There have been a number of claims by the opposition in Nigeria as to the health of our economy. These claims have been calculated to alarm and so it is imperative to put these claims through a test of the truth. Are the opposition correct when they say that Nigeria is broke, that hunger levels are rising or that the Transformation Agenda is failing?
In answering these questions, I will not make reference to any governmental data because the government is the accused in this case and I believe that the accused should it be a judge in tis own case.
A month ago, some politicians held a press conference and told Nigerians that their nation is broke and asked the minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to resign.
These claims have been echoed and re echoed by their political operatives in sponsored wrote ups, political party press releases and on Social Media.
In addressing these allegations, I would be calling as witnesses objective parties. An objective party would be a party that is not connected to any of the dramatis personae and does not benefit from the situation having no dog in the fight.
Firstly, Standard and Poors, one the world's preeminent ratings agencies which is not affiliated to any government or to the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund last week rated Nigeria's economy as "strong and positive". It should be noted that Standard and Poors advertises that it uses detailed "financial research and analysis" in making its judgments.
To show the accuracy of S & P, it should be noted that on August 5, 2011 the group downgraded the U.S. and predicted that America's long-term credit rating was poor. Today, S & P's vision is vindicated as the world watches the government shutdown in America occasioned by the debt crisis the U.S. faces.
Now, who are we to believe between those opposed to the Goodluck Jonathan administration, who presented no data or evidence to back up their claims and S & P's who undertook research and analysis as well as audits to come up with their conclusion?
On Wednesday the 16th of October, 2013, Fitch Ratings, another independent ratings agency which is universally recognized and acclaimed rated Nigeria's economy as "stable". Fitch unlike S & P relies on risk analysis. They consider things like a nation's balance of trade, her Foreign Reserve, her debt to GDP ratio, Per Capita Income, and her inflation rate to come to a conclusion. And their conclusion is that Nigeria's economy is sound.
Again, who do we believe between Fitch and those opposed to the government?
I just mentioned inflation rate in the previous paragraph, and it is pertinent to note that the Composite Price Index (CPI), released just last week shows that inflation in Nigeria is down to 8.2%. President Jonathan is the only leader in this fourth republic under whom Nigeria has had single digit inflation. This is attested to by local and international bodies.
Do we leave these verifiable figures and begin to panic at the cries of wolf from those who provide no evidence?
Okay, let us for the sake of argument say that those crying wolf are correct and that these figures by world class rating agencies are bunkum. What do we now make of the report, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, whose 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) released last week indicates that hunger levels in Nigeria have fallen and that Nigeria is one of the few nations in Africa to have achieved this feat?
Is this a coincidence? Remember that Albert Einstein said there is no such thing as coincidence.
For years Nigeria has routinely performed below par on the Global Hunger Index (GHI). Why is it now when President Goodluck Jonathan using his judgment appointed a professional in the person of Professor Adewunmi Adesina to implement his Agricultural Transformation Agenda that we have witnessed an improvement in the GHI?
I must add that the International Food Policy Research Institute is not in any way affiliated to the Nigerian government. Given that their testimony in the 2013 GHI runs counter to the doomsday scenario painted by the opposition, I must again ask, who do we believe between expert institutions of decade long standing who have provided research based analysis and an opposition that provides nothing in support of its allegations?
On a preponderance of evidence, it is clear that Nigeria's economy is healthy. This does not mean that our economy is perfect. This does not mean that everybody has a job. It does not mean that there are no hungry folk in Nigeria. If you want a perfect economy, then live a good religious life and when you die you may enter heaven, but on this side of eternity, there is no perfect economy.
And on Social Media, these opposition politicians have sponsored elements masquerading as patriots to sow seeds of discord amongst Nigerians in order to turn them against the Federal Government and in truth, the gullible are buying their story that the reason why their states are broke is because the Federal Government takes the giant share of allocations.
First of all, this is simply an excuse because the issue of allocations is determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, which is not controlled by the President. Secondly, the cost of maintaining the executive is not the issue as records indicate. The Nigerian President is not among the highest paid presidents in the world neither are his aides.
These Social Media mercenaries try to blame President Jonathan for the salaries and emoluments earned by federal Legislators without taking into cognizance the theory of Separation of Powers which a democrat like President Jonathan must be bound by. They also conveniently forget to mention that opposition Legislators have not for once turned down their salaries.
But it would be irresponsible of me to talk about a problem without suggesting solution. If opposition governors feel that they do not have enough funds, would it not be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their leadership abilities and look within by generating funds internally. Can any of my readers imagine a situation where the governor of any U.S. state would blame President Barrack Obama for his state's financial plight?
They should think nationally and act locally. On October 11 2011, President Jonathan launched the Youth With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) initiative. Since then, YouWIN has created 15,000 direct jobs and probably hundreds of thousands of jobs created by the multiplier effect. In the Agricultural Sector, at least half a million jobs have been added. By virtue of the Local Content Act signed into law by the President three years ago, thousands of jobs have been provided for Nigerians in the oil sector. On November 1, 2013 history is to be made as the nation's power sector has been privatized with the new owners set to take over their privatized assets and $2.5 billion has been paid into the government coffers. Only last week the Federal Government slashed the cost of registering a business by 50% to encourage Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.
These and other initiatives of the Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government have added billions of non oil dollars to the Nigerian economy proving that if you are creative you can generate revenues and increase the wealth of your people.
This is what I would recommend to those crying wolf. Change your tactics. Think nationally and act globally.
However, if they continue to throw stones at President Jonathan and the Federal Government on the state of the economy, they should know that the President does not get upset when people throw stones at him. He takes it as a compliment because he knows that no one throws stones at a tree that has no fruit!
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to the President on New Media.