BUHARI: HARDER TIMES AHEAD (1)

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President Buhari

Sonnie Ekwowusi argues that Nigerians should brace up for lean times

The continuation of President Muhammadu Buhari in power translates to the continuation of our hardship in Nigeria. Already Buhari has indicated the direction his new government would go in the next four years. He is threatening that the next four years will be “tough”. Out of the abundance of the heart, the Scripture says, the mouth speaks. The first “policy statement” from Buhari after INEC adjudged him the President-elect is that the next four years would be “tough”. Instead of telling us how he would create jobs to keep our restive and hungry youths at bay President Buhari is threatening that the next four years would be “tough”. President Buhari is a “tough” President. He can arrest anybody anywhere anytime and put the person in prison.

If all these members of the opposition who are making noise are not careful they would all end up in prison in the next four years. As far as President Buhari is concerned, good governance begins and ends with using the EFCC to arrest and commit to prison his perceived thieves and enemies of his government. He does not understand that good governance means improving the worsening living condition of the ordinary Nigerian.

Sad. Isn’t? The Nigerian people wanted a president who will revitalize the economy and create jobs for the teeming unemployed. But now they have a president who is only keen on using the EFCC to catch perceived enemies of government and committing them to prison. That is why the people are full of regrets at the moment. They regret that despite Buhari’s woeful performance he is being returned to power. Just take a look around you. What do you see? Walking corpses. Melancholic faces, miseries, anguish, despondency and hopelessness. To Ben Murray- Bruce, “Buhari’s victory is as if the nation is in mourning mood, you can rig votes, but you can’t rig the public’s mood”.

Even the Nigerian economy seems to be allergic to Buhari’s “victory”. For example, barely eight hours after he was declared President-elect last week the market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange lost N85 billion. Capital market experts attribute the loss to the fact that upon realizing that Buhari was returning to power some investors who thought that the opposition would win the presidential election and would embark on economic policy and reforms capable of increasing market growth hurriedly took their profits ahead of earnings season. Foreign investors loathe the prevailing administration. Why? Because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that the administration is synonymous with economic retrogression. They believe that their investment in Nigeria under Buhari is imperilled. Therefore since Buhari became President of Nigeria many foreign investors whose multi-dollar businesses were hitherto rooted here had fled to Ghana, Senegal and other African countries.

Therefore those beating their chests in the euphoria that Buhari has been returned to power must be living in fool’s paradise. Nobody can give what he or she doesn’t have. As we have seen in the last four years, the Buhari government cannot revitalize the Nigerian economy let alone improve the worsening living condition of the ordinary Nigerian. In 2015 Nigeria had a fairly robust economy with a GDP of N600 billion (largest in Africa) and an annual growth rate of 6.4%, a single digit inflation rate and an unemployment rate of 13%. But alarmingly, since Buhari came to power in the last four years unemployment rate in Nigeria has risen up to 33.1%. More than 10 million Nigerians have lost their jobs. Buhari’s sloppiness and cluelessness began after his inauguration on May 29, 2015. First, it took Buhari more than six months to set up his cabinet. Only God knows how long it would take him now to form a new cabinet. After he finally formed his cabinet in 2015, the local currency was devalued by 305 % overnight.

This led to economic crisis in the country. Buhari exacerbated the resultant economic crisis by banning dollar deposits into local bank accounts, transferring government’s own deposits into idle balances held at the Central Bank, thus effectively tightening liquidity in form of loanable funds to the productive sector. Before JP Morgan Chase pulled out from Nigeria it warned Buhari about the repercussions of his foreign exchange fixing policies. HSBC later followed suit and left Nigeria.

Dunlop Nigeria Plc, the only surviving tyre manufacturing company in Nigeria laid off hundreds of staff and fled Nigeria. Erisco Foods Limited, employing well over 2,000 Nigerians was forced to shut down its operations. Before shutting down, the company had inserted several advertorials in several newspapers complaining that the strangulating forex policy of the CBN had made it impossible for its business to thrive in Nigeria. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) reported that the CBN forex restriction crisis has led to the closure of 272 companies. Mr. Tony Ejinkeonye, President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported that about 50,000 workers had lost their jobs in Abuja within a period of two months.

Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) reported that between 2016 and2017 about 20 shipping companies had been forced to shut down their operations and retrenched about 3000 workers due to the unfavourable forex policies. Emir of Kano and former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi cried aloud that the foreign exchange corruption in the administration was unprecedented. Hear the Emir: “We created billionaires from oil subsidies in the past. We are making the same mistake with Forex…as an Emir, I can sit in my garden and make phone calls to access $10 million at N197 per $ then sell it off at nothing less than N300. With just a phone call, I’m making a profit of over a billion Naira. That is what people are doing now…Any system that allows you sit in your garden and make a billion Naira without investing a kobo is a wrong system”. Even Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at some time registered his displeasure about President Buhari’s lack-lustre performance in government.

As stated earlier, since Buhari came to power youth unemployment in Nigeria has risen up to 33.1%. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria under Buhari, is now acknowledged as the poverty capital of the world with 87 million “extremely poor people” thus overtaking India in extreme poverty ranking. Under Buhari in 2017, Nigeria was ranked as the third most-terrorized country in the world. In the same 2017 Nigeria became the country with the second worst electricity supply in the world. In the same year Nigeria Police was ranked the worst Police in the world just as Nigeria was ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a country with the 3rd highest infant mortality rate in the world. Northern Nigeria was also ranked as the worst region in the world with the highest number of illiterates.

On July 25 2018 the BBC reported that “Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children, totaling 13 million, in the world.”