Former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and immediate past Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, recently spoke on the challenges confronting the nation, their key drivers and the way forward. Some of the identified problems include insecurity, diversity, religion, poverty, national debt, inflation, unemployment, rising population, infant and maternal mortality, among others. He lamented that all the economic progress made in the last 35 years were wiped out in the last five years due to ill-advised decisions taken by the managers of the nation’s resources.
The ex-CBN boss, who spoke at an online forum organised by the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of Nigeria and at a Colloquium in Kaduna to mark his 60th birthday, claimed that the country has not made any appreciable progress in recent years, and urged Nigerians to interrogate key government policies and come up with suggestions to overcome the nation’s socio-economic problems. According to him, “nobody should ignore the fact that things are not working in Nigeria … and no one should be a conformist in an abnormal society.”
After appraising the nation’s challenges, Sanusi called on the government to be more humane in its policies and programmes. While noting that insecurity remains intractable, he urged the administration to respond to the situation by more action than words. Arising from his observation, it is no longer news that the economy is now at its worst state. His claim that if urgent action is not taken, by the end of the year, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be worse than it was in 1980 is stating the obvious. Currently, Nigeria’s GDP per capita on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis has declined sharply. It was $2,180 in 1980, and $3,099 in 2014, and in 2019, it fall to $2,229.
We agree with Sanusi that the key drivers of these negative indices include rising population, inflation and the depreciation of the naira. His argument that spending almost 90 per cent of revenue on debt servicing is unsustainable cannot be disputed. The World Bank recent report listed Nigeria among high-debt risk nations in the world with $11.7 billion on International Development Association (IDA) debt stock. That report invariably validates Sanusi’s argument that high spending on debt servicing will lead to bankruptcy. Therefore, it is incontrovertible that when the government “pursues wrong economic policies, it will get wrong economic outcomes.”
Without doubt, the former CBN governor has spoken the minds of many Nigerians. His observation that religion and ethnicity have been elevated to an unnecessary place of importance cannot be faulted, and nobody can disagree with him that the development has become a distraction from the real challenges besetting the country. For the country to witness the needed accelerated economic development, there should be more emphasis on good governance. The government can do this by not using the machinery of government to promote parochial interests. At the same time, the administration must remain focused in its fight against corruption.
We enjoin the government to listen to people like Sanusi and heed to their words of advice. We say this because Nigeria needs such outspoken people, particularly at this time that the country is at the crossroads. His intervention and that of others must serve as wake-up calls on the government to be more committed in tackling the challenges confronting the nation.
It is good that President Buhari is aware of these problems. The situation might have warranted his recent charge to the service chiefs to brace up to the security challenges. As the president, Nigerians look up to him to swiftly respond to problems that face the country. More than ever before, Nigeria is facing unprecedented socioeconomic challenges that require hands-on approach to resolve.
In virtually all sectors, things are not getting better and hope is fast fading. Unfortunately, the government has not lived up to its promises of securing the country and the people. Moreover, the government’s promise of tackling poverty by lifting 10 million people out of poverty annually is far from being met. Food affordability is now a major problem. Nigeria was recently rated the second worst in the world in food affordability. Youth unemployment is also high at 42 per cent. Disposable income of Nigerians is at its worst level. These are problems that must be tackled headlong by the administration. The prevailing challenges underscore the imperative of restructuring the country as so many Nigerians have enjoined.