By Mideno Bayagbon
For critical observers, for a long time now, it has been an open secret that Nigeria is possibly headed for an economic, social and political implosion. But unmoved by such concerns, we continue to run the world’s most profligate, most insensitive government. The discerning and the rest of the world watch, in wonder, trepidation and great fear for our tomorrow as a nation. No, this is not about Buhari’s administration. It predates it. it is just that it has been granted an accelerated velocity through a combination of bad policies, unprecedented ethnic and religious biases, and compounded incompetence.
Unfortunately, the dreaded tomorrow is already knocking on the door. Its name is post COVID-19 pandemic depression. It has gone past the “be careful stage”, and is now lurking hideously around the corner of our existence. Indeed, it is already tearing, ferociously, at the very foundation of our economic life.
As predicted, globally, in post COVID-19, it is, and will be the economy! The fear is not whether the global economy would be negatively impacted by the virulent virus which has afflicted almost 10 million people worldwide. It is not an if permutation. It is a certainty that the Coronavirus pandemic will wreck economies globally. Governments the world over know that their nations’ survival will depend on how effective they manage the fallout effect of the virus on their economies.
The policies they design for the welfare of their people and the proactive measures they deploy to manage the after effect of the pandemic will determine the survival, or otherwise, of their economies.
But not us. The body language, so far by the authorities in Abuja and across the states of the Nigerian federation, seems to indicate that we are cocooned, insulated from the predicted damaging impact of the post pandemic era. We seem to be bubbling with the hope that oil prices will rebound and all our woes will be wiped away. We are blinded, or choose to ignore the alarming warnings the rest of the world is working strenuously to counteract.
We are content with massaging our elephantine egos as Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state are doing. It is only in Nigeria that the stupidity on display in Edo can take the national stage during a deadly pandemic. National attention is diverted to inanities unmindful of the fact that the deadly Covid-19 is still gathering steam to unleash a ferocious onslaught on the nation. We huff and puff, we bury our heads in the sands of the politics of self, of religion and of ethnicity. Those are the altar we choose to worship at. That is why we will continue to have leaders like the Governor of Cross River state, a supposedly erudite professor, who just last week, despite his state being one of the poorest in the nation, added a humongous 190 new aides to his bloated list which already has thousands of political appointees. Like Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta who at a time had over 3000 political aides, and the other governors across the country, Governor Ayade is impervious to the looming economic depression. For them, it is damn the economy. Damn the pandemic and whatever possible impacts it intends to unfold.
For us, the ordinary citizens, it is clear, we are headed in the direction of a season of hopelessness. Possibly, the very worse time of our lives as a people is about to happen on us. This is because of Nigeria’s open secret, wit that we are led by blind, deaf, mute and self aggrandising politicians.
For now, government is sedate. We feast on Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki pummelling themselves silly. We are content with government mouthing some mumble jumble about palliatives. We are hoping that the government can bluff its way through the looming economic strangulations. In the absence of a well-thought out and well-coordinated and driven economic strategies to counter the post Covid-19 era, we are hoping for economic good times, magically, to fall on our laps. For crude oil price to once again rise, to fund our indolence. Failing that, we are hoping to borrow top dollars, increase our wanton official consumption and pretend all will, without our lifting a finger, be well.
It will be tale of the unexpected. When the implosion steals on us. We will then have federal government officials insult us with statistics of how well we are doing as a people and a nation, how the pandemic is global and the recession – I predict ours will be a never-before-seen depression – is unavoidable. They will appeal that the ordinary Nigerians, who are bearing the brute force of the economic strangulations during this pandemic, (a foretaste of the looming economic, social and general depression) must prepare to sacrifice themselves further. That the government is helpless. The government, if we can call what we run in Nigeria, at all levels that, as usual will abdicate all responsibilities towards the welfare of the citizens. They will be too consumed with trying to maintain their high-powered luxurious lifestyle to bother with whatever happens to the economy of the country and the people.
Post Covid-19, when the implosion begins, when the job losses decimate our working force; when the formal and informal sectors lie prostrate, in coma; when insecurity in various dimensions gain a new fervour, typical of us, we will flood heavens gate with tears and pleas. We will pin all our hopes of personal and collective economic survival on blackmailing God, the omnipotent! Our slave! This is because, in our lazy, laid-back mentality, we are perpetually used to slumbering and jollificating, and waiting for a magic wand. This is even as the rest of the world is bracing itself, pulling all their intellectual, economic and social skills together to prepare to beat the after effect of the Coronavirus pandemic. A look around the world today shows that serious governments are putting on their thinking caps, developing ambitious strategic thrusts, charting roadmaps, galvanising their resources, to confront the after effect of the pandemic.
For us, we have politicians and leaders who do not agree that those who fail to plan, and critically strategise to beat odds against them, will eventually pay a heavy price.
I fear Nigeria and Nigerians will pay a heavy price for the stupidity of our leaders. Implosion threats are real. They could end up more deadly on the nation than the coronavirus pandemic.
NOTE: This article was written before the post covid-19 policy released by the Buhari government last week. It was also before the dire warning from the World Bank that Nigeria was headed for a never-before-seen economic melt
-down, post covid. It was also before Buhari brought a little bit of sanity back of the tottering All Progressives Congress.
The World Bank, like me, urged Nigerians to brace for the worst recession since the 1980s. The global bank warned that the twin calamities of collapse in oil prices and COVID-19 pandemic will plunge the economy into a severe economic recession. It did not think the Nigerian government is rightly poised to confront successfully this twin issues which are going to plunge the Nigerian economy into deep recession; possibly depression.
The Federal Executive Council last Wednesday, in a veiled response to the world bank alert, approved a N2.3 trillion stimulus package to support the economy. It put in place a package, NESP, whose goals is to create jobs, put money into the economy, as well as stop the economy from slipping into recession, support small businesses and prioritize local content (Made-in-Nigeria).
We wait with bated breathe to see how this economic stimulus package will be implemented and if it is the right tool needed at this time for the Nigerian economy.