• Monday, June 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Survival songs

Policy Intervention Series 4: Recent Export-Unfriendly Policies: Implications for Nigeria‘s Economy

The ever-widening socio- disconnect which currently exists between the few favoured Nigeria’s political elite and the led majority has been exacerbated by the payment structure, skewed in favour of the former. Added to the dysfunctional nature of governance is the highly obnoxious political power at the hands of members of the executive arm of government. They feel they can do and undo and get away with it, not minding the grave implications on the people, they claim to lead.

“The art of governance is not about overtaxing the poor to enrich the rich. No! It is about deploying available resources to meet the compelling needs of the vast majority of Nigerians, in tandem with the current harsh economic realities on ground.

“In fact, this is the time for the rich to make sacrifices for the pauperised populace to survive the hard times.”

-Citizen Adabenege Umeche

It is indeed absurd that while majority of the marginalised Nigerians were expecting some breathe of fresh air and economic relief, after the eight long harrowing years of Sorrows, Tears and Blood (STB)-apologies to the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti- under former President Muhammadu Buhari, what we have on our hands right now is the reign of what some analysts refer to as “the tax-masters”!

From the rash removal of the fuel subsidy on the very day of being sworn in as the new democratically elected president on May 29, 2023, through the unbearable hike in the electricity tariff to that of cyber security tax, currently put on hold by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu himself, the burning questions triggered are worth thinking about by our so-called powerful political leaders. It is all because we want him to succeed.

For instance, have our policy makers ever sacrificed their sober moments- that is, if they have any – to wonder how the average Nigerian survives on daily basis? Have they ever considered the pains, the anguish and agony the citizens go through, virtually on daily basis, having to pay through their noses for high costs of sundry food items, transportation, exponential rise of school fees and house rent? Was this the lofty dream they had back then in those heady days of NADECO, when they were in their trenches battling against the brutal boot-steps of the military inflicted despotism? Strange, if that was what it was all about then.

Perhaps, they need to be reminded about the gross difference in the quality of life of the citizens, including the gap between the rich and the poor in the ’80s and what operates as at this day. According to the United Nations Human Development Program (UNDP), the health status of the average Nigerian in 1980 stood at 0.402 compared to 0.462 in 2010 while that of income were 0.407 and 0.437 respectively.

Despite the increase in the average figure rising from 0.438 in 1990 to 0.532 back in 2017 Nigeria ranked 157 out of 189 countries that same year. Reacting to the low HDI, Andrew S.Nevin on LinkedIn stated that the HDI of Nigeria is lower than that of Kenya, Congo and Ghana despite being often referred to as the “Giant of Africa.” Surely, something must be wrong somewhere.

According to the ‪2023-2024‬ Human Development Report (HDR), titled: ‘Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining Cooperation in a Polarised World,’ Nigeria’s HDI of 0.548 is categorised as low due to inequality estimated at 32.7%. This low status, amongst the worst in the world according to all multidisciplinaryjournal online platform, is traced to: “poor social infrastructure, inequality, oil-dependence, institutional corruption, high prevalence of diseases (for both males and females) and increasing political unrest.” Obviously, we as a nation cannot continue to tread this wobbly path of social inequality in a country God had abundantly blessed with vast and varied natural resources – from oil and gas, solid minerals, agricultural potential of fertile farmlands to stupendously attractive tourism destinations.

To be more informed, the Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary composite measure of a country’s average achievements in the three basic aspects of human development; focusing on health, knowledge and standard of living. So, how did we get it so wrong if not the persisting paradigm of poor leadership?

That is a leadership vehicle driven of course, by a crop of self-serving, overtly greedy citizens who view political power as the Sesame key to pilfer and plunder the national till dry. And they keep pauperising the populace because our leaders kowtow to the anti-people policies foisted on them by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

For instance, the IMF in its Report titled: ‘Nigeria: 2024 Article 1V,’ advised the federal government to remove petroleum and electricity subsidies once the social protection scheme has been enhanced and inflation subsides. But most painfully, without meaningful palliatives in place and with inflation escalating to 33% our policy makers have danced to the dangerous drum beats of the IMF. They have put the cart before the horse. That has left over 133 million Nigerians stewing in preventable poverty, joblessness and haunting hunger! But do our leaders truly understand what is going on? Do they listen to our cries? And are they ready to seek for lasting solutions to the political quagmire, or was the legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson (of blessed memory) right with his hit song: ‘They Don’t Care About Us’?

The answers are reflected in the recent reports yours truly received from several economically traumatised Nigerians across the country. They are nothing but sad survival songs. A few of them will suffice. According to Ade Suleiman who retired in 2020 from a federal government agency up north in Borno State back to Ofa in Kwara State: “Life is getting worse by the day. I’m suffering from urinary tract disease. The pension is not paid as and when due. Currently, I’m living from hand-to-mouth, having to depend on my children for survival as a widower.” But he is not alone.

A middle-aged woman, Mrs. Hannah Goddy, a petty trader whose husband hustles as a vulcanizer at the Ojodu Berger axis of Lagos State is lamenting over the poor state of the economy: “Oga, things are terribly hard O! The costs of transportation, food items, snacks and drinks have gone up. Customers are few and far between because the purchasing power is low.”

As for Elder Simeon Amaechi, in Onitsha Anambra State, his are words of caution to the political leaders “My brother, the evidences of the economic hardship are there for all to see, unless we love to keep on deceiving ourselves. What we have playing out in Nigeria is not democracy as it was conceived in Ancient Greece or as we borrowed it from the American people. What we have is pure aristocracy, a leadership peopled by the favoured rich politicians.

“We have the same set of people, who see politics as a lucrative business recycling themselves as senators or governors and whatever you call them, from one decade to another. Yet, they cannot give us simple good governance, despite the fact that God has given us all that we need. Honestly, I think this is the best time to restructure Nigeria so that the regions can control their God-given resources, pay an agreed tax to the centre, as it was during the time of Mike Okpara, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello for the different regions.

“I pray that our leaders listen to the cries of the people before things are getting worse. It is like we are sitting on a keg of gun powder and if care is not taken it could explode any moment from now. I think that we have had enough of self-deceit,” he surmised.

That should be food–for-thought for us all.