Nigeria:Dealing With A Broken, Not Broke Economy. | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Agenda, Opinion

Nigeria:Dealing With A Broken, Not Broke Economy.

Posted: Nov 10, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Magnus Onyibe.

A popular hip hop song by Kanye West and Jamie Fox that topped the U.S.and global music

chart some ten (10) years ago, has an interesting lyric ” ain’t messing with a broke nigga”.


As we would all agree, music or the art mimicks society and the import of the lyrics by the super star American musicians is that nobody wants to do business with a broke person, company or country.

Intriguingly,instead of deflecting disinformation about Nigerian economy, president mohamudu Buhari

has been proclaiming that Nigeria is broke at every given opportunity in Nigeria and abroad with gusto and aplomb.

His antagonists have pointed out that by making the negative proclamation that ‘Nigeria is broke’ a sing-song, he is de-marketing Nigeria but mr president has promptly fired back at his critics that he is being honest and reiterated the fact that our potential investors probably know about Nigerian financial standing better than Nigerians.

It may be true that some investors may have information about the broken state of Nigerian economy but any assessment of Nigeria by the potential foreign investors reinforced by mr president that Nigeria is broke ,remains speculative and putative  without the official seal of Standards & Poors, Moodys and

Fitch-globally reputable financial rating agencies which have not rated Nigeria as being broke, so why is mr president putting his imprimatur on unfounded assessment?.

Even more bewildering is the fact local financial pundits have also  proven the claim to be factually incorrect after applying all the templates for measuring financial conditions of a nation’s economy, so why is the notion of Nigeria being broke still looming like an albatross?.

In my assessment, it all boils down to politics which by now (6 months into a new regime) should be put behind as pre-election activities and as leaders, face the post-election challenges of nation building by rolling up our sleeves and getting on with giving Nigeria a new lease of life after sixteen (16) years of

vision less leadership as APC alleges.

No doubt, as a man of high morality ,president Buhari is perhaps singing this ‘Nigeria is broke’ refrain based on the mind boggling amount of money which should have been in Nigerian vaults but allegedly frittered away by the previous regime, so out of moral rectitude he is crying out loud, but the point mr president is probably missing, is that one does not need to bring the compunctions of an Imam or pastor required for leading faith based organizations into leading a firm or nation for that matter because they are different ball games.

As mr president knows, there are different skill sets required to lead a congregation of people with absolute faith in God seeking penance and working towards going to heaven as opposed to ruling over a nation of people struggling to survive hard economic conditions as they try to master their environment while competing against other nations.

In leading a congregation of the faithful, the ultimate objective of the leader and the led is to be meek and pious in order to see or be with God at the end of life’s journey. It needs no further elucidation that it entails less intrigues and sinister motives, as all the members of the flock , more often than not, have their minds riveted on God.

It is quite the opposite when leading a company or nation.

With a nation, it is warfare without guns ( in extreme cases with guns) as president Buhari might have discovered in the course of contesting for power against three successive PDP presidents in twelve (12) years.

Indeed, leading a nation is like managing a vast array of animal species ranging from the carnivores like lions and tigers (politicians)that feed on other animals,to the herbivores such as dinosaurs (voters) that feed on vegetable substances alone and omnivores like humans (political parties) who eat both meat and vegetable substances.

In a nutshell, a nation, is a sort of jungle of animals of various species with conflicting interests where,as the popular saying goes, “dogs eat dogs”.

In that regard,being sanctimonious through plain speaking such as mr president is doing by telling his local and international audience that Nigeria is broke,is capable of jeopardizing the survival of Nigeria.

In the course of his twelve (12) years struggle for the mantle ,mr president may recall the intrigues and shenanigans that were deployed in trying to unseat the ruling party by highlighting the positive values of the APC and himself-progressiveness/integrity and de-emphasizing or concealing the negatives- authoritarian/dictatorial tendencies , to prop up the APC and himself as the preferred party and candidate for Nigerians to choose to govern them.

