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Monday, 19 February 2024 07:35

[OPINION] Nigeria is on the road to Haiti, not Venezuela - Owei Lakemfa

THE Nigerian masses are troubled. They are hungry, angry and losing faith in civil rule. The times call for leaders at all levels to be at work, seeking solutions. Unfortunately, many government officials are spending scarce resources and precious time carrying out propaganda.

The political traders blaming the demonstrably inept and kleptocratic Buhari regime, for our current woes, are engaged in a needless diversion. It is like beating a dead horse; what would the country gain from such waste of time and energy?

 

They are no different from Buhari who wasted eight precious years of the country blaming the Jonathan administration for the calamity of his own misrule. When this began to sound like a broken record, the Buharists began tuneless songs like feeding school children ‘in school’ when the entire populace was on COVID-19 lockdown at home. Then, the retired General elevated deception to a new level by causing carpenters to build pyramidal structures, arranged bags of rice on them, and announced that his administration had done so well in mechanised farming, that the country now has pyramids of rice, like we had the groundnut pyramids of old. On the eve of its welcome departure, the Buhari gang launched a fake national airline.

 

So, rather than the old minstrels who have supported every government from Obasanjo through Yar’Ardua and Jonathan to Buhari, blaming Buhari, they should encourage the Tinubu administration to engage in self-examination.

Yes, it is correct that Buhari had a policy to remove so-called fuel subsidy before he passed on the baton to Tinubu. But the truth is that he stopped short of implementing it wholesale. So, do you blame Buhari for Tinubu removing the ‘subsidy’ in his very first minute in office, thereby greatly impoverishing the people?

We all know the Naira cannot swim; so how does anybody blame Buhari for Tinubu dropping the Naira in the ocean and urging it to float without any aid? Now that it is drowning, does it not make sense to throw the Naira a lifeline rather than waste precious time blaming a man who is lost to the world?

The current economic woes of the country are rooted in the mindless policies of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. The APC’s economic policy is inflation-genocide with the nuclear capability to wipe out the lower classes, and replace them at the bottom of society, with the hitherto middle class.

So, rather than wail about the gross incompetence of Buhari, let us assist the Tinubu administration to rethink its policies and save the mass of the people.

The immediate step Tinubu needs to take is a drastic downward review of fuel prices which is the main cause of hyperinflation and grinding poverty. A major reason why food inflation is at 33 per cent is because the cost of transporting it is far higher than the cost of production.

The second immediate step is to rescue the Naira as no import-dependent consumer nation can throw its currency into shark-infested seas without providing it with even a life jacket. The third, is to stop the mindless taxation of the populace, including the endless upward adjustment of the Customs rates for imports which has added to hyperinflation.

The fourth, is to declare an emergency on insecurity that has forced many farmers off the farms. Fifth, the establishment of State and Community Police should be at the stage of implementation not contemplation.

In the medium term, the administration needs to appoint some game-changers into government rather than abandon the country to politicians and technocrats most of who are marking time in office.

The truth is that this administration has no known road map on any issue which can enable mass participation in governance. Not on education, the economy, youths, health, women or out-of-school children.

But rather than allow the country concentrate on serious matters, there was another diversion, this time by anti-Tinubu persons. They floated an uninformed narrative that Nigeria is on the road to Venezuela.

A write up, whose origins I could not ascertain, went viral. The title was ‘A slow journey to Venezuela’ It claimed that Tinubu is trying to replicate the Venezuelan case.

 

It claimed that former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, using the country ’s oil profits “went on a spending spree on social programmes”. First, is that we do not enjoy such “oil profits” in Nigeria. Second, Chavez deserves commendation for spending such funds on verifiable social programmes like the construction of over four million housing units in the country.

The writer then makes the uninformed claim that: “Unfortunately Chavez didn’t spend any money maintaining oil facilities.” No, there were no oil facilities to maintain because the United States imposed unilateral sanctions on Venezuela for allegedly collaborating with Cuba. These included forcing oil companies to leave the country, refusing to allow Venezuela buy spare parts, engage in international trade or purchase needed food and medicines.

In summary, the US consciously, wilfully and deliberately, crumbled the Venezuelan economy. This was to the extent that the US, the European Union and some of their supporters seized or looted Venezuelan funds in their various banks.

These countries between January and March, 2019, seized $30 billion from Venezuela’s foreign accounts.

When they decided to recognise the then Speaker of the Venezuelan parliament, Juan Guaidó, who unilaterally declared himself President, they allowed him access to the country’s foreign funds. For instance, Britain assisted the imposter, in his bid to access $2bn of Venezuelan gold it had in its vaults.

 

In 2019, the Portuguese bank, Novo Banco in Lisbon seized the USD 1.5 billion Venezuela was to use in purchasing medicines, food and other essential supplies for the people. Luckily, the Portuguese courts in 2023, ruled that the money should be returned to Venezuela.

 So, the narrative in Nigeria that the Venezuelan problems are due to extreme dependence on oil, failure to diversify the economy, corruption and mismanagement, are blatantly false. Comparing Venezuela and the Nigerian case, is a fraudulent exercise.

But based on this uninformed position, the Governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, last Monday, raised the false alarm that Tinubu is railroading Nigeria to the Venezuelan path. An equally uninformed APC Government responded in like manner. The PDP and APC are behaving like two class dullards arguing and insulting themselves over what they do not know.

In reality, Nigeria is on the road to Haiti, a failed state where insecurity is so bad that anyone arriving at the airport, needs armed security to drive into town, or be abducted for ransom. We are on the road to a country where rival gangsters in 2021, assassinated sitting President Jovenel Moise in his residence, and the assassins could not be tried in the country.

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