Nigeria-Decides-2019: Why Nigerians will Vote Against President Buhari and for Atiku Abubakar

“For Africa to succeed, Nigeria must succeed and more importantly, if Nigeria fails the world is in trouble”. ~ Tony Blair, 2003

One of the key areas which Nigeria must do well as a key example to rest of Africa is in leading a peaceful election and transitional government as it has been since 1999. Observations of the economic crisis, thriving inequality, growing arrest and oppression of civilians and the media, the Nigerians dying in the mediterranean sea in bid to illegally immigrate to Europe makes this statement even more meaningful 16 years later.


In less than 4 days Nigeria goes to the polls to decide if incumbent Muhammadu Buhari deserves a second term or if the leading opposition candidate, People’s Democratic Party flag bearer and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar is a better option. For the first time in a democratic Nigeria, the leading opposition and current President are both Hausa-Fulani Muslims and it does not matter. Many say that this is a sign that Nigeria is progressing, but I beg to differ: I think it is simply that Nigerians are even more desperate now than they were in 2015 and are willing to overlook ethnic concerns in order to move the country forward. Here is why I believe Nigerians should vote against Buhari and for Atiku in the coming election.

In recent times past state and by-elections have induced with tension, violence and electoral malpractices, analysis by political analyst, Remi Adekoya on Twitter suggests that since the inception of the second republic of Nigeria in 1999, 2015 election was the freest and fairest. A free and fair 2019 election for Nigeria is crucial because is important to the region of Africa, where democracy has been problematic of recent. The outcome of this election will have a greater impact on foreign investors confidence and on a larger scale the financial markets.


It is common for the incoming government to meet a highly depleted treasury and this should not be an excuse why a nation’s economy nose-dives into multiple recession like Nigeria has under this administration. In President Buhari’s case, his government had no economic plans and this was the beginning of trouble for the economy; as saw things spiraling out of control. Five months into his government, President Buhari had no Finance Minister, leaving the nation’s most important ministry vulnerable. What ended up happening was the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) assumed the sole position of policymaking and this saw a clueless Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele shred an already fragile economy in a position it has not been able to recover from since 2016. These self-destructive policies include but not limited to the Foreign Exchange (FX) manipulation and exclusive trade policy that saw the CBN closing Naira cards out of global economies. This singular action took the power of a people-driven economy and placed it back under the command of the President via the CBN.


President Buhari’s good intention behind this bad policy follows a similar pattern attempted and failed as the Head of State during his military rulership in the 1980s was attempting to promote industrialization by forcing it through stringent economic policies. But even first-year economic undergraduates know that any force applied to the economy often induces an uncontrollable disaster. First, in 2016, President Buhari resolution to prevent the devaluation of the Naira caused foreign investors to panic and this sent the market into monetary panic and uncertainty. Also, when the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefile removed the Naira cards from the global economy and the politics of FX control which saw the Presidency and the CBN rationing and controlling Foreign Currency sent the market in a panic and drove the economy into recession.


The reason why stringent economic policies make no sense for Nigeria is simple: Nigeria imports many goods because it produces very little of what it needs and, more critically, production is impaired by multifaceted challenges. Naturally, the high cost of production for the producer forces them to sell at a more costlier price to break the profit margin. To the producer, the option of purchasing raw materials from China becomes a more viable option and to the consumer, paying more when the option of paying less makes no economic sense. The implication of these stringent policies impacted all businesses directly or indirectly because as an export-dependence economy, businesses across all scales and sizes requires access to FX directly or indirectly to stay afloat. The manipulation of the FX by the Presidency through the CBN forced all businesses to downsize, and in some cases to foreclosure were inevitable. In 2018, analysis of the Nigerian Stock Exchange showed the multinational investment portfolio dropped significantly. In 2018 alone, over 10 multinational firms have exited in Nigeria. These departures and the closure of multinational and domestic enterprises are stoking unemployment in the country.


An illustration of this is a personal friend of mine who left formal employment in 2014 to focus on his ice block and pure (sachet) water business. Between 2014 and 2015, he had purchased land for a factory in Lagos, Nigeria’s second city and commercial capital. This business, which started with 10 employees and had grown to employ a total of 58 within 10 months would be left vulnerable by the nation’s harmful policies. This business that mostly purchased its raw materials online from China as it was far cheaper to do so and this increased its profit margin. When the Buhari administration took these decisions it meant that this thriving business had no access to FX nor could it purchase goods on the black market. It struggled for months to stay afloat, after which it shut down. For example, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rose from 6.4% in the final quarter of 2014 to 23. 10% in the third quarter of 2018.

