Tinubu Needs Time, No Quick Fix for Nigeria’s Situation -Olufemi Aduwo

Tinubu Needs Time, No Quick Fix for Nigeria's Situation -Olufemi Aduwo

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Aduwo

Mr. Olufemi Aduwo is the Permanent Representative of the Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI) to ECOSOC/United Nations. In this interview, he speaks on President Bola Tinubu’s administration, economic hardship in the country and the Federal Government’s move to establish state police

What do you make of the present administration’s blame of ex- President Muhammadu Buhari for the challenges the country is currently facing?

It is common practice in this clime to blame somebody else for any failures. When President Barack Obama of the United States assumed power in 2009, two years after America entered a severe financial crisis that began in 2007, despite the precarious situation of the economy, Obama did not waste his time blaming his predecessor in office, but rather focused his attention and energy on how to rescue the situation because that was why he was elected. In no time, the American economy was retooled and it was reported that some, if not all the collapsed banks and companies, came back to life. Jobs were created and household income improved due to his policies.

The problem with Nigerian politicians is that elected leaders find it difficult to differentiate between governance and politics or electioneering. I, for once never supported President Bola Tinubu’s election. In fact, in my position as a chief technical officer of a foreign election mission during the last presidential poll, I issued a press statement the second day after the poll to condemn the election. But since the Supreme Court has declared the President the winner, whatever my reservation about the poll should not affect how l should contribute my quota where necessary for the growth and development of our dear country.

Buhari too told the whole world that he inherited a sick economy from President Goodluck Jonathan. So, I call on President Tinubu and his orchestral band that it is time to change the lyrics and dump the blame game song, come out clean with people on the situation of the economy and what is being done to tackle the current challenges. Mr. President, the truth is that you have to be honest with yourself and you have to understand that there is no quick fix. Come clean to the Nigerian people and tell them this is the extent of the problem. Let us block the leakages, instead of running after people on the streets of Wuse in Abuja for trading in forex.

What is your take on the Naira devaluation and surging inflation; what more is needed to be done?

Let me take you back memory lane; 44 years ago, precisely on July 25, 1980, the exchange rate was: $1 equal to N0.80k, why, because Nigeria was far more productive in 1980 than she is today. In 1980, the key reasons for the nation’s positive economic growth were simple. Nigeria was a net exporter of refined petroleum products. Today she imports all her refined petroleum products. In the 80s, Nigerians rode in locally assembled cars, buses and trucks, Peugeot cars in Kaduna and Volkswagen cars in Lagos. Leyland produced trucks/buses in Ibadan and ANAMCO in Enugu also produced buses and trucks. Steyr in Bauchi produced agricultural tractors and it was not just assembly, the country was producing many of the components. There were much more.

Vono Products in Lagos produced vehicle seats; Exide in Ibadan produced the batteries, not just for Nigeria but for the entire West Africa; Oluwa Glass Igbokoda Ondo State, IsoGlass and TSG in Ibadan produced the windshields while Ferrodo in Ibadan produced the brake pads and discs. Dunlop produced tyres in Lagos and Michelin tyres were produced in Port Harcourt. These were produced from rubber plantations located in Ogun, Bendel and Rivers states. Nigerians listened to the radio and watched television sets assembled in Ibadan by Sanyo and also used refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners produced by Thermocool and Debo.

Nigerians were proudly putting on clothes produced from the UNTL Textile Mills in Kaduna and Chellarams in Lagos. They were not from imported cotton but from cotton grown in Nigeria. Potable water was running through pipes produced by Kwalipipe in Kano and Duraplast in Lagos, while toilets were fitted with WCs produced in Kano and Abeokuta. Folks cooked with LPG gas stored inside gas cylinders produced at the NGC factory in Ibadan and electricity was flowing through cables produced by the Nigerian Wire and Cable, Ibadan; NOCACO in Kaduna and Kablemetal in Lagos and Port Harcourt.

