Friday, 27 March 2015
HOW BUHARI WILL APPLY COMMON SENSE TO TRANSFORM THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY
By Chief Lawson A. Omokhodion
The record of General Muhammadu Buhari’s (GMB) involvement in making Nigeria a respectable country is out in the open domain. When he assumed power after the December 31, 1983 military coup, the conservative NPN (National Party of Nigeria) federal government had virtually destroyed the economy the way the conservative PDP federal government has destroyed the Nigerian economy today. Fake import bills, massive current account deficit, shortage of foreign exchange, huge external borrowing by the NPN government, austerity measures via the government economic stabilisation act of 1982, drug peddling and smuggling, violence all over the country particularly after the Ondo State vigorously contested elections and general state of despair were characteristic of he NPN government. The way it was under the NPN in 1983 is the same as it is in the PDP government of today. GMB came as head of state to rescue the country and he took certain drastic steps. The NPN government had run down the country’s foreign exchange reserves because of the over invoicing of projects, fraudulent expenditure on the construction of the federal capital city of Abuja and the profligacy of the government of President Shehu Shagari who was as weak and as clueless as the present leadership.
To address critical shortages GMB did not go out for foreign loans the way President Jonathan and Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala are busy doing now by borrowing from China, ADB and world financial markets. He cut down on imports and rationed what was available in the country. Nigerians got used to managing what was available and producing locally what they could. It was then that toilet rolls began to be produced in Nigeria. GMB’s government now went into counter trade to be able to barter crude oil for critical supplies and the country moved in a disciplined manner. Nigerians now formed a cueing culture and both Nigerian men and women learnt how to be orderly, how to wait patiently for their turns and how to be polite to other Nigerians. In a matter of months Nigeria regained its respect among the comity of nations. Unlike today where impunity, disorderliness and a culture-of-do-what-you-like prevails in government, orderliness was the reward of GMB’s presidency. We must return to the rea of order and good governance that only Buhari will ensure.
GMB hates corruption and disdains crude capital accumulation and wealth without work. He clamped all the corrupt leaders of the three political parties into detention and the government set up the special military tribunals to try the corrupt politicians. The parties were NPN, APP and the UPN. Many of the governors were sent to jail with their ministers and commissioners. These are the same corrupt people fighting Buhari today and yet under the PDP federal government these politicians have once again ruined the economy the way the NPN ruined the economy in 1983. To further make useless the money stolen by corrupt politicians, in 1984 GMB changed the colours and configuration of the Naira. The politicians were in trouble and they started working with the Ibrahim Babangida group to stage a military coup. GMB served as head of state from December 31, 1983 to August 1985 (18 months) and not one case of corruption was ever brought against his government or in the states. He would punish corruption vigorously and without mercy. But President Jonathan is soft on corruption. If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria as GMB said. When he became PTF Chairman, the known fact was that GMB would approve a contract with two conditions. Either the contractor performed well and got his cheque with a handshake or performed badly and got handcuffs heading to jail. He punished offenders and rewarded good performers. The EFFC and ICPC will be allowed to do their work independently without interference and according to the states setting them up.
Buhari hates religious violence and the unnecessary waste of human lives. As head of state no one religious riot broke out. He was put under pressure to take Nigeria into the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) but he refused saying that Nigeria was a secular state and no one religion must be allowed to dominate the country. It was the government of Ibrahim Babangida that took Nigeria into the OIC in 1986 leading to the crisis that led to the sacking of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as the chief of general staff. GMB led the Nigerian armed forces to crush the maitasine riot in the North-East and drove away the Chadian forces that occupied portions of Nigeria’s territory. Under GMB there will be no religious or Boko Haram crisis and if any one comes up it will be immediately addressed. GMB will not declare state of emergency in selected local government areas in the states where insurgents take over without taking firm action across the entire states. It was the way that the government of President Jonathan handled the Boko Haram criminality at the initial stages that gave impetus to the insurgency to grow out of hands. As an old time general of the Nigerian army, GMB will take decisive action on all matters of insecurity be it the murderous Hausa Fulani herdsmen, armed robberies, kidnapping or total lawlessness by individuals or groups.