President Buhari’s administration was 24 months into power before it kicked off the national economic agenda on economic recovery and growth, showing Buhari did not expect Nigerians to take him and his campaign seriously and vote for him, and that he did not have an economic plan in place.
This administration has consistently taken action that suggests it is undemocratic and a threat to democracy. For example, in 2017, Senate President Bukola Saraki publicly declared that the President had withdrawn $1B from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) without following due process as required by the constitution. In April 2018, President Buhari again withdrew $462 million from the ECA for the purchase of 12 Super Tucano aircraft also without notice and without the approval of the National Assembly and the Senate. The ECA is a national account that requires the approval of the three tiers of government, therefore, the President has no veto power over it. It is critical to note that at the beginning of the Buhari’s administration, the ECA account had $2.07 billion and presently the account is at $631 million, with $1.46B withdrawn illegally.
President Buhari, who is both the President and Minister for Petroleum, is administering the most untransparent, authoritarian and corrupt government in Nigeria’s democratic history. In 2017, online platform Sahara Reporters reported that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit over $35.7 billion into the Federation’s account. Another report by the Premium Times newspaper proposed that as at March 2018, the NNPC had not remitted $16.8B into the Federation’s account.
The recent illegal suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and the illegal appointment of an illegal acting CJN, Justice Mohammed Tanko is of great concerns. This is important because the President thought it appropriate to disregard the rule of law and illegally replace the CJN. The timing of this illegal suspension is worrisome because of the upcoming elections and the controversy surrounding the appointment of the new Independent National Electoral Commission Chief who is alleged to be the daughter of the President’s elder sister’s husband, hence, a relative of President Buhari. This action suggests a plot to rig the upcoming elections.
For the first time in Nigeria, the Federal cabinet is 95% Hausa-Fulani Muslims. The Nigerian Federal Character Commission which was set up to promote, monitor and enforce compliance of political appointments at the Federal level of government to reflect the nation’s ethnic and religious diversity has been undermined by this administration. Although this commission is not subject to any supervision or regulation, the nation’s susceptibility to internal multifaceted conflicts makes it a crucial body.
Is Buhari fighting corruption or is Buhari corruption? President Buhari came into power on the podium of fighting corruption, yet accusations of sharp practice against his administration are flying, both at home and abroad. The administration hides behind anti-corruption in order to use the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) as a vindictive tool against key opposition members. It has become common for accused opposition members to switch to the ruling party in other to escape the vindictive methods adopted by President Buhari in targeting opposition leaders. This has seen thousands of targeted opposition members switching from the PDP to the ruling party APC, afterwhich the cases against them are withdrawn and silenced. From Babachir Lawal, Rotimi Amaechi, George Akume, Tony Nwoye, Goodwill Akpabio to Abdullahi Adamu whose corruption cases with the EFCC have been silenced, President Buhari has shown that he is unserious about fighting corruption and switching from opposition to the ruling party, the APC, washes away the sins of corruption.
On the 16th of January 2019, the President when asked about his opinion on Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano who was caught on camera receiving a bribe, the President Buhari in his response expressed doubt by asking “what kind of technology did they use to do this?”. On the same issues, the President has since said that the governor is enjoying the immunity that comes with his position. Interestingly, the Nigerian Chief Justice was not allowed this same immunity pending the due process of trial in the allegations against him.
Furthermore, President Buhari’s approach to tackling an insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast seems unserious and irresponsible. The President is reportedly paying members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect large sums of undisclosed sums as amnesty; connoting since that the Niger Delta militants were appeased, therefore, the same rule should apply for religious fundamentalists. This response to the growing crisis is empowering terrorism in Nigeria. In June 2018, after a major attack by the Fulani herdsmen in Benue state, the head of Miyetti Allah, (cattle herders association) was on Channels TV live rationalizing the killings and proposing the solution of individual state land allocation for grazing in order to further senseless murders. Not only does such rationalization equate human life with animal life but empowers terrorista by rewarding criminals with the land. The following week, President Buhari suggested the same proposal as a solution to the herdsmen crisis in Nigeria.
The frequent arrest of civilians and peaceful protesters such as political activist Deji Adeyanju, the killings of Shitties Muslims, the continuous illegal detention of Shiite leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, and the growing harassment, arrest and intimidation of journalists all points to the danger that this government is becoming to Nigeria’s greater good.
Looking back at 2015, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar would never be a choice I would consider as an option, but the failures of the sitting President have forced many of us to embrace Atiku Abubakar even though we do not totally trust him.
I particularly have no concrete reasons to be hopeful with Atiku, but the only thing I remember well of him as the VP to President Olusegun Obasanjo was his resolute stance against his boss’s third term and this makes me feel safer with him.
The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar in his manifestos and very interviews and dialogue with the electorates has proposed various solutions to tidy up the mess created by this administration should he be voted as President. Of all the promises in his manifesto, the most exciting for me is the privatization of the NNPC. Particularly interesting is the promise of ensuring timely and public remittance of oil revenue income as well as the digitize the internal processes of the NNPC.Secondly, Atiku Abubakar has promised to expand manufacturing sector from 9% to 30% of the nation’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP). His job creation agenda and the framework of uniting the nation from the internal fractions created by the Buhari administration, the promise to protect democratic processes among other things is a reason to be hopeful and feel safe with Atiku.
The question of whether or not Atiku is better than Buhari is the wrong question: the appropriate question is does President Buhari deserve a second term? And the answer for me is not only a no, but that the survival of our democracy, the path to economic progress and unity as a nation depends on his replacement and Atiku happens to be the only candidate with a chance.
By 2023, replacing Atiku will be a non-negotiable because whether or not he performs, at 74 years old, he will be too old to be the President that Nigeria needs. But until then, it is more important that our nation is protected from falling into anarchy.

