The N10.33 trillion 2020 budget brought out the best from the Senate last week. It practically went on rampage that Wednesday. It never cared nor bothered a hoot whose ox was gored or even bruised.
From the blow of the whistle, the Senate went straight for President Muhammadu Buhari’s jugular. And it got it, almost effortlessly. The President fell for them, and he was patently cleaned up.
The cleaners were his own All Progressives Congress (APC) senators. The assault was led by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi. It was during the clinical dissection of Buhari’s 2020 Appropriation Bill. The lawmakers angrily tore his budget package to shreds.
Abdullahi took the floor of the Red Chamber completely by storm when he opened the debate. He was vividly livid and he displayed it throughout his explosive presentation. He held his colleagues spell-bound for the period his submission lasted.
His assertion: “The capital budget to GDP ratio is rather too small (about 2 per cent of GDP). The injection of this amount is a mere drop in the ocean and is incapable of stimulating the economy to higher growth, wealth creation and employment generation.”
Abdullahi’s fears: “The projections of increased oil production averaging 2.18 million barrels per day in the medium term, are subject to very high risks.”
His argument is irresistible: “Volatility both at the international market and in the Niger Delta are factors that could make these expectations only tentative.” He insisted that the projected high deficit of N2.18 trillion for 2020 was a direct function of the economy-wide revenue shortfalls, as well as the choice and cost of borrowing: “Government, particularly the collecting agencies, must improve on their collection capacity. To do this, there must be robust investments in the real sector so that it could grow to earn taxable revenues. Debt service as a percentage of capital expenditure is still high, while debt service as a percentage of revenue should be diminishing.”
The candid advise. Government should dedicate itself to: “Raising more revenue by investing in real sector to grow the economy and boost employment and productivity; broadening the tax base to capture more revenue sources;
“Improving our transparency and reduce pilferage by intensifying the drive against corruption; and ensuring security for economic operators, both local and foreign.”
With all the strength in him, the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, excitedly jumped into the boat with Abdullahi. He aligned with every word pronounced by the Majority Leader. He loudly lauded him for throwing the usual parochial party consideration overboard.
He was in his happiest mood. And he flaunted it, he was proud not to hide it. His joy knew no bounds. He confessed that Abdullahi certainly made his job (as opposition leader) easiest: “So, if you look at it (budget) globally, we are still struggling.
“That is why I was very happy when the Senate Leader said we may have to take over and redirect the economic policy of this government, having seen that the executive has not done anything.”
He complemented Abdullahi the more: “The fact is that this is not a sustainable budget. The fact also tells us that where we are going, if we need a change, we must be able to look at the critical fundamentals of this budget speech and make adjustments.”
Perhaps, ex-governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, thought differently. He tried hard to do a belated damage control. But he “intervened” rather late. The cat had already been let out of the bag. His effort made no meaningful meaning.
In one breath, he claimed the budget was “a very ambitious one” intended to solve infrastructural problems. In another breath and in quick session, he recanted; a complete U-turn. He ate his disturbing words and swallowed his stinking vomit.
What an ugly double-face: “Our economy has got to a level that this Senate needs to take over and redirect its affairs.” Like an afterthought, he added that persistent borrowings would increase budget deficit.
In spite of our glaring absurdities, we can still have a country. A Nigeria we can proudly call our own, a country that is really ours. In fact, we once had a very viable one. But we lost it to our shenanigans, idiocies mischief and diabolicalness.
But we can do it all over even one more time. Abdullahi specifically proved that much. He put active life and the missing link to the budget debate. His contentions were pragmatic and holistic.
They were well-thought-out, marshalled and dramatically articulated to the delight of us all. He closed his mind, eyes and senses to senseless sentiments that had never done us any good. He was thorough, through and through. He made his feelings known without fear or favour. He distanced himself from partisan politics in his debate. He saw it as a huge distraction and so had nothing to do with it. He was tactical and brave. And it paid off handsomely.
You don’t need to be a rubber stamp or “yes man” to get things done. He is certainly the face of the Ninth Senate. We do not need bootlickers, liars, or do-gooders to effect the much-touted, weather-beaten change mantra. Abdullahi aptly and bluntly captured that. His demonstration on the floor of the Senate was like never before. It spoke volumes and we got the message right into our sockets.
On the other hand, Suswam was confused and incoherent in his argument. He was disconnected and jerky at the same time. He opted to play the Herculean task of a middle-of-the-roader. Tragically, he ended in chaos and absolute contradictions.
He left us much more confused. He neither convinced nor persuaded us. We could not access or even assess his mind. He remained aloof and withdrawn far away from us.
He did not bring any viable value to the table. He said nothing and discussed nothing. That is our frank and honest impression about him. We abhor and detest his guts. His type cannot make us to have a country. He talks from both sides of his loud mouth.
We have been held down for long. We deplore this with all the strength in us, because we are aging fast. We won’t allow it to continue unchecked.
Ah, this heavy yoke must be removed. The jinx must be broken. We are very desirous of this.
Let the message sink: We can still have a country. Yes, we can!