RE: The dilemma of the change Agenda By Ayabie Ikem
Posted On Mar 25, 2016
That a combination of trade and market forces? have conspired to take the wind off the President Muhammed Buhari’s change Agenda is a no brainer. As the victory celebration song was dying down, The World Economy sustained it’s spin and crude oil prices , Nigeria’s only claim to an export commodity finally collapsed and her economy predictably caught a cold. The usual wait for an oil price rebound is not coming fast enough and economists have had a field day doing what they know best, telling us what we already know : diversification!
Indeed today next to security expertise, the new trend in consultancy unleashed by the Boko Haram insurgency, is Economy consultancy. If the various theories do not give us a head way soon, as they won’t, I can predict that by the third quarter of this year economic analysts/ consultants will over take the security analysts at the rate every one is holding an ” economic summit ” of some sort.
Clearly the biggest dilemma of the President must be understanding what economists are talking about and how to fit that into what looked so simple: CHANGE! After all everyone wanted a change!
Now in my recollection though the slogan of change was not original to APC or President Buhari because that was the Progressives’ slogan in the run off to the 1983 elections. The difference is that he won the general elections and has the responsibility to practice this change, a task I no longer envy him for.
Speaking seriously, it is difficult to believe that the APC as a political Party, though hastily put together did not have a solid blue print for managing the economy anchored on diversification, whether oil prices failed or not, given the age old ideological struggle of a little to the left politicians, which has remained illusive to the progressives until now. It is even more surprising that given the level of intellectual content of the “little to the left ” leaning politicians, which the progressives represent we are still battling with the argument of whether the party had an economic policy or not when one can still be quickly put together.
I fear national dialogue, the nature of which we are dragging the economy issue into because from my earlier recollections of the SAP debates, nothing very coherent will ever come of it until oil prices rebound and we all disappear again into sharing groups! The difference now though is the fear that given the speed at which technology in alternative energy is advancing oil looks to have a short lifespan or at best not a very sustainable one as a viable product in international trade. Let us not like Britain at the wake of the car revolution in America still be investing in research into bicycle technology not realising that the world has moved on!
Finally on the dilemma of the economy is the talk about an “economic team”. For christ sake, where is Mallam El Rufai? I am getting confused about the President’s men. While I concede that snippets coming out of Kaduna suggest that El Rufai must be having nightmares on the saddle as Gov of the state?, I have no doubt on my mind for a moment 1) that he has the capacity to govern and 2) that he means well despite perceptions to the contrary in any quarters and 3) that he can weather the storm knowing change does not come without a struggle.
My concern as put into words by a friend in a discussion recently is : would he not have served this country better at the centre with the President? Consistently, we have refused to attract our best to the centre for national service! IBB drew a lot of intellectuals into govt, even the most unwilling of them including Professors Soyinka, Ransome Kuti, Akinyemi and even Dr. Tai Solarin as no one else has done and but for the transition fiasco, I dare say no one else has churned out more policy initiatives like his govt did. The legacies they left behind in institutions remain indelible. Road safety corps, Primary Health care, Diplomatic corps, privatised media, just to mention a few.
There are more El Rufai s out there. I am uncomfortable with Amina Muhammed in Environment for instance. I know a little bit about her capacity from her MDG days. I am yet to see a govt agency run that efficiently, or at least I’m not sure there are many such. At least until she left it to the undertakers. Putting together an economic team is not a big deal. It is just to reduce the cacophony of voices pulling the strings in opposite directions too loudly and confusing the issues. In summary an economic team combining some economists and a few pragmatic politicians with capacity and a shared vision and dedication to the public good is what is critical. Not a team of theorists only.
Now the biggest dilemma I see is political. While the President might be encouraged to wave off impatient voices questioning his speed, the truth is that in our system, politics seems to be the infrastructure that can drive change not the economy. A healthy mix of a good dose of politics while debating the economy will help him and especially the APC in no small measure.
The President’s most consistent policy so far is anti corruption and it is most commendable. I can only imagine how many people the almost 2 bn Naira monthly ghost Airforce officers’ salaries would have employed ?. Only God knows how much the Army which is many times the size of the Airforce has been scheming off. And the Police which is the size of all three put together! Imagine the implication for employment! Indeed the combined salaries schemed off in the Nigeria public service today can most likely accommodate conservatively 5m workers! That is a national tragedy of emmense proportions and cannot be swept under the carpet. And that’s only one area. I think there should be a dedicated team to do a comprehensive study on all federal institutions for the purpose of unearthing them.
But in prosecuting this war, political exiggency matters. While I concede that no one is above the law, I do think that the prosecution of the Senate President can become an albatross at this time when the Govt is not yet stable. It is even perceived as a political witch hunt. I share the view that perceptions can sometimes be distracting but clearly there can be a selection in our battles in timing and relevance.
So far the emergence of Saraki as senate President has not detracted from your focus as he is evidently supportive of your programs and vision. The implications of convicting and removing him from office may not go away anytime soon. Removing him will be the easy part. Egos have been bruised from his emergence no doubt, but You can manage the situation differently. Let us play the politics of 2019 differently.
Politics of appointments into federal boards and parastatals is a necessary and essential component that can galvanise the rank and file of APC. No doubt your party big wigs must be telling you much more than we can. The truth is that most people have earned a legitimate right to also be part of the benefit of your victory.
While the idealist will talk about service, I believe that of course service comes with remuneration. The sheer quantum of goodwill you are squandering at the Base by not factoring the psychology of your party’s supporters by way of appointments as part of the victory is monumental. ? I understand that your concern is about lack of funds for remuneration. Why not structure out and start with the self sustaining ones? Besides, Beyond remuneration too is the ego of having been appointed as a show of recognition for efforts. You need to expedite action on this.
Can you just imagine for a moment what will happen if PDP wins in 2019? Where would all the change you have started be? That’s why I said that in our clime, politics is the infrastructure you need to drive this change to a reasonable and sustainable level. Whether you want to continue in office or not the truth is that you must be interested in who shares your vision for change as a successor or else all this effort would have been a waste of time and energy.
I am not sure that is what you wish for yourself and this country.
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