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Reducing Inequalities in Nigeria by 2030: SDG Challenges and Way Forward

“Nigeria cannot afford to fail. One in every five African is Nigerian, Nigeria needs to succeed if Africa is to succeed and if Nigeria fails, the world is in trouble” – Tony Blair 2002

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Nigeria has a shared broad role in shaping out Agenda 2030, its explosive population makes it even more imperative that Nigeria meets a certain milestone by 2030. But presently, is the country’s national and regional development plans aligned with meeting Agenda 2030? Will Nigeria achieve a fair amount of progress by 2030?

In theory, Nigeria’s commitment to the SDGs is sensible, however, in practice, there is little or no evidence to support the notion that the government is serious about achieving these goals. By all indications, there is no reason to believe that Nigeria will make any progress on the SDG. The Oxfam International Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI, 2018) ranks Nigeria 157 of 188 countries in the world. In accessing the commitment to reduce vulnerabilities, this report found no indicators of positive efforts by the government to mitigate the growing risk.

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All of these point to a regression in progress. For example, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 data shows that unemployment rose from 14.2% to 18.8% in 2017, the number of out-of-school children increased from 10.5 million to 13.2 million between 2015 to 2017. In February 2018, the World Poverty Clock pronounced Nigeria the new global headquarter of absolute poverty, overtaking India. This report proposes that Nigeria whose total population is 180 million has 86.9 million persons living in abject poverty. Clearly in Nigeria poverty is rising and rising poverty is often an indication of increasing inequalities.

Inequalities in income, opportunities, and redistribution of national wealth are in problematic condition and are on the increase globally and in Nigeria, it is getting worse. Despite the impressive economic growth of the last decade, Nigeria has been unable to structure policies and governance to lift more people and keep them out of poverty. Rather, the reverse is the case as new poverty is emerging; more middle-class population are slipping into relative poverty, more relatively poor people are dropping in the abject poverty margin.

The socio-economic inequality is fundamental as a result of unequal distribution of socio-economic resources or capital. Howbeit, thorough observations of specific laws and policies what becomes apparent is that ‘anti-poor’ policies such as rapid rates forced and illegal evictions and the attacks on informal livelihood could have possible links to indicators of SDG 1,2,3,4,6, 8,10,11 and 16. For example, on declining rate of school enrollment and attendance, homelessness induced by forced displacement would have a direct impact on education indicator.

Besides socioeconomic inequality, political, socio-class and gender-specific inequality are determinant factors in Nigeria’s chances at making progress in the SDG. For instance, the most excluded and economically disadvantaged section of the society generally marginalized in the political system and this leads to such group being chronically under-represented. In this class are the poor, women, minority ethnic groups and children. Baring these challenges in mind, Nigeria’s ratification of Agenda 2030 requires a holistic approach as all of the SDG goals are interconnected and feed off each other. For instance, homelessness and bans on informal livelihood negatively impact school attendance.

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In conclusion, due to the fragile nature of the conditions in Nigeria, my recommendation is for the government to hands off sanctions, bans, avoidable displacement and create a system to regulate informality of all types and support the processes to get more people to generate their own income. Why? Because, when things are really bad, as bad as things are in Nigeria, the worse thing the government can do is witch-hunt it’s people. And the best thing it can do is free-markets and open cities to allow as many people as possible create their own income.

The idea that the government must interfere to make the country or cities attractive to Foreign Investors is exactly the reason why things got out of hand. What the government must understand is that no investment comes into Nigeria because of beautification or the ease to do business, investment comes because of its population, hence, policies cannot afford to kill the people as development is fundamentally about the people.

More critical, is the need for the government to view all of the SDG goals as a human right. This perspective is crucial because seeing housing as a human right will force the government and vested interest to hands off forced displacement of vulnerable people until structural ways to resolving the housing deficit are achieved.

I am lending support to end forced evictions in Nigeria by supporting the #AntiForcedEviction bill, please take a minute of your time to sign this petition in support of the bill here 

Thank you in advance!

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The Nigerian Middle-class Everyone Should Worry About

Recently, a Ph.D. candidate friend came to Lagos on field assignment for research work; studying the trends of migration in Nigeria with the specific focus on migration rate, the location of choice and the class and profession of migrants. I was opportune to proofread some of her findings report and I was alarmed by the rate and class of migrants leaving Nigeria.


