Following the February 25 presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the All Progressives Party’s candidate, Bola Tinubu, as the winner. It is no longer news that his two major contestants, the Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, are challenging the victory in court.
By using the term Buharinomics, it refers to the economic ideas and policy initiatives of the outgoing President, Major General Muhammad Buhari (retd) towards improving the welfare of the citizens and as well delivery on his manifestoes in the past eight years of two terms. Buhari won the election against the then incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015 with wide margin because of his ‘social capital’ and was believed to be able to tackle corruption, insecurity and poor economy bedeviling the country.
After six months in office, Anchor Borrowers Programme was initiated to meet domestic demand for food and raw materials for manufacturing companies substantially in the short to medium term and in a progressive way. The programme was designed in such a way that smallholder farmers were given credit facilities by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Two years into the programme, the result was seen vividly as Nigeria ranked the highest rice cultivation and milling in Africa. However, the feat was only for a short period of, say a year, when it nosedived. This was not unconnected with the unwillingness of many of the farmers who got the loan at the initial stage to refund CBN for other smallholder farmers to benefit. They see it as part of the national cake. This was an internal factor that frustrated the policy while the external factor was the failure of the neighbouring countries to keep the ECOWAS agreement which stipulated that goods coming into the member’s country must not only be containerised but also passed through the right borders. Rice, being the most consumed staple food in the country, was grossly short to the demand in the open market vis a vis the capacity of the available local rice producers and millers. Rice importation with other staple foods to close the gap was not officially supported, hence serious spike in the prices of the items.
Without doubt, a quality road network is the most salient component of a national multimodal transportation plan upon which advanced countries thrive. This is linked to the drive of President Buhari to connect major cities in the country via standard gauge railway, bridges and road networks. 156 km Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway with an extension of 8.7km Lagos Port Complex was commissioned, Abuja–Kaduna standard gauge railway is not left behind. 327km Itakpe–Warri standard gauge commissioned after over 30 years of neglect. The Second Niger Bridge and other related projects received attention from Buhari. However, these came not without heavy borrowing. The outgoing administration of Buhari inherited about N12.1tn national debt in June 2015 and will probably bequeath N77tn national debt to Tinubu on May 29, 2023. This is a huge liability for a country using over 90 per cent of its earnings for debt services.
In an attempt to reduce the unemployment rate by exposing the youth to different vocational skills, the N-Power programme was developed and implemented annually. In 2016, the first year the programme commenced, half of a million youths were taken off the street to change their orientations and train their hands in technology, agriculture, office management etc with a monthly stipend of N30,000. Some of the youth benefited from the one-year practical training as they eventually became self-employed while a larger percentage saw the programme as an opportunity to share from the national cake. It is true that the programme is not without its flaws but not strong enough to reduce its little achievements.
The actions and policies of the Tinubu administration when inaugurated on May 29, 2023, will be viewed as BATonomics, coined from the acronym, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Of course, during electioneering there were more personal attacks than issue-based campaigns. However, one salient policy was noted during Tinubu’s campaigns and interviews– fuel or petrol subsidy removal. This is a critical issue in Nigeria economy. It can make or break the economy depending on the way it is handled. I support fuel subsidy removal but not without conditions because of the pivotal roles it plays in the economy. Domestic fuel refinery for local consumption is the first condition to argue for before total removal can bring about sustainable economic development. Otherwise, the move may be suicidal at short-run. The 40 per cent salary increase introduced by the Federal Government is already gulped by the existing 21.91 per cent inflation rate, the highest in the last 17 years, not to talk of when the subsidy is removed. By the way, what is the size of the recipients of the 40 per cent salary increase to the workforce or total population? On this premise, it is not out of order if Tinubu, on assumption of office, does a thorough investigation on what the existing four government refineries had gulped and as well delivered in the past eight years and take a position whether it is worthwhile for government to continue to be in charge or privatise them. Modular refineries should not just be on the paper but all efforts geared toward their realisation because of the value chain, little capital and time for their establishment.
History will be kind to Tinubu if he is able to deploy his political wizardry to solve, substantially, the economic doldrums of Nigeria. If he means business, the first six months in office should not be for passing blames on past administrations. Everybody knows that things are not in good shape.
Relative stability and closing the wide gap between the official foreign exchange rate and that of parallel market, improvement in power generation, transmission and distribution across the length and breadth of the country and security of lives and property of the citizens irrespective of where they reside in Nigeria. All these and other key areas need serious and urgent attention for economic recovery and growth thereafter.
I wish the outgoing President the best as he retires to his country home in Daura, Katsina State and as well welcome Tinubu as he prepares to face challenges for the better of all.