Odilim Enwegbara, a leading economic thinker, is an MIT educated specialist in money and finance. In this interview with KEHINDE AJOBIEWE he bares his mind on issues surrounding the growing crises in the PDP and also speaks on the Nigerian economy. Excerpts:
There is a growing pressure for President Jonathan to drop Bamanga Tukur as Chairman of PDP.? What is your take on this development? In whose interest should the President drop Bamanga Tukur?
I don’t think that the President should ever think about dropping his closest ally. Or was this not the same Tukur who stood firmly behind him when he was seeking the Presidency in 2011? Dropping Bamanga Tukur as far as I can see it means the President is shooting himself in the foot. I don’t thinking that those advising him to do that are sincere to him. I believe that removing Tukur would mean removing the only man who has what it takes to neutralize any political punches they should be throwing at the President.
But some are saying that since he became the party chairman, PDP has never seen peace?
Yeah it depending who you are listening to and what does peace mean here. I wonder what kind of peace one should be talking about here? Or do we mean that revolutions are peaceful? Or don’t we see that what Tukur is doing in PDP is revolutionary? Cutting the governors’ forum to its right size should it come easy? In fact, it is only what Tukur is doing that will eventually save the party from self destruction; otherwise the days of the party should have been numbered.
But should Tukur have to be at battle with the governors in order to bring the said revolution to the party?
Well, don’t forget that most of the governors, nearing the end of their second tenures would be the last to want to see internal democracy in the party. Not only that that would deny them godfather power of handpicking their successors, but also internal democracy would make it difficult for most of them to impose themselves as senate candidates come 2015. Cleansing the party of its brutal past requires a shrewd politician like Tukur, who has the gut to let the governors understand that the party is bigger than them. ?
Recently the President visited some Northern States, and everyone seemed to be expecting that to be an opportunity for him to put in motion the resolution of the Boko Haram problem. Do you think that the President’s refusal for amnesty was the right decision?
When I heard that Mr. President was officially visiting some Northern States devastated by Boko Haram, I felt happy that even though the visit was belated, it was the right thing to do as the father of the country. I saw his visit as statesmanlike effort to extend solidarity to those States devastated by Boko Haram. Therefore, I expected the President to have used that visit to declare a state of emergency to these States, which should be accompanied with about N150 billion federal money to support the rebuilding of those States devastated economies, particularly their infrastructure destroyed by the sect. I also expected amnesty coupled with over N100 billions to be made available for youth empowerment in the North.
So you agree that amnesty should have been considered then?
Of course it should have been his first priority. After all our situation as bad as it sounds today is still far better than the situation Britain and Northern Ireland found themselves, but at the end of the day, both parties came together to settle their differences. That none of these things happened, no doubt made me truly sad. I was sad because the President missed such a unique opportunity to appeal to the sect to come to the negotiation table. I was sad because he should have seized the chances to call for dialogue and to assure the sect that their grievances should be addressed once they stop the fight.
There is a growing call for the President to revisit that issue. Do you foresee that happening?
Because you can only make peace with your enemies, not with your friends, I still believe that all those advising Mr. President should put pressure on him to review his earlier position. I think that a good minister of finance should be letting the President see how much the country is losing without resolving the Boko Haram phenomenon, especially how the insecurity is driving away thousands of foreign investors who would have embraced Nigeria as their next investment destination. I don’t think the present minister has thrown her full weight to let the President reconsider his position.
Talking about the economy, as a leading economic thinker what is your assessment of the economy? Recent figures from some US rating agencies such as Fitch, Standard and Poor, and Moody seemed to suggest that the economy is growing. But should the economy be really growing without Nigerians feeling the impact?
That Fitch recently raised Nigeria’s rating from BB-Negative to BB-Stable, S&P raised its from B+ to BB-Stable as well as the World Bank Voice Enhancement Program, placing Nigeria among the 16 country’s of the world whose voce has been increased, have been taken seriously to the extent that economic team is advertising demonstrates how low this so-called economic team could go. That the team is rolling out drums only confirms the team’s level of incompetence.
?The question I ask people each time they ask me what do I think about these ratings is since when have some imperial organizations headquartered some 10,000 km away from Nigeria become the ones to measure our economic growth? Isn’t it a tragedy of immense proportion that the economic team placards ratings assigned to us from New York? If they are sure what they are measuring, the question becomes, what about the accompanying job numbers? Why did these ratings miss jobs growth ratings? Let us not forget that we’re talking about the same rating agencies that continued giving a clean bill of health to our comatose banking industry even to the point when some banks were giving up the ghost in 2009.
But shouldn’t a country that is rich in oil as we are be witnessing growth? Shouldn’t a country selling on average 2.5 million barrels of oil daily be experiencing growth with or without government doing something?
In short, it is a tragedy of immense proportion that this incompetent economic team is not ashamed of accepting ratings handed to by organizations wrapped around the US National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM200); a US foreign policy hegemony which since it’s signed into law in November 1975 by President Gerald Ford, has been used by the CIA, CFR, USAID, State Department, Rockefeller Foundation, as well as Fitch, Moody’s and S&P to constantly undermine Nigeria’s economic emergence and rise as a regional power.
That during the recent monetary policy committee meeting the CBN went further to tighten the monetary policy is now making most people to believe that the apex bank’s monetary policy is more of a threat to the real sector than helping the sector. When do you think that our private sector should be expecting interest rate cuts; especially to the level that would make the private sector competitive in this country?
I will answer by asking the following questions: Why shouldn’t cutting interest rates become resisted? Shouldn’t it be because reducing interest rates would automatically reduce the incomes of our financial institutions, who believe that without high interest rates, they would have difficulty sustaining their profits needed to sustain the high cost of doing business in the country, especially when they have to provide themselves basic infrastructure?