Buhari Can’t Fix 16 Years Rot Of PDP In 15 Months – Oshiomole | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari Can’t Fix 16 Years Rot Of PDP In 15 Months – Oshiomole

Oshiomhole's Legacy Won Election For Obaseki - Gov's Aide
Posted: Sep 6, 2016 at 4:41 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Edo State Governor, Comrade  Adams Oshiomole was a guest on Channels TV  at the weekend where he spoke on the economic recession in the country, Edo governorship election and other salient issues. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI who monitored the session brings the excerpts:

Everywhere you turn today, the news you hear is about our economy being in recession. Can that be described as a result of APC not having delivered on their promises?

No. I don’t think so.  I think that I have said it to many people. In every aspect of life, there is always a time-lag between an act and the consequences of a particular action. When we talk about health,  from the time you start eating the wrong stuff and when it begins to impact on your blood pressure or your level of cholesterol; there is always a time-lag.  Now, over the past couple of years,  people who should know put all of us on notice about  the level of bleeding  of the economy; the rate at which our reserves are being depleted by reckless looting; this not just misapplication of resources but clear looting of public funds. A Central Bank governor, a seasoned banker now an Emir of Kano revealed that what we were earning at the peak of our prosperity, when oil averaged between $108 to $140bpd. He said as much as $40b was unaccounted for. There were arguments that they were going to do book reconciliation and auditing. Now these monies that were flowing out, if they were otherwise preserved, we could have had huge reserves to support our national currency.  If you are bleeding so much and you end up not building the reserve, meanwhile, part of the consequences of few people having access to such huge rates is that it disturbed consumption. So, under couple of years, Nigeria has the highest per capita number of private jets procured with dollars and serviced in dollars.  Many people have talked about it that we have more private jets for a few people than you have for the entire country. If you didn’t save and because of the way we were earning, our consumption was so distorted that side-by-side we made so much noise about what agriculture business can do for us as a nation. At the same time, you have people whose main business  was to import expired rice into the country because you have huge free income that was flowing. So, people were consuming beyond what they can legitimately account for.  Then all of a sudden, you have a new government that promised change. Nigerians agreed that things were going wrong and that was why they voted out that government because the level of abuse got to the point that it didn’t require any researcher to see through what was going wrong. So, we had a change.  Now, the problem is you can’t fix it overnight.  Look at it, the current CBN governor was the same CBN governor that PDP appointed.  I don’t know what you think but the former CBN governor said ‘ look, let us encourage Nigerians to use the banking system more’; and we have what became known as  cashless policy. All these were deliberate tools designed to encourage people to take money out of under the pillow and keep it with the banking system.  But it became easier to get dollars than to get naira. People will typically can afford to find a $100,000 or $5m than you can find N50,000 from our banking system.  So, we have such huge amount of money. I don’t know what you make from the fact that even senior military officers who are well exposed and educated and whose communities  came under Boko Haram attack  had so much dollars  that they took directly from the banking system and keep in soakaway pits. These are confessions that are in public domain, not mere speculations. Now, president Buhari has come under the APC federal government  and find that you don’t just have the reserve to support a particular pattern of consumption which was  import-based. The first thing was to say ‘can we continue this way?’  Everybody agreed that we shouldn’t. So, we try to discourage those importing all manners of food items from assessing official forex.  Once we did that, because they can no longer assess cheap dollars, they now import these things at a margin that is higher. And because your appetite for import is still strong,  you add so much pressure on the dollar. When you deny them official access, the black market access went up. People now talk about round-tripping . We had this conversation in Lagos. Some of us said devaluing the naira has never held, others said if you don’t devalue, prices are being determined on the basis of black market rates rather than official rates. Therefore, those who have access to official market were making a kill.  The president resisted; after some time, he had to give in.  If you devalue the naira and anything you now import, including food items, the prices simply go up. That is the way the ordinary man begins to feel the high cost of living.

Does it mean this government doesn’t have superior policies to turn things around?

There are but those superior policies it’s not like, because your power system is so inefficient, you now bought a generator and so, you will be able to switch from power to generator overnight. No. The economy doesn’t work that way.  There has to be a time-lag between when you formulate policies on the basis of what you find on ground and when the benefit of those policies will begin to manifest. If it takes 16 years to get to this terrible state that we are in, why would anybody think that under 15 months of a new government, things will be fixed? I have never had that illusion. There are no miracles in the life of nations.

A lot of people are not exonerating this government. They are saying they are also part of the problem by not marshaling plans to see how this emergency can be averted. What is your take?

Maybe we might say government is not explaining enough but to think that there is no policy, that is not correct. There have been huge debates on couple of issues but if you are not explaining convincingly….

Some people have said why did it take the government six months to appoint ministers which it could have done from day one?

If you are not on the desk; it is just like Nigerian football. Everybody knows the right players. Everybody knows when the coach should have replaced the goalkeeper or a striker ought to have been withdrawn except the coach.  What is the particular beauty of rushing to write names of ministers? I think we have moved beyond that now. Given what the president has seen, don’t forget, he painstakingly had conversations with every line ministry, talking to the permanent-secretaries, directors, MDAs to gain some insight into what was going on in each of these agencies.  So, beyond first identifying the kind of people to appoint,  you also need to understand what was going on in each areas in order to appreciate  even better the quality of persons you need in particular ministries and so on.

