..Buhari’s Foreign Trips Ate Yielding Fruits –Elebute
Dr Tunde Moses Elebute, a developmental economist and public policy analyst is not happy with the current state of the economy almost one year after the take-off of the current administration. In this interview with corresppondent, Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Lagos Mainland Province, also advised the opposition to be constructive in their criticisms of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
What is your view on the current state of the economy? How do you see the spate of blame on President Muhammadu Buhari for the hardship Nigerians are passing through now?
The state of the nation’s economy is very bad. People are finding it very difficult to eat and take care of themselves. To make the matter worse, there is epileptic supply of electricity. At the same time, there is no petrol to operate the generator sets which are used by people to do business. Prices of goods and services have skyrocketed. There is no money to purchase things. The situation is indeed very bad. For the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is almost one year in office, it may be right to blame him. He sought power and has got it. Does it mean that he lacks information he needs to rule the nation? It should not be the case for someone who sought to rule this nation several times.
Also, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been there for long. The party even has some former governors who knew the situation of things. So, there should have been an economic blueprint for the government to work with on how to govern the country. By now, people should have been seeing evidence or semblance of change they promised the people.
However, it is not late. Nigerians are not lacking in hope. The government should hasten to do what they have to do. Now, people do not have money to even pay their children’s school fees. The government should hasten up and set up an economic team to tackle the current economic situation. Almost one year, the government is still thinking of what to do. If the government fails to move the economy forward and continues to give excuses, people will become tired and will be getting angry against it.
In some states, for instance, they cannot even pay salaries not to think of development projects. That has not been the case in many years until the coming of this administration. After a year in office, there will no longer be excuses for the government.
But, will people blame the Federal Government if the state governments fail to generate revenues to carry out their functions?
Well, one will blame the state governors for the situation they are facing now. It is due to their inability to work out how they can get Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) that they find themselves in this precarious state. We use money to find money. Some of these states have nothing. They depend on the Federal Allocation, unlike Lagos State which has a lot of resources and investments. How many factories are in Ibadan or Osogbo for instance? Some of the states cannot generate money unless they have seed money, which also comes from the Federal Government. Now the allocations from the federal government have dwindled and they are now crying. That has really exposed their level of planning and projections. It is really sad.
How would you react to the recent revelation that the abducted Chibok school girls are still alive? What would you advice the Federal Government to do in this regard?
Life is more than money. If the government can negotiate and bring the girls back, they should do so. If military expedition cannot bring them back, let the government negotiate and pay some ransom to bring the girls back, if there is the need to do so. But, there should be a reasonable negotiation between the government’s team and the Boko Haram insurgents. Government should call on the known people who have contacts with the Boko Haram to do a genuine negotiation between the Federal Government and the Boko Haram. The government should collaborate with the Chadian President in this regard Senator Sani is still very much around. Any of these girls can become great tomorrow. So, government should hasten moves to bring them back.
The western media recently accused President Buhari of using the fund given to him by the west to combat the Boko Haram to fight the opposition. How would you react to this allegation?
President Buhari we know cannot do that. It is not true. He is a man of integrity. We can trust him more than many former presidents. Since the Chief of Army Staff, General Burantai, came in, he has done a lot to check the Boko Haram. The government should be commended for checking Boko Haram. Their attacks, bombings have reduced tremendously. They no longer invade markets or North Eastern towns and communities as they used to do in the past. This government has fought a good fight against the Boko Haram. I see the accusation as a western propaganda. Anybody who said that the government has not tried is not a friend of Nigeria. I do not know who is telling these lies against Nigerian government. It is a false propaganda.
Would you see this allegation as part of the western propaganda against the government for seeking friendship with the Eastern world and Islamic countries?
Why should west be angry? If they cannot help us, why can’t we go to the east? They are no longer buying our oil. Our Naira is falling against the Dollar. But see the recent trip of President Buhari to China. It is bringing a lot of investments into Nigeria which will help to usher in a lot of development in several sectors. They are even trying to bring our Naira in relationship with the Yuan, the Chinese currency. Our Naira has fallen so much against the Dollar. What has the west done to help us? But, if our going to the east will help us come out of the current economic problems and bring development to the country, let us embrace it. Nigeria has to survive as a nation. In international relations, there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy. What matters is the national interest. If Nigeria has to go to the east to survive, so let it be. I must stress that Nigeria cannot abandon west. We are so much attached to their apron. But, they should allow us to survive by making more friends.
