By Sufuyan Ojeifo
This piece shares title with a 1960 Argentine drama film directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, which depicts the political corruption in Argentina in the 1930s, a period referred to as the “Infamous Decade”. The decade, which began in 1930 with the coup against President Hipolito Yrigoyen by Jose Felix Uriburu, culminated in the ascension to power of Juan Peron after the military coup of 1943.
The decade was marked by rural mass movements, worsened by the 1929 Great Depression, which had decimated rural landowners and pushed the country in the direction of import substitution industrialisation. Another coup was executed in 1943 due to popular discontent in response to the poor economic results of the policy.
Tagged the “Revolution of ‘43”, the coup was masterminded by the Grupo de Oficiales Unidos (GOU), the nationalist faction of the Armed Forces, against the acting president Ramon Castilo, hence putting an end to the “Infamous Decade”.
Electoral fraud, persecution of political opposition leaders and government corruption characterised the period, against the backdrop of the Great Depression, which was a severe global economic depression that lasted until 1941, presenting the longest, deepest and most pervasive depression in the 20thcentury.
There is, indeed, a similitude between the Argentina’s debacle under reference and Nigeria’s current experience. Nigeria slid into recession last year. The All Progressives Congress (APC)-controlled federal government is yet unable to get the country out of it. A national leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, in March this year, advised the federal government to ease the monetary policy in order to stimulate the economy.
In a paper to course participants at the National Defence College in Abuja, titled: “Strategic Leadership: My Personal Theory and Practice”, Tinubu explained that the monetary policy must be consistent with the environmental needs of our domestic requirements. He had argued that too much is tied down and advised the federal government to spend itself out of this recession; and that it cannot do that by consistently stifling the banks of liquidity.
Has government heeded Tinubu’s advice? How significantly has government intervened to push up market demand by undertaking public works? Only N350 billion has reportedly been released for capital projects. What is the percentage of that in the 2017 budget of N7.4 trillion? And what is the level of performance of the N350b released vis-à-vis the implementation of the projects to which the release is tied?
Besides, how many Nigerians have been employed or financially empowered through this intervention for capital projects development? How many local companies which depend on locally-sourced raw materials are factored into this special intervention package? Or is it another opportunity for foreign construction companies to make easy money and repatriate the same to their home countries?
I am not an economist. I do not understand the plethora of economic concepts, principles and terminologies or jargons, which economy experts daily deploy to explain how our economy is working. We are so easily bamboozled by statistics, especially from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The NBS’ verdict is that Nigeria is the largest economy on the Africa continent and the 26th in the world with its rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which, as of April 2014, stood at US$509.97 billion (N80.2 trillion).
But my attitude towards economic development, which refers to the problems of under-developed countries, is very simple: let us see how well the masses are faring. How has the rebased GDP transformed our economy and the various aspects of our nation, especially the lives of the individual citizens? How has it attacked widespread absolute poverty? How has it reduced inequalities and removed the sceptre of unemployment? That, in spite of the “biggest economy’ status, Nigeria still slid into recession is evidence of how superficial and vulnerable the economy is to absorb shocks both at the micro and macro levels.
Businesses are collapsing on daily basis. Prices of goods and services are consistently going up. Purchasing power of citizens is ebbing away. Job losses have become daily occurrences. The number of people earning money is decreasing. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown much wider. A vast majority of Nigerians are under financial pressure and unable to meet their basic needs. There is pain on the faces of the people and anguish in their hearts.
The scenario painted supra is symptomatic of leadership failure and economic upheaval. In pre-1999 Nigeria, such a scenario would have provided an objective condition for leadership overthrow. But post-1999 Nigeria is averse to that. The democratic foundations have been laid and there is evident commitment by all to nurture the building of democratic structures in the land.
Validation: Nigerians stringently condemned, some months ago, the statement by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, hinting at an unholy relationship between members of the political class and high-ranking soldiers. Although, the impression created was that of a possible coup in the offing, Nigerians ferociously kicked against it, anyhow. Defence Headquarters also reined in to debunk the coup rumour.
Now, assuming, just for the purpose of argument, that coup has now become impossible in Nigeria, what is the APC-controlled federal government doing to avert the looming tsunami of people power in the 2019 general election? The people are disenchanted. The APC government has not been able to fulfill up to 10 percent of its campaign promises; and, instead of meaningfully engaging the people through cogent explanations, not Lai Mohammed’s chicanery, it is living in self-denial.
I can safely vouchsafe that on the balance of probability, the Nigerian people should not expect anything spectacularly different from the current half-measure offerings before 2019, judging by the lingering lacklustre performance of the APC government. The president, Muhammadu Buhari, is out of action due to ill-health. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, is on suspension due to a contract scam. Two of the critical positions in government are, unfortunately, encumbered.
Some cabals in the presidency, rather than support the acting president, to prudently set its priority right by focusing on “the economy, stupid” in this recession period so as to turn things round for the betterment of Nigerians, are fighting dirty to survive the cloak-and-dagger politics in furtherance of their enlightened self-interests.
Why should the Presidency and the National Assembly, for instance, be flexing muscles on whether or not Ibrahim Magu would remain chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? There is no harmony between the executive and the legislative arms. The administration is on a free course to immolation.
It is, indeed, inopportune that the APC government has, up until now, been its own opposition. Its elected leaders can decide to shut down their government. That is their problem. As far as I am concerned, the APC party is over. And this assertion is reinforced by the July 12, 2017 Supreme Court judgment resolving the leadership tussle of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in favour of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction.
I welcome resilient Nigerians to a robust and focused oppositional politics that we expect the PDP to play. For us, the voter cards, the power to decide our destiny, are firmly in our hands, and with the cards, we should put an end to this mumbo-jumbo that the APC has foisted on us since 2015. We should heed the lines of Willie Nelson’s song “The Party is over” to “Turn out the lights…” We should allow God to use us to save Nigeria-through our votes in 2019.
Mr Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, contributed this piece via email@example.com