Nigerian oil rig

At the start of the current foreign exchange imbroglio, the government allowed the CBN governor a free reign as he experimented with currency controls – banning and unbanning items fit for access to the dollar at the official rate, yet no fiscal policy direction was unveiled to address imbalance within the economy. So, rather than put together a crack team to look at the issues more robustly, government played the ostrich.

Nigeria is drifting and there seems to be a scarcity of wisdom, not just in the corridors of power, but everywhere. We seem to be great at recycling our leaders in an attempt to leverage experience in resolving a current challenge. It happened in 1999 and it repeated itself in 2015. But, the missing link has really not been “experience”, it has all along been “vision”. I reckon that for us to go into the future, “vision” must replace “experience”. In trying to find answers to the current challenge, we must look beyond the immediate. We really need to ask ourselves: “what really do we want Nigeria to be like in 30 – 50 years from now?”

Zero-based Budgeting, the 2016 Budget Errors and the Current State of Our Economy

At the start of the debate on “Budget padding” and all the phony figures that were emanating from the proposed 2016 budget, a foreign friend asked me some curious questions: “I thought your new government initially spoke about zero-based budgeting as done in China, I do not think that what was delivered was zero-based budgeting as there would have been no room for these levels of error if only the government had stuck with what it initially pronounced”. I tried to defend the government but my defence was feeble as my friend immediately countered by saying: “what zero-based budgeting means is budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. Zero-based budgeting, therefore, starts from a ‘zero base’ and every proposed expenditure – be it OP-EX or CAPEX – is analysed for its needs and costs. So where did all the errors come from?” I was dazed. Before I could recover, my friend again asked another interesting question: “Did the current government weigh the challenge of falling Oil prices and the huge level rot in the system before aspiring for power?” That question was immediately followed by another one: “Beyond the quest to fight corruption, does the current government have a broad plan for the revival of the economy and the entrenchment of a system that works?” Both sounded like rhetorical questions to me because I could not proffer a clear answer.

So, Where Did We Go Wrong?

The transition to a new government brought a lot of goodwill and global interest to Nigeria, but we let it slide by not acting for over six months! We are now beginning to reap the seismic consequences of time-wasting and not seizing the momentum. WE PLAYED THE OSTRICH – USING MONETARY INTERVENTION TO ADDRESS AN ISSUE WHICH NEEDED A COMBINATION OF FISCAL AND MONETARY MEASURES.

At the start of the current foreign exchange imbroglio, the government allowed the CBN governor a free reign as he experimented with currency controls – banning and unbanning items fit for access to the dollar at the official rate, yet no fiscal policy direction was unveiled to address imbalance within the economy. So, rather than put together a crack team to look at the issues more robustly, government played the ostrich.

I still believe in good intentions, but I am longing more for right actions, right now, because Nigeria badly requires a leader that is an innovator and a change-maker, who is endowed, skilled and emotionally engaged. While right actions usually flow from good intentions – good intentions remain the starting point; we must take it further, because, in solving the current challenge, there is a need for revolutionary change and not incremental change.

We started to reap the negative consequences of our inaction, yet we carried on as if nothing was happening. We got a downgrade on the JP Morgan Bond Index – it was fine. Foreign Investors started to flee our Bourse – it was fine. We started to lose foreign direct investment flows – it was fine. Government persisted in its ways and now there seem to be a huge gap between the official rate of the dollar and the black-market rate, with speculators having a field day in the middle – I hope we still do not perceive this as fine? Because, at this rate, if we do not start to do the right things, we might be heading for a recession.

No doubt, President Buhari means well – but beyond good intentions, we need leadership that can lead the way out of obsolete paradigms.

The problem is not good intentions. The real problem is that we are so used to doing nothing but corruptly courting the income coming from crude oil, with no push for a change in paradigm. We have designed all manners of Development/Rolling Plans – from Vision 2010 to NEEDS, to Vision 2020 – but, we have NOT actioned any.

Truth Is, Right Actions Are Better Than Good Intentions

I still believe in good intentions, but I am longing more for right actions, right now, because Nigeria badly requires a leader that is an innovator and a change-maker, who is endowed, skilled and emotionally engaged. While right actions usually flow from good intentions – good intentions remain the starting point; we must take it further, because, in solving the current challenge, there is a need for revolutionary change and not incremental change.

GOD BLESS NIGERIA.

Bolaji Okusaga, a public relations and branding professional, writes from Lagos.