“Nobody steps into the same river twice.” Chinese Proverb.
On Thursday, November 27, 2014, the PUNCH, on page 14 reported as follows: “Don’t blame me for naira devaluation – Okonjo-Iweala.” In the report, the Minister of Finance, was quoted as saying that “Nigeria has what it takes to manage its way through. Benchmark for the budget 2015 had been lowered to more realistic $73 per barrel. Never in the history of budgeting in Nigeria had a Finance Minister been so often wrong as Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had been this year. But before presenting the irrefutable evidence, a quick remark is needed about her self-acquittal from blame for the devaluation. Certainly, the Finance Minister cannot be blamed for devaluation.
However, Dr Ngozi, like a serial offender, had simply addressed the one matter on which she will be exonerated. She had left the other charges of incompetence, self-serving public utterances and subordination of the national economic interest to the political ambition of her boss. In that regard she had done severe damage to the economy and to President Jonathan himself. Her departure, either through resignation or dismissal is a matter of time. And the reasons are not hard to find.
First, she sent a budget to the National Assembly, with $78 as benchmark, at a time when the price of crude oil was already sliding downwards. We told her $78 was unrealistic; she stuck to her guns. Second, when crude came down to under $80 per barrel, she sent her “more realistic” budget based on $73 per barrel. Again, we cautioned that the figure is still unrealistic. As fate would have it, the price of crude oil fell below $73 per barrel the day after she was beating her chest about presenting a “more realistic” budget. That second budget is again on its way to the trash can – after millions of naira had been spent on it. On Friday, November 28, 2014, the price of Brent crude, Nigeria’s light crude went below $73 and it is expected to fall further. The consequences of the difference between $78 and whatever will be the final destination for Nigeria are extremely grave. Yet, the Minister of Finance is down-playing a global, as well as, a national catastrophe about to occur. That is the reason she should pack up and go or be shown the way out. Certainly, no Chief Financial Officer of First Bank, Shell or Nestle S.A could have been wrong so often in a matter of days and survive the embarrassment to the company.
“If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will soon find sorrow near at hand.” Confucius, 551-497 BC. (VANGUARD BOOK of QUOTATIONS, pp70-71).
It is not just a man; a government and its Ministers, who take no thought to the future soon find themselves in a situation in which three budgets are presented in three months. The signs of our present problems were there for those who cared, like me, to see as early as last year. The Finance Minister, had abandoned planning and forecasting for mere allocation of revenue and (mis)management of the Excess Crude Account, ECA. She had led the President, who will be the first to suffer the consequences of her unpardonable errors, into a fool’s paradise. Nothing is more untruthful than the declaration that “Nigeria has what it takes to manage its way through.” That is pure drivel and she must be the only person who believes that. Even a market woman whose main product is no longer in demand, without a credible alternative, knows that disaster is at hand. Dr Ngozi either believes that statement, in which case she should go for refresher course in basic economics or doesn’t believe it, which is worse; and she should just go.
Trend analysis and forecasting become very valuable tools for economists during periods of dynamic uncertainty. For close to a year, we had been drawing attention to economic disaster which is now at our door step. At this time, we need a Finance Minister who can be realistic and manage poverty; Okonjo-Iweala is living in dreamland.
P.S. Is it not curious that nobody in the Federal Government or Nigeria ever asked me how I could be so accurate with the predictions?
REQUIEM FOR DR EKWUEME’S BABY – PDP (3)
“Where did Obasanjo get N130million from?” Nnana Ochereome, VANGUARD, November 20, 1998. (See my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED p94)
Unfortunately, the composition of the G-34 group and the principles enunciated by the party, at its inception, could, at best, be regarded as a “salad bowl of illusions” (apologies George Santayana, ) prepared by too many mindless cooks. Rotation and zoning, two principles hotly denied in 2011 in order to make Jonathan eligible, were there clearly …
To begin with the original 34 included individuals who should not ordinarily walk together in the dark. The highly principled people, Ekwueme, Ige, Adebanjo, Attah, Otegbeye, Balarabe Musa, Ango Abdullahi, for instance, went into bed with opportunists (AGIP, Any Government in Power) like Professor Gana. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Very quickly, the principled people left as more opportunists came into the party. Ekwueme and Attah, among other founding fathers must have assumed that a well-crafted party constitution would take care of the dangers ahead; the constitution would prevent the predators from hijacking the party and turn it to what it is today. Predictably, none of the principled founding fathers is now in the corridors of power; only Gana remains – which says all there is to be said on that.
The first turning point on the road to Armageddon occurred when Obasanjo, the man made destitute by Abacha, was released from jail in 1998, he joined the party, a few weeks after and donated N130million; and no questions asked by men ordinarily presumed to be honest…