Buhari’s legacy of recessions, By Fredrick Nwabufo




‘Why always Buhari?’ As it was in 1984 under General Buhari, so it is in 2016 and 2020 under President Buhari? Is it by the unfortunate hands of kismet, that recession hits Nigeria every time Buhari takes charge of the country’s affairs? If the recession of the 1980s under Buhari was a conspiracy by economic and political factors, to what do we attribute that of his first coming as a civilian president — and now in his second coming? Why does pestilence scourge the land, hunger ravage the population and lives lost malevolently when Buhari presides over the country? Why always Buhari?

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Buhari’s undoing is his wonted predilection for hierarchising ethnicity, religion and loyalty above competence. Since 1999, no president has obtrusively shown a more nepotistic aspect than Buhari. It is unarguable that the president arrays the most competence-challenged cabinet ever in the chronicle of governance in Nigeria. Yes, a recession cabinet.

Here is a cabinet constituting of figures stuck in a time when the world only saw pictures in black and white — characters from Pinocchio who see social media as a threat and troglodytes who think farming with hoe and cutlass is progress.

Buhari’s agriculture minister, Sabo Nanono, once said there is no hunger in Nigeria and that food is cheap in the country. Wait! Before you tag this as fake news read his exact words and be flummoxed.

“I think we are producing enough to feed ourselves. I think there is no hunger in Nigeria; there could be inconveniences. When people talk about hunger in this government, I just laugh. In this country, it is fairly cheap to buy food,’’ the minister said at a press briefing to mark the 2019 World Food Day in Abuja on October 15, 2019.

This is one among the foundering protagonists of the Buhari administration. When native complexion and loyalty are prioritised above competence and performance, leadership suffers. I strongly believe even if Nigeria’s constitution allows a third term and Buhari returns in 2023, recession will hit the country again. It appears anything he touches atrophies.

Buhari is the type of boss every bungling brownnoser would like to work with. He rewards failure in the currency of loyalty. As long as you keep him sated with praises, you can keep your job. Why have the service chiefs who have failed in their duty of keeping the country safe not been sacked? Why are they still in office long after their retirement is due?

The recession of 2016 was largely due to the incompetence of the Buhari government. Here is how Nairametrics, Nigeria’s Bloomberg, puts it: “In a nutshell, what caused the last recession (of 2016) was not entirely the fall in oil prices. Rather, the lack of sound economic policies to diversify away from the volatility of crude oil prices, whilst boosting the nation’s non-oil exports, was also a major cause.”

I concede, the recent recession (2020) is a corollary of the global economic meltdown compelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a steep drop in oil prices and Diaspora remittances, and the stock market is prostrate. But there were warnings of this impending doom before its fruition. What could Buhari’s recession team have done different?

The World Bank in its June 25, 2020 report had projected that Nigeria would slip into a severe economic recession, the worst since the 1980s. Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank country director for Nigeria, recommended: “While the long-term economic impact of the global pandemic is uncertain, the effectiveness of the government’s response is important to determine the speed, quality, and sustainability of Nigeria’s economic recovery. Besides immediate efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and stimulate the economy, it will be even more urgent to address bottlenecks that hinder the productivity of the economy and job creation.’’

Even if the 2020 recession was inevitable, the Buhari administration hastened its climax and ossified the severity by its harebrained economic policies. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buhari government whimsically closed the land borders, taking food out of the table of many Nigerians.

The World Bank in the same report entitled, ‘Nigeria in Times of COVID-19: Laying Foundations for Strong Economic Recovery’, impliedly said the land border closure of 2019 made the 2020 doomsday inexorable. Talk about heating the furnace.

It said: “Analysis of the impact of the 2019 border closure found that it contributed to higher inflation—especially true for food, despite the relatively little impact on agricultural output. Because of the rises in food prices, Nigerian consumers now need to pay 2 percent more for the same basket of goods, with negative effects on their consumption.”

Why always Buhari?

I think, with the latest recession, Buhari is the only Nigerian president that has presided over the country under multiple recessions.

What a legacy!

 
Nwabufo is a writer and journalistTwitter @FredrickNwabufo

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