• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Like those that dream

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There’s something mildly irritating about our Finance Minister – Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; something about her that winds me up the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against her. Indeed I genuinely believe she’s a good person who definitely has a heart for the progress and development of Nigeria. In-fact I sense she has a good heart, full stop.

So why do I always get irritated whenever she says anything?

Is it her mannerisms? Her tone of voice? Her accent? Surely not her accent! After-all I also have a distinctly British accent. However I’m persuaded that mine is rather easier on the ear drums than hers. Or could it be her forceful or perhaps slightly aggressive nature? Or maybe it’s because I usually feel she’s talking down at us whenever she speaks/writes.

Whatever it is the instant disconnect is usually strong enough to ensure I’m switched off to the point of neither acknowledging nor embracing whatever message she’s attempting to get across.

So it wasn’t too surprising that I was unable to connect with her once again as I watched her interview on Channels Television on Monday morning. As much as I wanted to listen objectively to what she had to say I found myself nitpicking at the negatives- ‘she’s saying nothing new – we’ve heard all this before – there she goes talking down at us again,  yadder yadder yadder’. But this time I felt a little uncomfortable with my attitude towards her. After-all there were one or two things she said that persuaded me to nod in agreement. Hence, twenty four hours later I decided to do a little research on the main points she made during the interview. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by how much I agree with some of her policies/objectives but I actually found myself wondering how positively and amazingly different Nigeria will be if she’s given the necessary time and resources to achieve her goals.

Let’s have a look at three of the areas she discussed.

1. Eradicating the merciless corruption that has pulverised the Nigerian Civil Service.

You think I’m being a little over-the-top? Fine, let’s have a look at a few components.

– ghost workers – getting salaries from as early an age as two years old

– over-blown contracts

– outright stealing of money that is meant for the public – be-it pensioners, youths, education, or healthcare

Furthermore  it’s basically impossible for a minister to get away with any kind of corrupt practice without the help of the relevant civil servants. Imagine how much money we can save by eradicating corruption in the civil service! There would be so much more money (billions – quite possibly trillions) available to invest in Education, Healthcare, Power, Infrastructure, and the protection and care of pensioners that have honestly and painstakingly served our nation for the majority of their lives.

There’s a very simple reason we’re all suffering an average of three to four hours of light a day; a very simple reason our education system is in its present dire straits; a blatantly obvious reason why so many government officials travel abroad for the most basic of health checks.

The route of it all is corruption. The same people that steal money on daily basis, thereby denying us of our basic needs and rights are the ones that send their kids to foreign schools, travel for medical check-ups, and use generators 24/7 – all paid for with the money they pilfered from us in the first place.

2. I must confess that The Finance Minister’s reference to the ‘Rice Governor’ – Kebbi State’s Governor – made me chuckle; good to see she has a sense of humour. This was one of the rare moments in which I nodded in agreement during her Channels interview. One of this administration’s aims is to encourage governors to ascertain how to develop their states; in other words identify what their state can produce in order to promote both self sufficiency and trade; thereby generating a lot more revenue for their state.

Such an initiative will most definitely have a positive impact on the citizens of the state – creating jobs, promoting development and growth, and building the necessary foundation to consistently provide basic necessities such as Food, Housing, Healthcare, Power, and Education. Indeed I pointed this out in my article titled ‘Let The People Decide’. Yes, I’m more in favour of what some may view as a more drastic measure of regional restructuring but the principle is the same – identify your product, and develop it for the advancement of your state / region. In the end those that gain are the very same one’s you’re there to serve – the people.

3. Finally, and I cannot shy away from being openly honest about this one – I literally pumped my fists in near feverish glee when she spoke about our need for foreign investments. In-fact the manner in which she spoke regarding this particular matter suggests it’s something she has always passionately believed in -that we need foreign investments in order to grow; and that the liberalisation of the FX market was a very necessary step to assure this.

However I want to encourage the finance minister and all other like-minded ministers/public servants not to allow anyone to curtail their aims and objectives – particularly regarding this matter. In other words please do not try to control the FX market by stealth. Yes, I agree that no nation completely frees up its FX market to do whatever it wants – even the Governor of the Bank of England didn’t hide his intention to intervene in the pound’s rapid descent last Friday.

Intervening during extreme situations and continuously ensuring the naira doesn’t go outside a certain bandwidth are very different. One is a safeguard against imminent catastrophe, and the other is control via stealth. No investor will put his or her money into an economy wherein the FX market is controlled via stealth.

So there we have it! Voice, accent, and mannerisms aside, the reality is that what the Finance Minister is trying to achieve is not only good and honourable, but could quite possibly positively change our lives to the extent that we (permit me to coin a biblical phase) will be ‘Like Those Who Dream’.

Can she succeed? I sincerely hope so. Does she have the passion and drive to push it through to the very end? I suspect she does. Does she have the necessary resources to ensure she achieves her desired goals? Quite possibly. Does she have the necessary political savvy and clout to overcome the obstacles that will no doubt come her way? Hmmm….not so sure about this one; not because she is or isn’t capable, but because I know there are some dastardly characters out there who will do their all to ensure she fails.

Nigeria cannot afford for her to fail. Let’s remember this courageous lady in our prayers – yes, even if she does wind us up the wrong way at times.

Segun Akande