Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fayemi: Re: Buhari V Jonathan: Beyond The Election

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Published in the public domain January 27, 2015

We commend Professor Chukwuma Soludo for his insightful and incisive article published on January 26th in the Vanguard Newspaper, The Nation Newspaper and major online news platforms under the above title. We agree with Professor Soludo that if the political parties, including ours, must justify the overwhelming enthusiasm of Nigerians about the 2015 elections, we must remain focused on the issues that matter most to them, which is the progress of our country and the well being of our people. Indeed, this has been the driving conviction of our party and our campaign all along.

While we accept his critical comments on our party, more for the intentions than for the letters, we believe some clarifications would be quite necessary. We wish to emphasise that our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), presents a real option to Nigerians. Professor Soludo expressed the sentiments of most Nigerians when he spoke about the incalculable damage that the PDP under President Jonathan has done to the Nigerian economy and the unprecedented hardship that his six years of the locust has brought upon Nigerians.

However, the APC does not intend to ride into power on a mere rhetoric of 'change'. The change that we propose is fundamental in many ways as it is critical to the very survival of our country. This in itself presents a major distinction between our party and the PDP. Perhaps, the most compelling argument against the People's Democratic Party today is that its government and leadership does not even see that Nigeria is in trouble. While majority of our people wallow in abject poverty, and the gap in inequality gets ever wider by the day, yet PDP has basked in self-celebration of imagined accomplishments. How can a party or a government even begin to solve a problem that it does not believe exists? Like in all things, PDP is stuck in denial.

APC does not promise Eldorado. Neither our candidate nor our manifesto has made such promise. Our programs are based on the critical awareness of the difficult task ahead, while holding out a ray of hope to our people. The promises that we make reflect our innermost belief that the people must be at the centre of development. Especially, we believe that any economic growth that leaves the majority of the people behind, and does not protect the weakest and the vulnerable among us, is merely delusionary.

Professor Soludo has drawn our attention to the striking but unfortunate similarity in the nation's economy in 1982-1984 period and what we are experiencing today. Back then, a period of sustained high crude oil prices had also ironically led to unsustainable debt levels and introduction of the austerity measure. Just as it happened more than three decades ago, it is difficult to explain how a sustained period of oil boom should ultimately lead to austerity measure except to say that huge opportunities that the period of boom presented were frittered away by mindless profligacy, wanton corruption and bad economic choices made by the PDP government, which has rewarded a protracted period of boom with uncertainty and austerity and is still asking for another mandate to do more damage.

If we sound upbeat in our manifesto, it is because we recognise that this crisis period also presents us a great opportunity to restructure the economy in a way that improves the quality of lives of our people by ensuring that our economic growth is job-led. Our party has identified job creation as a critical priority of government. We have noted with concerns that Nigeria’s unemployment rate of 23.9% should be seen as a national crisis. And if this government was more sensitive to the enormity of the challenge that this presents, it would be reluctant to jump all over the place in self celebration while so many of our youths are wasting away. In the immediate future, our priority is to tackle unemployment and provide good jobs by embarking on a massive programme of public works, building houses, roads, railways, ports and energy plants. Over the long term, we believe we must wean Nigeria off its dangerous addiction to oil, which currently provides 80% of our spending leaving us at the mercy of volatile international oil prices. Even as a federalist party, we believe that an economy that is dependent on a commodity that is so dangerously exposed to price volatility must always prepare for eventuality through savings and investments once the agreed thresholds are met. What we disagree with is the unilateral and arbitrary deductions in accruable revenues in a way that hampers the development of the federating States.

Going by the government's own statistics, is it mere coincidence that the three States with the lowest unemployment rate - Osun, Lagos and Kwara - are all APC States? This is evidence of our Party's ability to tackle this problem head-on. APC’s policy thrust will create an enabling environment and incentives for the formal and informal sectors to lead the quest for job creation. This will be done in addition to skills acquisition and enterprise- training to ensure our youths are equipped with the appropriate skills to take these jobs. Merely introducing a National Qualification Standards would power a whole new world of opportunities for our artisans by launching them into the international job markets. We note the issue that Professor Soludo picked with our figure of 720,000 jobs. We need to clarify that this is limited to immediate direct employment opportunities from public projects and maintenance works only. Our manifesto actually promises a lot more jobs but we see that as the product of the enabling environment we seek to create for private sector-led job creation, especially in high opportunity sectors like agriculture, construction, entertainment, tourism, ICT and sports. APC economic policy is driven by an overwhelming concern for the level of inequality in our country today. Specifically, to quote from our manifesto, we intend to achieve our job-creation agenda through:

  • Massive public works programme especially the building of a national railway system (complete with tramline systems for our major cities), interstate roads, and ports. These projects must commence early in the life of the new administration.
  • Establishing a new Federal Coordinating Agency - Build Nigeria - to fast track and manage these public works programmes with emphasis on Nigerian labour.
  • Embarking vigorously on industrialization, public works and agricultural expansion.-Diversifying the economy through a national industrial policy and innovative private-sector incentives that will move us away from over reliance on oil into value-added production especially manufacturing.
  • Reviving textile and other industries that have been rendered dormant because of inappropriate economic policies.
  • Reinvigorating the solid mineral sector by revamping our aged mining legislation and attracting new investment.
  • Developing a new generation of domestic oil refineries to lower import costs, enhance our energy independence and create jobs.
  • Working with state governments to turn the country into Africa's food basket through a new system of grants and interest free loans, and the mechanization of agriculture.
  • Encouraging and promoting the use of sports as a source of job creation, entertainment and recreation.
  • Creating a knowledge economy by making Nigeria an IT /professional/Telecom services outsourcing destination hub to create millions of jobs.
  • Filling the huge gap in middle level technical manpower with massive investment in technical and tradesmen's skills education.
  • Ensuring that all foreign contractors to include a plan of developing local capacity (technology transfer).
  • Creation of six Regional Development Agencies covering the country with representatives from the Federal Government, States and the private sector to manage a new N300billion growth fund.

Our obsession with job creation stems from the fact that we believe we must focus on actions that would serve the twin purpose of closing the gap in inequality and creating opportunities for our people, especially the youth. 

Our current situation is dangerous for the stability of the country. The Human Development Index position ranks Nigeria 152 of 169 countries surveyed. This is incompatible with the present administration’s insistence on celebrating GDP growth and our absolute economic size hinged on a routine rebasing exercise. As many commentators have pointed out, rebasing the GDP is not an achievement. Rather, it is a mere statistical adjustment that does not impact on the real or imagined standards of living of the people. So, we also wonder what this PDP government is celebrating. And maybe it is not that difficult to explain when one discovers that a small elite has captured the state and converted our commonwealth into private gain, becoming disproportionately rich from massive corruption while poverty has deepened. The income gap and illicit capital flight are growing alarmingly. Instead of investing in modernizing our economy, massive theft has starved the country of desperately needed resources for infrastructure and public services and left us dangerously dependent on fluctuating global oil prices for our economic survival. For the ordinary Nigerian, the much-touted economic growth cited by the present administration has not translated into employment or development. Over 100 million Nigerians are struggling to make ends meet on a regular basis.

Furthermore, we understand Professor Soludo’s concern on the cost of implementing our various programmes, especially those relating to social welfare. The enormity of this challenge is not lost on us. We also know that sometimes, going into government is like buying a "no testing" electronic equipment. You may never know the true state of what you are buying until you get in. We want to assure Professor Soludo and other like-minded Nigerians that our policy team is looking at all the options – including the worst-case scenario of a completely empty treasury. We are however confident that by blocking avenues of wastages and corruption alone, savings could run into billions of Naira that could be deployed for productive use. Even so, we agree with Professor Soludo that savings from corruption alone will not tackle the enormous challenges we are likely to confront in government. We are however comforted by the fact that a four-year period provides opportunity for phased implementation while growing the resource base as well as changing the culture of graft while reducing the cost of governance.

Quite significantly, we know that periods of economic downturn also potentially provide opportunity to lay the foundation for real economic restructuring and development; and we can reflect on how Singapore under Premier Lee Kuan Yew and the United States of America under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used historic moments of economic downturn in their countries to launch a period of sustained development and a new deal for their people. General Buhari has never claimed to have the magic wand nor the answers to all of the country’s problems. His greatest assets would be his moral authority borne out of his self-sacrificing integrity, his sincerity of purpose and his patriotic zeal to return Nigeria to the path of progress and genuine development. He is committed to utilize competent and committed people of integrity wherever he may find them. This is precisely why he promised when flagging off his campaign in Port Harcourt on January 5, 2015 that if voted into power, it would be an opportunity to, in his words, "finally assemble a competent team of Nigerians to efficiently manage this country”. This is a clear sign that a meritocratic process will govern the appointment of those that would be entrusted with managing our economy and country. His stint as Head of State shows a track record of using self-sacrificing professionals in his governance team. His previous cabinet included the likes of Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, Professor Tam David-West and Professor Ibrahim Gambari.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) is determined to lead Nigeria in the direction of change that is so urgently required. And even as we prepare for the immediate rescue mission in 2015, our minds are also set on building the necessary democratic institutions that would entrench our ideological conviction as a progressive and people-centred party. A National Progressives Policy Institute is part of this plan in the near future but we are very clear about the enormity of the task ahead. We would not seek to underplay it. We are supremely confident that we are equal to the task and we appreciate the commitment of majority of Nigerians to this quest for change.

