The only defence offered by the FGN to OBJ's letter to PMB was to educate him on the great strides of the government on the economy. The Government asserted that OBJ must have been too busy to notice the wonderful works done by PMB on the economy with an implied presumption, that had OBJ been less busy and more observant he would have seen the signs of a bubbling economy instigated by the wonderful policies, programs and projects being faithfully implemented across the length and breadth of Nigeria. In which case OBJ's verdict would have been different and perhaps he would have advised PMB to seek re-election in 2019 and perhaps attempt a third term as he(OBJ) attempted.

The unassailable truth is that Nigeria's Economy is on the recovery mode. Nigeria's economy that contracted for 5 quarters between Q1 2016 and Q1 2017 precipitating a recession, the first time in 25 years has begun to expand, hence our exit from recession from the Q2 of 2017. The lowest dip in GDP was achieved in Q3 2016 (-2.34%) and the best recovery was at Q3 of 2017  (1.4%). Inflation has shown consistent monthly gradual climb down from a high of 18.72% in January 2017 to 15.3% in January 2018. Whereas interest rate has not shown significant drop but there is some moderation. Naira exchange rate against the US Dollar that crossed the 500 mark in the parallel market about October 2016 has retreated to around 360 and supply to the market has improved. Our foreign reserves have continued to accrue, climbing from a low of 28 billion dollars in February 2016 to the current high of about 40 billion dollars at January 2018. The Nigerian stock market has shown very remarkable rally in the last year with total capitalization climbing to 19.6 Trillion Naira in Q4 in 2017 from a low of 13 Trillion Naira in Q3 2016. Capital importation which almost dried up by Q2 of 2016 at only $1Bn has risen steadily to a high of $4.1B in Q3 of 2017. All over, we can see that the siege on the economy has lifted.

But with all these, can we really say that the economy is doing well? First, any economy where the population growth is higher than the GDP growth can not be said to be doing well. Because the doing well of an economy is essentially measured by the improved well being of the people. With higher Population growth of about 2.7% growth against a lower GDP growth of 1%, it means that the GDP per capita is declining, despite some growth in the GDP. And with this,the standard of living of the average Nigerian is not any better even with our high foreign reserves. It is like a family of four children that do not have enough to eat but their father's bank account is getting fatter. And when they complain of hunger, you flaunt their father's big bank account. That's what Obasanjo saw on the streets, citizens who are hungry, because our gross domestic output is not enough to quench their hunger.

Second is that in addition to having more mouths to feed, fewer people are able to contribute to the food basket. This is because the unemployment and under employment rates have not shown any improvement at all. In fact the rates have worsened even as the economy was showing the nominal recovery we began to record in Q2 2017. In December 2015, total unemployment was 9.9%, worsening to 13.9% in Dec 2016 and remained in decline at 18. 8% in Dec 2017. This high unemployment has continued to combine with the generally high( though moderating) inflation rate to create high misery index of 70% in Q4 2016 which has gone higher at 77% In Q3 2017. It is this army of unemployed roaming and menacing our streets that Obasanjo saw, and which IBB has also seen that compelled them to write their patriotic letters.

It is an irony that an economy that is showing growth (even if only marginally) in GDP and accruing foreign reserves is having growth in unemployment. This is because the growth (both GDP & Foreign reserves) is driven essentially by recovery of oil prices and not by growth in the real output of the real or industrial sector. 
That is the bane of the economy. And thus when we combine the high population growth, the high  unemployment/underemployment rate, the high misery index, we will arrive at high poverty rate. The massive devaluation of the Naira (officially from 197 to 310) without any accompanying rise in wages and the debilitating and unconscionable unpaid salary arrears  in States only worsened the poverty and it is this pervading poverty that many patriotic Nigerians are seeing and complaining about. It seems that the perquisites of office make it difficult for the senior government officials and the inhabitants of Aso Rock to understand the message from those who live among the people, even if they live in Hill tops.

Thus it is too early to flaunt achievements of this government on the economy. When a man digs a hole and walks into it, he should not expect an applause, when he crawls out of it.  As at May 2015, when this present Government took over the reins, the economy though facing challenges of declining oil prices, was still doing well, in comparative terms. When we consider all the parameters and standards of evaluating the economy - GDP growth (2.84% vs 1.4%) unemployment (9.9% vs 18.8%), poverty (53% vs 72%), misery index( 62 % vs 77%) the facts are that the economy was in much better shape. Certainly those rates were not the best possible at that time, but they were much better than what we have even today.

There is therefore a lot of work that needs to be done to return the economy to the level it was when this government took over. It must at least achieve this ground zero and this will indicate a readiness to move forward. Now when the economy begins to show improvement in unemployment/ underemployment and poverty levels over the May 2015 Base line, it will be time to flaunt and brag on achievements on the economy. It is my hope that a consistent and faithful implementation of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) will in the medium term lead to reversals. The problem was that the plan came late, after the Administration had wasted nearly 18 months trying policies that had failed in the past.

Finally, let it be known that Nigeria's economy can never do well with the level of insecurity and unhappiness in Nigeria Today. 
Lives of Nigerians have become so cheap that the apparent failure of government to fulfill its primary responsibility of protecting lives and property puts the government in poor light and prevents the full optimization of National productivity. 
The high level of internally displaced persons and the disruption of agricultural activities in the Middle-belt is having a negative effect on both agricultural production and Gross Domestic Product. The continued nepotic and lopsided appointments by the Federal Government in defiance of complaints by marginalized States and Geo- political zones of the Country is causing so much unhappiness and unhappy people can never optimize their productive capacity. And PMB keeps denying this reality. Baffling!

Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR


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RACISM, ETHNICITY AND TRIBALISM .... What's the difference?

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This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. For convenience, they are grouped into the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. And that includes politicians, civil servants, public servants, professionals and non professionals of all cadres and categories; from cleaners,security men and permanent secretaries to ministers; from legislative aids to the House Speaker and Senate President; from the court bailiff to the Policeman, to the Registrar and to the Supreme Court Judge; from the gatemen to the Director Generals of Parastatals and Agencies, they are all constituent parts of the government, agents of the State. And that's why they are paid from the tax payers money.Every action, each one of them takes or omits to take reflects on the effectiveness or in effectiveness of the government they are part of. But it looks to me that this realization does not exist sufficiently. Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR