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Buhari, Atiku And The Dwindling Economy

By Phrank Shaibu

There is a growing acceptance in Nigeria today, that President Muhammadu Buhari has failed again in his headship of Nigeria. This time, as a supposed democratic leader, the failure is not just visible nationally but even the International Community has recognized it and are not leaving any one in doubt about their observations.

The recent remarks by some notable world leaders and top financial institutions have no doubt become a source of great worry for many people. In reality, the few persons that feel comfortable with President Buhari’s style of governance can only be identified in the camp of his seeming warped followers, sycophants and some Nigerians that have been intimidated into silence by the so called anti corruption agency of this administration.

For avoidance of the doubt, the global backlash under reference herein is not the recent remarks of the American President Donald Trump which captured the Nigerian President as lifeless but this discourse is on the new revelations by two of the world's leading financial houses, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, popularly called HSBC and the International Monetary Fund as well as the Economic Intelligence Unit of The Economist.

First, the economic assessment and prediction on Nigeria by the HSBC after taking a firm analytical look at several sectors of the Nigerian economy, the political situation in the country, electoral uncertainty and macro risks including examining the recent power play and defections in the political arena, the International financial organisation reached a very gloomy conclusion on the future of the nation. Specifically, the report noted that "a second term for Mr. Buhari however raises the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration, prolonging the stagnation of his first term, particularly if there is no move towards completing reform of the exchange rate system or fiscal adjustments that diversify government revenues away from oil".

The particular aspect of the HSBC report that captured the attention of most Nigerians is where it noted that ‘Buhari will once again lead the APC into the 2019 elections, although his approval ratings sit near all-time lows and this largely reflects the impact of Nigeria's painful recession in 2016-17 and the sustained economic hardship that has accompanied his presidency, including rapidly rising joblessness and poverty’.

As expected, there has been a lot of uproar from the Buhari administration on the report published by HSBC. As usual, the government, through its so called ministry of information that serves well as an organ of misinformation, released skewed and twisted statistics through its channels. Their conclusion was that the HSBC report was influenced by the opposition politics. This is really sad because the report took a look at the issues that will be on the front burner for those seeking to run for President, made highlights of Nigeria's economic situation under President Buhari and tabled their observations.

Indeed, for anyone with secondary school education on basic economics, the points raised by HSBC were very comprehensive and real. Thus, for any focused government alive to its responsibilities and governance challenges, what obviously should have been needed is a convincing logic that some policy adjustments would be made to address the observed negative indices.

Instead, what Buhari's information managers did was to discredit glaring facts from the highly reputable global agency. How such actions have addressed the many worries of the large section of the Nigerian public is yet to be seen especially in assuaging citizens traumatised situation of hopelessness in a distressed economy which the same administration induced.

In addition to the HSBC report which dwelt on the many minuses on corruption fight, the security concerns that persist across the country with the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, militant activities that have disrupted oil production in the Niger Delta and more recently escalating violence between assumed cattle herdsmen and communities, the latest is the IMF report which has equally given Nigeria under Buhari, a very negative appraisal during the recent Annual General Meetings of the IMF/World Bank in Bali, Indonesia, where Nigeria's growth prospects was revised downwards in 2018 from 2.1 per cent to 1.9 per cent with prediction that inflation rate in Nigeria would increase to 13.5 per cent next year.

Sadly however, the spokespersons of the Nigerian President, against the backdrop of these damming reports in their usual manner, responded to these observations even without digesting the contents. In their rushed judgement, they stated that HSBC was a corrupt and biased institution which had even allegedly been laundering money for corrupt Nigerian politicians. Typically, their references had no connection with addressing the raised fundamental economic defects and likely dangers to our economy. Rather Buhari’s spokespersons wallowed in the usual finger pointing and name calling accusations, which has been the hallmark of the Buhari administration's media and propaganda response to constructive criticism.

For many genuine close watchers of the Buhari administration, it is not surprising that these disturbing remarks by the HSBC and IMF portraying Nigeria as a country heading for economic doom, were released within a few months of each other. Could this be another conspiracy of the PDP?

The reading public does not need any egghead in economics to inform them that the present government has being leading them on a path of deceit and that which it sadly preaches to be change by every reasonable imagination or reality is now an economic catastrophe that has impoverished Nigerians, introduced hungry and anger that has culminated to various forms of avoidable violent agitations in many sections if the country.

The message herein is that those that speak for government must realise that they owe the public a sacrosanct duty of conveying facts rather falsehoods as the earnings and comforts they enjoy in their hollowed offices are provided from hard earned tax payers" money. Indeed, it amounts to crass and unforgivable disrespect for Nigerian citizens when those who act as mouth piece of the government engage in reeling out lies to cover very important issues that affect the overall economic situation of the country.

Simply put, if it is true, as has been often reported and widely speculated that President Buhari, either by circumstance of his unstable health or the more plausible lack of modernity does not find energy nor appetite to browse the internet for news except those conveyed by his aides and associates before taking decisions, then what this suggests is that the cause of the present failed economic situation is a shared blame between the Nigerian President and those that process information for him.

Certainly, any Nigerian that still believes that this Buhari government has the capacity to reverse the predictions of these renowned International financial organisations, must be a member of inner circle of the administration that feeds fat on corruption, injustice, nepotism or crass clannishness , which has now been established as the approach of leadership of the administration.

Otherwise, commonsense is sufficient to suggest that any country with people that repeat the error of electing rulers that have capacity to thrust their nation into huge economic mess as depicted in the analysis of these credible financial institutions, should also be ready to face the consequences that usually confront failed states. Indeed, any democratic nation that fails to adhere to wise counsel should also be prepared to confront the likely anarchy and lawlessness that come with citizens' revolt in times of economic hardship especially under a government like that of today’s Nigeria will never change for good.

This is really why Nigerians must rethink their choice of Buhari come 2019 by seeking a viable, active, cosmopolitan replacement with someone who can independently assess and access information, not just on a pragmatic and functional need to know basis, but indeed on what would work best for a nation in dire need of credible restructuring. This is where Atiku Abubakar fits in well and is by far the best and right man for this time in Nigeria.

The comfort for Nigerians is that all hopes are not lost as the era of leadership with information manipulation, deceit and no vision seems over especially with the emergence of Alhaji Abubakar Atiku as the Presidential candidate of the PDP.

Certainly, Atiku’s precedence in successful business management and fair-play will ensure that a formidable opposition that has the capacity to change the story of Nigerians from hopelessness to prosperity is a new option for Nigeria.

May the votes of well meaning Nigerians count in the elections of 2019.

*SHAIBU, a Public Communication Consultant writes from Abuja


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