Dr. Kayode Fayemi
Former Governor Ekiti State and Head Policy, Research and Strategy Directorate of the APC Presidential Campaign.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Friday, January 30, 2015

Not content with attempting to hold the nation to ransom via their several months long strike, or perhaps miffed by their so far questionable results in their Campaign of Dishonor, the members of JOHESU have now taken to physically attacking doctors who report for duty at government hospitals.

Doctors are not JOHESU members and so are not on strike. JOHESU can attempt to pull its "considerable weight" without physically attacking doctors who, as noble citizens, go about their professional duties. The actions of JOHESU in this regard are condemnable, ridiculous, and thoroughly lacking in propriety. Their resort to the strongarm tactics employed by hooligans and motor park touts gives every discerning Nigerian a clear picture of what our hospitals will be like when such characters begin to manage them.

I believe there still exist a few honorable members of JOHESU. I believe I even know some. I expect them to publicly disassociate themselves and their association from that despicable move by their comrades. Otherwise, that move will go down in history as JOHESU's interpretation of how to go about a labor dispute. And, if the latter situation is true, then ordinary Nigerian citizens, who may themselves become patients at a government-owned health facility any day, have a lot to be apprehensive about.


Friday, January 30, 2015

President Jonathan is running for reelection in 2015, whether you like it or not. Again, whether you like it or not, he has a good chance of winning reelection, although (thankfully) the chances of his being the first Nigerian incumbent to face defeat at the polls are looking increasingly cheerier.

You may have been grieving over the past several months and years over the lives of your mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, friends, and relatives which have been lost to the madness that the government likes to call insurgency rather than call it by its true name of terrorism. You may feel betrayed by the absolute nonchalance displayed by this Federal Government to the plight you have experienced, to the rape of our collective sensibilities. You have good reason to. A government whose officials swore to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and the security of the people should have busied itself doing that.

But you should have acted in your interests several months and years ago. You should have started a massive civil disobedience campaign that would have brought the nation to its knees and the government to its duties. You should have closed the streets and sat on the roads after the Christmas Day bombings in Niger state; you should have refused to discontinue the protests until the perpetrators were discovered. If perhaps you were not shocked by that time, by the sheer horror of that act, if perhaps you thought it did not concern you then because it was a church that was attacked, well then, you should have shut down the North in the immediate aftermath of the mass kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, especially when this government pretended like it did not happen, when this President went dancing on the very day the news broke, even as bombings occurred in Nyanya, killing Nigerians muslim and christian, northern and southern alike. 

You have watched how the French protest. You should have taken a cue from that. They don't burn houses, they don't kill anyone, they just sit on the roads, arrange carnivals on the highways, and make it impossible for movement to occur anywhere in the region until the government acts. The sheer scale of such French protests usually forces the government to act. In fact, as a British Lord once said, "the fear of French protests has become, for French and indeed for European politicians, the bedrock of political wisdom". 

If you had done any or all of that, then maybe, the rest of the country might have been galvanized into action long before now, on our collective behalf. Isn't it rather interesting that till date, the most visible figure in the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign has no ancestral roots in any location directly affected by all this violence?

But you chose to be silent. You chose to wait for this moment. You chose to wait for the elections, and then to make your statement. That is all very good. Very, very good. I have statements of my own I want to make at these elections, with my thumbprint on my ballot paper. I want to send this president back to Bayelsa in 2015. But I want to do it with my ballot paper. Not with stones.

You cannot stone your president, Nigerians. He is still your president. And this is not Palestine. This is not the ancient Middle East. You don't stone people. You really cannot stone your president. He may be a clueless, spineless, useless, shameless, corrupt  (add or subtract any adjectives, as you please) individual, but HE IS STILL YOUR PRESIDENT. HE IS STILL OUR PRESIDENT. He may not deserve a second term in office (in my opinion, he certainly doesn't), but he is still deserving of our collective respect. The moment we think he is no longer deserving of our respect as President, we get our legislators to impeach him. Period. 

Stoning his motorcade, trying to deny him the right to campaign, the right to be heard (even if most of what he has to say is not worth hearing), is of all kinds of hateful politicking the most despicable.

If you think you can afford to stone your president today just because you don't like what he looks like, where he comes from, or the policies he implements or fails to implement, I hope you don't get offended when our dear friends the Chinese pour lime-water on whoever becomes the Nigerian president tomorrow simply because they don't like the color of his skin.

Put down your stones. They are not as powerful as your thumbprint on that ballot. 

Bunmi Awoyemi: On That Unchristian Charge By A Christian Pastor

Friday, January 30, 2015

I was shocked when a man of God, Bishop David Oyedepo who I respect so much said in his church some days ago that his members should slaughter any one that looks like a terrorist. The key word there is "anyone that looks like."

While I am 100% in support of self defense, I abhor tribal profiling and targeting. When this happens, innocent lives are bound to be lost. Then in the 3rd service of his Church on Sunday, January 25, 2015, attended by President Jonathan, my dear Bishop Oyedepo said in a comment directed at President Jonathan “We will open the gates of hell on those who oppose you.When God enthrones you no one can dethrone you”

My Bishop's support of Jonathan is anchored on the false premise that Buhari is planning to Islamize Nigeria. Nothing could be further from the truth. IBB, not Buhari, registered Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). IBB, Abacha and Abdusalami Abubakar attended OIC meetings. No President of Nigeria has attended OIC meetings in the last 15 years until President Jonathan attended an OIC meeting in late 2014. Buhari never attended any OIC meeting and refused to join the OIC even though he was a military Head of State possessing immense powers. How can the same Buhari now islamize Nigeria in a democratic setting which has the checks and balances of the National Assembly and the Judiciary?

Is my Bishop aware of what happened a few days ago? At the Presidential campaign rally of GEJ/Sambo in Jigawa state on January 21st, 2015, in the presence of President Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo stated in Hausa : "Buhari ya dauko pastor a matsayin mataimakinsa kunsan coci nawa yake dashi? Yanada coci 5000, don haka karku zabesu. The translation is - "Buhari has selected a pastor as his running mate, do you know how many churches he has? He has 5000 churches, so based on that, don't vote for them".

My Bishop, Sambo used religious sentiments in his attempt to divide the country and incite Muslims against Christians. Sambo also said at the rally that the PDP is the most Islamic Party in Nigeria because nobody can be more Muslim than him. He said that his name is Namadi which is a derivative of Namadina, meaning someone from the Medina in Saudi Arabia. At the Rally in Jigawa State Sambo also stated that he goes for the Hajj every year.

My dear Bishop, in Sambo's determination to whip up religious sentiments and divisions, he stated at the Jigawa state rally that all the security chiefs in the Jonathan administration are Muslims and based on that, those alleging that Jonathan is supportive of Boko Haram are not being fair. He mentioned the names of some key ministers in the Jonathan administration including Defence Minister, Aliyu Gusau, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, Inspector General of Police, Abba whom he emphasized are all Muslims. He also mentioned all the Muslim ministers from Kano, including Aminu Wali, Foreign Affairs Minister and Shekarau, Minister of Education.

Bishop, Sambo then asked if anyone could claim to be more Muslim than him Namadi Sambo. Then he shouted Allahu Akbar (Allah is great several times). To close his speech he recited the AlFatiha, (The Opening, the first seven verses of the Holy Quran, which for Muslims is the Mother of the Book, highly revered by all).

My dear Bishop, Sambo's outburst against Christians and Pastor Osinbajo would not surprise close watchers of political events in Nigeria but it does reconfirm the outcome of late General Azazi thorough and extensive investigation of Boko Haram and in which he concluded that the PDP founded Boko Haram and finances its terrorist activities.


To Christians like me who hold Bishop Oyedepo in great esteem this is my advise to you;

Don't let any pastor tell you who to vote for. Does Bishop Oyedepo experience the effects of misgovernance? Bishop is on 24-hr power generators and he does not even know when there is power outage. You bear the brunt of misgovernance daily and you should know that voting GEJ is a guarantee of another 4 years of no electricity, corruption galore and insurgency that will claim more lives and disintegrate Nigeria. Vote based on what you know not on religious or tribal sentiments!

