The Nigerian Economy: Let Us Remember

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POLSCOPE with Eddy Odivwri eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com 08053069356

There is this refrain of a lovely hymn that says “Let us Remember, Let Us Remember, the works they have done…” I cannot but relate it to the Nigerian economy, especially at this time when almost everybody—including the rich and the poor, is/are groaning from the harsh knock of economic recession.

We have found ourselves in such a dire strait economically that it is only wise to look back and investigate what brought us to this sorry point.

Yes, there is a great slump in oil price globally, but that is not the only reason we are in this mess. The truth is that we had mismanaged our gracious and bountiful past. The wisdom in the injunction that we must save for the rainy day did not make sense to us. We chose to live a prodigal life, vagrantly crushing everything that came our way and indulging in unchecked epicureanism. That’s what brought us to where we are.

Those who want to put the blame on President Muhammadu Buhari and say it is all because he has no economic team, or that he is economically clueless( that word again), miss the point. What is probably right to say about President Buhari is that he is unlucky to have assumed power at a time when all the tripods of the nation’s economy had been broken. And that he is not doing enough to re-erect those tripods. Not even the Emergency Power Bill being rumoured can transform our story in the immediate.
The fact is that the road to where we are today has been charted a long time ago. We have been on a journey to the present place.

When the Central Bank of Nigeria, last year banned the importation of some 41 items, it is in realisation that we have been travelling on the wrong road.
When the federal government came up with the curious policy of not getting involved in running businesses and began selling off government assets to cronies and crooks, it was sure to take us to where we are today. At the time, they regaled us with the neo-liberal phrase that government should hands off businesses and conglomerates; that government should just provide the enabling environment… So, the big government companies were not only sold off, sometimes cheaply, but also and more importantly, the so-called enabling environment was anything but provided.

Since the days of BPE till today, we are still struggling with the cost of doing business in Nigeria, which experts say, is very high. Is it any surprise that the amount of our Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has dropped sharply?
Last Tuesday, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) lamented that in one year alone, 272 firms had shut down in Nigeria with 180,000 jobs lost within the same period. How many small scale businesses have been snuffed out of existence?

We cannot forget that we once had Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN). Where is Volkswagen Nigeria? And where is General Motors? Where is Dunlop Nigeria Ltd? Did Michelin Nigeria, under our very eyes not pack its bags and went to Ghana over ten years ago?

Have we forgotten Bata and Lennards? Those shoe companies, where are they?
Where is the Steel Rolling Mill, Osogbo or the Steel Rolling Mill, Ajaokuta or even the Delta Steel Company, Aladja? Where are they?
Let us remember companies like Arewa textiles, Berec Battery, Kingsway, AG Leventis, Bhojson… where are they? Can’t we see that recession did not start today?

Yes, a few new companies like the Telecoms companies have come around and provided plenty of employment, but where are the Departmental stores which employed huge numbers at the time? The only new entrant that distantly approximates them is the Shoprite stores which in actual fact cannot compare with the departmental stores of the 70’s and 80’s in terms of spread and employment capacities.

I remember as recent as 1999 when a certain governor in the South South will always have five BMW power bike outriders herald his convoy of many cars, a wild luxury which even the Earl of Rochester could hardly afford. It was just his silly way of burning and spending the 13% derivation fund his state received. Today, that state is struggling with payment of civil servants and pensioners.

The same governor is among a threesome musketeer (all governors) who must fly to wherever Arsenal was playing a football match at that time. They did not show any enthusiasm whatsoever whenever Enyimba Football Club, Warri Wolves, Akwa United or Lone Stars played.
We, nay, they, were mindlessly blowing up our foreign exchange reserve for fleeting pleasures that endureth not.

Our penchant for so-called foreign items continued to grow. If the item—clothing, furniture, wine or football clubs etc., are not imported, we attach no value to them. The Nigerian brand is no where to be found. We produce nothing and import almost everything. Even Nigerian-based companies do abroad to shoot their advert videos and use foreign artistes for their Voice-over recordings.

Few years ago, some bank managers and city “Big Boys” used to send their blazers and suits to London on Friday for dry cleaning services and they are flown back by Sunday night, after burning foreign exchange on express service and freighting, whereas the top class Drycleaners in town are baying for patronage . In pursuit of foreign pleasures and indulgences, we boost the economy of the nations from where we import and impoverish our own. The USD is now like gold. And today, we are gasping for breath. The song: Let us remember the works they have done…., comes to mind again

Many of the said companies were mismanaged and literally killed. Many others were choked out of existence while some others simply relocated out of our shores. The result today is the swirl of unemployment hitting the nation. And since nature abhors vacuum, the young men and women who are through with schooling and have no jobs to do, have formed many engaging companies like Kidnappers Consult Plc, Pipeline Deconstruction Company Ltd, 3-D Bunkering Nigeria Technology, Prostitution Fair, Human Trafficking Network Organisation etc. etc. And these ‘companies’ rather than grow our economy and GDP, have indeed become our bane and our troublers.