We had Bata and Lennards Stores producing the shoes we were putting on. The shoes were not from imported leather but from locally tanned leather in Kaduna. What’s more, Nigerians were mainly flying the Nigeria Airways to most places in the world. On the agricultural front, most of the foods eaten were grown or produced in Nigeria. Today, we import almost everything.

Therein lies the source of the terrible exchange rate Nigeria is experiencing today. What happened, corruption and the accumulation of bad governance over the decades brought us to where we are. If anybody is expecting Tinubu to perform a miracle for the restoration of the past glory to happen within four years, that would never happen, it requires deliberate planning and determination.

First of all, we have to increase productivity but that is also not a quick fix, and what exactly are we producing to earn the quantum of foreign exchange we need? Our fiscal policy should incentivise productivity, concessioning the roads, concessioning the airports and taking the government out of those entities where they have no competence. Let them get out of there and use the increased revenue from subsidy reductions and exchange rate realignment.

Let them use that to do the new things they have to do. Elementary economics clarifies the laws of supply and demand. The law of supply states that the quantity of a good supplied rises as the market price rises, and falls as the price falls. Conversely, the law of demand says that the quantity of a good demanded falls as the price rises, and vice versa.

These principles drive the push and pull in demand and supply. When there is sufficient supply, the issue of hoarding is untenable as the current administration is alleging. It’s only a fool who will hoard fuel, rice, beans or other products that are sufficient in supply.

Do you see the recent looting of the Abuja warehouse by residents as the looming uprising in the country over the economic hardship and hunger in the land?

In 2016, shops were looted in Venezuela; although Venezuela is home to the world’s largest oil reserves, the country is in a mess and everything seems to be running out these days: food, medicine, electricity, even beer. Economic conditions have become so bad that Venezuelans are ransacking grocery stores even though many are largely empty. Don’t forget that Venezuela’s economic crisis began around 2010.

The country’s oil output was stable from 2008 to 2015 but declined in 2016 when oil prices crashed. In 2014, the price of oil fell from over $100 per barrel to under $30 per barrel, sending Venezuela into an economic and political spiral to date and the country is floating. In 2023, Argentina another oil-producing country witnessed the same looting of shops.

I thought the security agencies would have been more proactive and through adequate intelligence gathered that such ugly behaviour would happen. Mark my word, there are more to come and this time around, the big stores may be the target. A hungry man is an angry man and an angry man, sometimes is a complete mad man. Anyway, Nigerians are resilient people, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the poor survived.

If the government is serious, I hope, food prices will start going down before the end of the third quarter of the year. Then, we must let the poor breathe.

Do you think that the proposed state police by the federal and state governments will address the agitation for restructuring of Nigeria?

Let me answer your question with a narration. The Federation of America was the coming together of existing states, which voluntarily yielded some of their powers to the union for the benefit of the generality of the union. Our forefathers like their counterparts in the United States foresaw all these and spent many years deliberating on a people’s constitution that would accommodate the nation’s diversity.

They came up with the 1960 Constitution, which was later substituted with the 1963 Constitution. Under the 1963 constitution, the Federal Government was entitled to pay to each region a sum equal to 50 per cent of the proceeds of mining rents and royalties concerning minerals derived from each region. The Federal Government was obliged to credit to the Distributable Pool Account, 30 per cent of the proceeds of the royalty and mining rent received by the Federal Government after it had given 50 per cent to the producing region.

With the imposed military decree called a constitution, how many states today are economically viable? 

A new constitution will address the police restructuring, devolution and genuine fiscal federalism first. But the agitation for state police is utterly misguided; it is based on shallow reasoning, not on a rational, hard-nosed analysis of the potential consequences. So, the first problem with state police in Nigeria is that no state, except Lagos, can properly fund and run it.

Most of the states cannot survive without the monthly allocation from the Federation Account, and even with the allocation, they are borrowing heavily to cover their recurrent expenses. How would they fund a police force? Will the Federal Government change the revenue-sharing formula, so that states get at least 37 per cent instead of the current 26.7 per cent? Like l said, let there be total devolution of power, every other thing shall be added, either state police or decentralisation of the current police structure