The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are at each other’s throat over the state of the nation’s economy. BODE GBADEBO writes on the political blame game between the both parties.
The word “recession” was arguably first officially linked to the economy under this administration by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, when she appeared before the Senate on Thursday, July 21, 2016 to brief the Red Chamber on the measures being taken by the government to ameliorate the economic hardships of the citizens, where she admitted that Nigeria was in technical recession.
“Technically, Nigeria is in recession but we should not go into definition; but what we are doing,” she had said then.
Adeosun also dismissed with a wave of a hand the grim predictions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about Nigeria, saying it was nothing to worry about.
“We should not be worried about IMF. We should be confident about what we are doing,” she told the Senators.
Afterwards, the state of the economy has featured intermittently at various public fora against the backdrop of the current economic hardship in the country.
The most recent comments came from two former Central Bank governors. Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi (II) and Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo took a swipe at the President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic policies at a different fora within 24 hours.
Emir Sanusi had on Wednesday, August 24, cautioned the administration of President Buhari against behaving like that of the immediate past government of Goodluck Jonathan, else it would end up the way of the previous administration.
Sanusi spoke while delivering a lecture titled “Nigeria in search of new growth model” at the 15th meeting of the Joint Planning Board and National Council on Development Planning in Kano.
Although he attributed the current economic recession in the country to the failure of past administrations to diversify the economy, he was quick to call for the urgent need for the country to return to the drawing board and expand the economy through wise investments capable of yielding economic growth and development.
The highly revered traditional ruler minced no word in saying that the current economic policy of Buhari and its inconsistency does not favour business and investment in the country, and warned the President that if he does not act fast, his could end like that of past government.
He urged Buhari to be wary of the activities of “voodoo economists at the corridors of power” even as he implored the federal government to copy from Lagos State in formulating policies that can boost trade, business and attract investors.
The next day in neighbouring Kaduna state, Soludo took his turn to castigate Buhari’s economic policies and anti-graft war approach at an event organised by APC Governors Forum and graced by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Soludo also asked the APC-led federal government to stop blaming the past administration under PDP for the poor state of the economy, saying Buhari government should rather begin to think out of the box in order to proffer solutions.
Sanusi and Soludo’s advice were greeted with mixed reactions. While many Nigerians applauded them for speaking up at the right time, others accused them of crying wolf where there was none, a development which fueled speculations that the government might go after them and make them account for their stewardships when they held sway as CBN helmsmen.
But the Presidency sensing the danger that President Buhari might be dubbed a dictator quickly debunked the rumours of probe against Sanusi and Soludo, sayin that the administration welcomes criticisms.
On Monday, August 29, a facebook post by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, reads: “The checks I made today indicated that the Presidency is unaware of he reported probe of Sarkin Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II and Prof. Chukwuma Soludo.
“Where did that report come from? Under our Constitution which President Muhammadu Buhari swore to uphold, it is not a crime to offer suggestions,” Shehu wrote.
Now that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has confirmed Nigerians’ worst fear of the nation’s economy sliding into recession and with the “definition” which Adeosunn had avoided before lawmakers now staring at us in the face, it is the turn of Buhari’s ruling party, APC, and the biggest opposition party, PDP, to fight dirty over who brought us where we are now.
Precisely on Wednesday, August 31, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report for the second quarter of 2016 released by the NBS showed that the nation’s GDP dropped to a record low of 2.06 per cent in the period under review.
According to the report, the GDP declined by -1.70 per cent points from the growth rate of –0.36 per cent recorded in the first quarter of 2016.
A further analysis of the report also showed that the 2.06 per cent recorded in the second quarter of this year is also lower by 4.41 per cent points from the growth rate of 2.35 recorded in the same quarter of 2015.
The recession is attributed to the persistently low oil price and disruptions in crude production as a result of attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta area of the country.
But despite the figures reeled out by the NBS confirming Nigeria’s worst economic recession in a long time, the Presidency same day put up a tacit defence, saying it remained optimistic of a turnaround of the economy under Buhari.
It noted that although the GDP figures released by the NBS in its 2016 second quarter report confirmed a temporary decline in the economy, it also indicated “an hopeful expectation in the country’s economic trajectory.”
A statement by the office of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said besides the growth in the agriculture and solid mineral sectors, the nation’s economy was doing better than estimates by the IMF.
Osinbajo said with the present administration’s policies, there were clear indications the second half of the year would be even much better.
“The Buhari Presidency will continue to work diligently on the economy and engage with all stakeholders to ensure that beneficial policy initiatives are actively pursued and the dividends delivered to the Nigerian people,” he added.
Politics of Recession:
Reacting to the NBS figures, PDP immediately took a swipe at the Buhari-led administration, accusing the President of implementing his “archaic and incoherent economic policies which failed in 1984-85 are failing spectacularly now” with a warning that he should quit his office if he is unable to arrest the tide of the economic recession.
The opposition party in a statement signed by its Director of New Media, Deji Adeyanju, and made available to journalists, stated that nothing better showcases the incompetence of the Buhari administration than the GDP, Inflation and unemployment figures released by NBS.
“We join all well meaning Nigerians to call on @MBuhari to resign if he is unable to reverse the disastrous economic decline he has brought on Nigerians,” the statement said.
But the ruling APC would not take that as the party fired back, accusing the PDP and past presidents produced under its platform of bringing the current economic recession upon the nation.
A statement by the APC national secretary, Mai Mala Buni, on Thursday, said the 16-year misrule of the PDP plunged Nigeria into the current economic crisis.
Recall that PDP produced ex-presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan succeeding each other respectively.
Meanwhile, an indication that the PDP’s call for Buhari’s resignation was not sanctioned by the highest level of the party emerged same day the APC berated the opposition party as the chairman of its national caretaker committee, Ahmed Makarfi, condemned the politicisation of the economic recession.
He said rather than play politics, all hands must be on deck to salvage the economy. Makarfi’s position negates the stance of his party which earlier called on President Buhari to resign for destroying the economy.
Speaking with journalists in Kaduna last Thursday, Makarfi explained that if the economy was bad it was the political class that would be blamed as a whole not a particular political party.
He added that by coming together to fix the economy, all parties must not agree on political matters but must have the country’s interest first above all.
“All hands needed to be on deck. There is a time to play politics, and there is a time whether you are the party in government or not, we should not play politics with certain issues,” Makarfi said.
Will the blame game continue or President Buhari will fix the economy within the shortest time possible to ameliorate the economic hardship being faced by Nigerians? Only time will tell but certainly mere politics won’t solve the problem on ground but a timely political will do.