BusinessDay

2022: What does the POT say?

We are already far into the year 2022, which is racing like others before it. If you believe that 2 weeks is not a significant enough period, you are on your own but be it known unto you that some people have already hammered this year. The hinterlands are depopulated once more and the cities are back (or almost back) to the usual hustle and bustle. Someone said that most of those still in the villages must have squandered everything, including their transport money! The maddening traffic that was experienced on the Lagos-Onitsha route in December has now changed lanes on the Onitsha-Lagos route.

On 16/1/22, it took us 4 hours to cross over the Niger bridge and another 3 hours to cross over the Ovia River in Benin. The Anambra airport saved about 4000 people from the stress and distress of spending 6 hours from Asaba Airport and Onitsha; which should have ordinarily taken 20 minutes. Governor Zulum of Borno State paid transport fares for Christians travelling from Maiduguri to the East; the Emir of Bauchi led praise and worship sessions with Christians in the spirit of the season while some lucky chickens have been partying for surviving the seasonal carnage.

There were also local content Christmas trees and hampers all over the place. Yes; the Christmas season and its associated madness is over. Even though I know that in Nigeria whatever goes up stays up, I still pray that prices would come back to the old normal rather than retaining the seasonal new-normal!

I have just finished looking into my mystic pot and all that I see is that Nigeria and Nigerians will be more troubled and distressed this year. However, this does not preclude some micro successes across the land. PMB, who has borrowed more than all the presidents before him combined ( debt stock now N40trn)is planning to borrow more and at a higher interest rate because of global realities.

And the Senate President has just said that those who blame the house for approving PMBs daily-daily loans are either ignorant or mischievous or both: no justification, explanation, no please-understand-us; no persuasiveness. The Deficit for 2022 is projected at N6.25trn, which is at 3.4% of GDP, more than the 3% allowed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act. As we are borrowing more, debt servicing will swallow a larger chunk of our resources, and thus far less is left for developmental purposes. All this is happening as foreign inflow nosedives by 30%. There will be more taxes, levies, and fines from known and unknown government agencies pushing higher, the general level of prices but as the prices of everything is increasing, salaries remain stunted and you are lucky if you get paid.

284 Nigerians were killed or kidnapped within the first 7 days of this year (it should be up to 1000 by now) and the president is promising to bring the perpetrators to his mystery book, which never gets filled up. He has also assured us that insecurity would soon become history just as bandits are mounting roadblocks in daylight at Zurmi LGA (Zamfara), giving the people a 7-day ultimatum to pay N37m levies( Zamfara) and levying miners in Jibia (katsina state) N10,000 apiece.

The President who has accessed budgeted and unbudgeted sums for security purposes( and you know that security spending is confidential) upped the ante by hoping that God would hear and answer our prayers over insecurity. But surprisingly, Governor Bunni has praised the president’s security brinkmanship because people of Borno State now sleep with both eyes closed and that is while Governor Zulum has declared that at least 2 LGAs are still under the control of Bokoharamites in the state.

Read also: Experts divided on Buhari’s legacy

Yet the presidency, according to Rev Father Sebastian Sanni continues a shameless display of a new weird disease called the arrogance of failure, boasting that they have done better than Jonathan and that 17 months is enough period to crush terrorists and allied groups. Yet our present refused to name his preferred successor because he( why not she?) will escape the assassin’s bullets!

Our president has admitted that Nigerians are suffering and blamed old age for his poor performance; he is also happy that ‘Coro’ has made things easier for him by reducing the number of people he needed to see. The most worrisome reality is that our president, who attends global conferences everyday, does not understand questions posed at him and offers responses that are unrelated or far off the mark; the type we call OP (off-point) in our secondary school days.

‘We have to give our people access to the farms’ was his response when Seun Okinbaloye asked him about the dwindling economic fortunes (inflation, unemployment, debts, exchange rate) of Nigeria since 2015! That may be one of the reasons why the National Intelligence Agency allegedly advised him recently, not to sign documents he did not understand. Corruption is so ingrained with high sustainability index that the Secretary of the Government of the Federation has just openly and without qualms declared that Nigeria has exported corruption. Along the highways, the once clean FRSC officials now contract ‘poor-water’ and plantain-chips hawkers to collect tithes from drivers who do not want to be delayed, with or without reasons.

This is also the season of politics, during which, the economy and governance take the back seat. It is also a season during which phantom contracts are awarded in multiples so that cash will flow for the boys. Budgit has already identified duplicated projects to the tune of almost N500bn in the budget which PMB signed despite expressing his reservations publicly.

Already Tinubu, Osinbajo, and Umahi have gone to kowtow and taken permission from the Oga at the very top to run( where are they running to?). By next week, I will be the 4th to take the presidential permission even though I don’t know whether this kotowing kabiyesi practice is needed in a democracy. Things are however looking up in Anambra state where Professor Soludo has just appointed a star-studded transition team, which membership goes beyond Anambra state and is headed by Madam Due Process, Oby Ezekwesili.

Because this year will continue to be a tough one for us, I will take things easy by starting it(next week) in a lighter mood, to divert our attention, even if only temporarily, from the common and uncommon challenges of 2020 like rent, school fees, and pending fuel-price hike.. Incidentally, Tinubu has promised to continue from where PMB stops or stopped, and given the records of PMB, methinks this is a threat!

However, Nigerians are still lucky; at least they can suffer and smile, unlike their North-Korean counterparts who were recently ordered not to smile, drink or rejoice for 11 days in honour of late Kin Jong-ill, whose 10 anniversary was being celebrated. How can you CELEBRATE an anniversary without celebrations?

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