I’m so dazed by the kind of abracadabra happening in Ondo State that I don’t see any point trying to comprehend it.
Where do I start? INEC supervises one PDP primary, and then goes on to recognise the candidate that emerged from the primary it did not supervise? Governor Mimiko (PDP) is talking business with President Buhari (APC)? The same Mimiko is torn between the candidate of the AD (who smells like Tinubu, who Mimiko does not want) and the candidate of the APC (who is clearly not from the governor’s PDP)? Or that things are moving from Appeal Court to Supreme Court and back to Appeal Court?
Everybody, except INEC and APC, seems to want the polls postponed, but INEC says no. Jegede, who is not officially a candidate, is still campaigning seriously. Now, how can any normal person comprehend all that?
So, I’ll rather leave Ondo alone, and let the mad ones savour the joy in madness.
As for me, I’m more interested in the controversy over President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposed $30 billion loan. In fact, I’m uncomfortable about it – so uncomfortable that I secretly wish the Senate would not approve it.
Of course, this is not necessarily informed by the fact that the South-East zone does not figure in the speculated plan of what the money would be used for.
But I know the lawmakers would ultimately bow, when the President speaks their language and does the needful.
I’m worried that the President would expect the lawmakers to simply rubber-stamp his decision to borrow such a huge amount – which, I believe, informed the decision to ‘save the lawmakers the stress of going through the details/breakdown of the proposed loan. That they should just throw $30 billion at the President without holding him to any commitments, timelines and targets.
I’m even told that some of the President’s men were actually angry that the pesky lawmakers are asking for details.
However, what got me thinking about this loan was the long telephone discussion I had with a usually outspoken, but now retired, senior Army officer from the North last week.
Of course, I’ve always known this particular redneck not to be a fan of Buhari, but what he had to say about the controversial $29.96 billion loan proposal of the President’s got me thinking.
Citing something he picked up from an old literature on modern Japanese economy, the officer recalled that “after several decades of soul-searching and isolation from the rest of the world, the Japanese came to the conclusion that no great country/economy is ever built on loans.”
According to him, even if we need to inject foreign capital to revive our economy, the critical mass of that foreign capital will not come from loans. It will come from Nigerians outside the country repatriating monies back home.
Ironically, he noted, the forex policies of the new regime are increasingly making it more and more difficult for Nigerians who have money abroad to bring back their money. He gave me figures, which, though I can’t readily verify now, I’m genuinely discomfited by.
According to him, Nigerians in Diaspora repatriated about $20 billion to the country in the last one year of Jonathan’s administration. But, today, more than one and a half years into Buhari’s government, the repatriation of funds has dried up to a little above $2 billion.
But that’s not all that we should bother about. Even if we resolve to go for this loan, how do we pay back? Was it because the Presidency did not really have a repayment plan that warranted sending the request to the National Assembly, without the necessary details? Who can really swear that he has seen a clearly thought-out economic plan that this regime can approach any credible lender with?
Yes, we could keep sloganeering about diversifying the economy, thinking beyond oil or even prospect for oil in the North and Lagos, but before any of these begins to yield dividends, our country needs to survive. We’ll also need to be repaying the loans and making some money.
Summary? To survive, Nigeria still needs for the oil of the Niger Delta to keep flowing. And to ensure this steady flow, we need to be more sincere about our policy in the Niger Delta. You cannot be doing Operation Crocodile Smile and be bombing the militants and expect to have oil to sell.
Until the militants see that we’re sincere with them, they’ll keep blowing up pipelines – no matter how many wheeler dealers, fronting as Niger Delta elders, we do deal with. The current arrogance and curious body language will not get us anywhere.
You cannot, for instance, continue to isolate the South-East and, to some extent, the South-South and hope to develop as a country.
Of course, since my South-East people, according to Buhari’s curious arithmetic, contributed only 5 per cent of the votes that made Buhari President, I had programmed my mind not to expect anything from the PMB government, beyond those appointments that are statutory. This mindset was informed by what I thought I always knew about the person of Gen. Buhari and his style of politics. I knew that in Buhari’s political dictionary, there is no such thing as ‘power sharing.’ It was either all or nothing!
But those who did not know much about the man Buhari (or who were blinded by the nationwide angst against Goodluck Jonathan) kept swearing that PMB would be a President for all Nigerians. That he would not run a winner-takes-all regime. Today, I suspect that even some of those who erroneously thought they were co-winners with Buhari now know better. For, even among the winners, there have been further segregations. Some winners are now outsiders in their own victory. A tiny clique, according to the President’s wife, has since appropriated the President, the Presidency and the electoral victory.
Fortunately, I’m not among those who are feeling disappointed by how things have turned out today. And the reason is simple: I never expected anything better from PMB. Blessed are those who do not expect, for they shall not be disappointed.
And if, for a fleeting moment, I thought thing would not go as I thought, the President soon perished the though, when he told an international audience (in one of his now countless foreign trips) that he would first attend to the needs of those who contributed 97 per cent before he looks in the direction of those who contributed 5 per cent. Now, don’t ask me to do the math, for I did not pass my GCE Mathematics. The idea is what matters. And the idea is: the sun will first shine on those who are standing, before it gets to those who are sitting.
And to rub home the fact that we can’t expect any preferential treatment, our nominee for minister (a professor, former university vice chancellor and secretary to the Imo State government) was given a minister of state portfolio in the education ministry. His senior minister, by the way, is an accountant, more renowned as newspaper columnist. So, I guess, our minister of state is in good hands.
Meanwhile, dear senators, since it is now clear that the recovered stolen billions are nowhere to be found, kindly approve the loan request, so that they can reflate our economy. At least, while they are sharing, or looting, or investing the loan, something can drop into our throats. Throats which are fast drying up. Our children (and our children’s children) can bear the burden of the debt later after we’re gone.