Currently, 70% of the territory of states like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are under the firm control of Boko Haram. This is the first time this is happening in Nigeria. Boko Haram bombing and genocide has targeted both Christians and Muslims, churches, mosques and schools attended by both Christians and Muslims. Because of Boko Haram's control of about 5% of Nigeria's territory, Nigeria's map has been redrawn.

When a bomb goes off in a market place it does not discriminate between Muslims and Christians. When the village of the Chief of Defense staff close to Mubi was attacked he did not rescue his fellow christian villagers but he airlifted his relatives out of danger and leaving his fellow Christians to be slaughtered by Boko Haram. The "polithievians," "executhieves," "legislooters" and "judishare" officers of Nigeria have only one religion that unites them and that religion is stealing and looting with impunity.

How many of the Pastors that are telling you to vote for Jonathan have children who are unemployed graduates sitting at home; bear the brunt of insecurity; send their children to public school; patronize government hospitals like you do or understand what the members of their religious organizations go through on a daily basis?

Did Bishop Oyedepo speak out when ASUU and ASUP were on strike twice in 4 years thereby leading to the loss of almost 2 years in the academic calender of Universities and Polytechnics?

Did Bishop Oyedepo speak out to condemn the manner in which the almost 300 Chibok girls were kidnapped? Did he condemn the manner in which the President refused to acknowledge that they were kidnapped? Did Bishop Oyedepo condemn the failure of the President to rescue the Chibok girls 9 months after they were kidnapped by the insurgents?

Did Bishop Oyedepo speak out when medical doctors went on strike twice in 4 years leading to the death of millions of Nigerians.

Has Bishop Oyedepo spoken out against the ongoing strike by health workers and judicial workers in Nigeria?

All these strikes have to do with the inability of President Jonathan and the PDP government to abide by industrial agreements signed after extensive bargaining among stake holders and their insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.

Did Bishop Oyedepo speak out when 16>19, 5>26 and 7>19 in the Governors Forum election, Rivers state house of Assembly and Ekiti State House of Assembly in clear and reckless violation of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria?

Has Bishop Oyedepo spoken out to condemn the legalized looting of billions of dollars of Nigeria's money taking place under the watch of President Jonathan? Did Bishop Oyedepo speak out to condemn the beating up of a state High Court judge in Ekiti state by the Chief Thug of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose and his gang of thugs?

Did Bishop Oyedepo speak out to condemn the deliberate flouting of court orders by President Jonathan which has become like a recurring decimal in his administration?

Let Pastors like Bishop Oyedepo who don't know what their members are going through or who are unable to feel the pulse of the masses, stick to what they know how to do best which is feeding Chist's sheep as Christ commanded them, but let them stay out of politics. Bishop Oyedepo should not try to influence Christians to vote for a failed President like Jonathan. I urge all Christians to vote their conscience to free themselves from the 16 year bondage of the PDP led administration.

Section 95 (3) of the Electoral Act, states that “places designated for religious worship, police station and public offices shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions or to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates, their political ideologies or programmes.”

Let my darling Bishop note that his actions on the pulpit violates this law and as a man of God the scripture expects him to obey the laws of the land. We are to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. 

Bunmi Awoyemi, Ph.D, the author of this opinion piece, writes in from New Orleans, Louisiana and is a public affairs analyst, lawyer and entrepreneur.

This article was originally published under the title "Dissecting Bishop Oyedepo's Support For GEJ And Sambo's Anti-christ Outburst Against Churches And Pastor Osinbajo At The Jigawa State PDP Presidential Rally By Bunmi Awoyemi" at this source.

Okonjo-Iweala: [Full Text of the Response of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the Article by Prof Soludo]

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A few days ago, a past governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, wrote an article in which he examined the challenges that face the Nigerian nation as it goes to the polls in a couple of weeks. His article, reproduced on this blog, was quite critical of some of the policies (or lack of policies) of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

In what follows, which was released on behalf of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala by one of her underlings, in language that is, in some paragraphs, surprisingly uncouth and unbecoming of a globally respected finance expert and a foremost Nigerian public official, President Jonathan's Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy (Dr Okonjo-Iweala) attacks the professor's own record at the Central Bank of Nigeria, puts up a defense of her government's policies (or lack of them), and highlights some achievements of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. This article was sourced from The Vanguard.


Response by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance to “Buhari Vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election”, by Charles Soludo

For anyone who has not read Professor Charles Soludo’s article in the Vanguard (online version) on January 25 2015, I would encourage them to do so. It is littered with abusive and unbecoming language.
It shows how an embittered loser in the Nigerian political space can get so derailed that they commit intellectual harakiri by deliberately misquoting economic facts and maliciously turning statistics on their head to justify a hatchet job. We hope all the intellectuals in the international circles in which Professor Soludo has told us he flies around in will read what a Professor of Economics has chosen to do with his intellect.

In this one article Soludo has shamelessly pandered to so many past leaders that Nigerians are asking one more time – what position is Soludo gunning for now? He claims in his article that he has had his own share of public service, yet he has failed twice in his attempts to be Governor of Anambra State and Vice Presidential candidate of various parties. There is definitely an issue of character with Prof. Charles Soludo and his desperate search for power and relevance in Nigeria. Nigerians should therefore beware of so-called intellectuals without character and wisdom because this combination is fatal.

But let us turn to the main subject of Soludo’s discourse. So much of what is written is outright nonsense and self-seeking aggrandizement that need not be dignified with a response. It is totally remarkable that Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the man who presided over the worst mismanagement of Nigeria’s banking sector as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria between May 2004 and May 2009, can write about the mismanagement of the economy.

Nigerians must be reminded of his antecedents as CBN Governor, and even prior to that, as the Chief Economic Adviser to the President. The consolidation of the banking sector was a good policy idea of the Obasanjo Administration but Soludo went on to thoroughly mismanage its implementation leading to the worst financial crisis in Nigeria’s history. So what did Soludo do?

After consolidation, the regulatory functions of the Soludo-led CBN were very poorly exercised. As Governor, he failed to adequately supervise and regulate the now larger banks – an anomaly in Financial Sector Supervision. In fact as every Nigerian knows, in his time there was very little separation between the regulators and the regulated which is a violation of a key requirement of Central Banking success.
This led to infractions in corporate governance in many banks as loans and other credit instruments running to hundreds of billions of naira were extended to clients without following due process, and several of these loans could not be paid back. This massive accumulation of bad debts or non-performing loans as they are called in the banking sector meant that our banks were ill-positioned to deal with the global financial crisis when it hit.

In fact, the banking sector was brought to its knees and required a massive bailout by Nigerian tax payers. This bailout was done by his successor (now Emir of Kano) who cleaned up all the bad debts and transferred them to the newly-established AMCON, from where they are managed today.
So let it be noted for the record books that Soludo’s single-handed mismanagement of the banking sector led to an incredible accumulation of liabilities that will cost tax payers about N5.67 trillion (being the total face value of AMCON-issued bonds) to clean up. Let it be noted also that this amount, which is more than the entire Federal Government 2015 Budget, constitutes the bulk of Nigeria’s “contingent liabilities” mentioned in Soludo’s article. It is only in Nigeria where someone who perpetrated such a colossal economic atrocity would have the temerity to make assertions on public debt and the management of the economy.

Let us now look at some of the points he makes. Luckily, Soludo has told us that he has been busy travelling internationally, hobnobbing with his global partners. It is obvious from this article that from the rarefied heights at which he is flying he is completely out of touch with what is happening with the management of this economy.
Take his comments on the mismanagement of the economy and the imposition of the austerity measures. The present fall in oil prices, a global phenomenon over which Nigeria has no control, has given every charlatan the opportunity to attack the economy, and by extension the managers of the economy

It is true that the economy grew well during the second-term of former President Obasanjo as a result of the reforms supported by the President and implemented by the Economic Management Team. Please note that the Finance Minister under whose leadership that good performance took place, including massive unprecedented debt relief, is still Finance Minister today.
But thorough examination of the facts on performance under the Jonathan Administration will also reveal that at a time when global economic performance was mediocre, with GDP growth averaging about 3 percent per annum, Nigeria’s GDP growth – averaging about 6 percent per annum – is indeed remarkable.
Even more interesting is the fact that the oil sector did not drive this economic performance but the non-oil sector (Agriculture, Manufacturing, Telecommunications, the Creative Economy, and so on), which shows that the current Administration’s diversification objective under the Transformation Agenda is working. Transformation equals diversification

This current government managed to control inflation, which he Soludo, was not able to do during his time at the helm of monetary policy in Nigeria. When he left the Central Bank in 2009, inflation – which hurts the poor and vulnerable in the society the most – was above 13 percent per annum.
Now, inflation is at single-digit, at 8 percent per annum. What about exchange rates? Well this administration again managed to stabilize the naira exchange rates, such that between May 2011 and the end of 2014, official exchange rates against the dollar rarely moved out of the N153 to N156 band. It is only with the recent dramatic fall in oil prices and the consequent impact on our foreign reserves that the exchange rate has become quite volatile.
The drop in oil price has been heavy and rapid impacting all oil producing nations significantly. Nigeria is no exception and appropriate fiscal and monetary policy measures are being put in place to manage this situation.