The preferred location of choice was Canada through the Canadian express entry for highly skilled immigrants, but what was distressing about her report was that the class of people leaving were not necessarily having a hard life in Nigeria. Secondly, the occupation of those leaving Nigeria meant that in less than ten years, Nigeria will have a huge deficit in its medical, education and finance field. Further, this report also found that the approval rate for Nigerians was declining and not only that, it was beginning to negatively impact US visa approval rate as well.
Following this, without giving it much thought, on Canada day, July 1st, I tweeted that the Canada government should reduce the approval rate of migrant visas for Nigerians by 60% and that also, the program should give preference to applicants below a certain income gap and the social media sphere went crazy on me. Up until this time, I was slightly ignorant of the fact that the average Nigerian, I mean the majority are seeking a way out of the country in pursuit of the Canadian dream. What I cannot seem to understand is the assumption that life is necessarily better abroad. And the entitlement connoted by the backlash I got is fueled by the idea that the West owes poor countries something and must pay for the failures of our bad government.  We seldom forget that these countries have their own issues too and were not always this functional and good governance was enforced by their citizens who were angry and frustrated enough to force a revolution. As such, Nigerians who do not have to leave are the ones leaving in droves and therefore should be restricted because the change Nigeria needs will require more of the standard income earning set of middle class because the lower income earning middle-class demography are slowly slipping into poverty and are the class every economist and development expert should pay attention to.
For long, the Nigerian middle class has been a class of people economically living a lie; living paycheck to paycheck and spending everything they earn. More recently, the poor economic management and the self-inflicted challenging times of the Buhari government divided the Nigerian middle-class into two groups;

  1.  The economically delusional: This class of medium income earner who spends everything they earn, sometimes they have more days than money later to survive and end up borrowing to cover a deficit. Most of this class of median income earners whose economic reality cannot accommodate all their basic needs and wants are doomed to be trapped in this survival circle.
  2. The vulnerable middle-class; these are the working-class income earners who have not been paid a salary for months, some for as much as seven months. It is important to note that this set of staff are the ones the companies could not afford to let go after the Buhari ill-economic policy-induced hardships which saw many multinational companies close and exit Nigeria while others were forced to do a drastic downsizing. Howbeit, besides bad economic climate, companies such as payporte, Wakanow, Etisalat are highly irresponsible and abusive to staff because they know that Nigeria is a lawless nation, they could easily get away with this. For example, Payporte prioritizes sponsoring the TV show Big Brother Nigeria over offsetting salary arrears or even a part payment.

In February 2018, the Poverty World Clock hypothesized that Nigeria had overtaken India to become the new global headquarter of the nation with the highest number of absolutely poor people. While this hypothesis is not back up with field research, it is relevant to note that, taking into attention the downward spiral the Nigerian economy has taken since early 2017; the job cuts, job loss, factory close down, the harsh policies such as arrest of street traders inhibiting the poor from generating their own income and forced evictions across Nigeria which is rendering hundreds of thousands homeless and without stability to continue their livelihood practices. Any business that depends on importing raw materials has been struggling since early 2017; laying off staff and at extreme cases closing up. For example one year after setting up a $300 million factory in Agbara, Ogun State, Procter and Gamble has shutdown due to the government policies making sources and getting raw materials into Nigeria challenging and economically unreasonable. Over 300 employees are being gradually laid off in preparation for a final shutdown. Evidently, more Nigerians are shift demographies from the weaker middle to relative poverty. The impact of this will affect ability to access healthcare and greatly impact school enrollment and attendance. Whether or not the Poverty World Clock is a clever hypothesis, it is clear to see how Nigeria rapidly became the home to the highest number of the most vulnerable poor people globally.

In analyzing the current welfare climate in Nigeria, what quickly becomes apparent is that the lower middle earner who has now been forced into vulnerability are slipping into relative poverty, while the former relatively poor demography is shifting into absolute poverty.
It is this set of middle-class that economist and development expert must begin to pay attention to, as ignoring this class is detrimental to Nigeria’s growth and development.
In a country that citizens buy and pay for everything they still pay the government for, it is imperative that as many people as possible are harnessed to generate their own income.

If Nigeria is remotely serious about achieving the SDG goal, 1, 2, 8,10 and 11, the government must begin to stop and pay attention to how the policies are creating more inequality and poverty, and device interventions to support and not inhibit income generation as well as slum upgrades and not forced evictions. Because any policy that bans and imposes sanctions on informal activities as opposed to creating management structures to support is unwise.

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The Intricacies of Buhari’s False Economy

In 2016 when the Buhari led administration embarked on the currency swap deal with China it was obvious that China, had the upper hand and this was doomed to failure at inception. The currency swap was never a deal for Nigeria because Nigeria realistically, Nigeria will not be better for it. If anything, this deal showed that the Nigerian economy under President Buhari has no directive and is driven by a “copy and paste” preconceived notions of the direction Nigeria should be taking. For a vulnerable economy such as ours, the bilateral trade works best with the cash and not swap because the Naira is not a convertible currency in the global scale of things and our oil earning is in US dollars. Unless Nigeria trades with China and collects their yuan anything else is unintelligent in its situation.

