‘Neither Jonathan nor Buhari will deliver’

by Charles Soludo

I need to preface this article with a few clarifications. I have taken a long sabbatical leave from partisan politics, and it is real fun watching the drama from the balcony. Having had my own share of public service (I do not need a job from government), I now devote my time and energy in pursuit of other passions, especially abroad. A few days ago, I read an article in Thisday entitled “Where is Charles Soludo?”, and my answer is that I am still there, only that I have been too busy with extensive international travels to participate in or comment on our national politics and economy.

But I occasionally follow events at home. Since the survival and prosperity of Nigeria are at stake, the least some of us (albeit, non-partisan) must do is to engage in public debate. As the elections approach, I owe a duty to share some of my concerns.
In September 2010, I wrote a piece entitled “2011 Elections: Let the Real Debate Begin” and published by Thisday. I understand the Federal Executive Council discussed it, and the Minister of Information rained personal attacks on me during the press briefing. I noted more than six newspaper editorials in support of the issues we raised. Beside other issues we raised, our main thesis was that the macro economy was dangerously adrift, with little self-insurance mechanisms (and a prediction that if oil prices fell below $40, many state governments would not be able to pay salaries).
I gave a subtle hint at easy money and exchange rate depreciations because I did not want to panic the market with a strong statement. Sadly, on the eve of the next elections, literally everything we hinted at has happened. Part of my motivation for this article is that five years after, the real debate is still not happening.
The presidential election next month will be won by either Buhari or Jonathan. For either, it is likely to be a pyrrhic victory. None of them will be able to deliver on the fantastic promises being made on the economy, and if oil prices remain below $60, I see very difficult months ahead, with possible heady collisions with labour, civil society, and indeed the citizenry. To be sure, the presidential election will not be decided by the quality of ‘issues’ or promises canvassed by the candidates.
The debates won’t also change much (except if there is a major gaffe by either candidate like Tofa did in the debate with Abiola). My take is that more than 95% of the likely voters have pretty much made up their minds based largely on other considerations. A few of us remain undecided. During my brief visit to Nigeria, I watched some of the campaign rallies on television.
The tragedy of the current electioneering campaigns is that both parties are missing the golden opportunity to sensitize the citizenry about the enormous challenges ahead and hence mobilize them for the inevitable sacrifices they would be called upon to make soon. Each is promising an El-Dorado.
Let me admit that the two main parties talk around the major development challenges—corruption, insecurity, economy (unemployment/poverty, power, infrastructure, etc) health, education, etc. However, it is my considered view that none of them has any credible agenda to deal with the issues, especially within the context of the evolving global economy and Nigeria’s broken public finance.
The UK Conservative Party’s manifesto for the last election proudly announced that all its programmes were fully costed and were therefore implementable. Neither APC nor PDP can make a similar claim. A plan without the dollar or Naira signs to it is nothing but a wish-list. They are not telling us how much each of their promises will cost and where they will get the money. None talks about the broken or near bankrupt public finance and the strategy to fix it.
In response to the question of where the money will come from, I heard one of the politicians say that the problem of Nigeria was not money but the management of resources. This is half-truth. The problem is both. No matter how efficient a father (with a monthly salary of N50,000) is at managing the family resources, I cannot see how he could deliver on a promise to buy a brand new Peugeot 406 for each of his three children in a year. Even with all the loopholes and waste closed, with increased efficiency per dollar spent, there is still a binding budget constraint. To deliver an efficient national transport infrastructure alone will still cost tens of billions of dollars per annum even by corruption-free, cost-effective means.
I hear that APC promises a welfare system that will pay between N5,000 and N10,000 per month to the poorest 25 million Nigerians? Just this programme alone will cost between N1.5 and N3 trillion per annum. Add to this the cost of free primary education plus free meal (to be funded by the federal budget or would it force non-APC state governments to implement the same?), plus some millions of public housing, etc.
I have tried to cost some of the promises by both the APC and the PDP, given alternative scenarios for public finance and the numbers don’t add up. Nigerians would be glad to know how both parties would fund their programmes.
Do they intend to accentuate the huge public debt, or raise taxes on the soon to-be-beleaguered private businesses, or massively devalue the naira to rake in baskets of naira from the dwindling oil revenue, or embark on huge fiscal retrenchment with the sack of labour and abandonment of projects, and which areas of waste do they intend to close and how much do they estimate to rake in from them, etc?
I remember that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was asked similar questions in 1978 and 1979 about his promises of free education and free medical services. Even as a teenager, I was impressed by how he reeled out figures about the amounts he would save from various ‘waste’ including the tea/coffee served in government offices. The point is that at least he did his homework and had his numbers and I give credit to his team.
Some 36 years later, the quality of political debate and discourse seems to border on the pedestrian. From the quality of its team, I did not expect much from the current government, but I must confess that I expected APC as a party aspiring to take over from PDP to come up with a knock-out punch. Evidently, from what we have read from the various versions of its manifesto as well as the depth of promises being made, it does not seem that it has a better offer.
Let me digress a bit to refresh our memory on where we are, and thus provide the context in which to evaluate the promises being made to us. Recall that the key word of the 2015 budget is ‘austerity’. Austerity? This is just within a few months of the fall in oil prices.