In fact, history will recall that careless remarks by Prof. Soludo (then Chief Economic Adviser to the President) hypothesizing a possible naira devaluation, condemned the naira to a free fall towards the end of 2003. Ray Echebiri, in his 2004 article in the Financial Standard, wrote that not even the assurances given by the then CBN Governor, Mr. Joseph Sanusi or President Obasanjo that any plans to devalue the naira existed only in the head of Professor Soludo could halt the fall of the naira from N128 to the dollar in the official market to about N140 between September and December 2003.

It is true that our foreign reserve accumulation is less than what it should be but the reason for this has been fully given, not as excuses but simply as fact: lower oil production and crude oil theft along with the refusal to save in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) are the reasons. Contrary to what Soludo said, oil production under President Obasanjo was higher than current levels. Quantities produced averaged 2.4 million bdp, 2.22 million bpd, and 2.21 million bpd in 2005, 2006, and 2007 respectively but has declined now to between 1.95 and 2.21 million bdp due to vandalism of the pipelines and the resulting “shut-ins” to fix the problem.
It is true that had production been at the previous levels and had there been willingness to save we would have had more money in the ECA and also in the reserves. But the overriding setback to savings is that the State Governors felt it was their constitutional right to share the money. Please recall that even as we speak the States have taken the Federal Government to the Supreme Court on this issue

Soludo’s claim that 71 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line is misleading and disingenuous. He uses 2011 statistics on poverty by the NBS to support his argument while ignoring more recent figures. But as stated in the Nigeria Economic Report 2014 by the World Bank, poverty rate in Nigeria has dropped from 35.2 percent of population in 2010/2011 to 33.1 percent in 2012/2013. By the way, the reason why our poverty numbers have been so wrong is that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), under Soludo’s supervision as CEA and Vice-Chair of the National Planning Commission, departed from the international standard method of poverty measurement. Is he now ignoring the right economic statistics to wilfully manipulate information?

No doubt we have a problem with unemployment in this country and we must deal with it. Indeed this Administration is dealing with it and stands proud of what it has accomplished so far and is pushing hard to accomplish much more. As a first step, the Administration, through the office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President and the NBS, worked hard to determine how many jobs we need to create in a year. What you don’t measure you cannot make progress on. Why didn’t Soludo do this when he was CEA?

We need to create about 1.8 million jobs a year in this country to cater for the new entrants into the labour market, but we also need to deal with the backlog of the unemployed and the underemployed, e.g. those selling on the streets. Dealing with this global challenge of unemployment is not an easy task for any country, as can be seen from the experiences of developed countries particularly in the euro area. But the Jonathan Administration is making good progress, creating an average of about 1.4 million jobs per year by driving quality growth in key sectors like Agriculture, where the bulk of new jobs are being created, Housing, Manufacturing, Financial Services, and the Creative Industries like Nollywood.

In addition we have special programs to promote job creation among the youth and these include:
Promoting entrepreneurship among the youth through the “Nagropreneurs” program to support 750,000 youth farmers with grants and training, and the YOUWIN program that is directly supporting up to 5,400 young entrepreneurs with grants, training, and mentorship and so far beneficiaries are creating an average of 9 jobs each, for themselves and others.
About 22,000 jobs have been created by the first 2,400 youwinners.
Graduate Internship Scheme: that is reducing the vulnerability of unemployed graduates by enhancing their employability. The Scheme targets up to 50,000 unemployed graduates in the 36 states of the Federation and FCT and about 22,000 graduates have so far been placed by the program.
Community Services Scheme under SURE-P: developed to empower young unskilled Nigerians, women and people with disabilities. About 120,000 mostly young workers have been engaged across the country

On the issue of debt, Nigerians deserve to know the truth and we have said it before. The truth is that the government borrowed in 2010 to pay an unprecedented 53.7 percent wage increase to all categories of federal employees as demanded by labour unions.
The total wage bill rose from N857 billion in 2009 to about N1.4 trillion in 2010, and as a result, domestic borrowing increased from N200 billion in 2007 to about N1.1 trillion in 2010 to meet the wage payments. Where was Soludo at the time? Why did he not react to the borrowing then? Was it because he wanted to pander to labour in preparation for his political career?

It is noteworthy that since 2011, the Administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been prudent with the issue of debt and borrowing. The Economic Management Team not only looks at debt to GDP ratio, where Nigeria has one of the lowest numbers in the world at 12.51 percent but it looks at debt service to revenues.
That is why in spite of the rebasing and a larger GDP, the administration has taken a prudent approach to borrowing. The prudent approach helped to drive down domestic borrowing from N1.1 trillion in 2010 to N642 billion in 2014. In fact for the first time in our nation’s borrowing history we even managed to retire N75 billion of domestic bonds outright in 2013.

Despite the present tough situation, we do not plan to go on a borrowing spree but to keep borrowing modest at a level sufficient to help us weather the present situation. We have already ramped up efforts to generate more non-oil revenues for the government while cutting costs of governance. Therefore, Soludo’s claim that this Administration is reckless with debt does not hold true.

Since Soludo seems so ignorant to what has been achieved by the Jonathan Administration, let us present just a few examples of them here again. This information is easily verified.
  • We are improving infrastructure across the country. For example, 22 airport terminals are being refurbished, and five new international airport terminals under construction in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Abuja, and Enugu. Soludo’s kinsmen in the South East now have an international airport in Enugu, and for the first time in Nigeria’s history can fly direct from Enugu to anywhere in world for which they are very grateful to this Administration. But with Soludo being up in the air with his international travels, he has not touched ground in the Southeast to observe this development for himself.
  • Various road and bridge projects have either been completed or are under construction. Those completed include the Enugu – Abaliki road in Enugu/Ebonyi States, the Oturkpo – Oweto road in Benue State, the Benin – Ore – Shagamu highway, and the Abuja – Abaji – Lokoja dualization, and the Kano – Maiduguri dualization. The Lagos – Ibadan expressway and the Second Niger Bridge are under construction.
  • Rail from Lagos to Kano is now functional, as is parts of the rail link between Port Harcourt and Maiduguri. All these have brought transport costs down. We recognise that more needs to be done in the power sector, but bold steps (like the privatisation of the GENCOs and DISCOs) have been taken, and our gas infrastructure is being developed to power electricity generation
  • In Agriculture, over 6 million farmers now have access to inputs like fertilizers and seeds through an e-wallet system, which is more than the 403,222 that had access in 2011. Rice paddy production took off for the first time in our history, adding about 7 million MT to rice supply. An additional 1.3 million MT of Cassava has also been produced and as a result, the rate of food price increase has slowed considerably, according to the NBS.
  • In Housing, we have put in place a new wholesale mortgage provider – the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC) – to provide affordable mortgages to ordinary Nigerians, starting with those in the low-middle income bracket. This sector will help the economy grow as we tap it as an economic driver for the first time.
  • Mortgage applications from 66,000 people are currently being processed and 23,000 have already received mortgage offers
  • Our Manufacturing sector is reviving with new automobile plants by Nissan, Toyota, etc. This is in addition to the backward integration policy in key sectors like petrochemical, sugar, textiles, agro processing and cement, which Nigeria is now producing 39,000 MT and exporting to the region.
  • The Creative sector is now a factor in our GDP, with Nollywood alone accounting for 1.4 percent, creating over 200,000 direct jobs and nearly 1 million indirect jobs. This is the first Administration to recognise its importance and support its further development with a grant program.
  • A new bank – the Development Bank of Nigeria – will soon be operational and this bank will help bridge the access to finance gap, which is a major constraint for the private sector especially SMEs. The bank will provide long-term (5 – 10 years) financing at affordable rates for the first time in our nation’s history.

