Is It Sunset for Buhari’s Regime?

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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Emmanuel Onwubiko

One of the mainstream presidential hopefuls preparing for next year’s general election Tanimu Kabiru Turaki, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, made the most profound and deeply philosophical affirmations yesterday when he visited the governor of Kwara State.

He had also made similar assertion when on July 3rd this year he visited the corporate head office of his political party.

The former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki, (SAN), said that he is better educated than President Muhammadu Buhari and therefore in a better position to lead the country in 2019, reports the media.

Turaki, who is a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, spoke in Abuja when he visited the national headquarters of the party.

He was at the headquarters of the party to intimate to members of its National Working Committee his aspiration.

He said he could match President Buhari’s much-talked-about integrity, adding that he had what the President didn’t have.

The former minister said, “I can match President Buhari’s integrity for integrity and I have what he does not have: I have education, I have the knowledge, I have the fear of God, which he doesn’t have.

“Even if you have a good sales team, you need a good product. And I am that product. I can assure you that I am not made in ‘Taiwan’.

“Nigerians are crying, weeping and dying and they believe that the only party that can save them from this malady and psychological trauma is the PDP.”

While reminding members of the NWC of the great task ahead, Turaki said the PDP needed a good product to confront the ruling party in the Presidential election.

According to him, “Since 2015 that we lost the election, many things have changed. It is no longer about the platform alone but also about the candidate.

“We must be able to come up with a candidate that has the strength of character to wrestle Buhari and pin him to the ground (should he emerge APC Presidential candidate).”

On the security situation in the country, Turaki blamed Buhari’s government for declaring victory over the insurgents; a development he said made the people take government’s position hook, line and sinker.

He said, “APC has lied over the flushing and defeat of insurgents and when they (people) relax, they are picked up in soft targets and killed by insurgents,” adding that until killers were made to face the wrath of the law, the reign of terror would not abate.

This profoundly impactful statement by this Kebbi State born lawyer and technocrat, resonates with millions of Nigerians who are sick and tired of the multiple policy flip flops of the current administration and the litany of inconsistencies noticed in the implementation of programmes by the government. Even as this illustrious lawyer spoke in Kwara state in Borno state the boko haram terrorists struck, killing scores of people and reportedly hijacked a passenger's bus with about 20 people. This is despite government's persistent claims that Boko Haram terrorists have been technically defeated. There are other areas that the consistently inconsistent policy implementation has signposted a government that has come to it's tragic end due to paucity of ideas and gross lack of vision to achieve good governance.

Take for instance the critical sector of the real economy whereby lots of manifest errors are visible even to the eyes of non-initiates in the field of economics.

These policy flip flops are indeed so irritating so much so that most observers are beginning to ask questions regarding the competences of the members of the Buhari’s economic team.

These apprehensions have heightened with the disclosure that the minister of Finance Mrs. Kemi Adeosun may have been parading fake exemption certificate from the National Youth Service Scheme.

My considered opinion is that if the lady who manages the economy for the current government is alleged or found wanting in such a very serious case of forgery of a certificate, how are we to have faith in her decisions and body of advice to the president of the federal Republic who is said to have very limited academic credentials?

A key question is why the current government has accumulated serious debts from multi-lateral finance institutions and China whilst at the same time the federal Inland Revenue service; the Customs and EFCC keep bombarding Nigerians with a so-called rich resume of an agency that has netted in tons of Naira as taxes from corporate bodies and individuals and tales of recovery of several billions of dollars from looters?

Another side of the coin is the question of why this government irrationally took the decision of sharing the Sani Abacha's recovered loot to poor Nigerians but in the very same week, the president jetted off to china to sign a loan of the same amount which has further enslaved Nigeria?

For the avoidance of doubts here are the greater details of these policy flip flops.

The Buhari's administration said that the recovered $322 million stolen fund by the former military leader, Sani Abacha will be returned to the rightful owners – the masses.

This the government planned to do through the Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) - a so-called welfare programme reportedly aimed at ameliorating poverty through the transfers of money to persons who meet certain criteria.

Tukur Rumar, representative of the National Cash Transfer Office said the disbursement will be made to 302,000 poor households in 19 states of the federation in July 2018.

The states are Niger, Kogi, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Kwara, Cross River, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Anambra and Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) in Borno.

Rumar made this known at a roundtable on assets recovery organized by the Swiss Embassy in Abuja.

The repatriation and confiscation of the Geneva funds followed the conclusion of an agreement in July 2014 between Nigeria, the Swiss government and the Abacha family.

It was agreed upon that the recovered loot will be spent on social protection programmes in the country.

If the monitoring is not effective, the funds will be returned to the Geneva authorities. Buhari's administration understanding of social protection means sharing public fund to political loyalists in an election period to enhance his chances at the polls. The government does not believe in the saying that it is better to teach a man how to fish than to give him fish.

And then suddenly, the same government has gone to pick up a toxic loan of same amount from China.

The government claimed it was part of efforts to grow Nigeria's Information and Communication Technology sector that the Export-Import Bank of China will provide a loan of $328 million to support the country.

