OPINION: Buhari Is A Blessing To One Nigeria
For a federation that has operated a unitary structure of government, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has exposed the savage vulnerability of the system, and why it is not sustainable without free-flowing oil money.
Many, mostly opposition figures and some gullible Nigerians, have criticized the borrowing plan of the Buhari administration as amounting to enslaving the country and her citizens to creditors. They have called the administration clueless and Buhari as a spendthrift. But no one has proffered a realistic option to borrowing. If the government doesn’t take a loan, where would it get money to finance the budget, which includes salaries and other emoluments of civil servants?
A Guardian editorial of May 31 cast a headline which reflected the public mood against the management of the economy under Buhari. The editorial titled “Buhari’s lust for loans amid rising debts” shows how much we have politicized the issue. Instead of seeing it as a logical corollary of the failure of the governance structure we operate, we are busy blaming Buhari for taking loans without telling him what other options are available.
The Guarding editorial did not fare better, merely grumbling about the alarming increase in foreign debts and the cost of servicing the loans without suggesting any viable way out. The Guardian’s only solution was an advice to the Buhari administration to cut down the cost of governance.
Truth be told, this country is not sustainable the way we’re running it, and the signs have been showing for decades but we failed to heed the warning. In 1989 or so when the National Youth Service Corp introduced entrepreneurship training for corpers, it said at the time that the economy of the country (public and private sectors) could not employ more than ten percent of the graduates of that year. And the total number of graduates mobilized for national service that years was a meager 22,000.
Since then and now Nigeria has 134 recognized polytechnics and 174 universities, including federal, state and privately owned. All of these institutions admit about two million yearly and graduate about 600,000 each year. Has Nigeria done better economically since 1989 to be able to absolve all these graduates? The answer is an emphatic No!
A country that has not allowed its component parts to be productive by operating a system where all resources domiciled in states are owned and controlled by the federal government will sooner or later become a failed state. The federating units in Nigeria must be liberated to hold their destinies in their hands because the centre can no longer hold for long.
No matter who becomes president, Nigeria cannot prosper economically under this stifling system. Without economic growth, there will not be economic prosperity. Nigeria has never prospered economically, we’ve only had moments of boom when there was much more petrol dollars.
President Muhammadu Buhari has only made things worse by dragging the country further down to his level. We must thank Buhari for waking us all up by the way he has handled the affairs of the country. We thought he was a strong leader, but we’ve never had a weaker president. We thought he was the right man for the time, but no President had shown less capacity to manage the diversities of the country. I sympathize with all the able men and women in his administration whose stocks have now fallen due to him.
What has become more obvious in the last seven years that Buhari has been president is that Nigeria cannot survive without restructuring. The current structure where everything comes from the centre is no longer sustainable without oil money. Buhari’s inability to decisively deal with terrorism and banditry, the continuing threat of the Covid-19 pandemic and youth restiveness which has manifested in separatists’ agitation are potent indications that the country will collapse peacefully or violently without restructuring. It’s just a matter of time.
No one should deceive us, Nigeria started borrowing money so it could pay salaries and emoluments of civil servants since the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan. But the administration was lucky because oil was still doing well at the international markets. Moreover, it assembled an economic team headed by the indubitable Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala which gave Nigerians confidence of work-in-progress. But there is no such confidence under Buhari. He has not managed to assemble an economic team that could generate the unrealistic belief that things would be better. Now, we know. It can’t be better.
If there were Nigerians who doubted the wisdom in restructuring before Buhari came to power, they must have been converted over the last six years. Buhari has ruled the country like a general in retreat during a war. He has made us see, in painful ways, how fragile and vulnerable our current federal structure is.
Now, thanks to Buhari, most states have now realized the need for state police, and are looking to protect their citizens by establishing states and regional security outfits. The restructuring has already started. But it must now be formalized quickly and extended to allow states control their resources and become productive. This will help to create jobs and engage youths who are now growing more restless with the system. The EndSars protest clearly showed the danger ahead if nothing radical is done to make the country work.
Former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, certainly shares this view. He was on point when he said at a function few days ago that there must be a short term restructuring before the 2023 election. Jega, who spoke at a lecture he delivered at the Achievers University, Owo, in Ondo State, said there was need to resolve some of the challenges of the country through some quick restructuring. He said Nigeria needed stability, good governance and economic growth to give legitimacy to elected officials.
While those Femi Adesina called wailers may continue to blame Buhari for all the problems in the country, it is not difficult to see that he’s just a manifestation of the problem, not the problem. The problem of Nigeria began in 1966 after the military destroyed the Parliamentary system of government which allowed regional governments to flourish, and imposed a unitary structure.
If we want to flourish again as a country, it is time to restructure and give back power to the states. Buhari has exposed the folly of any contrary view.
– Writer is an Abuja-based journalist.
Disclaimer: This article is entirely the opinion of the writer and does not represent the views of The Whistler.