Do you think with the appointments of these ministers, round pegs have been placed in round holes?

I think we should move beyond this.  The pegs are there and the holes are there. It is no longer a theoretical question. It is a matter for people to see who is able to do what he is asked to do competently or incompetently.  Now, it goes beyond speculating which one is a square peg in a round hole. What we should focus on is now what the issues are in the system? We got ourselves into a situation where everybody was contributing to rural poverty. We find ourselves in a very vicious cycle, a nation whose consumption pattern has been so distorted by the few who have access to stolen money, such that everywhere you go in the country, you have imported tomato puree, toothpicks and expired rice from all over the world and this government says ‘look, we are not going to continue this way’. Nigerians may have to go through reorientation that you don’t have perfect consuming what you don’t produce, particularly, those things that you can actually produce. Take for instance, tomato puree. When the CBN governor gives you the amount we spend in importing tomato puree, this is something every other Nigerian can grow in his backyard. Now, the price has gone up because in the course of placing restrictions and encouraging local productions. Local producers have come in, they are now buying the tomatoes to process and the price of tomatoes have gone up. If you ask me, it is painful in the short-run, but in the long-run, this is the way to go because I can tell you of a number of persons in Edo state, who were living in Lagos who have come back home to take advantage of the very high price of tomatoes to try to produce tomatoes behind their backyards. We are going to see more rural people making more money. Now the price of rice has gone up. We have about 13 states in Nigeria that are now producing rice. I had a conversation with some of them and this is not theoretical issues. The amount of rice being produced now is three times more than we were able to produced just two years ago; but in the short-run, the price is going up. Now, the temptation is for government to try to dampen prices to allow a window to import. When you allow that, the prices come down. The incentives for local production disappear.  We again get dependent on imported rice. The way to go, which nations have done is- price is a legitimate instrument to redirect activities in the economy. Every state in Nigeria is capable of producing rice, and people will go where they think they will make money.  So, if you full of envy based on the fact that  few people producing rice are making money, and more people go into rice production,  you will not in the long-run only become self-sufficient in rice production, but we would have reconcile our consumption to made-in- Nigeria rice. I travel round when I was in NLC than I do now. When I was in Japan, I was surprised to see the kind of rice Japanese eat.  Most Nigerians won’t want to eat that rice which they use for sushi. But as rich as they are, they will not allow you import the long grain Uncle Ben’s rice produced in America. They are going to produce it in Japan.

Talking Edo politics, the candidate you are supporting (Godwin Obaseki), what gives you the confidence that he is a good candidate and he will continue your legacy?

Let’s face it. Whenever you see tension between a governor and his predecessor, this often arises from one, not recognising that your time is over. When your time is over, it’s over.  You have no right to expect that your successor to do things the way you were doing them even if you think you were doing the best. I believe in the Japanese philosophy ‘Everything can get better’. I expect the next governor to do a lot better than myself.  I am a lefty; he is not a lefty. But the key issue is, he will have to do a couple of things differently if we are going to get much more result with leaner resources.  Now, when you want to dictate to your successor who he should appoint for which positions, there could be tension.  When you want to dictate to your successor which projects he should do based on your preferences, you could run into trouble. But if you recognise that your term and your tenure is over, another person has come in, all you have to do is to encourage him and learn to live with the reality that your time is up. If he calls you for advice render it and try to be as honest as you can. If he doesn’t call you, don’t throw advice at him. If one should do that, there will be no friction.  But there are some people who feel that you plant a stooge, you can tell him what to do and what not to do. No.  I am not going to do that because right now, nobody is controlling me. I am responsible for my decisions. If I have made the wrong decisions, it was my fault. If I made the right ones, thank God.  If I was not controlled by anyone, I have no business attempting to influence my successor.

What informed your scrapping the Edo Youth Employment scheme?

What we did was to try to do things differently.  My own argument, if you look at the day it was launched; I said there is so many public works to be done such as environmental issues, maintaining lawns around the roads, sanitation and so on. So, the idea was Edo Youth Employment scheme will be used to carry out these public works and the demands and needs were there. But unfortunately, once we employed them in the manner that we did, many relocated out of the state. And because we computerise their payment system, whether you work or not, every month you get your alert (payment).  I go round the streets everyday; I see places that ought to be swept not being swept, drainages blocked and the lawns overgrown.  And we are paying wages.  I just realised that we have supervisory challenges. So, those jobs are now being done through a different method but a method that will not allow you to be in Abuja and receive pay is no longer there. So, government is no longer directly employing these people.  For example, to sweep the Airport road, we pay them and they recruit people to do the sweeping. Those people could have been otherwise engaged directly by government. They are now being engaged by private people. That basically is the difference and the result is there for everyone to see. When you drive round Benin City today, the roads are now very cleaner.