James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said given the extent of damage already inflicted on the economy by past administrations, no politician currently vying for the seat of power has what it takes to return the economy to the path of growth within a short period.
He said Nigerians should interrogate politicians who go on air promising wonders to make things work again under the current economic realities.
The minister said with the current interest and exchange rates regime, coupled with other social limitations, especially the sheer reluctance by the commercial banks to extend credit to the real sector to stimulate growth, politicians would be making empty promises should they think they can address the myriad economic problems facing the nation overnight.
Ogbeh, who spoke at a recent public function, decried a situation where the country relies on importation of almost everything, stressing that unless local production capacity is strengthened and economy diversified, “you can bring down an army of angels from heaven, they will not solve our problems”.
The minister said: ”When you hear politicians on television telling you what wonders they’ll do when they come into power, please, just laugh, ask them, how?
“With current interest rates, the current value of the naira and other social difficulties and the fact that banks don’t give long term loans, how do you build factories, infrastructure and create jobs for millions of our children and grandchildren because we do nothing here.
“You all know what happened to the textile industries here. It was one of the biggest employers of labour. Today, all the mills in Kaduna, Kano, Aba, Ikeja have disappeared.
“We are again, a nation of importers. Everytime you bring a container load of foreign goods, you transfer foreign exchange and you bring along with it unemployment and poverty.
“But the brilliant economists who foisted these things upon our heads have gone into silence. I have always challenged them to a debate- you ruined this country and you now blame successive governments.”
According to him, ”As it is today, unless we acquire capacity for local production, unless we diversify this economy, unless we give power to the rural people; you can bring down an army of angels from heaven, they will not solve our problems.
“People talk about it, how in three years we should have sorted out everything that went wrong- nobody can do it. And I am talking from a position of authority and I have been in this business for 40 years. I know what I am saying. We became a nation which stopped thinking where the problem began.”