The same psychology and philosophy applies to nations which are competing against each other hence they put their best foot forward.

Clearly, the benefits of not informing our potential investors that we are broke far outweighs telling  them that we are , especially when Nigeria is actually not broke but only trying to mend a broken economy .

When president Buhari views the concern that he is de-marketing Nigeria with his ‘Nigeria is broke’

rhetorics in the context of the analogy above, he won’t feel as scandalized as he was when he responded to the allegation in a recent speech.

In other words,rather  than taking it personal,the political jab from opposition PDP that he is

de-marketing Nigeria should be seen from the point of view of his political opponents capitalizing on an indiscretion, which does not deserve being responded to openly as he has done, since it is mere politics.

For the record,former president Olusegun Obasanjo was pilloried for saying he was appointing advisers but will not be bound to take their advise; by the same token,Goodluck Jonathan,the immediate past President,was also infamous for saying stealing is not corruption just to play down the issue of corruption under his watch and so also has president Buhari been poo poohed for saying ministers are noise makers as it is civil servants that do the real administrative job of governance to deflate the argument that the delay in forming a cabinet was impacting negatively on the economy  .

Such glib statements are made at moments of indiscretion and twisted out of context by

politicians to score cheap political points and it is my considered opinion that, they are mere puns and should not be defended as articles of faith.

In my assessment of president Buhari from a distance, he appears like a man who is open to ideas but needs convincing evidence and well marshaled persuasive case to sway him.

Two significant comments by mr President attest to the above assumption .

The first is when he was vying for office and made a comment during his Chatham House, UK presentation in February that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 persuaded him that dictatorship has no place in modern day governance hence he decided to become, as it were, a born-again democrat.

The second is when he had assumed office as president in May and he pointed pointed out (when the debate on fuel subsidy removal was raging) that he was yet to be convinced about the efficacy of removing the fuel subsidy without hurting the masses.

With NNPC GMD, Ibe Kachikwu promising to sift the cost of the graft embedded in the process of delivering subsidy to determine the actual cost and weighing same against the probable negative effect on the hoi poloi,sooner or later President Buhari may make an informed decision to remove or not remove the financially debilitating fuel subsidy.

In like manner, mr president probably needs to be persuaded that his talk about Nigeria being broke is

counterproductive and an an ill wind that blows Nigeria no good,but as the proverbial saying goes,”who will bell the cat”?.

I have heard that mr President is a voracious reader so he is abreast of the yearning of the masses through the mass media but does he brainstorm with his advisers to see all sides of issues or he makes his decision based on nominal and residual knowledge?.

At this juncture, let me crave readers indulgence by citing some practical examples currently trending to buttress my point about why it is not good de-marketing Nigeria.

Take the recent unfortunate crash of Russian airline- Metro Jet over the Sinai in Egypt for instance.

While the UK and USA,intent on protecting their citizens ( about one million Brits ) who enjoy vacationing in the Egyptian resort in Sharm El-Sheik are speculating that the crash might have been caused by a bomb on board the aircraft, (to prevent their citizens from further adventuring that way) Russia, whose citizens are in the majority of those who perished in the crash are opposed to the UK and U.S.position because it might trigger unrest back home if the Russians believe that the bomb was a reprisal action against Russia which had injected herself into the Syrian war by bombing ISIS positions.

Similarly, Egypt which would loose tourist income( about 20% of GDP) if the threat and activities of terrorism are confirmed in the tourist haven, are denying and rejecting the suspicion of a bomb blast as the cause of the crash so that tourists won’t stop coming.

Sooner or later, the truth would be revealed by the experts investigating the accident but before then sovereign denials would have helped douse the tension in Russia and the anxiety of potential tourists to Egypt.  Such is the importance of the doctrine of self preservation which incidentally is a law of nature.

Another example is embedded in international law and diplomacy.

