“difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week”: Jay-z
Jonathan will hand over the Presidency to General Buhari come May 29, 2015. That’s something to be glad about. Many said it was impossible. Many licked their chops, ready to see these elections tear us apart. They did not. We proved them wrong. We punished non-performance, and for the first time in our democratic dispensation, took power from an incumbent. And while on the surface, it seems the ethnic voting patterns persist, digging a little will uncover the fact that those patterns are weakening. Which means in the future, as the old guard with their baggage fall away, we will move even more toward rewarding performance and ability, instead of ethnicity. Let’s all toast to that.
This post, though, is about the road ahead. Already, we know the challenges. Oil prices are the lowest they’ve been in decades. Our balance of trade is anything but balanced. The exchange rate of our currency is sunk, and sinking. Boko Haram. All that. The fear is whether all the optimism we currently feel would not quickly turn into disappointment. The key word, is fear. That’s the reason for this post.
Fear is the mindkiller. The truth of the matter is that if we give in to fear, we stop seeing the good, and start being laser focused on the bad, on the problems. And for better or worse, our attitude plays a strong role in what we do, which affects what outsiders including investors think, which on many occasions leads to self fulfilling prophecy. Nigerians are notorious for ‘louding’ our problems, and the world is listening. The way we think of the country, and talk about it, matters.
The first thing to understand is that, while the task ahead is tough, and expectations are well served to be cautious, it is not as dire as the media and most pundits make it seem. We’ve already done the major task: remove President Jonathan from office. All that remains is to have the new administration put its eyes close to the ground and do things that take courage but yield results.
Cutting waste in the government is one. Currently, our government, federal and state are monuments of waste. We’ve had $30 oil in much of the Obasanjo years so these current prices aren’t exactly unheard of. Thing is that since then, our government has gotten bigger, more profligate, more wasteful, and more corrupt. Trim the civil service, rid it of ghost workers, enforce rules around time, productivity, and redundancy. Put pressure on NASS to cut our legislators budget, pay, allowances. Implement an IT structure that makes it easy to track resources, both human, material and temporal. The savings will be immense.
There is no doubt in my mind that a Buhari administration will be tough on corruption. That means a lot to our efficiency, to costs, to productivity. Much of the monies which are stolen annually, and much of the previously stolen which would be recovered will all be made available for actual work.
If all of the above are done, and communicated effectively, think of the confidence boost and the investments it will attract. Despite being one of the top investment destinations on the continent, there are tons of investors who are still not willing to consider Nigeria due to corruption. So I’m positive we will see even more inflows than before. And hopefully, we will channel some of those investments into long term beneficial areas like security, infrastructure, healthcare and education.
The government’s Internal revenue collection infrastructure is tattered. Fixing that, making it easy to understand and feasible to follow will help generate income and improve information flow.
Tackling the informal and invisible sectors of the economy, opening new avenues of economic activity, boosting agriculture, boosting our refining capacity to increase our domestic refining from 40% of demand to closer to 80%, all will help us save on foreign exchange and boost revenue.
Securing the country, letting people feel safe and confident enough to go back to their business all contribute to a more dynamic economy.
These are all things we know this administration can do, and things it has promised to do.
Let’s not forget that most of our growth in the last four years plus have come from the non-oil sector. And the oil industry only makes up around 16 or 17% of the economy. So if the Buhari administration does the work we know they’re capable of, they will bring us through. It’s not impossible. It can be done. And we have enough reason to believe that it will be done.
Let’s face the next four years with confidence. Let’s support the change we’ve fought hard for.