If it was intended as a joke, APC must please get serious. On the other hand, President Jonathan targets two million jobs per annum but his strategy for doing so is a Job Board--- another committee of sort. Sorry, Mr. President, a Job Board is not a strategy. The principal job Nigerians hired you to do for them is to create jobs for them too. You cannot outsource that job, Sir. Creating 3 million jobs per annum under the unfolding crisis would task our creativity and audacity to the limits.
I heard one politician argue that once we fix power, private sector would create jobs. Not necessarily! Well, this government claims to have added 1,700MW to the national grid and yet unemployment soars. Ask Greece, Spain, etc with power and infrastructure and yet with high unemployment. Structural dislocations play a key role. For example, currently in Nigeria, it is estimated that more than 60% of graduates of our educational system are unemployable.
You can understand why many of us are amused when the government celebrates that it has established twelve more glorified secondary schools as universities. I thought they would have told us how many Nigerian universities made it in the league of the best 200 universities in the world. That would have been an achievement. Surely, creating millions of jobs in this economy would, among other things, require ‘new money’ and extraordinary system of coordination among the three tiers of government plus the private sector. Unfortunately, from what I read, the CBN is largely likely to be asleep at this time the country needs the most revolutionary finance.
This is a topic for another day. Only the President can lead this effort. Moreover, we are waiting for the two parties/candidates to spell out HOW they will create jobs, whether it is the 20,000 jobs per state by APC or 2 million per annum by President Jonathan. Let us know how you arrived at the figures. Whichever of the two that is declared winner will have his job cut out for him, and I expect him to declare a national emergency on job creation.
Surprisingly, none of the parties/candidates has any grand vision about African economic integration, led by Nigeria. ...

Comments for ‘Neither Jonathan nor Buhari will deliver’

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Feb 17, 2015
by: Anonymous

As part of the effort to reduce unemployment in the country, The Federal Government under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration has taken its YouWin programme to Nigerians living abroad.
The Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, revealing this recently in Dubai at a town hall meeting with Nigerians resident in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), enjoined Nigerians in the diaspora to enroll in the government’s youth enterprise promotion initiatives as a means of deepening the administration’s job creation efforts.
He stated that beyond creating the enabling atmosphere to encourage investments, the Jonathan administration had initiated successful programmes for direct job creation, adding that government was working hard to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment in the country.
The Minister, who was Nigeria’s immediate past ambassador to the UAE said, "we see all of you who are based abroad as worthy partners in the business of developing our country. We know you are learning from the experience of your host nations. You are witnesses to what their youths are doing in terms of enterprise development.
"This is part of the reason the Jonathan administration had designed various job creation initiatives, especially the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), which has so far created thousands of job opportunities for youths across the country with people like you in mind. The enrolment process of YouWin is online. You don’t have to come home to file your initial application. We believe some of you may have some wonderful business ideas and proposals that require funding to come to fruition. Once you scale through the very transparent assessment process, the government would be willing to provide the funds to help you establish and employ other Nigerians."
The Minister reminded them that YouWin had already nurtured over 2,400 young entrepreneurs with over 22,000 jobs created in the first two rounds, while additional two rounds are envisioned. Also, he said government had launched a $50 million Venture Capital Fund accessible by YouWin beneficiaries and other viable small and medium enterprises ( SMEs).
Yuguda told the audience that the Federal Government has recorded substantial economic progress within a short time through successful reforms in many sectors including finance, agriculture, power, transportation and general infrastructural development as well as economic diversification accentuated by recent GDP rebasing.
According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, he assured Nigerians in the diaspora that President Jonathan’s commitment to good governance has deepened the democratic process by ensuring free and fair elections, adding that the 2015 general elections would hold as rescheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In his remarks, former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who was also at the event commended the people for being Nigeria’s good ambassadors and urged them to bring home lessons of Dubai’s rapid development and spirit of hard work.
The Consul-General of Nigerian Mission in Dubai, Ambassador Mike Omotosho, commended the Jonathan administration for lessening the burden of Nigerians in the UAE by opening the mission to handle their consular needs. In conveying the feelings of Nigerians in the country, the diplomat urged the government to make it possible for Nigerians in the diaspora to vote by conducting elections in foreign missions.

