Recession is simply defined as ‘a difficult time for the economy of a country, when there is less trade and industrial activity than usual and more people are unemployed.’ To put it succinctly, recession is a vehicular expression of what is wrong with a domestic economy. Any economy will slide into recession when the government is fiscally undisciplined, when the citizens are laden with insatiable compulsive appetite for exotic foreign products, and consumes mostly other items not locally made, or sourced, while the attitudinal disposition of the civil-society is ‘sidon look’. This economic malaise is never sudden or accidental; and, like confusion, it doesn’t come singly. It begins gradually until it morphs into an economic albatross that it really is: full blown manifest of economic go-slow or retardation.
The vibrant seed of recession first berthed at the shore of Nigeria when the national treasury had more money than the leadership could manage. No vision, no viable or feasible development plan; therefore, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. The leadership at the time made a costly remark: ‘the problem of Nigeria is not money but how to spend it.’ Thoughtful people and brilliant economies turned their attention to Nigeria, a naïve nation with stupendous wealth. Afterwards, the real trouble started when Nigeria began to take every conceivable loan at the international finance market. Unfortunately, those loans were never used to execute development projects for which they were originally intended; and, where projects were done at all, they were haphazardly executed, and with additional costs to boot. It dawned on the elites that the ‘miliki’ era of overflowing surplus has come, and the new song and dance in town was ‘maa j’aye oni o, mi o m’eyin ola o, maa j’aye oni o, mi o m’eyin ola o’ (I will enjoy myself today, I do not know about tomorrow). In a word, recession in Nigeria is a plague that has its origin in our current and historical irresponsible management of our national economy. The indiscipline mentioned earlier represents the floodgate of corruption and perpetual underdevelopment.
We are told by the government that the worst recession in 33 years afflicted Nigeria for the second time in 5 years, courtesy of COVID-19 pandemic and #EndSARS. Well, what government of the day has not told Nigerians is that recession also has to do with appointments, bloated government, official profligacy and politics of entitlement. But, COVID-19, #EndSARS, even oil glut as its causative agents aside, what efforts have we made to prepare for the raining day? Where is the money the country made prior to the pandemic? In specific terms, what happened to the last budget? What has happened and where are the results of government’s initiatives, especially, in agriculture? If Nigeria’s borders were shut to encourage local production of rice, isn’t it time we reviewed a policy that has made more Nigerians embrace suicide as an option, even as satisfying basic needs has become a distant dream?
Once upon a time in Nigeria, we had oil boom and we had oil reserves. Ibrahim Babangida came only to squander the resources that were enough to transform Nigeria into the Eldorado. Not only did the ‘evil genius’ institutionalize corruption, he also demonstrated how subversive generosity could work wonders in a country overwhelmed by an intimidating percentage of poor people. Unfortunately, no Nigerian leader has been able to deal with that till date. As fate would have it, Olusegun Obasanjo also came and it was as if he was destined to ignore wise counsels. Against all entreaties to the contrary, even the interjection of the British monarch, ‘Balogun Owu’ entered Nigeria into the Guinness Book of Records when he paid $12 billion to liquidate Nigeria’s debt! What if he had used the proceeds from the boom arising from the Gulf War to give Nigerians uninterrupted power supply?
If we may ask, who oversees the Nigerian economy and what are the viable alternative options or counter-measures against this recession? Or, are we asking too many questions? The gist is: not many cabinet ministers are square pegs in square holes! After all, when President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointee gets to the senate, it’s no longer a question of whether the guy is competent or not. Instead, it is where he comes from and those who have actually done the underground work for him. On its part, the senate, in its wisdom, will just ask the nominee to simply ‘take a bow and go.’ So, when trouble comes, what will the appointee do?
If British economy stumbles today, we are told that there are about four or five other economic paradigms, waiting to be applied. Britain will stop the operating-but-ineffective paradigm and introduce a new one to ensure that her people do not suffer unjustly. In other words, there are experts whose job it is to monitor the economy with a view to ascertaining whether or not the existing paradigm is still suitable. But it is always a different ballgame in Nigeria. Whoever is the Minister of Finance only has to go to his or her village and, with deadly seriousness, dance ‘shaku shaku’ with his or her kinsmen so that they can know that he or she is now the Finance Minister. But, is that what we need? Now that we have a recession, what are the Minister of Finance’s plans to get us out of this avoidable pass?
Let’s face it, until we have fiscal discipline, accountability and restructuring, which will reflect true federalism, Nigeria will remain a drunken spendthrift. With the current structure, even, if Osun State wants to generate electricity with its natural waterfall, the Federal Government will stop at nothing to generate impediments against it. Osun has gold, but, as things stand, the state must obtain permission from the centre to do anything meaningful with the natural resource. Laughable and ridiculous as it may sound, a warning has gone to the South-South not to joy in being called an oil producing region, because oil now belongs to the North. It is that bad.
Altogether, the shocking-but-true situation is that the last #EndSARS protest in Nigeria was undertaken by a few aggrieved youths. The majority did not participate in it. Thus, government was able to rise above it. A full mob action may throw up a different outcome. It is, therefore, in the interest of the rich, the political elites, and the critical mass, to protect this country; for, if government does not come up with palliatives that will pacify the anger, frustrations and misery of Nigerians, the next #EndSARS protest may be heading the country towards unprecedented ‘internally-induced’ social anomie. Until we have all the economic leaks patched, recession will always be knocking at our door. Until corruption is sanctioned and thievery punished, fraudsters will not be afraid to serve in government.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria.
abiodun KOMOLAFE writes from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State (firstname.lastname@example.org; 07087941459 – SMS only)
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