A statement by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, revealed this recently.

According to the statement, President Muhammadu Buhari and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sign the agreement during the former's current visit to the country.

The agreement will be between Galaxy Backbone Ltd., a Nigerian company and Huawei Technologies of China.

The statement read in part: "During the 6-day official visit of the Nigerian President, he is expected to join his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping to witness the signing of an agreement on the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase 11 (NICTIB 11) between Galaxy Backbone Limited and Huawei Technologies Limited (HUAWEI) at the cost of US $328 million facility provided by the Chinese EXIM Bank.

"The bank facility is for the development of NICTIB 11 project which is consistent with the current administration’s commitment to incorporating the development of ICT into national strategic planning under the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

"President Buhari and his Chinese host will also witness the signing of the MOU on One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR). It may be recalled that in 2013, the Chinese leader proposed the initiative of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, with a view to integrating the development strategies of partnering countries.

"During the High-Level Dialogue between Chinese and African Leaders and Business representatives on the margins of FOCAC, the Nigerian delegation is also expected to sign no fewer than 25 MOUs, including those proposed by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA)."

As far as rational reasoning is concerned, it is inexplicable in logic to imagine that government could recover stolen fund and decides to fritter the cash away by way of what they termed conditional transfer to poor homes when there is no transparency and accountability.

Aside logic, there is also the aspect of enslavement of Nigeria due to these range of policy flip flops which at best can be termed as running a voodoo economy.

Erstwhile World Bank’s vice president and Nigeria’s former education minister Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili has also added her voice to question the rationale in the approach of government to collect Chinese loan.

Oby Ezekwesili described President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing of a $382 million loan deal with the Chinese Government as a bad move.

In a series of posts shared on her personal Twitter page, the erstwhile Minister and former VP of the World Bank implied that the Chinese loan is risky to Nigeria. This is because “Chinese attitude to indebtedness is the hardest in the world”, she said.

She further stated that it is annoying to see countries like Nigeria continue to collect loans from the Asian hegemon; despite the risks involved.

According to Dr Ezekwesili, the Chinese are calculative and deliberate when they give loans to African Governments. They know exactly what they are doing when they design the loans to cover their exposure levels in case of uncertainties, she said.

Unfortunately, African leaders such as President Buhari continue to borrow recklessly and without recourse to all the inherent dangers.

As Ezekwesili observed, the scale of public debts is increasing steadily just as present-day politicians continue to behave like their predecessors who piled up debts.

For me, it makes little or no economic sense to go borrowing when at the same time agencies of this same government continue to churn out statistics of tons of billions netted in by them.

In April the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) said his agency picked up the sum of N1.171 trillion between January and March 2018 – N393 billion more than it collected during the same period in 2017.

Sometime in June, the Nigerian Customs Service reported that it generated highest monthly revenue of N100 billion.

If this government is picking up so much revenues from different sectors of the economy including the penalties running into several billions of dollars picked up by Central Bank of Nigeria from defaulting banks and MTN company over alleged financial misdemeanor, how come Nigerians have become the poorest in the world and how come the current president has continue to collect all sorts of loans? Has Buhari run out of idea and has the Sun set to his inglorious regime due to crass incompetence?

Those who know have even warned about what they called overborrowing syndrome which is the trap that president Buhari’s administration has entered.

In the book; "Economics: Making sense of the modern economy" edited by Simon Cox, the book argues thus: “It is easy to see how this cycle of excess gets out of hand, but what starts it in the first place? Any news that spurs a rush of optimism can get things going. One potential catalyst is financial liberalization, the very thing that first opens the credit taps. This has been known for decades. A classic text on development finance, by Ronald McKinnon of Stanford University, spelled out the dangers some 30 years ago.”

“A later volume of Mr. McKinnon’s again drew attention to the risks. Published six years before the crisis of 1997-98, it recounted South Korea’s previous experience with overborrowing in the mid-1960s. Starting in 1965, financial and trade liberalization had stimulated South Korea’s growth, prompting a fundamental reappraisal of the country’s prospect by foreign investors (not long before, economists had compared South Korea’s prospects unfavourably with the North’s). Liberalization allowed capital to rush in, but the surge was too great; it forced inflation up and left the country struggling with the problem until the early 1980s.”

“Having started, and grown bigger, why does the bubble eventually burst? All it takes is a shift in perceptions, reversing the one that started it all off. After a few years of overborrowing, balance sheets start to look stretched. At some point, borrowers begin to think enough is enough. Here and there, asset sales begin as firms try to restore financial ratios to something closer to normal. Prices stop rising and then start falling. Inflows of capital slow and the currency comes under pressure.”

As Nigerians eagerly awaits the coming election in which the incumbent so desperately plots to hang on to power even with the monumental economic crises that the administration’s poor economic policy implementation has unleashed on Nigeria, it is time for Nigerians to do a general Introspection and ask question whether the sunset has come for the Buhari’s regime or whether Nigerians will choose to remain in economic bondage until 2023.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ ; .

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