By Idang Alibi
Has a big spell been cast on ALL Nigerians such that even genuine patriots have been robbed of all rational abilities such that they can no longer comprehend the implication of things? Are we so bereft of knowledge that we cannot understand the implications of continual borrowings on the economy of our dear country? Are we under such a cloudy spell that citizens can hear but cannot comprehend what they have heard and take appropriate actions intended to save their country from sure slavery?
Since last week when a certain highly placed Government official namely, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed that by next year Nigeria’s debt profile will reach 68 trillion Naira, I expected that the whole country will erupt in righteous outrage. A few days after her bombshell, a piece of news has also been trending that Nigeria is in line for a $750 facility from the World Bank. As if all these are not enough things to worry us, it has since come to light that Nigeria is in such dire financial straits that we sometimes borrow, not to execute any socio-economic projects, but just so we can service the debts that have fallen due but which we are unable to repay. Who has bewitched us we foolish Nigerians?
Who has put certain spiritual ice block on our brains to dull our senses so that we cannot realise the implication of things? Apart from the humongous foreign debts the Federal Government is owing, it is common knowledge that the federal, states and the comatose local governments across the federation are said to owe domestic contractors also some trillions of Naira that no tongue in the country can render to our people who do not understand English. We are aware of all these and more yet no movement has been formed known as #EndALLBORROWINGSNOW! because we cannot breathe under such a heavy weight of debts?
We are sitting pretty in this country in the face of what is clearly a real and present danger to us as a people and as a country. The argument among our governing elite is not even about the danger staring us in the face; rather, to them, it is about which Administration has borrowed more recklessly the most leading to our present predicament. The argument is also not about what we need to do to be able to pay back the money to our creditors; it is about who ought to receive the bigger blame. Some of those who are the great canvassers and supporters for more loans do not even want any debate on the issue. They say seeking and receiving more and more loans is the only solution, the only way out of our economic predicament. No one is even insistently pointing out that in the next three years or so, some of those championing the borrowings of more money from other countries and institutions will no longer be running our national affairs.
Yet, the consequences of their advocacy will become very glaring after they have left and left us severely to our fate. The tragedy of it all is that right now no one in this country can point to one or two substantial things that have been done with all the moneys that have been borrowed since Obasanjo and Okonjo Iweala helped us to exit the noose of the Paris Club group of creditors some 14 years ago. The matter of our indebtedness and the continued borrowing has been so politicised that if you ask merely because you are concerned about your country just what the rulers are doing with the borrowed money, they will shout you down and wonder whether or not you are an opposition partisan who wants the APC Buhari Administration to fail.
They have patented a trademark for handling all political issues, big or small: reduce everything to the rivalry between APC and PDP wherein you are sure to gain the distraction you need to bury every patriotic inquiry about the sorry state of the nation. Introduce the argument about who between the PDP Administrations before this APC one, did greater havoc to the interests of the fatherland.
They will say why seek to blame the present Administration at all for taking to mindless borrowings as a state policy when the PDP Governments did not save when crude oil was selling at over 100 dollars. They will recruit some rogue intellectuals to rationalize what is going on by bringing up jaded argument about Nigeria being an under-borrowed country. They will pronounce with some magisterial authority that Nigeria has not yet exceeded her debt- to-GDP ratio. They talk as if there is a law written in some world constitution that says a nation must borrow or else it will come under some censure for her prudence and reasonableness.
In Primary Three in the Primary schools that some members of my generation went to some golden years ago, our teachers took time to teach us that he who is fond of going aborrowing will one day inevitably go asorrowing. When you moved up higher in the school system, teachers were there waiting to weigh in with wisdom from the Holy Books that we must learn to live our lives so well that we will not owe anything to any man. Did not some of the leading lights of the present Administration not learn some of this small wisdom from the good teachers of those good old days?
I am not an economist but any one with some common sense knows that borrowing money from another, not to put in some regenerative investments, is a clear admission that you are not reasoning well. It shows that you are not a careful manager of your life’s affairs; that you are either living beyond your means or you are a lazy, good- for- nothing man who wants to live off on the sweat of others. If China had not accumulated reserves/surpluses from the hard work of her citizens where will Nigeria be going to for her borrow- and- spend binge?
We are sitting on the proverbial keg of gun powder and we appear to know it not. And the explosion we are going to face may not come from the likes of #EndSARS Protest, Sowore’s RevolutionNow or any such stirrings which our leaders usually use their divide-and-rule tactic to discredit and put down but from the type of mindless things our governments over the years have been doing such as destroying our present and future now through reckless borrowings and not caring whatsoever about what they are doing.
What President Buhari needs to do now is to wake up one morning and decide to galvanise his fellow citizens to embrace wealth creation while he leads his government to institute a regime of prudent management of whatever wealth is created. The absence of these two crucial elements of nation building is the reason our country is fast becoming the borrowing capital of the world. The only thing leaders of our various governments know how to do so well is to how to dispense patronage. They have not realised that their number one agenda ought to be how to mobilise the citizenry to participate massively in the business of wealth creation and the astute management of it for national prosperity and well- being.
The way things are going on in our unfortunate country now, at the end of the day it is not going to be which administrations of the two pathetic parties we have did the worse to bring the country to its ruins but where do we run to to hide our shame and stupidity. How can a country which boasts of the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obadiah Mailafia, Charles Soludo and other great economic thinkers and practitioners too numerous to mention usually entrusts her destiny to analogue men and women who run from pillar to post looking for where to borrow money to pay salaries to its government workers?
The most pathetic part of this cheerless story of ours is that in their endless looking for more and more money to borrow they never pause to wonder to themselves that China and other countries and institutions they so often run to are fully aware of the fact that given the chaotic way we run our affairs without much sense, we will not be able, and are not likely, to repay these loans yet they are still willing to give us yet more loans? Have we bothered to find out the catch?
Now even for the sake of being merely better informed about a major aspect of the national life of my country you ask about the exact level of indebtedness that Buhari inherited from Jonathan, you are not likely to be given the figure by any one in a position to do so. Our politics is so riven by partisanship that such a question will be seen by APC partisans as an attempt to rubbish the current government. But whichever level Buhari took it from Jonathan, Nigerians, led by the National Assembly, should wake up now and tell Buhari that no more loans from anywhere even if it is going to be given to as a dash.
I want to warn and to assure our present occupants of power and their confederates before them that they will surely be called upon one day to finger-point one by one to help us ‘’eye-mark’’ what they once told us through audio that they had ‘ear-marked’’ for the provision of socio-economic infrastructure with the loans they said they took on our behalf. And that day may not be too long from now.
By Idang Alibi