Jan 30, 2015
There is an a personal interest... NEW
by: Okey

Charles Chukwuma Soludo convinces me beyond all manner of doubts, that the average Nigerian elite is motivated only by PERSONAL INTEREST. To him, the much touted "National Interest" is a facade, a make-up to gain applause for relevance.

Prof., without much ado, the summary of this your syndicated piece is quite discernible, the subterfuge of your first paragraph notwithstanding. Which summary is: Jonathan, the worst man; his administration the worst ever. Buhari, very much unknown to you, this Jonathan man has left a mountainous problem for you to clear but I, Soludo, is the best guy to assist you in clearing the mess.

But I assure Chukwuma Soludo one thing: It is doubtful if he can EVER AGAIN impress or make meaning to his intended audience. For to them, Charles Chukwuma Soludo has committed the "Alex Ekwueme Harakiri."

Recall, Dr Alex Ekwueme had gone to Abacha's National Conference wherein he advocated for "Rotational Presidency" as between the North and South and amongst the six (6) geo-political zones. The North, in particular people of the North-West, regarded that proposition by Alex Ekwueme as a direct attack against the North. How that was/is, is still a puzzle to those of us who genuinely desire the longevity of this nation vide justice and equality of citizens and opportunity. Alex Ekwueme was to be punished severely when during the 1999 PDP Jos presidential primaries, Northern leaders and their hirelings in Nigeria ensured that Ekwueme lost. He was to come again in 2003. Arewa Peoples Congress (APC) commissioned a study and report on "Between Obasanjo and Ekwueme, who the North Should Support." What's the outcome ? The outcome was instructive as it said in sum: Though Obasanjo has not performed, the North is still advised to go ahead with him instead of Alex Ekwueme.

Why that long history ? The North says Charles Chukwuma Soludo dealt them a mortal blow. That when he carried out the recapitalization program, 25 banks survived. That of the 25, 13 had Yorubas as controlling shareholders whilst Igbos control 11, leaving the North with only one (1), Unity Bank. Without being reminded, the process that led to the privatization of the banks was very transparent as the banks were capitalized through the interests and funds of shares-purchasers, who happened to be mostly Southerners.That citizens from a section of the country did not show commensurate enthusiasm was no making of Soludo. But the North held him liable for that. Soludo's "culpability" manifested when time came for the renewal of his tenure. Despite willingness of President Yar'Adua to tenure renewal which he had personally promised Soludo, some Northern elders insisted and ensured that Yar'Adua never renewed the tenure.

No doubt, Jonathan's unforgivable offence against Soludo was committed when Soludo vied for the governorship of Anambra State. (I could now remember myself then making strident, unrelenting calls on Thisday newspaper online - as I did on his second attempt - for a wholesale welcome of Soludo's candidature, warning that Anambra and indeed Ndigbo will miss their way and suffer a dire consequence if Soludo was not given a prime place-role via Anambra State - to the point that many thought Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo had commissioned me for that. The fact being and remaining that, for me, that is not possible. Second, I don't know him, he doesn't know me either and I am not even from the same State). By that time, Jonathan was still "a good boy" to the Ota man. And the Ota instruction came that "Charles be stopped" because Charles posed a stumbling-block to "the 'anointed son' from Anambra." Jonathan carried that instruction to the letter. In the result, both Soludo and the anointed son lost to Peter Obi. Perhaps for a pound of flesh, Soludo was latter to identify with Atikiu Abubakar in the PDP 2011 primaries against Jonathan.

Now, Soludo, in obvious journey to protecting his personal interest, just like his fellow Nigerian elites, has undertaken the "Last Push" by joining in the "Operation Stop Jonathan." My prayer for Soludo is: may you not in the end be found to have committed the "Alex Ekwueme Harakiri"

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to 2015 Election.

Abuja Business Drone

most people that invest in them lose their money