This is the path that the government has been on before this fall in oil prices. The response to the economic shock has been spelled out to the Nigerian public over and over again, and the Administration intends to focus on managing this crisis appropriately. This year will be difficult.
To say anything less to Nigerians will be untruthful. It would have been better if there had been a bigger cushion of the Excess Crude Account to manage this situation but despite this the nation can rise to the challenge. More importantly, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the Economic Management Team are seeing this as an opportunity to diversify the revenue sources of an already diversifying economy.
In fact let me at this juncture use this opportunity to comment on Soludo’s appalling statement that rebasing brings no policy value. Rebasing has enabled us to better grasp the new diversified nature of our economy. This provides the basis for our present drive to support different sectors with appropriate policy instruments to enhance their development.
Rebasing has also enabled the Administration to create the platform from which to drive our work on increasing non-oil revenues. These are areas of critical policy value.

Soludo mentioned the issue of the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, noting that this Administration has not been vocal or clear on its direction with this agreement.
On the contrary, the Administration, particularly the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investment, has been clear on this issue but since Soludo has been in the air he probably has not been aware of this. Just recently, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment reiterated again to the corporate sector that Nigeria has not signed and does not propose to sign the EPA in its present form.

The point is that this government has been pursuing the right economic policies, and its efforts have been acknowledged nationally and internationally. Let me say that there are objective ways to measure performance. There are international institutions globally accepted to do this. They have acknowledged this Administration’s good economic management up to the recent crisis and even now.

We cannot go by someone’s subjective view, driven by bitterness and bile. We need to look to the truth and to professionalism. This is where Professor Soludo totally fails. For the other gratuitous, political, and personal attacks, we are sure that those mentioned will respond appropriately.
It is a sad day for Nigeria and the economics profession that someone like Soludo, a former CBN governor should write such an article. If Soludo wants to regain respect, he should return to the path of professionalism.
He certainly needs something to improve his image from that of someone whose sojourn into National Economic Management ended in disaster for the banking sector, his sojourn in politics, ended in overwhelming rejection by the electorate, and more recently, his sojourn abroad, has put him out of touch with the reality of the Nigerian economy.

Paul C Nwabuikwu Special Adviser to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Moore Numental: You Play Too Easily Into Their Hands...Because Common Sense Is Not So Common After All

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Nigerian general elections of February 14 and 28, 2015 are only (in the case of the former, the presidential) about 17 days away. In the past few days, one of Nigeria's few television stations with nationwide reach (and global reach via satellite), the Africa Independent Television, has devoted an hour of prime time each day to airing a sponsored documentary about the atrocities allegedly committed during the "watch" of Retired General Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria's military head of state in the early 1980s. General Buhari is a frontrunner in the upcoming (2015) presidential elections. The documentary in question, which his supporters have dismissed as a smear campaign against him, is believed to be sponsored by friends of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan who is in the running for a second term in office as Nigeria's president.

In what follows, the writer (in a post originally made on Facebook, and reproduced hereunder with minor edits) wonders why supporters of incumbent president Jonathan expect General Buhari to abandon his campaign and address the issues raised in the documentary, whereas they are yet to hold the president accountable for the many administrative gaffes that seem to have become not just the hallmark but the very staple of his six-year (so far) presidency.

As I responded to another individual pestering the Opposition to reply to the documentary on "historical Buhari", allow me hold the same position here.

Which accusations of outright corrupt practices tied round his neck has Jonathan responded to? Where is the fulfillment of the promise of getting the Chibok girls back? Where is the apology and retribution for fooling us all with a bogus, harebrained ceasefire? Who has been punished for those hullabaloo? A president who was given a full country is now campaigning for reelection, having ceded portions to a ragtag motley of miscreants (in comparison with the might of what used to be the Nigerian army). Where is his defense for that?

Hasn't he failed in his singular constitutionally-bequeathed task of the welfare and security of the lives of Nigerians? Has he answered to that? Why was it that the only minister ever relieved of his duties and to have had his travel documents seized was the only one who dared call to question the sharp practices of a government parastatal? Does he care to respond and counter this fact?

What do you defend of a President who says one thing today as it suits him and when it no longer matters he says another? He has every right to change his mind, as has any individual, but why lie about it? He promised to be a single term president - that was called "statesmanly". It's OK he decided not to be a statesman anymore. But don't lie that you didn't make such promise when there's video evidence to the fact. Has the DSS (the Department of State Services) called him to question on the prevarication about MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and the attempt on the life of the president? Should that not be accorded the highest levels of seriousness that we should have a right to know for sure threats to the highest office in the land that today is treated with disdain (it was not MEND in 2011, became MEND in 2015 because they switched loyalties to the opposition)? Who's defending that?

What has been done to those responsible for the lives of Nigerian graduates who died in a badly organised, money gathering job search for positions in the Immigration Service? Innocent people who only wanted an opportunity to serve and to live by earning their keep and who were ready to pay for what shouldn't attract payments? Is no one is documenting that? Or you think that ISN'T mass murder? If Abba Moro, Jonathan's lackey can today be gloating about Jonathan's approval for upping prison amenities instead of being an inmate himself, Jonathan has blood on his hands.

Any excuse here is just bloody sentimental, and that isn't acceptable. At all. You're allowing sentiment becloud your judgement, maybe because none of your family members or friends died since y'all have good jobs under the best President since the presidential system began on earth. If that isn't childish, I don't want to know what childish is.

Now, let's not digress too far. All these occurred under a democratically run government where there's a constitutionally backed legal standard.

Yet, nothing, NOTHING, N. O. T. H. I. N. G. has happened to Jonathan oo. Nor his army of murderers. He's having his field day going around with a rallying cry to do more of what he's been doing. Do more of call corruption mere stealing while it causes hunger, starvation, death and more stealing across board. Do more of ceding areas of the country to a group while arguing about if only three people died or 300, like life is animal dung. Do more of spending trillions obtained from a period of the highest oil price ever with little or nothing to show for it, except old school locomotive contraptions they call AC trains that no one else uses again but the most backward countries, and sharing dumb phones and fertilizer to farmers who could do with government subsidies for mechanized agriculture. Do more of making claims of achieving victories that had nothing to do with him, claiming the Nations Cup victory after 19 years then refusing to claim the disgrace of a defending champion not even qualifying, claiming to have made Nollywood great and also the success of telecommunication, claiming the best economy in Nigeria for what was simply a statistical calculation with no real difference in anyone's life. Doing more of barefaced lies and outright thefts, from rebasing to transformation.

Where's the outrage? Because there's no tape or documentary to show the impact of these maladministration here, we turn the other way, bury our necks in the sand and pretend all is well. Because there's no time to begin to dig into how to sort all these out and make serious commitments to bringing things to a point where the average man on the streets can begin to enjoy the dividends of democratic society, abi?

But they have the time to gather old documents and produce a documentary of similar issues of a period in our history when the Constitution was suspended and the state was run by military fiat? Because they know some like you people here will ask Buhari to answer these allegations while no such demands are made of they themselves. You play too easily into their hands, as you do that. They wish to continue campaigning while you do their dirty job for them forcing the other party to leave the campaign and fill your biased thirst for answers.

It's foolish to imagine it will work. But as some of you here prove, common sense is not too common after all. There's goose. And then, there's gander.

This post was originally made by Moore Numental on Facebook on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, under the title All Goose and Gander are Created Equal But....

Monday, January 26, 2015

Charles Soludo: Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election

Monday, January 26, 2015

I need to preface this article with a few clarifications. I have taken a long sabbatical leave from partisan politics, and it is real fun watching the drama from the balcony. Having had my own share of public service (I do not need a job from government), I now devote my time and energy in pursuit of other passions, especially abroad.

A few days ago, I read an article in ThisDay entitled “Where is Charles Soludo?”, and my answer is that I am still there, only that I have been too busy with extensive international travels to participate in or comment on our national politics and economy. But I occasionally follow events at home. Since the survival and prosperity of Nigeria are at stake, the least some of us (albeit, non-partisan) must do is to engage in public debate. As the elections approach, I owe a duty to share some of my concerns.

In September 2010, I wrote a piece entitled “2011 Elections: Let the Real Debate Begin” and published by ThisDay. I understand the Federal Executive Council discussed it, and the Minister of Information rained personal attacks on me during the press briefing. I noted more than six newspaper editorials in support of the issues we raised.

Beside other issues we raised, our main thesis was that the macro economy was dangerously adrift, with little self-insurance mechanisms (and a prediction that if oil prices fell below $40, many state governments would not be able to pay salaries). I gave a subtle hint at easy money and exchange rate depreciations because I did not want to panic the market with a strong statement. Sadly, on the eve of the next elections, literally everything we hinted at has happened. Part of my motivation for this article is that five years after, the real debate is still not happening. The presidential election next month will be won by either Buhari or Jonathan.

