Jonathan's Cassava Bread Budget

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One dies according to one's weight; the robin does not die and make a resounding noise “on hitting the ground.” (One acts according to one's worth.)

World production of cassava root was estimated to be 184 million tonnes in 2002, rising to 230 million tonnes in 2008. (FAO). The majority of production in 2002 was in Africa where 99.1 million tonnes were grown, 51.5 million tonnes were grown in Asia and 33.2 million tonnes in Latin America and the Caribbean. Nigeria is the world's largest producer of cassava.

However, based on the statistics from the FAO of the United Nations, Thailand is the largest exporting country of dried cassava, with a total of 77% of world export in 2005. The second-largest exporting country is Vietnam, with 13.6%, followed by Indonesia (5.8%) and Costa Rica (2.1%).

Unfortunately as the largest producer of cassava, we contribute less than 1% to world export, there is no functional statistics regarding production for local consumption, but somehow we expect that local bread consumption would be on the strength of cassava.

If you are trying to get my drift, just spare me some few paragraphs and we will see how 'unserious' our present leaders can be.

For starters 52% of 2012 budget is recurrent. While a sizable 19% will go to security, a laughable 3.4%, 3.8%, 1.2% is allocated to power, works and transportation. Education will get some 8% thereabout. While health, agriculture and water resources will make do with 6%, 1.7% 0.8% respectively.

Budgets ala PDP have come with one cliché or the other, Budgets of reconstruction, infrastructure, change, hope, and many more. We are witnesses of how the lack of adherence to these budgets has brought retrogression. Each budget has come with more delusion for the ordinary Nigerian than the previous one.

All the noise of macroeconomic policies, reforms and the usual economic jargons has been at most a sing song in the ears of the experts, a dance in the pages of newspapers, but the reality still stares us in the face, as poverty, deprivation and want take center stage in a land of plenty...the land of not just oil but cassava.

Painfully those that we have entrusted with leadership tell us that we have made considerable progress. And to think of it, who says that we have not, from the era of very few billions, infact one recalls when the budgets of Kano and Lagos states, was short of a million. But these days we are in the era of trillions.

A friend even noted in recent times "we don't see any more elephant projects like it used to be in the past, that way we could justify the monies". Instead the nation is fleeced through phony consultancies for projects in ghostland...strange overheads and one can only wonder for how long this government magic would continue.

Now for all the billions and trillions, a motor park, poultry, cutting of grass in the government house is part of the government's successes.

“Our collective challenge today is to translate macro-economic gains into tangible improvements in the living standards of our people. Despite the rapid growth of the economy, about 50% of our population still lives below the poverty line. Oil still accounts for about 40% of GDP, 90% of exports and 80% of government revenue. The challenge therefore is to reverse these ratios”. Those were the words of late Yar'Adua in his first budget speech.

With the Jonathan cassava budget, the challenges are still the same; the only change is an increase in the population living below the poverty line.

The cassava budget will still be plagued by “poor public expenditure management and lack of transparency, accountability and value for money.

Billions will go into energy; Nigerians will not see a change in the power sector, billions into the health sector, that won't translate into improved health care delivery. Billions for education but ask ASUU, the students, look at the laboratories, infrastructures, the quality of graduates and you certainly will agree that even the 8% is a pre-arranged credit shop, little to show for…

How can this budget touch the lives of the ordinary Nigerian, when the bulk of the monies will as usual go into allowances for, transport, newspaper, girlfriends, and concubines for the elite…a glance into the salaries that our political office holders earn is enough to instigate a revolt but we patiently wait and watch, hoping against hope?

The more money the nation has made, the more the people suffer, a bitter irony. Will Nigerians enjoy a few hundred in these trillions? Will this budget not go the same way again, to the capitalists by accumulation in our midst, those few men and women, who wallow in their gluttonous living and tell us that all is well while we die?

With this cassava budget, will our roads be better; will we see rapid infrastructural development, improved workers welfare?

In 2009, the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, spent a whopping N4.2bn on food items, uniforms and office maintenance. Food supplies to Aso Rock that year cost N205.88m or N17.1m monthly.

At the price of N7, 000 per bag, the total budget for food items (N205.88m) could procure about 29,412 bags of rice.

An investigation as conducted by a local paper that year revealed that the same amount (N17.1m) could be used to build four units of a modest three-bedroom bungalow in areas outside the Abuja city centre.

However, this does not include a separate N127.6m budgeted for meals to be served during summits, conferences and banquets to be hosted at the State House.

In 2007 N1.5m was spent providing reading glasses for Presidential aides that are domiciled in the Presidency. When aides of a president cannot see, what do we expect in terms of policy thrust other than blind trust? We just follow-follow, if they give cassava bread we take, if tomorrow they say its yam bread we follow till there is no bread at all.

A government that gave honours via medals and certificates to some deserving and undeserving Nigerians and foreigners on November 14, 2011. One month after as a result of a shortage, many of the honourees have not got their medals and certificates.

The SGF, Pius Anyim had promised they would receive their medals and certificates "in the next one week."

A government that could not adequately cater for 355 persons, a government that cannot keep a one week promise, how is that government going to keep a promise of several billions and trillions to over a hundred and fifty million people?

This is the government whose charge de affaire claims he will be eating cassava bread all the way...I dare my president and his men, just one me 15 Bakeries in 15 states that make solely cassava bread and are making profit, as a result of adequate power supply, has good road network for the distribution, and pays its workers well. Mr. President, time will tell, whether you were wrong, or we maybe just did not like you...Time will tell.

Prince Charles Dickson
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Articles by Prince Charles Dickson