew the attention of the Chinese authorities to the report that the federal government was on the verge of obtaining a $2 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China. The loan is part of the N1.84 trillion the government has proposed to borrow to finance the 2016 budget.

According to reports, Nigeria is planning to raise about $5 billion abroad to cover part of its 2016 budget deficit. This is projected to hit N3 trillion ($15 billion) due to heavy infrastructure spending at a time when the slump in global oil prices has impacted negatively on the country’s export revenues. The Ekiti State Governor therefore advised the government of China to be mindful of the fact that Nigerians, irrespective of their political and religious affiliations, are totally opposed to increasing the country’s debt burden, which is already being serviced with 25 per cent of the federal government annual budget.

Whatever may have been the merit of his argument, Fayose’s letter to the Chinese authorities is politics taken too far. Yes, representative democracy supports all voices to be heard. And if the ruling government acts in a way that might change the socio-political and economic fabric of the country, it is legitimate for any member of the opposition party or the party itself to raise its voice. But Fayose’s brand of opposition politics is not only ridiculous, it is dangerous.

A constructive opposition lays emphasis more on conversation while interrogating critical issues, including those that impinge on the economy. Such opposition also asks salient questions and speaks on resolution of problems being faced. Politics aside, a responsible opposition is expected to bond with the ruling government on issues of national interests. Obstructionism, which was what Fayose’s action amounted to, is political recklessness at its most invidious.

Disparaging everything the government or President Buhari does in the name of opposition is not decent for a growing democracy like ours. Travelling to China to protest against a perceived economic interest of his nation is a violation of his oath of office as governor of a state in Nigeria.

Yes, there is need for a strong opposition so that the government in power can be alive to its responsibilities. There could even be some sense in what Governor Fayose is saying – that there was no point borrowing to finance the budget. Many people have canvassed that position as well by advising Buhari and his economic managers to look for alternative means of financing the budget instead of the planned $5 billion, part of which was the $2 billion Chinese loan.

However, there are more decent ways in which Fayose could have put his views across to the federal government or to the general public without necessarily having to travel all the way to Beijing with a retinue of officials at tax payers’ expense, just to deliver a silly letter.