Editor's note: Senior journalist and public affairs commentator, Abdullahi Haruna, writes on the recent National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announcement that the country had slipped into another economic recession, using Kogi state as an example of sound economic policies during the COVID-19 lockdown.
On Saturday, news filtered in from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that the country had slipped into another economic recession. According to the bureau's submission in the release, the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had contracted in the third quarter of 2020 for about 3.62 percent. The latest contraction is the second one the country would experience in 2020. In the second quarter of the year, the economy contracted by 6.10 percent.
Significantly, the current recession is blamed on the restrictions on movement, both human and material during the second quarter of the year triggered by COVID-19. The Nigerian authorities also blamed the fluctuations in the price of crude oil in the global oil market on the gloomy economy. The news is a paralyzing one considering the fact that it took years, efforts, and multiple borrowings, both local and foreign, to technically exit the country from the 2016 recession. Some analysts have already said the ongoing recession will be the worst the country will experience for over 30 years or thereabouts.
Before now, the Nigerian economy was barely surviving and gasping for breath; then COVID-19 descended on the globe like a radioactive element that suddenly found its way out of its safe shell. Of course, Nigeria could not have been exempted from the pangs of the virulent virus, the world being a global village, with all the countries linked to one another, virtually and physically.
So, Nigeria got its index case of the pandemic in February or March which caused some level of panic. No one knew what to do to contain its spread since it's a novel virus and how to keep the economy going. There were debates on whether the country should shut down completely or partial lockdown through some guided restrictions while we allow the economy to float.
One vociferous voice stood against the lockdown of the country and by extension, its import-dependent economy. And that lonely voice in the wilderness happened to be the governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. He argued then that shutting down the country because of the invasion caused by the virus, whose recovery rate is very in Africa, would be detrimental to food production, heighten insecurity, and may activate economic recession.
Like a prophet who has no honour in his homeland, Governor Bello was called unprintable names for following the narrow path which was his conviction that it'd be suicidal to lockdown the country without viable alternatives that would make life more livable for the masses of the country. At the risk of being at loggerheads with the authorities in Abuja, the nation's capital, Governor Bello was never deterred by the torrents of aspersions against his person and administration of Kogi state. He refused to lockdown his state while most of his colleague governors did.
With his refusal to lock down the state, did Kogi state witness any mass deaths as some naysayers had projected then? How many COVID-19 patients did the state record? Is the country not currently experiencing food insecurity? Is there no fallout of increased insecurity disturbances across the country? What about the pernicious recession that has just hit the country like a thunderbolt? All these could have been avoided if the country had listened more to the likes of Governor Bello.
One quality deduction from the foregoing is that leaders across board must always consider a plurality of informed opinions on an issue before taking a definitive position on the issue. It helps to see such an issue from broad and multidimensional perspectives. Diverse engagements on an issue imply that it will help in arriving at a rounded and informed position on the said issue.
Another take away from the courageous position of Governor Bello on the issue of the lockdown is that one must always stand by his conviction so long it's pure, noble, and beneficial to mankind. This further reinforces the age-long Maxim that one should keep standing for the truth, even if one is standing alone.
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