THE PATH TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY

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Background concept wordcloud illustration of GDP domestic economy

Peter Obi, the PDP Presidential candidate, is fit and proper to put the country on the right path, writes Esin Etim Esin

By his own admission, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari has acknowledged publicly that the Nigerian economy is in a bad shape. This is what several expert opinions within and outside the country have been saying; and we thank God for government’s break from its habitual practice of the blame game against past administrations. All indices generated from credible institutions, including the National Bureau of Statistics [NBS] point to a parlous state of the economy and the corresponding urgent imperative for proven competent management to take us out of the woods.

Who on earth will be comfortable with these facts and figures? The NBS in December 2018 reported that Nigeria’s official unemployment figure has risen from 18.8% in the last year or so to a scarier 23.1%; with additional 3.3 million people unemployed; the tertiary education tier now releases nearly one million educated youths into a job market that can barely absorb 10 per cent of them. Graduates from other tiers do not even seem to count anymore. The Debt Management Office [DMO] revealed that Nigeria has a total debt stock of some N22.7 trillion [convert with any exchange rate of your choice] and services the debt with over 50% of its revenue.

Loans granted by Nigerian banks account for a measly 15% of the nation’s GDP, according to a World Bank Report on domestic credit to the private sector. The Brookings Institution reports that Nigeria has the highest number of poor persons at 87 million, which is growing by six persons per minute. The ranking of Nigeria’s Human Development Index declined from 152 to 157 in 2018. Similarly, Nigeria’s Global Competitiveness Index rating fell from 124 to 127. Among many other facts and figures, there are also deplorable ratings for the country on critical issues as ‘stress’, ‘out-of-school children’, ‘budgetary allocations to health and education’ as well as outrageous payments on ‘fuel subsidy’ and ‘inflated costs of administration’.

Meaningful development of any human society is rooted in a virile economy. It is on the foundation of a strong, progressive economy that the political, social and other sectors can lay any claim to stability and recognition. This is an established fact of modern economies.

From the appalling state of the Nigerian economy, it is noticeable the conduct of the nation’s affairs has not demonstrated sound understanding of what it takes to manage a modern economy. The lack of synergy between and among all tiers of government is palpable as idiosyncrasies of blissful ignorance, insensitivity, acrimony and vendetta seeming to guide decisions; with millions of hapless Nigerians looking on in despair.

It is universally acknowledged that a modern economy prospers on the platform of a highly-efficient government, an active and enterprising private sector, reliable infrastructural base, healthy academia as well as a very mobile, citizen-friendly security apparatus. To coordinate and manage these critical elements will be an articulate, educated and open-minded political class complemented by neutral judiciary and virile labour force.

As Nigerians prepare for the 2019 general election, what should be uppermost in their minds is who is best equipped to be enthrusted with the affairs of government in 2019. Easily head and shoulders above all the contenders are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP].

In all practical ramifications, Atiku and Obi will bring to governance a unique combination of experience, exposure and commendable track records in public and private sectors. Both gentlemen are acknowledged as successful administrators, entrepreneurs and economic managers. Of particular note here is the role of the Vice-President in the scheme of things. The vice-president is constitutionally empowered to literally guide and direct the path of the economy.

As the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, the choice of Peter Obi could not have been better timed, as Obi fits the bill perfectly. He possesses the will, competence and experience to serve as Chairman of the National Economic Council [NEC], which is the apex body to formulate policies and programmes for the sustainable and meaningful development of the Nigerian economy. It is also instructive to note that he had served as a state governor for eight eventful years. During his tenure as governor, his colleagues easily elected him variously as Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum; Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum; and Vice-Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum – though he was the lone governor from his political party.

That reflects confidence in his competence. Peter Obi, therefore, knows and has what it takes to effectively relate with the state governors who constitute majority of the NEC membership – in the overall national interest and its constituents. His antecedents in prudent resource management will also help institutionalise fiscal discipline and responsibility in the administration of the nation’s commonwealth, including Oil and Gas Revenues, Excess Crude Oil Account, Petroleum Industry Governance, Ecological Fund, Solid Minerals, among others.

In the private sector, Peter Obi was a role model of best practices in business management. Aside from his university degree and top management training, his membership of cream professional bodies is revealing: Nigeria Economic Summit Group [NESG], Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria [CIBN], Commonwealth Business Council [CBC], West African Business Committee [WABC], British Institute of Directors [IoD], British-Nigeria Business Council [BNBC] and Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce [NSACC].

In his rich careers in the private sector and in governance, Peter Obi has accumulated tremendous goodwill within and outside Nigeria. Internationally, he earned the respect and partnership of such global operators and development partners as UNICEF, The World Bank, British Department for International Development [DfID], UNDP, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Japan International Co-operation Agency, European Union [EU], USAID, Shelter Afrique, Cities Alliance Group, UN-Habitat, International Finance Corporation, WHO, and African Development Bank.

One of the beauties of the Atiku-Obi team is that they have a full grasp of the issues at stake in the management of modern economies, which is what good governance is all about. The final choice rests with the Nigerian electorate, but it is pertinent that we be reminded that going for the status quo will take us into regression and eternal regret.

Esin wrote from Kachia, Kaduna State