Friday, 8 April 2016

AS PRESIDENT BUHARI AND REV. OKOTIE AGREE ON THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY

President Muhammadu Buhari
In about two months, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government will mark one year in office. It will be a time to reflect on the trajectory and achievements of the change mantra which ushered the opposition party into government, and which afforded Nigerians the rare opportunity to have a peek into the nefariousness of the PDP looting machinery that had been subsumed under a whitewash of political propaganda, grandstanding and cronyism. The inevitable fallouts of that era is the unfortunate hardships that the realignment of the economy is taking on Nigerians, especially in the face of floundering global economics and falling oil prices which accounts for over 75 percent of Nigeria’s income.

That is why, President Buhari’s economic agenda, which revolved around five key priority areas, namely power, agriculture, manufacturing, housing and healthcare, and unveiled at the recent National Economic Council retreat, presented the opportunity for concerned Nigerians to have an inkling into the mindset of the President, and offer candid advice where necessary, or key-in, in order to bring to fruition the purposes and intents he enunciated. This agenda was in congruence with a Facebook post by Rev. Chris Okotie stating his perspectives on the economy, which he posited during a recent Fresh Democratic Party’s (FRESH) caucus meeting over the weekend.

He said: “… our party, therefore, advises that the economic summit seriously deliberates on what we consider to be the three key battle grounds – Agriculture, Power and Human Capital Development. Nigeria needs quality manpower to develop her economy, so, we must modernize our educational sector and its moribund curriculum, by investing in infrastructure, training, research and development. Every sector of the economy needs quality manpower to develop programme initiatives that could drive the economy towards self-sufficiency, rather than import dependency. No nation survives if it cannot feed itself, so our agriculture, more than any sector; apart from power generation, requires holistic, new and revolutionary policies that would ensure food security on the short-term and turn Nigeria into a major food exporter on the long-term…”

These views strike a chord with President Buhari’s opinion of the place of agriculture and power in the future of Nigeria, and his acknowledgement of challenges are the first step towards rectifying the imbalances: Access to foreign exchange, inadequate power, roads, security, high interest rates, lack of long term funding in manufacturing, high rents, unaffordable prices for prospective buyers, red tape, corruption and public service inefficiency in housing, inadequate equipment’s, poorly trained nursing staff, overcrowding in the health care sector, are challenges confronting us.

In agriculture, the President noted the lack of meaningful credit facilities, lack of visible government impact, rising food prices, cost of fertilizers, pesticides and labour, and the perennial challenges posed by subsidized food import, poor storage and agro-processing. Like Rev. Okotie believes, he must not ignore sectors like infrastructural development and education, the bedrock of adequate manpower in today’s highly cerebral world. His emphasis that the current power challenge which the nation is facing was unacceptable, cannot be over-emphasized, yet, to make manufacturing a priority drive, the 2000 megawatts before the end of 2016, and 10,000 megawatts targeted for 2019 are still measly, compared to the tens of thousands which some other African nations generate and hundreds of thousand megawatts which industrialized nations generate to power their entire national operations.

That being said, to accomplish the said targets in itself would be an inspiring feat, if this government accomplishes it. For the promised change to evolve on the economic landscape, there must first be a general reorientation of the conformity of our national psyche and a divorce from the aberrations embedded in our political genes. It is also worthy of note that the while economic drive is of utmost importance, it must not relegate the ongoing twin battles against corruption and insurgency to the background at this time, otherwise if the cabal are allowed to reconstitute their machineries, it would make nonsense of any economic gains that this government accomplishes.

Also, if Nigeria socio-political landscape must change, passivity and taking sides, which discolour the views of hardline paradigms like the anti-corruption and anti-terrorism battles, need to give way to patriotic and wholesome acceptance of any necessary surgical operations government initiates within the ambit of the law to rid the nation of every appearance of anti-growth in our socioeconomic life. Just as he is doing with the unveiling of his economic agenda, President Buhari began this onerous process of purging the top echelons of politics and government of anti-economic tendencies.

From the inception of his presidency 10 months ago, Buhari gave Boko Haram fighters a run for their money, and inaugurated his highly successful anti-corruption war. The process must trickle down from every sector of public life and the MDAs, where corruption oils the wheels and machinery of government, to the nooks and crannies of the country. Then only can we begin to attain the Nigeria that the founding fathers and every well-meaning Nigerian envisioned. (National Mirror)