One of the high points of the second-term swearing in ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2019, was the absence of any kind of speech to the citizens. Traditionally, leaders make statements on accepting office, even if for the symbolism of it or just to reassure stakeholders of positive leadership in the days ahead. The president had been advised by his handlers to reserve his speech till the newly approved Democracy Day, which was fixed for June 12, 2019. This action heightened expectations and tended to increase the importance of the expected speech, which ordinarily should have nothing to signally recommend it, beyond the many political platitude that politicians offer all over the world; mostly without the intention to give effect to them.
When the D-Day came on May 29, the president spoke and promised to move 100 million people out of poverty over the next ten years. To pull 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is not wishful thinking in a country like Nigeria and the president felt it was a good step to take towards his next four years. Unfortunately, he could not appease his critics. They charged that the president had no business making such a promise in a country where average incomes have been on the decline for the past four years; and the IMF predicts it will not improve over the next six years. As a result, not a few people controverted the speech and found fault with it, especially on the strategy for achieving the objective of lifting 100 million people out of poverty, which though not expected to be stated in the broadcast, was not apparent from it.
Nigeria is currently losing steam relative to its peers, being one of the most fragile states by the Funds of Peace report. Out of 178 countries in the world, Nigeria is number 14 while Ghana is number 110, on the list of countries that are dangerously imperilled by the risk of instability. The ranking is such that the higher the number the less fragile a country is. So Nigeria tends to lower numbers towards Yemen and Somalia, who are at numbers one and two, respectively.
Nigeria’s underperformance, among its regional peers, in most economic indicators, has given rise to much cynicism among the people. Her records do not give any hope for a quick turnaround, especially as the economic and social policies of government remain the same. Doing the same thing, using the same technology, and expecting a different result, they say, is a sign of mental disorder. While Ghana lags behind Nigeria at number ten on the top economies list in the continent, it is growing faster and recording GDP growth rates averaging over 6 per cent in the recent past. Nigeria is growing at 2 per cent. This is to say nothing about the non-existence of a recognizable population policy, which has resulted in the influx of dangerous aliens using hordes of cattle to intimidate the natives, and have now taken up arms against the citizens.
Unemployment in Nigeria is 23 per cent while in Ghana it is less than three per cent. Youth unemployment in Ghana is 13 per cent. In Nigeria, it is 36 per cent. Nigeria currently leads the world in the number of abjectly poor people living within her borders. Meanwhile, Nigeria has been touted as having the most endowment in Africa in several areas. And to prove that the talk about Nigeria’s potential for greatness is not a joke, records have it that two Nigerians, who happen to be Igbos, are probably the brightest scientists on the planet today. Professor Gabriel Oyibo, who has proved to be smarter than the great Einstein, one of the greatest scientists that lived, by solving the equation Einstein could not solve is a Nigerian. The other one is Prof Emeagwali, the world famous computer genius. What else could a people ask for?
Unfortunately, there are signs that things are not going to look up in a hurry. The plan of government to pool a good number of us out of poverty appears to be headed for the rocks, given the rate at which livelihoods are being wiped out on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The Stock Exchange has been on a retreat, following the conclusion of voting in the country’s general elections. The exchange has actually been losing money for some time, even prior to the elections. However, things appear to be getting worse as Nigerians adjust to the second term mandate of the present administration. Reports have it that the last four days leading up to the end of June, saw the Exchange shed over N291 billion of people’s savings. Somehow, this rapid loss of the wealth of citizens does not appear to have attracted much attention in the polity. Some comments have been made on the issue but not in any serious manner, reflective of the likely consequences of such a major decline. There is a long standing history of the role of declining stock markets in economic collapse. The stock market crash of 1929 was a leading factor that precipitated the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even recent crashes in Europe and Asia have links to poorly performing exchanges.
Nigeria, by its structure, political-social conduct and indeed economic policy direction, gives good reasons why the economy cannot sustain meaningful growth. Wasteful financial conduct and the absence a cohesive national integration and leadership effort, have coalesced to create a sense of haste and urgency to grab from the state and national treasuries. State and national economic policy direction appear to be in disarray, while priorities are deliberately misplaced for selfish reasons. The loss of family wealth at the stock exchange is negatively impacting aggregate demand. Soon, consumer spending is likely to shrink so low as to instigate another recession. When that happens, or even if it does not, the assured effect of a declining stock market will surely put a wedge between the benevolent government and the 100 million immiserated Nigerians hoping to say goodbye to poverty …over the next ten years!