For either, it is likely to be a pyrrhic victory. None of them will be able to deliver on the fantastic promises being made on the economy, and if oil prices remain below $60, I see very difficult months ahead, with possible heady collisions with labour, civil society, and indeed the citizenry. To be sure, the presidential election will not be decided by the quality of ‘issues’ or promises canvassed by the candidates. The debates won’t also change much (except if there is a major gaffe by either candidate like Tofa did in the debate with Abiola).

My take is that more than 95% of the likely voters have pretty much made up their minds based largely on other considerations. A few of us remain undecided. During my brief visit to Nigeria, I watched some of the campaign rallies on television. The tragedy of the current electioneering campaigns is that both parties are missing the golden opportunity to sensitize the citizenry about the enormous challenges ahead and hence mobilize them for the inevitable sacrifices they would be called upon to make soon. Each is promising an El-Dorado.

Let me admit that the two main parties talk around the major development challenges—corruption, insecurity, economy (unemployment/poverty, power, infrastructure, etc) health, education, etc. However, it is my considered view that none of them has any credible agenda to deal with the issues, especially within the context of the evolving global economy and Nigeria’s broken public finance.

The UK Conservative Party’s manifesto for the last election proudly announced that all its programmes were fully costed and were therefore implementable. Neither APC nor PDP can make a similar claim. A plan without the dollar or Naira signs to it is nothing but a wish-list. They are not telling us how much each of their promises will cost and where they will get the money. None talks about the broken or near bankrupt public finance and the strategy to fix it.

In response to the question of where the money will come from, I heard one of the politicians say that the problem of Nigeria was not money but the management of resources.

This is half-truth. The problem is both. No matter how efficient a father (with a monthly salary of N50,000) is at managing the family resources, I cannot see how he could deliver on a promise to buy a brand new Peugeot 406 for each of his three children in a year. Even with all the loopholes and waste closed, with increased efficiency per dollar spent, there is still a binding budget constraint. To deliver an efficient national transport infrastructure alone will still cost tens of billions of dollars per annum even by corruption-free, cost-effective means.

Did I hear that APC promises a welfare system that will pay between N5,000 and N10,000 per month to the poorest 25 million Nigerians? Just this programme alone will cost between N1.5 and N3 trillion per annum. Add to this the cost of free primary education plus free meal (to be funded by the federal budget or would it force non-APC state governments to implement the same?), plus some millions of public housing, etc.

I have tried to cost some of the promises by both the APC and the PDP, given alternative scenarios for public finance and the numbers don’t add up. Nigerians would be glad to know how both parties would fund their programmes.

Do they intend to accentuate the huge public debt, or raise taxes on the soon to-be-beleaguered private businesses, or massively devalue the naira to rake in baskets of naira from the dwindling oil revenue, or embark on huge fiscal retrenchment with the sack of labour and abandonment of projects, and which areas of waste do they intend to close and how much do they estimate to rake in from them, etc? I remember that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was asked similar questions in 1978 and 1979 about his promises of free education and free medical services. Even as a teenager, I was impressed by how he reeled out figures about the amounts he would save from various ‘waste’ including the tea/coffee served in government offices. The point is that at least he did his homework and had his numbers and I give credit to his team.

Some 36 years later, the quality of political debate and discourse seems to border on the pedestrian. From the quality of its team, I did not expect much from the current government, but I must confess that I expected APC as a party aspiring to take over from PDP to come up with a knock-out punch. Evidently, from what we have read from the various versions of its manifesto as well as the depth of promises being made, it does not seem that it has a better offer. Let me digress a bit to refresh our memory on where we are, and thus provide the context in which to evaluate the promises being made to us.

Recall that the key word of the 2015 budget is ‘austerity’. Austerity? This is just within a few months of the fall in oil prices. History repeats itself in a very cruel way, as this was exactly what happened under the Shehu Shagari administration. Under the Shagari government, oil price reached its highest in 1980/81. During the same period, Nigeria ratcheted up its consumption and all tiers of government were in competition as to which would out-borrow the other. Huge public debt was the consequence. When oil prices crashed in early 1982, the National Assembly then passed the Economic Stabilization (Austerity Measures) Act in one day— going through the first, second, and third readings the same day. The austerity measures included the rationing of ‘essential commodities’ and most states owed salary arrears.

Corruption was said to be pervasive, and as Sani Abacha said in that famous coup speech, ‘unemployment has reached unacceptable proportions and our hospitals have become mere consulting clinics’. General Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon regime made the fight against corruption and restoration of discipline the cardinal point of their administration which lasted for 20 months. I am not sure they had a credible plan to get the economy out of the doldrums (although it must be admitted that poverty incidence in Nigeria as of 1985 when they left office was a just 46%— according to the Federal Office of Statistics).

We have come full circle. If the experience under Shagari could be excused as an unexpected shock, what Nigeria is going through now is a consequence of our deliberate wrong choices. We have always known that the unprecedented oil boom (in both price and quantity—despite oil theft) of the last six years is temporary but the government chose to treat it as a permanent shock. The parallels with the Shagari regime are troubling.

First, at the time of oil boom, Nigeria again went on a consumption spree such that the budgets of the last five years can best be described as ‘consumption budgets’, with new borrowing by the federal government exceeding the actual expenditure on critical infrastructure.

Second, not one penny was added to the stock of foreign reserves at a period Nigeria earned hundreds of billions from oil. For comparisons, President Obasanjo met about $5 billion in foreign reserves, and the average monthly oil price for the 72 months he was in office was $38, and yet he left $43 billion in foreign reserves after paying $12 billion to write-off Nigeria’s external debt. In the last five years, the average monthly oil price has been over $100, and the quantity also higher but our foreign reserves have been declining and exchange rate depreciating.

I note that when I assumed office as Governor of CBN, the stock of foreign reserves was $10 billion. The average monthly oil price during my 60 months in office was $59, but foreign reserve reached the all-time peak of $62 billion (and despite paying $12 billion for external debt, and losing over $15 billion during the unprecedented global financial and economic crisis) I left behind $45 billion.

Recall also that our exchange rate continuously appreciated during this period and was at N117 to the dollar before the global crisis and we deliberately allowed it to depreciate in order to preserve our reserves. My calculation is that if the economy was better managed, our foreign reserves should have been between $102 –$118 billion and exchange rate around N112 before the fall in oil prices. As of now, the reserves should be around $90 billion and exchange rate no higher than N125 per dollar.

Third, the rate of public debt accumulation at a time of unprecedented boom had no parallel in the world. While the Obasanjo administration bought and enlarged the policy space for Nigeria, the current government has sold and constricted it. What debt relief did for Nigeria was to liberate Nigerian policymakers from the intrusive conditionalities of the creditors and thereby truly allowing Nigeria independence in its public policy. How have we used the independence?

Through our own choices, we have yet again tied the hands of future policymakers. This time, the debt is not necessarily to foreign creditor institutions/governments which are organized under the Paris club but largely to private agents which is even more volatile. We call it domestic debt. But if one carefully unpacks the bond portfolio, what percentage of it is held by foreign private agents? And I understand the Government had removed the speed bumps we kept to slow the speed of capital flight, and someone is sweating to explain the gyrations in foreign reserves. I am just smiling!

In sum, the mismanagement of our economy has brought us once more to the brink. Government officials rely on the artificial construct of debt to GDP ratio to tell us we can borrow as much as we want. That is nonsense, especially for an economy with a mono but highly volatile source of revenue and Forex earnings. The chicken will soon come home to roost.

Today, the combined domestic and external debt of the Federal Government is in excess of $40 billion. Add to this the fact that abandoned capital projects littered all over the country amount to over $50 billion. No word yet on other huge contingent liabilities. If oil prices continue to fall, I bet that Nigeria will soon have a heavy debt burden even with low debt to GDP ratio.

Furthermore, given the current and capital account regime, it is evident that Nigeria does not have enough foreign reserves to adequately cover for imports plus short term liabilities. In essence, we are approaching the classic of what the Shagari government faced, and no wonder the hasty introduction of ‘austerity measures’ again.

Fourth, poverty incidence and unemployment are also simultaneously at all-time high levels. According to the NBS, poverty incidence grew to 69% in 2010 and projected to be 71% in 2011, with unemployment at 24%.

This is the worst record in Nigeria’s history, and the paradox is that this happened during the unprecedented oil boom.

One theme I picked up listening to the campaign rallies as well as to some of the propagandists is the confusion about measuring government “performance”. Most people seem to confuse ‘inputs’, or ‘processes’ with output. Earlier this month, I had a dinner with a group of friends (14 of us) and we were chit-chatting about Nigeria. One of us, an associate of President Jonathan veered off to repeat a propaganda mantra that Jonathan had outperformed his predecessors. He also reminded us that Jonathan re-based the GDP and that Nigeria is now the biggest economy in Africa; etc.