Sovereignties do not enforce international laws as seriously as they do domestic laws for the simple reason of self preservation.Take climate change , human rights and trade/commerce for example .The super powers like USA, Russia,China, UK, France,Germany and recently Iran are never in harmony on international issues because of selfish interests. That’s why not  all of them signed off on the protocol after a climate conference held in Rio, Brazil a few decades ago to address  climate change. According to their national interest they accented or dissented so their agreement to enforce carbon tax has been largely ignored.

Another conference on climate change will be afoot in Paris,France next month  and you can bet that no

common agreement reached would be implemented wholesomely.

On human rights, the West often accuse Russia and China of rights abuse-recall Tianemen square

crackdown. China,the most populous country in the world (population estimate of 1.4 billion) had as a counter argument ,offered to test the U.S.lofty human rights credentials by unleashing about three hundred million Chinese outlaws into the USA (population of about 320 million) and see if the country that prides herself as the bastion of liberty would not act differently.

Considering how civil liberties were relegated to the background (wire tapping of USA citizens at home and abroad,Guantanamo bay detention camp and so called Rendition in Europe) after the unfortunate incident of terror attacks in New York  and Washington,DC on September 11, 2009, now known as 9/11, the Chinese had a point.

The USA for instance does not subscribe to some international protocols, especially those that could endanger their interests particularly with respect to their men and women in uniform located in military bases abroad which enables America play the noble duty of policing the world.

Along the same line,trade/commerce  has remained sore points of continuos disagreements and

tension between the advanced economies flouting or not sticking to the World Trade Organization, WTO tariffs.

Therefore accusations and counter accusations of dumping of products like steel ,arbitrary currency devaluation to tilt balance of trade in their favor etc amongst themselves are common occurrences.

I went into these detailed narrative to make the point about the extent to which countries can go in self preservation to prove to mr president that the forthrightness required to run a country are quite different from positive character trait and religious principles required to lead a mosque or church

since in the market place of life and in the comity of nations, it is a case of survival of the fittest.

As an army general,who has led troops to war, l believe president Buhari understands what l’m struggling to portray as he will never disclose his army’s weaknesses ( wether infantry ,artillery  or air power ) to his opponents in the battle field.

As mr president wraps up the composition of his cabinet with a re-orientation retreat, it’s time to look

forward to strengthening a broken economy and stop looking backwards by dwelling on whether the nation is broke or not.

Corruption has been identified as a culprit in Nigeria’s economic malaise, and we have to fight it vigorously .So also could inflexibility and lack of right attitude to move forward quickly be clog to progress.

In a seminal report by psychologist, Carol Dweck of Stanford University, USA, it is stated that “The deciding factors in life is how you handle setbacks with open arms. According to the psychologist ,” success in life is all about how you deal with failure” In her report, she proves that people’s attitude fall into two categories: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset .

With the fixed mindset,you believe you are who you are and you can not change. This creates problems when you are challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

Conversely , people with growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset even when they have lower Intelligence Quotient, IQ because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.

As progressives,the new ruling party, APC leadership is expected to have growth mindset as espoused by Carol Dweck.

So far the party seem overwhelmed but events in the next few days or weeks after the cabinet members are inaugurated,would determine if the party and president Buhari and Vice President,Yemi Osinbajo are meeting the expectations of Nigerians who voted for change.

Let me conclude with a powerful admonition from Fredrick Douglas, a foremost U.S rights activist in his famous speech commemorating the West Indian Emancipation ” The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august  claims have been born of earnest struggle ” According to him,  ” This struggle maybe a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will “.

Arising from the above,Nigerians demand that President Buhari and Vice President,  Osinbajo do not allow Nigeria remain broke.

After six months on the saddle, we want to hear and see the good work that the new govt is doing

to move Nigeria forward.

I guess such expectation is not too high for a govt that rose to power riding on the crest of change.

Onyibe, a development Strategist, futurologist and former commissioner in Delta state and an alumnus

of Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy wrote in from London, UK.