By Akan Mkpong
In the thick and thin of 2012 Christmas celebration came the fixtures of 23.12.12 that squared Swansea football Club against Manchester United (Man U or United) at the Liberty Stadium, London. Man U as the team is fondly called, had thought she would ride roughshod over Swansea and clinch the three points at stake but the expectation ran foul! After leveling scores with the visitors, Swansea’s stout defenders thought it wise to thwart Van Persie’s solo effort by not only blocking him to fall but smashing his skillful head with a blistering and devastating shot. Realizing that he was still alive, and in the land of the living, Persie charged at the defender but stumbled and later received a Yellow Card for his unprofessional conduct. Poor Persie, he was only trying to help his team.
From 2010 to 2011, the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was inundated with reports from his most trusted stewards to the intent that Nigeria would collapse if she continued to subsidize petroleum products’ consumption. The rumour of this impending doom was so strong that the National Assembly had to summon the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Central Bank Governor, Malam Lamido Sanusi to sift the wheat from the corn. Whereas Dr. Okonjo-Iweala allayed fears of any economic meltdown, Malam Sanusi kept no one in doubt as to the wobbly economy that was at the brink of collapse. Shocked and startled, the President felt it was time to deal a fatal blow to the monster that resonates with awe to every administration. On Thursday 15th November, 2011, he announced his intention to do away with it. If anything could go for the contrary, it was against doubting the intelligence of the counselors.
Malam Sanusi is the only government functionary that would defend his position any time, any day and from any quarter. His position is laced with such resounding clarity that Nigeria cannot afford and should not continue to borrow money only to subsidize “conspicuous consumption”; if she wants to survive as a nation. He has warned that the insatiable self-indulgent borrowing is endangering the future generations unborn. Why is Sanusi speaking so unequivocally? It is simply because Nigeria is broke and not broken! Number two, Nigeria is living far above her realistic means of income. Three, the elasticity of borrowing at exorbitant rate is snapping and Nigeria is breaking faster than any revolution induced disintegration. In his words, “we are borrowing more money today at a higher international rate … and Nigeria is currently under the suppressing weight of foreign debts”.
Indeed, what Sanusi has done is to unveil the lid that “cloaked” the real financial situation of the country. This is exactly what Nigerian banks did when they sold one dummy upon another that they were solvent until Sanusi came to purge them of all lies. Banks falsified records in connivance with auditors and published dubious claims of buoyancy to the public even though they knew that they were dead while living. The same situation is playing out now! The National Economic Council (NEC), as empowered by the constitution to advice the President on statutory measures had in December 12, 2011 warned of dire consequences as experienced by Greece if the Federal Government continues to patronize fuel subsidy! The NEC also counselled that the consequences of the removal on the nation would be little compared to retaining same. Meanwhile, the NEC is made up of the Vice President, the Governor of Central Bank, state Governors, Finance related Ministers and other economic think tanks.
In the estimation of the President, if Nigeria could be “broke” as counselled by the NEC, then Nigeria is finished! But the President was not willing that Nigeria should collapse under his leadership so, he decided to do away with the ghost of fuel subsidy once and for all. Herein was the battle line drawn! Past administrations with military fiat could not carry the log, how then would it be possible for a civilian administration? Without wasting time, the President decided to launch his offensive on the first day of the New Year; and the hawks, seeing that the credit would be too glorifying for the President, took up arms and truncated what would forever lift the living standard of Nigerians. But it was for the general interest of Nigerians that the President somersaulted like Van Persie to free trapped funds from the cancerous cabal! For now, the President has become a stranger to his initiative! It is very likely he may not travel the road any more.
In the same vein, the coordinating Minister does not want to be seen as the pilot that flew the crashed economic plane of Nigeria! Also, seeing that the backlash of an outright declaration that Nigeria is “broke” could be unpredictably devastating, she has decided to agree that Nigeria “may go down, or is going down” in one side of the mouth, and that Nigeria is only experiencing the economic sloppiness of the demand and supply curves on the other side of the mouth. Madam, please feel free to play safe! After all, Jesus Christ Himself had warned those who have ears to ear. On a serious note, the Honourable Minister does not want to be seen as the one who said, “total fuel subsidy must be removed”! Mba-no!! Let it be the President or the NEC!!!
Now, one can enter the grave, pick the bones and examine the skull. If Nigeria is borrowing over and above her foreign and domestic reserves, what does that portend? The truth is that Nigeria has neither reserve nor savings to fall back on or to pay for any services incurred; that is why oil marketers are still being owed with overseas trading partners’ outstanding of $3.5 billion. So, Nigeria must borrow to make payments! Besides, Nigeria’s external debt is growing in astronomical proportions with the unfavourable exchange value which is far beyond the country’s hopeless serviceable capacity to sustain. In very deed, can Nigeria’s returns on investments match the maturing obligations without hurting economic growth? Already, the private sector has been crowded out! Yet, no one can point to a well executed project and say,” this is our returns on investment from money borrowed”. Aside the fun of borrowing, unreliable power supply has been the song from one administration to another; fixing refinery to work to capacity remains a puzzle uncracked; weak domestic currency and an over-bloated civil service with the attendant unemployment add to give government a perennial ritual account of bad stewardship.
The way the Nigerian economy is running is very predictable: everyone is looking at the lips of the Coordinating Minister to say, “Nigeria is broke” and that will not happen. But if the statistics are presented for a daft to see, the answer will be obvious. On Friday 12th April fool day of 2012, government position was that $3.6 billion in excess crude account was not enough to sustain Nigeria for any period of time in case of an emergency economic volcano erupting like the recession in Greece. God forbid that a war with another country should ensue, Nigeria’s precarious financial crunch would expose the mess she is in. Does Nigeria still have an excess crude account by reason of state governments’ demand for its sharing and challenge in the law court? On May 18, 2012, Nigeria was cap in hand to borrow $7.9 billion from the African Development Bank (ADB) thus cancelling whatever was in the reserve! Meanwhile, “Nigeria is one of the fastest growing economies in the world”!! Somebody should help because the spirit of Almajiri is holding sway! (To be continued).