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If I had a kobo for every time the term and hashtag ‘Buhari Economy’ has been used, I would probably be smiling to the bank with capital sufficient to ease the current liquidity issues faced by a few Nigerian banks. From inflation and unemployment at 18.55 and 13.9 percent, respectively, to a devalued Naira, the socio-economic hardships faced by Nigerians can be categorised under the popular concept. Interestingly - though I argue neither a correlation, causation nor validity - the Buhari Economy is allegedly an explanation for Germany’s four-year high inflation rate and the decline in the production of music in Nigeria.
Solely considering statistics on macro- and micro-activities in Nigeria, you may be persuaded to play your drum to the rhythm of condemnation, and point fingers at President Muhammedu Buhari for an economic downturn. In contrast to 2014, Nigeria indeed fares badly - on the surface - and is permeated with uncertainty. While thrusting the blame on Buhari and his administration for the abysmal state of the economy might be easier, perpetuating the idea that he is “not doing anything” is a dangerous narrative, which reflects a misunderstanding of core issues, and amplifies the blind eye obliviously turned in the past decades - especially, in the last five years.
A common man argues: “at least, during Jonathan, money dey flow; things were better.” Others lament about the hike in food prices, and tripling of the Naira to 500 per dollar, as compared to 170 to 190 Naira to a dollar during ‘Jonathan’s time’. Amidst the noise, the volatility of an Oil-dependent economy is seldom considered. The fact that the price and production of Oil - which accounts for over 70 percent of Nigeria’s exports, revenues and fiscal budget - plummeted from a 5 year average* of $100.4 to as low as 28.94 dollars per barrel, and 1.99 million barrels per day (bpd) from a maximum production of 2.54 million bpd, is often omitted. The effects of such external shocks on the exchange rate and the economy as a whole, are conveniently ignored.
The Other Side Of The Coin
Nonetheless, the focus is that money flowed. It did, indeed; as silent as the ocean but with the magnitude of waves during a storm. It flowed illicitly from the Sovereign Wealth Fund through local Banks to shores beyond the country; Its value diminishing as rapidly as the moral of its people. Things were seemingly ‘better’ due to the rate of injection which stimulated the economy, and created a multiplier effect. Money flowed so broadly that the funds misappropriated by high level officials including judges and ministers cumulatively, under the last administration alone, exceed the country’s current foreign exchange reserve. Money that, hypothetically, should have been allocated to education, agriculture, security, infrastructure and the sustainability of the nation.
Yet, Nigerians expect President Muhammudu Buhari to wave a wand, magically refloat the forex from a depleted reserve, and “fix Nigeria.” Messiah and saviour of 183 million, Nigerians expect Buhari to have carried the cross for the nation and in three days (2 years of service), torn the veils of greed, and restored an economy on its brink of implosion. However, when, for example, its former president could not differentiate stealing from corruption and dehumanised pain with a #BringBackGoodluck campaign, Nigerians chose to be selective about their patriotism and anger. Ignoring the resounding bells of non-diversification and dust in the form of bodies that settled due to heightened insecurity, Nigerians failed to act.
Do not get me wrong - I do not make excuses for Buhari, and pledge no allegiance to his administration. In actual fact, I do believe his team could be more responsive to the shocks and more importantly, to its people. Discrediting, however, the relevance of his commitment and efforts to tackle “insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages” is what I contend. For, corruption has endemically plagued and limited Nigeria. Therefore, irrespective of the leader in the driver’s seat, had systemic and grand corruption tarried, Nigeria would inevitably have encountered a downturn - one which would have hit harder.
House Or Home?
Perhaps, a piecemeal approach could have eased the process and prepared Nigerians for the side effects. I can however not guarantee that gradually implementing, for example, a limit on a monthly allowance of foreign currency would have instilled the much-needed discipline Nigerians lacked and curb excessive spending. Or better still, perhaps, allowed enough time for the corrupt to tidy up outstanding deals and further plunder public funds - who knows? Incremental or head-on, the approach would not have changed the fact that corruption in Nigeria is a vice, for which a handful benefit, and generations pay; and as such, needs to be combated voraciously.
Alas, the house has fallen. Understandably, its tenants are bruised by its consequences on their standard of living. However, all is not lost. Nigerians now have a choice between relying wholly on one man to turn things around, and actively and collectively rebuilding the house into a home with stronger institutional foundations. Should this period be embraced with an attitude to learn and determination by each person to play their part, the change required to set Nigeria on the path of sustainability and prosperity would be reformative. In order to achieve this, one must be forward-looking lens, and focus on the bigger picture.
Indeed, foresight neither pays the bills nor plate the table, momentarily. Seeking short term solutions to long term issues would, however, neither do so in the long-run. As Nigerians, the onus lies on us to develop sustainably; to shift from being a consumerist economy to one that invests locally, and proffers home-grown innovations and solutions. A nation that, regardless of the economic climate, prioritises the need to #buyNigerian to grow Nigeria; One which is not import-reliant but focuses on creating value at every level of the chain. Yes, President Muhammudu Buhari leads the country, and is constitutionally obliged to ensure maximum welfare. Nigeria, however, is likewise yours to protect and maintain. So, dear friend, make Nigeria home.
*Five year average estimated using a range of 2010 to 2014, inclusive, for indicative purposes, and liable to errors. Statistics on global prices of Brent Oil derived from Bloomberg and Trading Economics.