President Buhari: Propaganda Will Not Improve This Economy, By ‘Tope Fasua
We should also limit the extent we deploy propaganda and deliberate lies and obfuscation because these things always leave dregs of discord which hold the nation down permanently in disunity, bitterness, prejudice and injustice. It will be a miracle if Nigeria makes progress in the next four years.
I try to give President Buhari several opportunities to convince or at least inspire cooperation from myself and other Nigerians I know. I believe the man is beyond redemption and the next four years will be like the last four, if not worse (for most Nigerians that is). Those profiting from the inefficiencies and general low-level thinking will continue to profit. In fact, they will max out this time. The response to the Almajirai issue during his debates still reverberate, for it is unforgivable and unconscionable. For a president to believe that 13.2 million out-of-school children is not his problem but that of local governments is appalling and more than frightening. But there is more where that came from. God help us.
Recently, the president spoke ex-tempore at a dinner organised to mark his victory. He first deflated the expectations of those who think he will populate his cabinet with women and the youth, by asking them not to rejoice yet because he has to take care of his constituency (old people). Not bad. No country is run by only young people, even though the last four years have been without the necessary energy of the youth. Then the president proceeded to lash the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for wasting and embezzling Nigeria’s commonwealth for 16 years. According to the president, the PDP supervised the economy in a period of so much wealth – beyond what his administration could ever contemplate. President Buhari averred with all certainty that crude oil sold at an average of $100 between 1999 and 2014, dropping off when he became president. He then asked his audience to do the mathematics, by multiplying $100 by 2.1 million barrels per day, for 16 years. Although nobody gave an answer as they were all busy clapping and hailing inside the resplendent hall in Aso Villa, that figure will be $76.65 billion per year, or N23.378 trillion per year. In 16 years, according to Buhari’s calculations, the PDP made $1.226 trillion from crude oil, the equivalent of N374 trillion in today’s Naira. See table.
You see, these assertions by Buhari would have easily been dismissed but for the fact that it is an attempt to exploit Nigerians emotionally. I am not a PDP member or sympathiser but I believe we should be careful where we lead our people to. Nigeria’s politics has become more and more toxic to the extent that presidents now poison the minds of the people. The statement by Buhari also reveals a fixed mindset, which can only lead us to hell in the next few years. The man is fixated on crude oil, but in spite of the years he spent there and his love for that sector, he reveals the utmost level of unpardonable ignorance about its affairs. Is it just to score a point? I will explain shortly. Also, he reveals a terrible victim mentality. The president probably believes the entire world conspires against him. The reality is much different, as crude oil price under his regime is not much different from under the PDP.
Continuing with the speech, the president also spoke about his war against corruption and how he was reckless (his words) in his first coming in 1983 when he required everyone to prove themselves innocent after he had slammed them in jail for being guilty. He further stated that only two people were found to be honest in the Shehu Shagari regime – Adamu Ciroma (then CBN governor) and Alhaji Bilyaminu Usman (later Emir of Dass in Bauchi State, who he said was a minister of state at the time). When I searched online for Bilyaminu Usman, the results showed that this rhetoric by Buhari has been going on for quite a while, and is widely reported in newspapers written in Hausa language. His audience at the recent dinner clapped away, and for some of them, the importance of that statement was lost. How can there be only two honest people in a regime? Who decided that? What is the makeup of the committee that did the job? How come both are from northern Nigeria – specifically the North-East? What lesson does that teach our children? Whither the fate of southern Nigerians? Are we to go around with bowed heads because we are from dishonest groups of people or ethnicities, where not even one person could be found to be honest; a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah? Is this what informs ‘Oga’s’ appointments?
I put that all down to the fact that old people are meant to be naturally prejudiced. They prejudge you based on where you are from and their opinions about everything has been formed historically. I forgive the president for believing that the rest of us are not honest. What I will not forgive is the wrong figures he bandied on the oil and gas sector. He displayed a shocking level of illiteracy about the sector, for someone who boasts of having been a minister for petroleum. Like Senator Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion… but not to his own facts”.
Back to the crude oil statement. The untruths that Buhari committed in one statement are:
1. Average price of crude oil for 16 years (1999 – 2014) was $100. The correct figure is $61.92. See tables below (courtesy macrotrends.net)
2. According to the president, it seems crude oil exploration does not come at a cost, hence all the proceeds amount to profit for Nigeria. In truth, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), up to 65 per cent of the proceeds of crude oil sales accrue to international oil companies, since we have no input in the process. See https://allafrica.com/stories/201806250065.html
The second error is typical among many Nigerians as they argue away in beer parlours and I have tried to always set us straight. The error is there to bite every government. Just as Buhari is pointing to PDP and instructing Nigerians that every proceed of crude oil was squandered by his opponents, so also are Nigerians calculating what he is ‘collecting’ from crude oil today. The point is, these figures are false. Upon research, however, the president seems to be correct that Nigeria exported an average of 2.1 million barrels per day of crude between 1999 and 2014. Invariably, successive governments in Nigeria never tell us the whole truth about crude oil production – including the sitting government – but we can obtain information at the back end from international sources.
Below are the tables showing the true average price of crude oil, between 1999 and 2014, under the rulership of the PDP, then between 2015 and 2019 under Buhari. I’m throwing in a historical perspective (between 1987 and 1998) to expand the debate and see how things went under the military (and that there’s no excuse for underperformance today):
PDP may be a criminal entity but we cannot and should never allow our past to define our future. We should also limit the extent we deploy propaganda and deliberate lies and obfuscation because these things always leave dregs of discord which hold the nation down permanently in disunity, bitterness, prejudice and injustice. It will be a miracle if Nigeria makes progress in the next four years. May God help us – if we decide to help ourselves.