It has been confirmed that Nigeria is in deep economic crisis more than we have had it since 1999 when we started our democratic journey. There have been blames and many reasons given for this recession that now ravages my country and the government of the day seems to be receiving most of the heat. Most because past governments are also being pointed at, for wasting resources when we had it good with oil prices.
Now the nature of this recession is such that there is inflation, low money in circulation, an increase in dollar value to the naira seeing that we are highly imported dependent (unfortunately so), no money for contractors to go back to site, etc. The concern of people is that there is not much money to spend as we used to have it. I can remember a senior colleague architect telling me that he doesn’t believe in government projects because this new regime will be conservative in their spending and that is the order of the day now.
Recession is said to occur when there is a negative growth of the GDP for two consecutive quarters in a year and that has been recorded in the first two quarters of 2016 and if am not wrong the third quarters looks the same. This means low economic activities like sales, trading, consulting, imports and exports. No money in the hands of those who want to buy from those who sell and government has proved to be the one that has the cookie to actually throw around.
Now people are clamoring that President Buhari should release some money into the economy at least to quell the hardship in the land but that will only be a short-term solution to the real problem. I know you will be asking what the real problem is. The real problem is not in having millions in your account at least for those who desire to hit their first million naira; but it is in the purchasing power of that million naira or every other naira amount. A million naira today cannot buy you a brand new car, not even an Innoson car (local Nigerian manufacturer).
The real reason and the best approach to handling this recession on a long-term will be to address the purchasing power of every naira. If five hundred naira cannot have equal or almost same value as five hundred dollars then we would keep being in a situation where economic crisis becomes the order of the day. Giving the naira a more purchasing power on the other hand will require serious steps, some of which many people have been telling the government to do. Making Nigeria a producing nation, one that can substitute imports with our products and after some time we then talk of exporting such goods.
If we truly want to be great again then we need to be able to match up the big boys in economic prosperity and enough of half-measures; it is time to take the bull of economic failures and policies and approach them creatively and with the needed vigour.
There are many issues that need to be fixed before we can think of creating real wealth and give our currency more value. For the sake of this piece, I will summarise my propositions in three areas;
This has to do with our attitude to the things and people around us, our attitude in public places, at work and the way we relate with other people. This covers issues of tribalism and nepotism also; we have to build our self-esteem as Nigerians and we also have to have an attitude that shows there is an urgency of now and how to revive our country. Of course, the government and other stakeholders who understand will do a great work in rallying people around for this.
This is not new in the recent debates about Nigeria. Our present system is doing a good work in keeping us backward and stagnated and needs a lot of review. Our federalism still comes into this equation; going back to regional government might not be the best at this time but rather we need to review the responsibilities given to the states which happen to be the federating units. The purpose of the geo-political zones needs to be revisited also. A political federalism that makes the federating units competitive can only be healthy for rapid development. The states need to be made to be accountable to the people and to the government at the center by development efforts which they can do by paying taxes to the federal government. Many might have fears about this but whatever fear of abuse can be addressed by our various institutions of government like the judiciary.
Now the success of this depends on the success of the two above. I will still suggest some things government can do. I believe that government and her agencies can work; government can build industries that are profit-based and also create jobs for the people. A government can set up a taxi system that will match up any in the world, create jobs and wealth at the same time. We need to explore our resources to the barest minimum and if we don’t have the expertise (which I doubt) there is not nothing stopping us from having joint ventures and partnerships with other countries or private indigenous investors. We need to create indigenous wealth using our resources, which is the only way to affirm our sovereignty and eventually give this naira more value.