As I reviewed three of my recent interventions on the economy (“Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Elections”; January, 2015); “Can a new Buharinomics Save Nigeria?”; November, 2015); and “A Fragile State with a Failing Economy: Making Progressive Change work for Nigeria”; August, 2016) as well as the plethora of expert opinions, conference communiques, lectures, memos and blueprints that adorn our media on a daily basis, I am not really sure what else to say. Implicit in the Vanguard choice of topic is that Nigerian economy is in dire need of a rescue, and many would agree. Let me frame the context of this rescue agenda with quotes from two voices who must know what they are talking about. On the state of the nation, the distinguished elder statesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi sums it this way (February 12, 2017):
“Nigeria’s project is not working, after 50 to 60 years the Nigerian project is not working despite everything we went through; constitutional conferences, the country is at a standstill… It is unfortunate we are still where we were more than 50 years after independence and have not been able to move away from where our colonial masters left us”.
On the performance of the government that Nigerians have entrusted to rescue the situation, one of the shinning lights of that ‘Team Nigeria’ has the following to say (“Memo to the President” which is circulating: I have received it from three persons – not from El-Rufai):
“These inherited problems were aggravated by the continuing slide in crude oil prices and the renewed insurgency in the Niger Delta that reduced oil production by more than 50 percent! …. This, however, is merely the symptom and simplest explanation of our current economic problems. However, we cannot, after more than a year in office, continue to rely only on this “blame them” explanation. We were elected precisely because Nigerians knew that the previous administration was mismanaging resources and engaged in unprecedented waste and corruption. We must therefore identify the roots of our enduring economic under-performance as a nation, and present a medium-term national plan and strategy to turn things around… We have no such clear roadmap at the moment…. In my honest opinion, we have made this situation worse by failing to be proactive in taking some political, economic and governance decisions in a timely manner. In very blunt terms, Mr. President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting BH insurgency and corruption. Overall, the feeling even among our supporters today is that the APC government is not doing well…” (Govenor Nasir el-Rufai: September 2016).
The key point of Ango Abullahi is that Nigeria seems to have been moving in circles since independence, while el-Rufai, in a rare patriotic duty, makes a frank wake up call to the president and the APC.
But there is a piece of good news. Finally, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) now has an “Economic Recovery and Growth Plan” (ERGP) which is supposed to be its blueprint for rescuing the economy. I commend the effort. At least we now have something to frame policy discussions, and how we wish that this lecture and discussions are centred around an evaluation of the new Plan: Is it a plan for the transition to a post-primary commodity economy or more of the same? In other words, is this plan the response to both Ango Abdullahi and el-Rufai, as well as millions of other patriotic Nigerians who have called for a sense of direction to the ship of state? That will be for another day!
II: The FGN Response and Report Card So far?