Yes, economy is tough now. The price of crude oil is terribly low, yet, our ways and lifestyles have not helped to rejig our economy. What if we never had oil? We must perish our huge appetite for every and anything foreign. That way, we can conserve our foreign exchange spending, grow our foreign reserve and more importantly, be forced to search out home-grown alternatives. That is the way to put the criminal entrepreneurs (kidnappers and co) out of business and make them join hands to grow the economy.
KEMI ADEOSUN

Canticles…
The Presidential Dog and the Prison
Is it true that Joachim Iroko is still in prison detention?
Joachim who? Who is that?

You don’t know Joachim Iroko, alias Joe? The man who named his dog Buhari and was sent to prison? You don’t know him?
Why should I bother myself remembering the name of such a trouble maker?

What do you mean by troublemaker? What trouble did he cause in this matter?
Need you ask? What else was he looking for by not only naming his dog Buhari, but also wrote out the name and stamped it on the dog’s body while he paraded the dog around town starting from the Hausa quarter of Sango Ota, where Buhari’s kinsmen will see it and don’t forget that is the same surrounding community of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the friend of President Buhari. What was that so-called Joe looking for in all that? Tell me!

Is that your conclusion? You must be a terrible judge. Ok, let me ask you: Which section of the constitution did Joe breach by choosing just any name for his dog? Does he not have the freedom to choose a name for his dog?

Don’t ask me stupid question. Buhari is not just any name. For crying out loud, that is the name of the president of the largest Black country in the world. Can’t there be some discretion and expediency in our actions? Did you not hear the prosecutor saying what he did was capable of breaching the peace of the society thus committing an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 249 (d) of the Criminal Law of Ogun State, Nigeria, 2016.”?

Look, it is not Grammar fair. Just make your points without tumbling in tons of grammar. Is there nothing called namesake in your dictionary?
And of all namesakes, the one that tickled Joe’s fancy is the name of a sitting president? What impudence! What happened to common dog names like Bingo, Jack, Rackie, Scorpion? Or why did he not call the dog Iroko, after his own surname?

But the man has the right to name his dog whatever he choses. It may have just been a coincidence that the name of the dog is the same as the name of Mr President.
Please don’t recast the narrative. It is the man who named his dog after the name of Mr President. Not the other way round.

Are you saying that Mr President does not have a namesake anywhere in Nigeria? What if Joe named his dog Obama?
You don’t understand. That man called Joachim was looking for raw trouble. Were it not so, why did he have to paste the name of the president on his dog and then began to parade the dog around town? Was it not bad enough to give his dog the same name of Mr President? He now went further to do a show with a Buhari-labeled dog. Was the dog on exhibition parade? Do dogs normally have their names pasted on their bodies? Don’t mope at me. Tell me!

Ok, so who told the Police to arrest the man? Was it president Buhari?
You are refusing to see it as a breach of the man’s right. I am telling you that it is purely dictatorial. It is the over zealousness of the law enforcement agencies to impress the president , that they are watching his back.
That’s rubbish. If you know Mr President, you will know that he is not interested in such shallow shenanigans.

So why has he not directed that the poor man be released? Is he a criminal to have been thrown into prison? Ok, see now, the man is unable to raise just N30,000 for his bail. Must a tiger bewail its tigritude?
Was it Mr President that directed that the man be arrested? Why don’t you allow the law enforcement agencies to do their work?

Go and tell him to ignore side distractions of governance like the issue of Joachim Iroko. What Joachim did is just an act to spice up the tense socio-economic flavor of the country. Tell Mr President the economy is crumbling under his watch. Tell him to take the warning of Emir Sanusi seriously. He must not end up like the vilified Goodluck Jonathan.

Tell him that companies are closing down and Nigerians are groaning under weakened purchasing power. Tell him, the likes of Joachim are not a threat to the economy by any means. Go and tell Mr President to focus his attention on the crumbling economy. Tell him to order those overzealous policemen to let the poor Joe go home to feed his children. After all, the presidential dog has been killed and consumed.
But do you know that the continued detention of Joe is actually to ensure his own safety?

How?
He could be attacked and lynched for literally calling Mr President a dog by people who may be appearing to be defending the honour and personality of Mr President.

Look, that Ota is not the only place to live in this whole country. Let them allow the man go and he could relocate from the state if he so desires. But truth is that it does not seem right and just to imprison a man who innocuously chose to name his dog the same name of a sitting president., otherwise it would seem that the arrest and detention is a rape of his freedom and affront on his self esteem.
I cannot guarantee that. What I am sure of is that he will have his day in court as a deterrent for such mindless conduct.