ANALYSIS: The Unprecedented Budget And Nigerian FutureArticles/Opinion, Latest News, News Features/Analysis Friday, December 25th, 2015
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau
On Wednesday this week, (later in the morning) around my office area, I ran into some artisans and others who are described as semi-literates, while they were deliberating on the state of Nation. The one I met talking among them was vocal, and just like many other Nigerians, was so disturbed about the present sorry situation of the country. He obviously appeared hopeless and lacked confidence in the Nigerian Leadership, therefore declared that everybody (in the present Government as usual) was only “assisting himself”; retorting that people should forget about the talk and campaign on war against corruption being championed by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration.
Very assertive in his reservation, the gentleman further caught my attention when he opened up and threw what seemed to me, like a ‘self imposed’ challenge, when he asked: “which corruption is Mr. President is fighting when he is surrounded by corrupt cabinet members and public servants”?
For sure, I won’t allow this to go, first, because the issue the man raised and was grousing about was national, but which many have innocently but unfortunately misconstrued. The man, I said to myself, is one of the fellow compatriots, who require sensitization and re-orientation. Two is that the issue he raised, is an area which many and I, have previously engaged one another. Besides, the area of the guy’s concern, readers will agree, has attracted repeated comments from me in the past.
Trust me; I waited for the fellow to land, after which I followed with my response. In doing that, I told the guy and his colleagues, as I have written previously, that I make bold to say that President Buhari really meant business in stamping out corruption effectively in our public system and by extension, in our society. Giving this, as I have analyzed previously, I told the small gathering that none of President Buhari’s cabinet members, needed the service of an Imam or a Pastor to admonish or warn him to steer clear of corruption; that any of his team members who errs in this regards, will without any hesitation and speedily be made to face the music.
Perhaps, another point which the gentlemen need to be educated about (which I did) is that neither the angel, nor God Himself will descend from the heaven to the earth and head to Nigeria to fix the country for us. Of course, no foreigner will do that either. I told the fellows that this country would be taken to the Eldorado by only Nigerians! Coincidentally, Mr. President in his presentation Tuesday, of the 2016 budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly (NASS) made similar statement, when he said that the solutions to the Nigeria’s problems was not beyond us (Nigerians) but right within.
As I said earlier, hopelessness is the word (in the mindset) of so many Nigerians. And unfortunately, this has forced many to withdraw to himself; struggle endlessly to survive (by crude or legal means) to survive. It is so bad and sad, that many Nigerians are very adamant and have lost hope in the Nigerian system to the extent that, no amount of articulation would be strong enough and appears convincing, to make them have a rethink and change their ‘terrible’, scaring and perilous mentality.
Again, the President captured this during his budget presentation. Hear him after giving the background to the budget; budget assumptions and the proposed fiscal planning proper. “…I know many people will say “I have heard this before…”
Still, I am glad to say that my discussion with this another significant segment of our society ended on a fruitful note, as the men appreciated and admitted my position. Yet, there are still many Nigerians like those artisans, who still either by influence; ignorance or carelessness or naivety still go about with the similar mindset that “nobody can fix Nigeria”, no matter what. This is the unfortunate situation, confronting the country.
Now that the President has proposed to the NASS what I consider the unprecedented budget; how will its provisions, if eventually passed into the law, by the Federal lawmakers come to reality; who and who must work to ensure that the proposed provisions become reality? I ask who and who will ensure that the 2016 budget works and gradually set the tone for a new Nigeria, just as I strived to convince those fellow Nigerians Wednesday, as well as the President promised in his presentation and his political party, did pledge to Nigerians during the electioneering campaigns?
Before dwelling on this, let me restate why I feel the proposed budget is unprecedented. First, the proposed N6.08 trillion was non-oil based. Second, the proposed budget, when compared its total capital expenditure of N1.8 trillion, representing 30 per cent of the overall budget to the 2015 budget which budgeted for the same, a total of N557 billion, out of overall budget of N4.357.96 trillion for the outgoing financial year. The President mentioned (and it is a fact) that this was happening after many years, in the history of our National budget!
On the Nigerian challenges, the solutions and Government’s roles, Mr. President announced that the proposed budget was with a benchmark price of $38 per barrel and a production estimate of 2.2 million barrels per day. The official FOREX rate was not provided anyway. Therefore, the decision to make the budget a non-oil based confirms that this Government ordinarily appreciated the yearning and clamour of many Nigerians over the years on the need to refocus the National economy and income.
It justifies the thinking that the Leaders, embrace the reality and by far, accept the fact that there are multi-dimensional angles to resolve Nigerian problems, no matter the degree or level. It also goes to prove and confirm the ground of my thought and articulation with the fellow Nigerians (Wednesday) that, Nigerians will substantially solve the problems of Nigeria; that nothing can be more dangerous than always being pessimistic and go about with a misleading assumption – that no other persons, can correct many wrongs battling with the most populated country in the entire Africa, except the Nigerians.
This takes me to the role of individuals in the Nation building. If I dissipated so much energy in ‘sermonizing’ the artisans and average income earners (like many in Nigeria today), for them to have a rethink over a possible brighter future of the country; although, some might say it is normal, giving the exposure and level of education of people belonging to such cadre.
However, when people who are supposed to know better make statements (in the name of playing politics; unbridled love and affection for someone, group or whatever), that dampen the morale of fellow compatriots as well as dash their hope, no doubt, this can be so disappointing and very sad! I have heard some so called public affairs commentators and analysts, who surprisingly till tomorrow, will never believe that the ongoing corruption investigations and trials will go far.