There are broad lessons that we can draw from Buhari’s failing economic model. Cutting a deficit economy off from the rest of the world by strict and corrupt FX policy is generally a bad idea. All nations urbanize but some plan ahead and don’t impose a path upon itself. It’s generally best to let your economy do what it turns out to be best at rather than forcing down a narrow path, however, when the need arises, the government can step in to support and not inhibit it back to recover. The idea of micromanaging economies are generally a disaster, particularly for emerging nations such as Nigeria.

One of the biggest mistake made by this administration’s economic team is the monocausal justification for everything. For example, asides oil prices dip, Nigeria’s economy is struggling because past administration was corrupt, yet the past administration met a deficit economy almost ruined by an ill President Musa Yar’Dua whose illness left the office susceptible to intense looting, yet managed to navigate an economic leap.  My point is, reducing everything to simplistic explanations don’t work, and however, staying out of the way of economic activities, reducing heavy regulations and the singular exchange rate will do the economy better right now.

This has prompted so much uncertainty now much more than existed three years ago when oil prices were high,  now the reduction in oil price affects government’s spending and not necessarily the economy in the real sense of it. I say so because government spending does not translate to the market wellbeing or economic growth nor can government spending induce a bottom-up growth, but sound policies that support the bottom, especially the bottom businesses and the informal sector will kick-start the economy.

That being said, one explanation to this assumption is that economist around the world have no straightforward formula for development, as such, the solution remains maximum free markets, maximum openness and support for all activities, particularly informal sector.  The logic is that this will increase the chances of discovery of new opportunities and as long as new opportunities are supported the market will do well, thus, the economy. Somehow, the finance minister and the CBN find this difficult to grasp. What is obvious is, as usual, the Nigerian economy is designed intentionally to favour those it favours; the elites; as it is continually reinforced by the CBN and “bureau the change” through the multiple exchanges.

My main stance is that the government step up to see a role for – a bigger role as an orchestrator of a discovery process. Such process involves a stronger amount of government agencies supporting but not picking winners particularly those at the lower end of the chain by coordinating a kind and less stringent insider system of key business leaders, trade unions, and others in a long-term process of interaction about a national development strategy using markets.

Lastly, Nigeria has a trade deficits relationship with almost all the countries in the world; we import everything and export nothing but unrefined oil. Shutting down an economy that relies on import through the stringent FX access and multiple exchange rates makes no sense even to a first-year economic undergraduate.  This single policy has created more poverty and unemployment than any other policy in Nigeria’s history in the last two decade.

By all indications, this administration’s economic plan is built on sheer delusional and ignorance of an economic illiterate team or purposely seeking to put Nigeria through economic hardship for reasons yet unknown!.

 

 

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Slave Trade in Libya like the Deaths in Medditterian Sea is Caused by the African Governments

The horrifying reports brought to light by the CNN film crew who secretly filmed actions of humans being auctioned as a slave in Libya two weeks ago has created an uproar globally; causing shocks and condemnations. Majority of the slaves are Sub-Saharan Africans.

As much as this is a human rights crisis deserving of global attention, beneath the surface and most importantly, is the underlining migration problem plaguing most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Howbeit, popular opinion and politically correct perspectives of blaming the international community for evading international responsibilities and commitment to international laws drive this narrative.

For many Africans, the autopilot response is a sweeping generality that the West owes us something, has for years created this learned helplessness and a certain level of entitlement. For the most part,  this has made Africans fail to hold their government accountable.
It is for this same reason that Nigeria handled the death of young Nigerian girls who died at the Mediterranean Sea while trying to migrate to Europe in search of the better life with such nonchalance and indifference; like their lives meant nothing. For decades African leaders have been irresponsible and inciting their people to look to the West often for a solution to problems that they as a government should solve.

That is the reason why many African leaders are silent on addressing these steep issues that are deserving of worthy attention that should be pioneered by them, African leaders. But, the reserve is the case across all affected Sub-Saharan nations; these leaders are dead silent.

While we are at this, let’s not forget the unpopular stories of the Nigerian women slaves in Libya whose slave owners are fellow Nigerians who abuse the desperation of citizens who want to seek a better life in Europe, illegally,  the nearest and most convenient route in Libya. Let’s not forget the little African girl trafficked for prostitution in Libya under the disguises of a better life in Europe or getting a job elsewhere. Let us not also forget the many Africans who die of dehydration in the Moroccan desert while trying to cross over to Spain.

Think about this for a second, do you think a Congolese will willingly with the availability of alternative possibilities leave Congo on the journey to Europe through Libya? Will a Nigerian medical doctor who is paid a decent salary and regularly by the government migrate to the UAE or Saudi Arabia to practice? Why should IOM pay ransoms for the Africans to be freed in Libya to return to their countries?

