WHAT GOVERNMENT WONT TELL YOU ABOUT RECESSION – 2.
“Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.”
I.F. Stone, 1929. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 80.
NOTE: Nigeria’s food import bill will drop sharply in 2020 as crude oil price stays below $40 per barrel. MILLIONS OF NIGERIANS FACE STARVATION.
Since writing the first column on the Business/Economic pages of VANGUARD in 1987, during the Babangida administration, nothing has first surprised, then amused me more than how the same set of fantasies/lies get recycled from one generation to the next. It is remarkable how appointed officials deceiving the Head of State and duping him into endorsing their dodgy schemes, go to great lengths to suppress the truth and intimidate those attempting to expose their lies.
My second trip to detention, cynically called “week-end retreat”, occurred under IBB’s regime. The first happened when I published CONFUSED BANK OF NIGERIA, CBN when late Alhaji Ahmed was the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. VANGUARD hit the stands at seven in the morning, and by 12 noon, I was being whisked away from my office at the Nigerian Institute of Management, NIM, Victoria Island, to the former CBN headquarters at Tinubu, Lagos – not to explain why I thought the Monetary policies being advanced in support of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, will only not work as envisaged. Instead of interrogating me on the economic principles underlying my objections, Ahmed took a personal view. “Who is paying you to write this rubbish about me?” He roared at me. It was the first time in my life of ever coming face to face with an ostensibly very powerful public official who, nevertheless, was scared to death by a columnist pointing out the flaws in the CBN’s policies. Laughter was my instinctive reaction. And, that saved the day. First, he was shocked that a commoner could laugh in his face. Then, he started to laugh himself. Finally, he said “are they aware at NIM that you are crazy?” CBN threatened to cancel its lucrative annual training programme conducted by NIM, if I did not write a retraction or get sacked. I bluntly refused and decided to resign instead. By Friday , I was jobless. CBN’s policies eventually contributed to the failure of SAP. By then, Ahmed had passed on. I did not learn my lessons.
FOOD FIRST; LIES LAST; NIGERIANS FACE ACUTE FOOD SCARCITY
National Agricultural Land Development Agency, NALDA, was introduced in 1992 by the same IBB regime. NALDA is relevant to our present economic predicament because of a recent announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, under Buhari. The Minister said, as if it is true, that the FG will soon start mechanised farming in 623 Local Governments in Nigeria. Second, DG-VON claimed, as if it was true, “For the avoidance of doubt, post 1970, no President has ever devoted energy and invested as much as President Buhari did.” Lies, damn lies!
Let me take DG-VON first. I don’t know how old the man was when General Gowon Commissioned the Kainji and Tiga Damns, Obasanjo launched the Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, in 1977 supported by construction of more damns. He is certainly not aware of President Shagari’s attempt under the Green Revolution programme and River Basin Authorities from 1979-1983 – which led to the Bakolori Damn project to provide year-round farming in Sokoto, and Zamfara states. Most undoubtedly, he is totally ignorant of Babangida’s DFRRI/NALDA/FADAMA programmes from 1986-1993. While each of the leaders left major agricultural legacies Buhari has created none.
“Water is life”, according to Thales. All the other leaders mentioned built the damns which constitute the back bone of our agriculture till today. Buhari has built none. What great agricultural achievement can be made without the water provided by others? At any rate, can DG-VON tell Nigerians the specific achievements of the Buhari administration which we can verify?
The Minister of Agriculture illustrates two things about Nigerian governments. One, they never learn from history. Two, they distort facts. That explains why food security continues to elude us. Nigerians can recollect that once appointed, Buhari’s Minister announced that there is no hunger in Nigeria – until he was roundly condemned by our people. With that as background, it is easy to understand why the fellow will not hesitate to tell us what is not true. “Of all the grief that harass the distressed, sure, the most bitter is a scornful jest.” Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, VBQ p 108.
Food first should be the policy of any government in times of need. A national economic recession, tilting towards a depression, should easily qualify as a time of need in any country. So, last week, when the FG announced the commencement of mechanical farming in 623 LGs, it should have been a most welcome development – if it is true. But, it is all fantasy. Here are the reasons.
It must be a terrible joke for anybody with any sense to assume that 623 or 80 per cent of LGs in Nigeria can practice mechanised farming as it is known in the world today. With the exception of small areas of Ogun and Oyo states, few Southern States can offer land for mechanised farming. In the same vein, who, in his right minds will manage the mechanised farms in most of Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Zamfara? Obviously, there is no way 623 LGs will soon start mechanised farming. The Minister and DG-VON, sycophants, are saying what Buhari will love to hear – even if it is not true.
In that regard, readers, who want the truth, can now follow me back into history. NALDA, as conceived by the IBB regime, was supposed to cover all the LGs in all the 30 states and to acquire 50,000 hectares in each LG for mechanised farming. As usual, the measure was widely applauded. I did not clap. Instead, in my column the following Monday, it was pointed out, just as now, that most LGs in Southern states don’t have 50,000 hectares to donate – Lagos being the prime example. Furthermore, the 1978 Land Use Decree had made State Governors custodians and it will require years, not months, for the FG to get the parcels of land allocated. And, where were the people trained to manage 580 NALDA farms nationwide. The verdict, by me was blunt. IBB should forget NALDA. It will not work and it will only enrich the guys at the Ministry of Agriculture and their collaborators. Another invitation by Security people followed. “Are you calling the Head of State a liar?”
NALDA predictably collapsed after a futile effort to make it work without providing Nigerians with the benefits promised. The funds allocated to the venture as usual vanished into private pockets. Buhari’s government is embarking on another foolish venture and there will be little food to eat.
I am ready to send the Minister of Agriculture and the DG-VON free copies of IBRAHIM B BABANGIDA 1985-1992: LETTING A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM. The Minister will learn from our history not to waste our time. DG-VON will stop peddling lies. We need food – not propaganda.
NEXT WEEK: WITH CRUDE OIL LIKELY TO STAY BELOW $40 PER BARREL AND CRUDE LOADS UNSOLD, THE 2020 BUDGET SHOULD NOT EXCEED N6 TRILLION. WAIT AND SEE.