YNaija, Nigeria’s leading youth focused online newspaper has obviously had enough!
In an editorial published on Monday, May 2, 2016, the newspaper finally said something it probably had been holding back for months, “Our economy is in shambles,” the paper said in an editorial titled, Mr President, did you ‘hear’ what Oby Ezekwesili just told you?.
The piece has drawn attention, not for saying the obvious truth, but because of the relationship between its publishers Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams with the All Progressives Congress (APC). The duo founded the political communications firm, Statecraft which worked for the APC presidential campaign in 2015.
The editorial, appears to have been sparked by the comments by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, a former vice president of the World Bank and leading Bring Back Our Girls campaigner on May Day in which she denounced Buhari’s economic policies as “archaic” and “failed in 1984”, in reference to Buhari’s disastrous military dictatorship.
You may read the editorial, which takes home no prisoners, below.
Our president behaves like a spoilt child.
He points fingers at everyone else, he stomps his feet with petulance when he is annoyed, he accuses those who do not agree with him either of corruption of – as his spokesperson inelegantly put it – ‘wailing wails’, he doesn’t listen to the counsel of his cabinet; treating those who disagree with him with a lack of access, he insists that he is the one to be convinced rather than taking his time to convince those he is supposed to lead.
Above all else, he prefers, irritatingly, to have his own way. He insists on his own way even if it’s to the detriment of national interest, or his own. There are those who say he has his own way ‘no matter whose ox is gored’, but they say that adoringly, and we find nothing to be adored about his behavior, especially with regard to our economy.
Our economy is in a shambles. That’s apparent to any observer not named Muhammadu Buhari. Last week, Moody’s finally downgraded us, for “speculative elements and a significant credit risk”, alongside “a high credit risk”, a combined status that is deeply indicative of the way the world sees the handling of the Nigerian economy.
The policies of this government are inchoate. Where there is a focus on corruption, there is very little strategy and very little cohesion. Save for a consistent desire to travel abroad and the over-selling of routine agreements with China (despite the red herring power minister Babatunde Fashola tried to sell a skeptical public), there is nothing indicative of an over-aching agenda.
The fault lines of his command and control approach to administering the economy show themselves in our currency, in the collapse of fuel supply services, in the self-imposed tragic dance that is our budget, and in the pursuit of frivolity that is the hallmark of our Finance Minister.
In the midst of this, the president’s advisers, taking a cue from a king that won’t listen, have been quiet. Mr. Fashola just began to speak in recent weeks, the trade and investment minister generally minds his business, the finance minister has nothing impressive to say. None of them can speak to us with boldness and clarity, which convinces us that none can speak to the president with boldness or clarity.
Hence, former Minister Obiageli Ezekwesili’s high profile intervention on Saturday becomes very crucial.
Speaking at an event in Abuja, she rightly decried the totality of Mr. Buhari’s economic policy as “opaque”, “archaic” and altogether destructive.
“What did not work in 1984 cannot possibly be a solution in a global economy that’s much more integrated,” she said. “During the first coming of this our new president, a command and control economic system was adopted, and inflation spiraled, jobs were lost and the economic growth level dipped.
“In over one year, the president is still holding to the premise that command and control is the only way out, and we have lost the single digits inflation status we maintained in past administrations.”
We cannot agree more. The loss of hard-won status by the otherwise feckless Goodluck Jonathan administration is particularly painful. One of the things Nigerians could count on through the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Jonathan, even where there was a lack of political will, was a willingness to defer to technocrats with economic expertise – where interventions, negotiations and policy were directed by an understanding of a world and an alignment with global imperatives. This was one of the few bright spots of the past administration. To watch this one squander it so needlessly is alarming.
Even worse, this is doing great damage to the same poor people the president supposedly seeks to protect. “The weakest and the most vulnerable suffer the impact of inflation the most,” Mrs. Ezekwesili submitted. “Enormous power is being abused as a result of archaic and opaque economic policies.”
Again, we cannot agree more.
We agree that the Central Bank of Nigeria needs to stop operating as maid to the Presidency and regain its statutory autonomy. We agree that there needs to be an overhaul of monetary policy so that it is protected from misguided political ideology. We agree that this Presidency needs to alight itself with modern economic reality and “speak the language of economics and not this language of rhetoric and language of anecdote, and language of suppositions that are no longer premised on hard economic facts”.
Mr. President needs to get a grip.
It has become painfully obvious that too few people around you have the courage to tell you the truth to your face. In that case, you owe Ezekwesili, who cannot be accused of corruption, a depth of gratitude.
And if this king will not listen to a subject whose activism paved the way for his return to office, then we fear gravely the next three years can only accelerate our return to economic doom.