To such, there is no other reason for their pessimism (as they will claim) than, the conviction that no corruption case has been pursued to a logical conclusion in the country, by the previous administration. As I started this piece, the argument is that if an administration pretended not to know the difference between “stealing and corruption” and so ended up in making the misconduct to thrive during its tenure, shouldn’t we as an individuals and country, give another Leader who believes stealing is corruption and vice versa, a chance to begin the move to wipe out this socio-economic malaise in our society? For God sake, don’t we talk about giving each other the benefit of doubt?
I heard someone this week, analyzing on a radio station, who claimed to be so passionate about the new Nigeria; advising the present Government to refer to the last immediate administration for advice and training on an effective way to manage the oil subsidy.
Fundamental human rights, you might argue the fellow has; therefore is at the liberty to express himself. I hear you clearly and very well too. Despite that, Nigerians understand clearly that anyone referring a government with different fundamentals with a political party (and its Leaders) that had taken the entire country for a ride, in the last 16 years, must be checked properly, if truly he is for Nigeria. As for me, let me say, that the folk who made such an outburst might be telling the rest of us that, corruption is part of life only in ‘his’ and his likes’ Republic’, but not in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Arrant Nonsense!
Again, listen to Mr. President on corruption in his budget presentation. “We have demonstrated a strong will to fight corruption. I am sure you will agree that the sheer scale of corruption and impunity of the past explains in part, the economic challenges we now face. On these initiatives, and the many more to come, we shall not be deterred. We will pursue the recovery of everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria. No matter where it is hidden. No matter how long it will take”.
As a forecasting measure on debt management, the President proposed to the NASS in the budget the “sum of N113 billion” to “be set aside for a Sinking Fund towards the retirement of maturing loans; while N1.36 trillion has been provided for foreign and domestic debt service”
These are forecasts in a proposed financial statement for the coming year. Every right- thinking fellow, as beautiful as the provisions appear, know that the provisions still require discipline; diligence and political will to achieve them. The President has in the same presentation, promised all of these. I feel a forward looking fellow will give the man to either fumble or make good his promise, before the name calling; throwing of salvos and launching of meaningless, senseless and useless attack as well as accusations begin. Again, where is the benefit of doubt we all talk about here?
I hate frivolities and needless playing to the gallery. But the present leading opposition in Nigeria; (formerly in power for 16 years) its megaphone and members will not stop different attempts to distract and mislead the Nigerian public with their many mischievous and irrational criticism. I ask; must the party’s Spokesman talk so cheaply, just to discredit the ruling party and President – even when he knew within, that his party’s reactions are empty, lack substance and spurious?
Or how does one react to this? The President has barely finished the budget presentation, when the opposition Spokesman told the press that the proposed debt in it was a fraud. Haba! If I may ask; which fraud? The one already perpetrated by his party and on which investigations and trials are ongoing? Or the gross misconduct by his successive leaders and past Presidents? Fraud accusation; against a Government still mopping, over a decade of mess of its predecessors and struggling to set a new standard in the country? Well, I have said it, time and again, that this party (first opposition) and its members will keep making noise and so, they will remain, until this Government strives to deliver and achieve its promises to the teeming, suffering Nigerians who voted it into power. Shameless people, I repeat today.
If they wish, let whoever read political meanings into this. But the real point is that opposition to Government; its policies or the President, if it must be done at all, must be constructive, developmental and objective to a very large extent. But what we are witnessing from the current frontline opposition party in Nigeria is more or less like a ruthless and reckless big fight, being waged by an aggrieved, frustrated and depressed drowning fellow. Some may posit, you don’t expect anything less and I strongly disagree with that. We must develop and grow in this country. National issues should be given fair considerations and submissions. This era, Nigerians cannot be cajoled anymore, with parochial sentiments of certain individuals or groups. They are wiser
PD… what? Enough of these rants. If they don’t know, the party must be told its noise is causing more damages to it. This is a political party, who had failed in performance, when opportuned to be in power and which also failed in its vow to be in power for six decades. Shio Kelebe!
Let me sermonize, if they care. PDP should try an inclusive and very objective opposition, I promise Olisa Metuh and his co-party members that Nigerians will appreciate, listen, reason along with you and join in your crusade (if credible and objective). I also promise, I will add my voice, provided you and your party meant well. But for now, forget it. Therefore, I urge you and your party to listen and feel the pains of Nigerians before you talk.
I care for my life and my family. I do really and so care for the life of fellow compatriots. For the Nigerian Government and country’s future? Believe me; I am very passionate. If otherwise, I wouldn’t be spending my precious time, educating and enlightening as well pre-occupied myself, rationalizing the reasons why others should believe in the possibility of a New and prosperous Nigeria. I don’t know what else is known and described as patriotism than this.
Finally, I strongly believe that both the Government and governed have crucial roles to play in the performance of the unusual budget and in the long run, the success of the present administration. I feel a Government that shows a sense of direction has played its role. Still, the process does not end there, until the public reciprocates. This begins from the mindset, trust and confidence in the Leaders and subsequent support to the Government and its machineries in achieving the set and common goals. I feel the first but unprecedented budget of this Government has set the stage for that. Therefore, to the fellow patriots, the best that can be and, that should be done is to support the administration, through all humanly possible and constitutional means. Certainly, this is beyond party affiliation; ethnicity extraction; religion group and doctrine.
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