The Panama news media recently made some stunning revelations that some prominent Nigerians, including the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his predecessor, Dr David Mark, have some secret wealth in foreign countries. What is your take on this revelation ad the calls for such public officers to resign their positions?
Politicians do not run the economy. There is a lot of distrust in the nation even by the leaders themselves. If we must face the truth, this distrust started during the time of General Murtala Muhammed. The way he retired many people was not tidy enough. It is the government that forced our people to be corrupt and it started during the time of Murtala Muhammed. Since then, people became unsure of the public service and they began to keep their wealth abroad as they felt that it was safer to do so. They did not want to lose their assets to the government for any reasons.
But, this should not be excuse for the level of corruption we find ourselves in, especially the siphoning of public fund, which they put away in foreign countries. Rather than doing this, there are better ways people should keep their wealth, their savings at home. But, they should do it legally. If they do, they should not be afraid that their money could be confiscated at any time. People should invest their money in Nigeria and they will help to develop the nation and the economy. They do not have to be in government. Look at Aliko Dangote, one of those people allegedly mentioned by the Panama media. He is in business and is contributing a lot to grow the nation’s economy. His companies are offering a lot of employment opportunities to the Nigerian youths. He is doing all these outside the government. Everybody cannot be in government.
Our economy is so bad today because there is a lot of Nigerian wealth stashed overseas. This is not helping the nation. If they invest here, there will be a lot of job opportunities for Nigerians. So, these people whose names were mentioned by the Panama media, who are in government, should take a bow now and resign honourably. They should follow the path of honour by resigning and become full time businessman like Dangote and help to grow the economy instead of staying put in government to perpetuate illegality and encourage corruption in the way they run their affairs.
Therefore, my take is that David Mark and Busola Saraki should take a bow and leave the Senate and become full time businessmen and help to grow the economy. They can still contribute to national development as businessmen and from the background. Look at the former Lagos State governor and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He has a lot of investments in the country with which he is helping the nation. His businesses are offering employment to a lot of people. He is doing all these without being directly in government. Such people can still operate from the background and influence what is going on in government instead of their being there and people are seeing them as part of the corrupt system. The continued stay in government by Saraki and Mark and several others is working against the nation. It is not even in their interests on the long run. How can law breakers be making laws for Nigeria? It is laughable. They lack the moral right to be in the National Assembly to make laws for Nigeria. They have contributed a lot to the nation and should therefore quit honorably instead of allowing their names and reputation to be soiled.
The president has been accused of making too much foreign trips since he came to power. How would you see these attacks?
President Buhari’s trips abroad are good. They have started yielding fruits for the country. We do not need arm chair president. Nigerian needs help, a lot of it. Nigeria is in need. So, our president needs to move around and make friends who will help us. As long as his trips are yielding dividends, he should not sit at home. People should be patient with President Buhari. His trips will soon be yielding more fruits. We should commend him for that instead of castigating him. At his age, he is even endangering his health due to his several travels. But, he is making a lot of sacrifices for Nigeria to survive.
Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose recently attacked President Buhari for his recent trip to China and even wrote a letter to the Chinese President on the issue. Two days later, Fayose too was in China. How would you react to his spate of attacks against the President?
What was Fayose doing in China if he did not want our president to be there? It is laughable. But, it is good for the opposition to keep the government in its toes. It is good to have a viable opposition. But they should do constructive criticisms and provide solutions. Does it not sound funny that Fayose did not want President Buhari to be in China and even wrote to the Chinese President against Buhari’s visit? Later, he too jumped into an aeroplane and travelled to China. Why did he not stay back and allow the economy of Ekiti State to crumble? We all know that Ekiti is not a buoyant state. What is he looking for in China when he did not want Buhari to be there?
Let the opposition refrain from their type of criticisms and attacks and give the president a breathing space for him to serve Nigerians. The opposition should remember that they have to take a lot of blame for the current state of the economy and all the problems Nigerians are facing presently. They should try to repair their house, which is not in order instead of wasting time to poison the minds of Nigerians against the president. Fayose should remember that one who lives in a glass house should be careful how he throws stones.