The answers to these questions are the reason why Nigeria like many African leaders fails to address these issues. Yes, they know why Africans would risk their lives for the possibility of the unknown in a strange land. Many of these Africans are aware of the hardship fellow Africans face on the streets of Europe but still see it as a better alternative than the sense of helplessness that is their realities in their respective countries.

Silence and or indifference is the best response of African leaders to these issues because for them it easier than looking at it from a practical perspective. Are things that hard that citizens are taking these sorts of risk? Of course, yes, but our leaders ignore it because addressing these will force them to face the reality of the bloated cost of running the government in comparison to how much they budget and spend on education, healthcare, opening up the economy to accommodate small businesses which is the main driver of most African economies and human development.

For example, the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) 2018 budgeted eight million Naira out of its 2018 four billion Naira on research for the entire year, while eighty-five million Naira was budgeted for the purchase of cars for the commission’s secretariat in Abuja.  What is the rationale for this of budgeting? Why are we spending less on human development and expecting anything good to come out of this country?

The Washington post recently condemned the Italian government desperate attempt to keep the migrant’s numbers low by paying Libyan traffickers more money to keep them from allowing migrants crossover. Although this is wrong, the Italian government is just trying to protect itself; refugees and illegal migration cost these countries a fortune.

But this is often disregarded like it does not matter, yet African government blame everyone else but themselves.

President Alpha Conde of Guinea criticized the European policy that allows migrants to be sent back to Libya where they came from saying “Our European friends are wrong for asking Libya to keep immigrants in detention.

As Africans, we are failing our future by refusing to come to the realization that, these countries owe us nothing and that our governments are solely responsible for the ongoing slave trade in Libya and the death of many who die at the Mediterranean Sea.
Blaming the world, then Libya is a futile exercise that cannot solve the fundamental issues beneath the surface these horrible situations.

Libya is a weak and failed nation that cannot even protect and provide for Libyans, it is, therefore, unnecessary for the West and Africans to expect any better from them. And the West should consider alternative ways of returning Migrants to their countries, as using Libya as a dumping ground for these migrants is wrong on their part.

 

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Nigeria’s Political Economy & the Implication for Sustainable Development

The 2006 British White paper on good governance opens with a bold assumption, stating that good governance is about good politics, period! That good governance is predetermined by the nature of politics (good or bad). Politics is central to reducing service delivery as it shapes and influences policy making. In other words, politics determines who gets what. Furthermore, underlying politics are elites who fund campaigns; making money the most essential tool in politics.

What this means is that economic and political elites are a recycled small group of people who determine who gets into what public office and for how long. As such, governance is driven by loyalty to the elite, paying back loans and ultimately mostly serves these elites, leaving many behind. Public office holders are neither elected nor appointed based on capacity but on the ability to buy votes. After which the elected officer ignores the needs of the poor to satisfy those who got them into office. This drives the huge disparities that exist between the elites, struggling middle class and Nigeria’s most vulnerable group; the poor.

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As such, money itself has become a dominant factor in African politics. Money seems to have taken the centre stage in the political process in most countries and even more so in Nigerian politics. It is, sadly, now playing an increasingly critical role in determining who gets elected and who the beneficiaries of such governments are as political financing makes economic elites powerful and the main beneficiaries of government, in the case of a military government; political elites play this position. Presently in Nigeria, political parties’ formation and financing create room for economic elites to hijack government for their benefits.

The argument is be reducing the role money plays in politics, but making politics work for the electorate regardless of such role. Money is an essential part of political processes globally, and even more so in many developing nations. Howbeit,  money continues to take a back seat in the discourse on creating incentives to drive better governance; a governance that works for the benefit of the majority.The role that money plays in politics by all accounts creates an uneven playing field and an unequal access to the office.

The implication of this is that in the longer term; it bred a huge threat to Nigeria’s democracy. Upon closer inspection, Nigeria’s political structure disempowers the electorates and makes it impossible for the government to be held accountable to the citizens.

Expert explanations about bad governance, poverty and inequality in emerging nations such as Nigeria is often the disregard for key factors such as but not limited to the lack of long-term planning. In Nigeria, this is even more so the case.

Such reasoning often fall for the fallacy of a single cause; “Nigeria is poor because of oil curse and falling prices” or more popularly, “Nigeria is poor because of corruption”, yes these points are valid but are merely created by the vacuum left by poor governance and lack of tangible planning for development. For example, in 2016 forward-thinking China launched their 13th five-year education plan; The plan encourages the cultivation of students’ entrepreneurship and innovation capabilities and practical skills. It also emphasises the need to strengthen exam and recruitment reforms, promote higher education, develop internet plus education, and promote and regulate private education.