As military governor of the former North-East state as it was then known and covering the whole of present day Borno and Yobe states and parts of Taraba and Adamawa states, the administrative capacity of GMB was never in doubt. He managed the resources of the state and Maiduguri the state capital was a beautiful, peaceful and progressive city under GMB governorship. Under President Jonathan the city of Maiduguri is a dangerous and abandoned city and a home of internally displaced persons. GMB was the petroleum minister under the government of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976-79. GMB knows the history of the nation’s refineries and what is required for them to work. GMB will ask the original equipment manufacturers used for the refineries to return to fix the nation’s four refineries. If the refineries are working the corruption in fuel subsidy payments will be eliminated. The $20 billion that we pay annually for petroleum imports will be saved. Jobs will be created. The refineries will create jobs and the spin-off effects will positively affect the economy. The money stolen by accused subsidy thieves who include the sons of two former PDP Chairman will no longer be accessible to them. Cases of corrupt enrichment to the detriment of the people of Nigeria will not be swept under the carpet. GMB will make local refineries functional and new ones will be built by both private businessmen and government. Nigeria practices a mixed economy system and GMB will not abandon the government to private capitalists. GMB will work with the private sector and will make sure the public sector provides the facilitating environment for economic growth.
GMB will pay special attention to road and rail network. The cost of building roads will not be higher than the cost obtainable in Ghana or Togo; two countries that share the same weather conditions like Nigeria. The hierarchy of corruption in both the federal and state legislature and executive organs will be dismantled. The monies saved will be used to provide jobs to Nigerians and improve the state of the local economy. The rail lines will be given genuine attention and more will be done at a cost much less than the cost of railway today. The current rail line being executed by the Lagos State government that the President Jonathan is blocking will be facilitated. In 1984, the proposed metro line planned by the civilian government of Lateef Jakande was cancelled by then Lagos state government of Mudashiru Lawal because Lawal explained to the supreme military council that corruption and contract manipulation were quite evident in the awards. The 2015 GMB’s federal government will provide a nationwide framework for transparency so that disagreements between governments like the type that occurred with Mudashiru Lawal and Lateef Jakande will not be allowed to obstruct public spirited projects. GMB is a progressive personality and as President he will return Nigeria to a state of respectability in all spheres of life.
GMB will improve public schools across the land by proving both a policy framework and needed resources. The situation where only the very poor send their children to public primary and secondary schools will change. GMB will improve the state of public hospitals such that the poor, the aged and the weak will find a place for medical attention. The huge resources spent by Nigerian parents to educate their children abroad in universities and attend hospitals abroad when they are sick will be addressed by upgrading the facilities in public institutions and making sure that strikes by professional bodies and lockouts will be minimised by constructive engagement and appeal to a higher ideal of nation building. GMB will make sure instances of crude oil theft are either completely eliminated or reduced to a few barrels per day. GMB will pass the petroleum industry bill by working sincerely with the legislative chambers to achieve what PDP with double majority in the two chambers under President Jonathan could not achieve. GMB will make sure all the funds that have been disbursed to make abundant electricity supply possible in Nigeria are applied as approved. GMB will not witch hunt but he will insist that any federal government project expenditure must carry commensurate value.
GMB will project a strong Nigeria. A nation where no-one will be oppressed. A nation where our diversity is strength and not the disabling weakness it has become. A nation where the rich and the poor will coexist as equals before the law. A country where local production is enhanced and import dependency minimised. A nation that is sympathetic to the strong and welcoming for the rich. GMB will give us a nation where the young school leavers and young graduates will be gainfully employed and happy and committed to a new Nigeria. We need just common sense to transform Nigeria’s socio-economic directions. Buhari has the common sense.
A vote for APC’s General Muhammadu Buhari is a vote for a prosperous new Nigeria.
*Chief Omokhodion was MD/CEO Liberty Bank Plc