Seven months after President Muhammadu Buhari took over the responsibility of sailing the Nigerian ship to a preferred destination, not a few die-hard fans of the respected general have become sceptical about the direction of change in months to come.
First, the events that ushered in 2016 were nothing to write home about. With unpaid salaries, many workers, even in frontline private organisations, sulked throughout the holidays, while those who managed to stay above the line, celebrated with their heads straight. The financial tension was palpable across social classes as friends and colleagues, who had formed a tradition of throwing big parties to usher in the new year, instead, found good comfort in their living rooms.
In all my discussions with older colleagues during the holdiays, I could only deduce one thing – informed Nigerians are sure that the economic direction of the current administration will be tested in the next few months, with the attendant effects of nosediving oil prices and drying reserves on an already ‘beaten’ mono-product economy.
They are of the opinion that the Buhari administration may need to urgently go back to the drawing board to look for ways, outside textbook economics, of treating the current economic malaise and its peculiarities with the right prescriptions that will stand the test of time. The President’s celebrated economic managers may be special breeds by acceptable standards.
But followers of economic history would attest to the fact that smarter Nigerians had, at one time or the other, driven the affairs of the same key sectors they now oversee without much to show for their indisputable intelligence. In fact, many of them had barely escaped being booed out of office for record failure.
The present team must therefore jettison any planned razzmatazz and come to terms with the fact that we are in unusual times that require unusual actions. Despite serving in my modest capacity in the previous administration, I was one of those, who actively canvassed for a change, not because my immediate boss was a non-performer (he was one of the best); but because I was convinced that, after 16 years of wandering in a Peoples Democratic Party’s socioeconomic desert, Nigeria needed fresh but sound minds to walk the long talk of economic regeneration.
Now that the change is here, it must be handled delicately to ensure it is for good and not for worse. No doubt, the war against corruption and all its grand children is one struggle Nigerians must be determined to win in the interest of generations yet unborn.
That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has taken its searchlight to the ruling All Progressives Congress in the ongoing $2.1billion armsgate, with the arrest of Lawal Jafaru Isa, an APC chieftain, is a particularly good development. At least, critics may now be forced to believe that the war is more a national battle than a political tussle.
But beyond this, the Nigerian economy is crying for help. The economic outlook can at best be described as discouraging; international observers and economic experts forsee an economic crisis, probably worse than that of 2008; and private sector players are putting shocks in place in readiness for the worst contraction in 10 years.
The budget, as presented, looks promising but the underlying assumptions may not be sustainable, especially now that no economic expert can reliably predict how low oil prices would go in the next few weeks.
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