Buhari Making the Same Mistakes

A broke economy without direction would definitely turn investors off. Investors seek an economy where they can get good returns for their investment. This is not a move they naturally make without a level of certainty. Investors deal with calculated risks.

One major indicator they look out for is political stability. Investors want to know how, when and where the economy of a country is heading, before they decide to invest. They do this by adhering to expert opinion on every matter that concerns the country they have in mind.

This is the reason the leadership of every country seeking to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) must get it right.

Nigeria, as a case study, has been an investment haven for investors in the past eight years under the administration of former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. People might argue that a few of the ministers in his cabinet were responsible for the information that made investors decide to come to the country. But the fact was that foreign direct investment grew during his administration.

Against the backdrop of performance many would ascribe to the former president, there are certain things I believe he did right. He was just unfortunate not to have the kind of media publicity that president Buhari used in winning the last presidential election.

Goodluck Jonathan was unfortunate to have handled much pressure during his administration; the pressure to please people off multiple political, religious and cultural dispositions. The former president was seen as a “Messiah” due to the political atmosphere at that time.

Imagine what people would have expected from someone every saw as “the Messiah”. In a country experiencing epileptic power supply, fuel scarcity, unemployment and the plague of terrorist attacks, everyone looked to the president to be a problem-solver.

It now appears that Nigerians made a grave mistake trusting a man rather than institutions. I say this because Nigerians are about to make the same mistake again in this present administration.

There are “forces” in contention in the Nigerian economy, they have become strong and they determine what happens to the government. I strongly believe that to fight these “forces”, Nigerians must create strong institutions that will create systems that promote accountability, checks and balances in place.

I remember that the former president referred to them as Nigerians who determine where, what and when things happen in the country. These forces are: “godfathers that control the political scene”, “the oil marketers that control the sale of fuel”, “Generator importers” and “the big investors” that get the contracts that affect the lives of the ordinary Nigerian.

Jonathan tried to fight all these forces, but was consumed by them because these forces decided to crash his economic agenda even before he started. Yes, there were so many things the former president must have done wrong. I put it to you that these forces were responsible for his woes. And we just have to start acting now because they are at it again.

Nigeria’s economic woe started in late 2012 when the nation decided to ignore the advice of the previous Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, when she advised that the government should save the money realized from the sale of excess crude. No one heeded her counsel because the godfathers controlling the political scene were at work. They made sure they depleted the Excess Crude Account (ECA).

These godfathers supported the states against the opinion of the minister of finance to share the $2billion among Federal, States and Local government. I recall the former governor of Akwa Ibom state saying the money was to facilitate various development projects being executed by different tiers of government across the country. With what we currently have on the ground, can we say the money they shared was justified?

On power, the former president tried to solve the challenges in the power sector, but the forces that control the power sector made sure they sabotaged his efforts.

Jonathan appointed Professor Barth Nnaji as the minister of power in 2010. His coming into the power sector destabilized the forces controlling the power sector. At the end, the forces didn’t allow him to complete his power agenda for the country as they roped him in a controversial case that saw him tender a resignation from his appointment. The power sector is still in shambles today.

Major sectors, including the oil sector where these forces controlled remained stagnant and experienced failure under the then Jonathan administration.

So, what did Jonathan do right?

President Jonathan, unlike the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, didn’t go about, despite these challenges, to tell the world Nigerians had internal issues or was broke. He maintained a positive attitude; made sure he rebased the economy as an evidence for investors and made other economic policies that favoured investment. This was one reason foreign direct investment net flow in Nigeria, grew to 0.33% in 2012.

In the last presidential election Nigerians have come to believe that they’ve found another messiah in “Muhammadu Buhari.” They see him as someone whom they believe will fight corruption with the last drop of his blood.

But, I think the president has started on a wrong footing, because these forces have started holding him to ransom on account of fuel subsidy, power generation and distribution. President Buhari has declared openly that Nigeria is broke. I wonder who would want to invest in an economy that is broke. The foreign direct investment net flow has reduced drastically from 0.33% in 2012 to 0.01% in 2015.

The president is only focused on solving the internal crisis that might arise in his government often forgetting that not paying attention to things outside will leave him blindsided.

I see President Buhari making the same mistakes and that is why I’m in support of Barack Obama’s view that “Africa doesn’t need strong men; it needs strong institutions”.

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