In terms of the economy, the self-induced recession via a scarcity of foreign exchange (FX) is a recipe for disaster in an import-dependent economy.  Also, the Nigerian Central Banks policy to restrict Nigeria debit and credit cards from trading outside of Nigeria in other to boost the “buy Nigeria” campaign makes no economic sense, because, in reality, the cost of manufacturing and producing “made-in-Nigeria” does not make the pricing competitive and affordable.

This single account has killed many Nigerian small businesses who depend on foreign goods or services to run their businesses. For example, two years ago, a Nigerian small business could purchase items online from China to run their businesses at a much cheaper rate, today, many other those businesses do not exist. The logic behind this policy is to control illicit funds, dismantle the black-market and combat corruption but the technicalities of what makes such policies efficient are lacking greatly, thus, causing more harm than the intended outcomes. If Nigerian banks have a scarcity of FX, it still leads Nigerians back to the black-market it was trying to dismantle; allowing the black-market so much power in setting the FX rates. While the blockage of Nigerian credit and debit cards isolates Nigeria from the global market from Nigeria and vice versa.

Recently, the acting president of Nigeria VP Yemi Osinbajo launched a 60 days national action plan to improve and create business friend environments in Nigeria. The main focus is on the entry and exit of goods and the entry and exit of the person into Nigeria to be improved,  as well as improving transparency and efficiency of the government parastatal. While this is a great idea, it is largely built on the assumptions that administrative challenges are the reasons why doing business in Nigeria are difficult. While this is true, technicalities such as lack of electricity, the reconciliation of state and federal taxation policies, custom high charges, bribery, bureaucratic processes and middlemen in the process of getting a license or business registration are much more urgent necessities.

The government needs to focus more on implementing the existing practical laws and policies that make doing businesses easier and cheaper. In Rwanda, a business registration can be done online without lawyers and other middlemen and gotten in less than a week. Making Nigeria work for the benefits of the poor majority requires the following;

Making Nigeria work for the benefits of the poor majority requires but not limited to the following;

  1. Free Markets: There is much more uncertainty now than there was two years ago and I think one of the main downsides of this dreadful financial slump is that it has raised the level of uncertainty that cannot be intervened by international recommendations but practical-context specifics with will only be discovered after many trials and errors. It is important that policy makers understand the Nigerian context and the market fundamentals in allowing market forces to work out the optimal scenario. Some economist argues that there are justifiable reasons for Nigeria to abandon the free markets mantra, however, I believe that as bad as things are, free markets is a reasonable way to jump-start a way forward.  Efforts as little as, moving away from trying to control and direct the paths of growth and a standard formula for such growth will make a huge difference.
  2. Good Politics/Good Governance; In 2015, Nigeria had a change in power when the fairly new All Progressive Congress (APC) unseated the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that had previously governed the nation for 16 years. Two years later, the initial hope for change has vanished, leaving much disappointment and a certain level of hopelessness. There was a change in leadership but not a change in politics. The failures of government in Nigeria, as is in most emerging nations, is generally attributed to the primary assumption that the hindrances to better governance are predominantly economical, administrative and technical. Consequently, advancement can be made through improved or enhanced policies, capacity building, and civic participation and decentralised governance. The situation of the last two years in Nigeria challenges this assumption. What this narrative fails to address is that politics determines the capacity of the government to decentralize governance; politics determines the roles the electorate gets to play in the good governance process, but the electorate must take the bull by the horn and play their role in choosing better leaders and then holding those leaders accountable.

Nothing replaces planning for growth and development and following through; Nigeria’s population is estimated to be 200 million by 2019. What is the government’s ten-year plan for education, jobs, healthcare, food, water and housing? Nigeria’s population is often referred to as an advantage, but it is only an advantage for businesses as the population power drives demand, however, the government is not using such advantage to the nation’s interest, as there is no preparation to accommodate growth. In terms of inter-African trade and economic penetration, Africa has 31 francophone nations, how is Nigeria preparing to penetrate the francophone economies? Why is French not made a compulsory subject in Nigerian educational curriculum? What is the government’s plan to for trans-continent trade with other African nations? Nigeria needs a unified development plan that is tied to a ten-year plan across all the states in Nigeria, upon which policies can be developed and projects implemented in line with those plans and strategies.

In conclusion, the political economy of Nigeria requires a proper restructuring, one that enables active citizenship participation as the role that citizens play in good governance cannot be overstated. Further, citizens must move away from the passive role used only for campaigning and “winning” elections as assigned to them by political elites in governance processes and begin to see themselves as relevant participants in driving good governance in Nigeria. Secondly,  must be flexible with economic policies and be willing to try every and anything until something that works comes along. The free markets have its advantages and disadvantages but for this static economic stage Nigeria has found itself, it seems a viable trial option. Thirdly, making Nigeria business and tourism friendly should be viewed from a longer term perspective that goes beyond getting a visa in 48 hours but more in terms of making Nigeria as a country function, because getting a visa a business license quicker does not negate the challenges paying state and federal taxes and bribes in some cases to run a business, nor does affect the cost of running a generator. Nigeria’s rapidly growing population should be of utmost emergency to the government, the government cannot afford to carry on like this ticking time bomb will sort itself out and nothing will replace planning for this. Right now the unemployment rate is at a record high, schools are barely able to accommodate student due to lack of space and facility. And lastly,  as the giant of Africa, Nigeria needs to position itself to penetrate not just the English-speaking African nations but the francophone ones as well, and what better way to do so than making French a compulsory subject in the education curriculum.