It was fun listening to the response by others. In sum, the group agreed that the President had ‘outperformed’ his predecessors except that it is in reverse order. First, my friend was educated that re-basing the GDP is no achievement: it is a routine statistical exercise, and depending on the base year that you choose, you get a different GDP figure. Re-basing the GDP has nothing to do with government policy. Besides, as naira-dollar exchange rate continues to depreciate, the GDP in current dollars will also shrink considerably soon.

We were reminded of Jonathan’s agricultural ‘revolution’. But someone cut in and noted that for all the propaganda, the growth rate of the agricultural sector in the last five years still remains far below the performance under Obasanjo.

One of us reminded him that no other president had presided over the slaughter of about 15,000 people by insurgents in a peacetime; no other president earned up to 50% of the amount of resources the current government earned from oil and yet with very little outcomes; no other president had the rate of borrowing; none had significant Forex earnings and yet did not add one penny to foreign reserves but losing international reserves at a time of boom; no other president had a depreciating exchange rate at a time of export boom; at no time in Nigeria’s history has poverty reached 71% (even under Abacha, it was 67 -70%); and under no other president did unemployment reach 24%. Surely, these are unprecedented records and he surely ‘outperformed’ his predecessors! What a satire!

One of those present took the satire to some level by comparing Jonathan to the ‘performance’ of the former Governor of Anambra, Peter Obi. He noted that while Obi gloated about ‘savings’, there is no signature project to remember his regime except that his regime took the first position among all states in Nigeria in the democratization of poverty—- mass impoverishment of the people of Anambra. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, poverty rose under his watch in Anambra from 20% in 2004 (lowest in Nigeria then) to 68% in 2010 (a 238% deterioration!). Our friend likened it to a father who had no idea of what to do with his resources and was celebrating his fat bank account while his children were dying of kwashiorkor.

He pointed out that since it is the likes of Peter Obi who are the advisers to Jonathan on how to manage the economy (thereby confusing micromanagement which you do as a trader with macro governance) it is little wonder that poverty is fast becoming another name for Nigeria. It was a very hilarious evening. My advice to President Jonathan and his handlers is to stop wasting their time trying to campaign on his job record. Those who have decided to vote for him will not do so because he has taken Nigeria to the moon.

His record on the economy is a clear ‘F’ grade.

As one reviews the laundry list of micro interventions the government calls its achievements, one wonders whether such list is all that the government could deliver with an unprecedented oil boom and an unprecedented public debt accumulation. I can clearly see why reasonable people are worried.

Everywhere else in the world, government performance on the economy is measured by some outcome variables such as: income (GDP growth rate), stability of prices (inflation and exchange rate), unemployment rate, poverty rate, etc. On all these scores, this government has performed worse than its immediate predecessor— Obasanjo regime. If we appropriately adjust for oil income and debt, then this government is the worst in our history on the economy. All statistics are from the National Bureau of Statistics.

Despite presiding over the biggest oil boom in our history, it has not added one percentage point to the growth rate of GDP compared to the Obasanjo regime especially the 2003- 07 period. Obasanjo met GDP growth rate at 2% but averaged 7% within 2003- 07. The current government has been stuck at 6% despite an unprecedented oil boom. Income (GDP) growth has actually performed worse, and poverty escalated.

This is the only government in our history where rapidly increasing government expenditure was associated with increasing poverty. The director general of NBS stated in his written press conference address in 2011 that about 112 million Nigerians were living in poverty. Is this the record to defend? Obama had a tough time in his re-election in 2012 because unemployment reached 8%. Here, unemployment is at a record 24% and poverty at an all-time 71% but people are prancing around, gloating about ‘performance’.

As I write, the Naira exchange rate to the dollar is $210 at the parallel market. What a historic performance! Please save your breath and save us the embarrassment. The President promised Nigeria nothing in the last election and we did not get value for money. He should this time around present us with his plan for the future, and focus on how he would redeem himself in the second term—if he wins!

Sadly the government’s economic team is very weak, dominated by self-interested and self-conflicted group of traders and businessmen, and so-called economic team meetings have been nothing but showbiz time. The very people government exists to regulate have seized the levers of government as policymakers and most government institutions have largely been “privatized” to them. Mention any major government department or agency and someone will tell you whom it has been ‘allocated’ to, and the person subsequently nominates his minion to occupy the seat. What do you then expect? The economy seems to be on auto pilot, with confusion as to who is in charge, and government largely as a constraint.

There are no big ideas, and it is difficult to see where economic policy is headed to. My thesis is that the Nigerian economy, if properly managed, should have been growing at an annual rate of about 12% given the oil boom, and poverty and unemployment should have fallen dramatically over the last five years. This is topic for another day.

So far, the Government’s response to the self-inflicted crisis is, at best, laughable. They blame external shocks as if we did not expect them and say nothing about the terrible policy choices they made. The National Assembly had described the 2015 budget as unrealistic. The fiscal adjustments proposed in the 2015 budget simply play to the gallery and just to pander to our emotions.

For a $540 billion economy, the so-called luxury tax amounts to zero per cent of GDP. If the current trend continues, private businesses will come under a heavy crunch soon. Having put economics on its head during the boom time, the Government now proposes to increase taxes during a prospective downturn and impose austerity measures. Unbelievable!

Fortuitously, just as he succeeded Shagari when Nigeria faced similar situations, Buhari is once more seeking to lead Nigeria. But times have changed, and Nigeria is largely different. First, this is a democracy and dealing with corruption must happen within the ambit of the rule of law and due process. Getting things done in a democracy requires complicated bargaining, especially where the legislature, labour, the media, and civil society have become strong and entrenched.

Second, the size, structure and institutions of the economy have fundamentally altered. The market economy, especially the capital market and foreign exchange market, impose binding constraints and discipline on any regime. Third, dealing with most of the other issues— insecurity, unemployment/poverty, infrastructure, health, education, etc, require increased, smarter, and more efficient spending. Increased spending when the economy is on the reverse gear?

If oil prices remain between 40- 60 dollars over the next two years, the current policy regime guarantees that foreign reserves will continue the precipitous depletion with the attendant exchange rate depreciation, as well as a probable unsustainable escalation in debt accumulation, fiscal retrenchment or taxing the private sector with vengeance. The scenario does not look pretty.

The poor choices made by the current government have mortgaged the future, and the next government would have little room to manoeuvre and would inevitably undertake drastic but painful structural adjustments. Nigerians loathe the term ‘structural adjustment’. With falling real wages and depreciating currency, I can see any belated attempt by the government to deal with the bloated public sector pitching it against a feisty labour. I worry about regime stability in the coming months, and I do not envy the next team.

The seeming crisis is not destiny; it is self-imposed. However, we must see it as an opportunity to be seized to fundamentally restructure Nigeria’s political economy, including its fiscal federalism and mineral rights. The current system guarantees cycles of consumption loop and I cannot see sustainable long term prosperity without major systemic overhaul. The proposals at the national conference merely tinker at the margins.

In totality, the outcome of the national conference is to do more of the same, with minor amendments on the system of sharing and consumption rather than a fundamental overhaul of the system for productivity and prosperity. President Jonathan promises to implement the report of the national conference if he wins. I commend him for at least offering ‘something’, albeit, marginal in my view. I have not heard anything from the APC or Buhari regarding the national conference report or what kind of federalism they envisage for Nigeria.

In Nigeria’s recent history, two examples under the military and civilian governments demonstrate that where the political will exists, Nigeria has the capacity to overcome severe challenges. The first was under President Babangida. Not many Nigerians appreciate that given the near bankrupt state of Nigeria’s finances and requirements for debt resolution under the Paris Club, the country had little choice but to undertake the painful structural adjustment programme (SAP).

I want to state for the record that the foundation for the current market economy we operate in Nigeria was laid by that regime (liberalization of markets including market determined exchange rate, private sector-led economy including licensing of private banks and insurance, de-regulation, privatization of public enterprises under TCPC, etc). Just abolishing the import licensing regime was a fundamental policy revolution. Despite the criticisms, these policy thrusts have remained the pillars of our deepening market economy, and the economy recovered from almost negative growth rate to average 5.5% during the regime and poverty incidence at 42% in 1992.

