Nigeria’s many roaring rivers to cross (I)

 Due to the economic turmoil and societal upheavals of America’s Great Depression of 1929-1941; Americans lost faith in Herbert Hoover, their sitting president. At this time in history, Franklin Roosevelt was the 44th governor of the state of New York. Roosevelt was popular with Americans. The people adjudged him an able and capable manager of the state of affairs of one of the biggest states in the United States.

They desired to give him a shot as president. Thus in 1932, Roosevelt chose to contest the presidency. He offered something to the American people that they desperately needed – hope for the future. Roosevelt won the election becoming the 32nd President of the United States. He poured out his heart and soul into the economic revival of the nation. The new president knew that the only way to change the tide of the Great Depression was to take decisive action. These were some of his words of inspiration: “We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment…; If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along”.

Nigeria’s newly elected president Bola Tinubu is not Franklin Roosevelt. But his bold and bodacious moves are apt and appropriate comparisons to the motivational and deliberate moves of the American president. Tinubu is not only speaking soothing and comforting words of hope to hurting Nigerians who have also lost faith in governance and government; this president is throwing fiery darts of precise actions toward leviathan policies that have historically threatened Nigeria’s economic survival. And he is confident that his moves will eventually work for the greater economic good of Nigeria.

When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president from 1999-2007, about N195bn annually was paid on oil subsidies. At the time his successor Umaru Yar’Adua died in 2010, Nigeria’s subsidy burden was about N230bn. Under Goodluck Jonathan, subsidy hopped to over N1.2tn by year-end 2012. More than 60 per cent of the funds paid as subsidies in the preceding three years were fraudulent. Out of the over 300 companies that were collecting subsidies, only 23 imported fuel. Close to N700bn was stolen in the scheme, and not one single person was fingered and prosecuted. Fuel subsidy was nothing short of a perfidy. The enforcement of its removal by Tinubu was a big wrench in the weird and weakening wheels of corrupt enterprise surrounding Nigeria’s crude oil business evil kingdom.

Tinubu said he could have chosen to maintain the multiple foreign exchange system and benefit from it personally but instead opted to unify the official and parallel market rates to save the country from financial haemorrhage. Although the two implemented moves; subsidy removal and a unified exchange system have created a terrain that now bubbles with expectations of stability for the general economic outlook of the nation; they are just two of Nigeria’s roaring and rough rivers to cross. In spite of extant bubbly hope for a greater tomorrow in Nigeria, I am certain that this president understands that the journey ahead is far, the road to our desired destination is rugged, and there remain many raging rivers to cross.

In actions and inactions, some mean Nigerians do damage to Nigeria. Our system grooms, nurtures, and nourishes nightmarish experiences in all sectors, and methodically breeds many dream-killers. With our hands, a group of Nigerians killed Skye Bank, murdered the Co-operative Bank, slaughtered Société Générale Bank, and took the life out of Intercontinental Bank. Some crooked personalities obtained loans ranging from 10bn to 100bn they never had the intention of paying back. A nation that desires progress and growth must have its leaders do right by God and the people.

The undercurrent dire economic and financial chaos playing out in Nigeria today is a result of choices we made in the past. If there will be a scrubbing-off of the massive mess, it will be as a result of the choices we make now. Personalities who contribute to the economic mayhem of Nigeria are men and women embedded in the system. They are connected to the high and the mighty and many are card-carrying members of all political parties. How this present administration will deal with these powerful miscreants is a tumultuous river to cross.

The chicanery around our refineries portends that there are many rivers to cross. Our existing refineries have been shut down and lying idle since 2019 because of oil theft, pipeline vandalism, and structural neglect by the government. Nigeria loses more than 90 percent of crude oil pumped into its Trans-National Pipeline to theft and vandalism in the Niger Delta Region. A loss of N63. 3bn from September 2020 to August 2021, according to data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.  The NNPC itself lost N227.4bn. Our reliance has been heavily on imports to meet the nation’s needs. Rehabilitating the Port Harcourt refinery alone will gulp a whooping sum of $1.5bn! In terms of economic growth and infrastructure, it shows that we have not managed our economy well. Nigeria’s population is rising, but the economy is shrinking from $546bn in 2014 to $436bn in 2021. My friends, before Nigeria and Tinubu there are many rivers to cross.

Nigeria continues to import more than it exports. Food imports recently exceeded exports by N2.23tn in 12 months. Recent reports claim that the total international trade in agriculture in Nigeria stood at N3.24tn in 2021 with the import value exceeding export value by N2.23tn. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, while Nigerian farmers exported goods worth N127.2bn in the first quarter of 2021, the country imported N630.2bn in goods. In the second quarter, agricultural goods worth N165.27bn were exported while import value was N652bn. The good intention of the Federal Government to encourage diversity in the economy and increase food production in the country has been stalled by bandits who have succeeded in driving most farmers out of their farms. My friends, before Nigeria and this president, who appears prepared for the onerous job of leading the country out of the woods, are many roaring rivers to cross.

Fighting poverty and killing it is an arduous task except this administration becomes intentional in its strategy. Poverty in Nigeria is real. It’s on the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Warri, Enugu; Owerri, Kano, Sokoto, and everywhere. And yet; stupendous wealth also lives in these places. Poverty is a principality with a fertile womb giving birth to meaner principalities. Poverty is bondage. Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius once said that, “in a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.” Nigeria’s poverty rate is pegged at 33.1 per cent by the World Bank which classifies Nigeria as one of the five extremely poor nations of the world. Sixty-one percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day, and 92 per cent on less than two dollars a day. Crushing poverty and destroying hunger in a country that’s blessed with vast and fertile land is a huge and turbulent river to cross.

Twitter: @FolaOjotweet

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Author: Maxwell Dudu

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