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Is Nigeria Still in A Recession? Versus Reality

The economy contracted 1.5% consistently quarterly in 2016, based on the latest economic revision, Nigeria is no longer recessing, and is actually on the way to recovery and growth. However, as we know, a number of temporary factors including the CBN’s manual intervention of the FX have seen the Naira gain againt the dollar, in the last five weeks. The question of whether or not such intervention is a good idea or sustainable is a completely different subject.

With FX unavailability concerns somewhat out of the way, many leading indicators are signalling that Nigeria is out of recession and on the way to progressive growth as it were just before the recession.

Anecdotal shreds of evidence support the assumptions that consumer spending is rising, projects previously put on hold are picking up and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) slowly recovering from a decline of  $4.5bn in 2016.

First, these assumptions do not take inflation into account. They are also not adjusted for population growth, unemployment rate and the number of businesses downsizing daily. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the wealth gap in Nigeria is also near record levels of high, perhaps this is the most important factor; as steep inequality often bears the appearances of never-ending recession.

The wealth gap presents a very real danger moving forward. It makes moving up the income ladder more difficult, and it reduces the operational flow of the economy since the wealthy shield most of their income from taxes, while, those at the lower end of the spectrum can barely afford ongoing living expenses.

In my experience, the severe wealth gap underpins a critical misinterpretation of the Nigerian economy. On the one hand, it can misconstrue the reality of growth and expansion, on the other hand, it negates the fact that such growth is failing to carry the majority along.

I hear many economic experts claim that Nigeria is still in a recession, while indicators reflect the opposition; a recovery and on the way to growth. An individual’s view of the economy is primarily driven by their own unique circumstances, wealth, and prosperity, and that of their family and close friends. We generally take the microcosm of our own lives and deduce this out to the condition of the broader economy. It’s completely natural for many who are earning low wages or still contemplating reentering the workforce to believe the economy is in recession. I understand this and have harboured similar feelings at times.

However, from an economic and economic activities perspective, it’s very difficult for me to substantiate this assumption. Howbeit, in the next couple of weeks when the new window trades a bit and stability, is observed for a while, more concrete evidence will emerge based on the type of liquidity and pricing observed.

I believe that if we look at the data, the cause of the plight of many Nigerians is not the result of an economy in recession, but of the tremendous wealth gap, inequality and the fact that all government projects and investments are not geared towards the poor and “vulnerable middle class“.

 It is basic economics that in an economic recession, the middle class and poor are the most vulnerable, hence, should be the major beneficiaries of government interventions in restructuring the economy. The reversed is the case in Nigeria’s current economic recovery plans and interventions.

There is tremendous wealth in Nigeria, it’s just held by a select few, and not productively distributed across the population and there is no evidence pointing to the government’s plans to reduce inequality and make growth more visible in the lives of the majority. This is a very different problem, with very different solutions than having an economy that’s in recession.

If an individual doesn’t personally benefit from economic growth, such an individual is likely to think that economic growth doesn’t exist, especially if they are not in-tune with ongoing economic performances and growth indicators.

Nigeria’s economy has problems, lots of them. But are we still in a recession? The answer is NO. The unfortunate reality is that for many, this period of mild economic expansion feels very much like a period of economic contraction because they are not participating in meaningful employment, still struggling to gain employment or participate in the wealth creation.

Rising income inequality can also be detrimental to overall economic growth. The OECD suggested that “High and often growing inequality raises major economic concerns, not just for the low earners themselves but for the wider health and sustainability of economies. In other words, “rising inequality is bad for long-term growth”

Nigerian economic team and experts must become better at distinguishing what plagues our economy and differentiating the impacts of these challenges on various groups. For example, it is important to understand how the economic contraction of 2015/16- first quarter in 2017 affected and continues to affect small business owners, working high/low income middle-class and the very poor.   These challenges should not be grouped together and treated as the same thing, as that is the reason why out-of-recession indicators are failing to reflect the realities of the majority in Nigeria. To mistake the symptoms of a serious wealth gap for economic recession is to misallocate our frustration, energy and solutions.

These challenges should not be grouped together and treated as the same thing, as that is the reason why out-of-recession indicators are failing to reflect the realities of the majority in Nigeria. To mistake the symptoms of a serious wealth gap for economic recession is to misallocate our frustration, energy and most likely leads to inappropriate solutions.

I don’t know what the answer to sustainable growth and redistribution for Nigeria is right now, but what I know for sure is that a better widespread understanding of the situation is the first step in the right direction.

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