Under our democratic experience, President Obasanjo inherited a bankrupt economy (with the lost decade of the 1990’s GDP growth rate of 2.2% and hence zero per capita income growth for the decade). His regime consolidated and deepened the market economy structures (consolidation of the banking system which is powering the emergence of a new but truly private sector-led economy and simultaneously led to a new awareness and boom in the capital market; telecommunications revolution; new pension regime; debt relief which won for Nigeria policy independence from the World Bank and Paris Club; deepening of de-regulation and privatization including the unbundling of NEPA under PHCN for privatization; agricultural revolution that saw yearly growth rate of over 6% and remains unsurpassed ever since; sound monetary and fiscal policy and growing foreign reserves that gave confidence to investors; establishment of the Africa Finance Corporation which is leading infrastructure finance in Africa; backward integration policy that saw the establishment and growth of Dangote cement and others; established ICPC and EFCC to fight corruption, etc). The economy roared to average yearly growth of 7% between 2003 and 2007 (although average monthly oil price under his regime was $38), and poverty dropped from estimated 70% in 1999 to 54% in 2004. Obasanjo was his own coordinating minister of the economy and chairman of the economic management team— which he chaired for 90 minutes every week. I met with him daily. In other words, he did not outsource economic management.

We expected that the next government after Obasanjo would take the economy to the next level. So far, we have had two great slogans: the 7-point agenda and currently, the transformation agenda. They remain empty slogans without content or direction. Let me suggest that the fundamental challenge for the next government on the economy can be framed around the goal of creating twelve million jobs over the next four years to have a dent on unemployment and poverty. The challenge is to craft a development agenda to deliver this within the context of broken public finance, and an economy in which painful structural adjustments will be inevitable if current trends in oil prices continue. Most other programmes on corruption, security, power, infrastructure, etc, are expected to be instruments to achieve this objective.

So far, neither the APC nor the PDP has a credible programme for employment and poverty reduction. The APC promises to create 20,000 jobs per state in the first year, totalling a mere 720,000 jobs. This sounds like a quota system and for a country where the new entrants into the labour market per annum exceed two million. If it was intended as a joke, APC must please get serious. On the other hand, President Jonathan targets two million jobs per annum but his strategy for doing so is a Job Board— another committee of sort. Sorry, Mr. President, a Job Board is not a strategy. The principal job Nigerians hired you to do for them is to create jobs for them too. You cannot outsource that job, Sir. Creating 3 million jobs per annum under the unfolding crisis would task our creativity and audacity to the limits.

I heard one politician argue that once we fix power, private sector would create jobs. Not necessarily! Well, this government claims to have added 1,700MW to the national grid and yet unemployment soars. Ask Greece, Spain, etc with power and infrastructure and yet with high unemployment. Structural dislocations play a key role. For example, currently in Nigeria, it is estimated that more than 60% of graduates of our educational system are unemployable.

You can understand why many of us are amused when the government celebrates that it has established twelve more glorified secondary schools as universities. I thought they would have told us how many Nigerian universities made it in the league of the best 200 universities in the world. That would have been an achievement. Surely, creating millions of jobs in this economy would, among other things, require ‘new money’ and extraordinary system of coordination among the three tiers of government plus the private sector.

Unfortunately, from what I read, the CBN is largely likely to be asleep at this time the country needs the most revolutionary finance. This is a topic for another day. Only the President can lead this effort. Moreover, we are waiting for the two parties/candidates to spell out HOW they will create jobs, whether it is the 20,000 jobs per state by APC or 2 million per annum by President Jonathan. Let us know how you arrived at the figures.

Whichever of the two that is declared winner will have his job cut out for him, and I expect him to declare a national emergency on job creation. Surprisingly, none of the parties/candidates has any grand vision about African economic integration, led by Nigeria. There is no programme on how to make the naira the de facto currency of ECOWAS or the international financial centre that can attract more than $100 billion per annum.

Where is the strategy for orchestrating the revolutionary finance to power the economy during this downturn? For President Jonathan, I find it shocking that the most important initiative of his government to secure the future of the economy by Nigeria refusing to sign the ruinous Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union is not even being mentioned.

President Obasanjo saved Nigeria from the potential ruin of an ECOWAS single currency while to his credit Jonathan safeguarded our industrial sector/economy by refusing to sign the EPA. Or does the government not understand the import of that? It will be interesting to know the APC’s strategy for exploiting strategic alliances within Africa, China, and the world for Nigeria’s prosperity.

If Buhari wins, he will ride on the populist wind for “change”. Most people I have spoken to who have decided to vote for Buhari do not necessarily know the specifics of what he would offer or how Nigeria would be different under him.

I asked my driver, Usman, whom he would vote for President. He responded: “If they no rig the election, na Buhari everybody go vote for”. I asked him why, and his next response sums it: “The man dey honest. In short, people just want to see another face for that villa”. But if he wins, the honeymoon will be brief and the pressure will be immense to magically deliver a ‘new Nigeria’ with no corruption, no Boko Haram or insecurity, jobs for everyone, no poverty, infrastructure and power in abundance, etc.

As a first point, Buhari and his team must realize that they do not yet have a coherent, credible agenda that is consistent with the fundamentals of the economy currently. The APC manifesto contains some good principles and wish-lists, but as a blue print for Nigeria’s security and prosperity, it is largely hollow. The numbers do not add up. Thus, his first job is to present a credible development agenda to Nigerians.

The second key challenge for Buhari and his team will be to transit and transform from a group of what I largely refer to as aggrieved people’s congregation to build a true political party with a soul from the patchwork of political associations. It is surely easier to oppose than to govern.

This should not worry us much. After all, even the PDP which has been in power for 16 years is still an assembly of people held together by what I refer to as dining table politics. I am not sure how many members can tell you what their party stands for or its mission and vision for Nigeria. The third but more difficult agenda is cobbling together a truly ‘progressive team’ that will begin to pick the pieces.

The lesson of history is that the best leaders have been the ones who went beyond their narrow provincial enclaves to recruit talents and mobilize capacities for national transformation. In Nigeria’s history, the two presidents who made the most fundamental transformation of the economy, Babangida and Obasanjo, were exceptional in the quality of the teams they put together.

I therefore pray that Buhari will be magnanimous in victory - if he wins - to put together a ‘team Nigeria’ for the rescue mission.

If Jonathan wins, then God must have been magnanimous to give him a second chance to redeem himself. Most people I know who support Jonathan do so either out of self-interest or fear of the unknown. As a friend summed it: the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know. One person assured me that we would see a ‘different Jonathan’ if he wins as he has been rattled by the harsh judgment of history on his presidency so far. I just pray that he is right. In that case, I would just draw the President’s attention to two issues:

First, beside the coterie of clowns who literally make a living with the sing-song of transformation agenda, President Jonathan must know that it remains an empty slogan. His greatest challenge is how to save himself from the stranglehold of his largely provincial palace jesters who tell him he has done better than God, and seek out ‘enemies’ and friends who can help him write his name in history. Propaganda won’t do it.

Second, Jonathan must claw back his powers as President of Nigeria. He largely outsourced them, and must now roll his sleeves for a new beginning. I take liberty to tell you this brutal truth: if you are not re-elected, there is little to remember your regime after the next few years.

On 7th January 2004, I made a special presentation to an expanded economic management team to set agenda for the new year (as chief economic adviser).

The focus of my presentation was for us to identify seven iroko trees that would be the flagship markers for the administration as well as how to finance them. I use the same framework to evaluate your administration. What I say to you, Mr. President, is that your record of performance so far is like a farmland filled with grasses. Yes, they are many but there is no tree, let alone any iroko tree, that stands out. Think about this. The beginning of wisdom for every President in his second term is to admit that he is racing against time to cement his legacy.

So far, your report card is not looking great. You need a team of big and bold thinkers, as well as with excellent execution capacity. So far, it is not working! Under the executive presidential system, Nigerians elected you to manage their economy. You cannot outsource that job. Our constitution envisages a federal coordination of the economy, and that function is performed by the National Economic Council (NEC) with Vice-President as chairman. Indeed, the constitution and other laws of Nigeria envisage the office of the VP as the coordinator on the economy.

All major economic institutions of the federal government are, by law, chaired by the Vice-President including the national planning (see functions of the national planning commission as coordinator of federal government economic and development programmes), debt management office, National Council on Privatization, etc. As chairman of National Planning (with Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, CBN governor, etc as members), the VP oversees the federal planning and coordination. Then the Constitution mandates the VP as representative of the federal government to chair the NEC, with only CBN governor and state governors as members—to coordinate national economy between federal and states. No minister is a member of NEC.

Many people do not understand the logic of the design of our constitution and the role of the VP. Of course, the buck stops on the desk of Mr. President. Only the President and VP have our mandate to govern us. Every other person is an adviser/assistant. I bet that you will only appreciate this article AFTER you leave office. Now that you are in power, truth will only hurt! Be assured that those of us who are prepared to die for Nigeria will never spare you or anyone else this bitter truth.

Nigeria must survive and prosper beyond Buhari or Jonathan!