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Editorial Opinion

Nigeria is broke: For real or alarm?



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RECENTLY, President Mohammadu Buhari sounded the alarmist ringtone and announced to the shock consternation of the nation that Nigeria is broke. He said that Nigeria was materially and morally vandalised. At a time when Nigerians are seeing points of light in our darkening vision, then this shattering news of our national insolvency. The response to this depressing news has polarised Nigerians into many camps. On the one hand are the sceptics, the doubters and those who believed President Mohammadu Buhari.
After the disastrous economic meltdown of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Nigerians saw in President Buhari a straw of comfort for all their earthly woes. Today, President Buhari is still sustaining an extraordinary span of support because of our collective faith in his experience, doggedness, integrity, honesty, transparency and his genuine need to change Nigeria’s social, economic, political and cultural conditions for good.
But by the time President Buhari assume the tenancy of Aso Rock, the illusion of economic safe harbour vanished. We were made to believe that the President was deeply saddened by the corruption and massive plundering of national resources by the ousted administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. It was alleged that trillion of naira was stolen through sheer man inhumanity to man. President Buhari made repeated public lamentations of what he discovered from the nation’s till and today the nightmare scenario of a broken and indebted Nigeria stare down at us.
However, what sharpens our dilemma is the fact that we are actually broke. Is the president making a political capital regarding our bankruptcy or we are actually in an economic mess? We recalled with regretful nostalgia all the repeated public brag of our former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that Nigeria was not broke. She confidently asserted that government books were not in the red but in glittering blue. Now the present dissonance from President Mohammadu Buhari regarding our brokenness is a cause for worry especially in the life of a new administration.
The question remains: who and what gobbled this nation’s commonwealth so much that President Mohammadu Buhari is being forced to embrace austerity measure in a nation that is not meant to be poor? Without sounding paranoid, the impenetrable logic of who depleted our national resources falls squarely on ex President Goodluck Jonathan and what he spent our money on. There is no heroism or any triumphalism in dredging up Jonathan’s wastages, but for posterity and the setting straight the record we have to list few of the things that he did with our money that has now reduced this nation to penury.
The whole structure of President Goodluck Jonathan administration was built on massive corruption.  During his tenure, this nation was heavily mired in corruption. Money was stolen brazenly without conviction of any perpetrators. Judges were bought with money.
Money meant for the welfare of the citizens was diverted to fight his re-election bid when it was obvious that Nigerians had grown sick and tired of his style of lacklustre, corruption-accommodating and clueless administration.  Before the election, Jonathan bribed the bribable. He gave money to the Obas, Emirs and Obis across this nation in a bid to get their support. There was monumental wastages in terms of allowances and salaries of members of both the National Assembly and House of Representatives. His term was the period of high profligacy in high places. There were recorded cases of spending impunity on bullet proof cars and diversion of nation’s wealth among party cronies, friends and even girlfriends.  The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan was big, bursting and bloated. These and many other were the full dress studies of what the last administration did with our money.
Therefore, in a fiscally stretched economy that had wasted its scarce resources through profligacy, greed and corruption, the inevitable had to happen.  That inevitable is the current economic tension we are made to grapple with at the start of this administration. Of course, there are many revisionists who might want to gloss over Jonathan’s wastages by calling on Buhari to get on with it and stop moaning over past wrongs. That is the classic Nigeria’s generational disease: forgiving perpetrators of corruption while the nation groans under the weight of poverty and penury.
The abundance of evidence of our wastages listed above are enough to convince both sceptics and doubters to agree with President Buhari’s warning that our economy is suffering epilepsy.  Without saying it loud, the President has embarked on soft austerity measures like cutting wastages; reducing ministries, aides, and allowances. He has co-opted Nigerians to a vision of fiscal prudency, moderation and austerity that are being embraced as antidote to total collapse of our economy. Minsiter’s old excesses are now a thing of the past. Foreign trainings are now drastically curtailed. Buhari is reshaping our orientation by closing the gap between the ruler and the ruled through his abiding faith in transparency in all areas of government operation.
Yes, Nigeria may look like a behemoth that is impenetrable to economic adversity, but when President Mohammed Buhari announced that this nation had been managed under false pretences, we had better heed such warning while we support his move to bail us out with whatever measures he deems fit.

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