Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, takes Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to task over his recent comment that Buhari won the 2019 presidential election because he had done a great job on the economy. She opines that like Chinua Achebe once said, only someone who ‘lives abroad’ would make such a comment!
In his now famous book, ‘An Image of Africa and the Trouble With Nigeria’, the extremely gifted writer, the late Chinua Achebe, narrated an astonishing statement credited to then-president Shehu Shagari, to the effect that while there was corruption in Nigeria, it had not yet reached alarming proportions.
According to Achebe, anybody who could have made that sort of statement was either a fool, crook or does not live in the country.
Well, since Achebe posited that Shagari was neither of the first two, he concluded that the president most likely lived elsewhere…meaning that he was very detached from reality.
As I reflected on the words of the late great writer, I decided that his conclusion on Shagari can also apply to our country’s current vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and other members of the Buhari administration.
At the Thursday, February 28 meeting between the VP and the Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee (NPC), Osinbajo reportedly argued that the APC had won the 2019 presidential election fair and square because President Buhari had done a great job on the economy and had improved the nation’s security situation.
Osinbajo, a loyal deputy, has made it a point of duty to constantly tout the supposed achievements of his boss and the current administration, even when the arguments don’t always square off with reality.
However, even to a long-suffering Nigerian like myself, the claim that the Buhari administration had worked wonders on the economy was one I couldn’t stomach.
By what indices exactly does our vice president - an esteemed ordained pastor – measure economic growth to the point where he can give this administration a high score?
Is it by the fact that Nigeria’s economy shrank for the first time in two decades in 2016 as Buhari refused to devalue the naira as it experienced a steep fall against the dollar?
That particular recession would go on to last for 15 solid months!
Did the VP arrive at his conclusion, taking into consideration that the World Poverty Clock has designated Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, as 87 million Nigerians are now believed to be living on less than $1.90 a day?
Did he look at Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) indices and note that a UNCTAD World Investment Report stated that FDI into the country fell by 21 percent to 3.5 billion dollars in 2017?
Still on the FDI, the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that this also fell by 48 percent to 2.9 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2018 as a result of investor apathy.
It stated: “The total value of capital importation into Nigeria stood at $2.855 billion in the third quarter of 2018. This was a decrease of 48.21 percent compared to Q2 2018 and 31.12 percent decrease compared to the third quarter of 2017.”
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking for 2018 showed that Nigeria had dropped one spot from its 2017 placing to 146th position out of 190 countries.
To be fair, the country did make a phenomenal leap in 2017, climbing 24 spots higher from 169th to 145th position, largely due to the fact that the government reduced time needed to register a business.
However, after establishing a business, there are other indices necessary for it to thrive e.g. ease of accessing loans, availability of infrastructure (especially power supply) and security. And if the country ranks poorly on these indices – as it does – then a business can just as easily park up!
In fact, let’s come down to the basics. How much does it cost for the average man to feed on a daily basis, and can he afford it?
The special adviser to the president on media, Femi Adesina, another loyal subordinate, told the nation that under the Buhari government, inflation has been trending downward from 18.55 percent as at December 2016 to 15.37 percent in December 2017 and further to 11.44 percent in December 2018.
However, gauging Adesina’s statistics against prevailing realities on the ground, I can only conclude that just like Osinbajo, he also lives abroad!
I mean, the man has certainly not been to a market lately.
A bag of rice which cost 7,000 naira in 2015 now goes for 18,000 naira. A cup of egusi that sold for around 250 naira in early 2018 now sells for between 750 naira and 800 naira. What about garri – food for the so-called ‘common man’? Well, a bucket of the commodity now sells for between 700 to one thousand naira and can even go higher in certain areas!
Honestly, sometimes I really don’t know what to make of comments made by officials of the Buhari administration. They are not just greatly detached from reality due to the fact that they ‘live abroad’ but are also very insensitive with their utterances and massively economical with the truth!
This same Adesina would go on to say: “With the Buhari administration, economic Eldorado beckons. Nigeria is inexorably set for that Next Level!”
These men – Osinbajo, Adesina et al. - need to ‘move back home’. They need to get in touch with reality and stop cooking up ‘alternative facts’ to cover up for their shortcomings. They need to hear from the common man…not those who have (probably) been given stipends to propagate falsities!
Achebe would go further to point out that an eight-century caliph of Baghdad, Haroun al Rashid, often went out into the streets of his city in disguise just to see how his subjects lived in reality.
Well, in light of outrageously erroneous comments like Osinbajo’s, would it be out of place to request that government officials do same?
Their comments are even more ridiculous when one considers that in a rare moment of truthfulness, a Nigerian governor revealed that even the president himself thinks the economy is in a bad shape.
In December 2018, Zamfara governor, Abdulaziz Yari, when queried by journalists about how Buhari answered requests for bailouts, said: “Mr President, as usual, responded by telling us that the economy is in a bad shape and we have to come together and think and rethink on the way forward.”
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See, no one ever said that the task of governance will be easy or that restoring Nigeria back on the path of economic stability (and even surplus) will be a walk in the park. However, it would serve men like Osinbajo well, not to insult our intelligence further by making such statements that are far away from reality.
A second term is about to begin for the Buhari administration and there needs to be a change in communication tactics. We don’t always get things right the first time and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging mistakes and expressing hopes for better outcomes via sound and effectively implemented (economic) policies.
We are all human afterall!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
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