Ben Murray Bruce’s op-ed piece on Nigeria, explained

In his recent op-ed piece, Senator Ben Murray Bruce addressed a number of issues, mostly centered on what Bruce sees as Nigerians’ insistence on criticizing former President Jonathan’s policies.

Unproductive criticism

The will to move forward and take control of what happens in Nigeria from now on, is the main point Senator Bruce tries to drive home. He iterates the time consuming and futile attempts at blaming the country’s woes on a man without power. He says if Nigerians continue on the path, may lead to a non-recovery of misplaced glory. In Nigeria, more time is spent on analyzing administrations than actually creating something better out of what the past administration has built. The trend seems to be more prevalent among “statesmen” or past leaders. Take for instance, former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s criticism on former president Jonathan’s railway rehabilitation: “For what reason should anybody in his right senses in Nigeria of today believe that rehabilitating the railway system which was completed in 1903 to carry three million tonnes of goods is what we need today.”

Nigerian economy was progressive under Jonathan

In his opening statement, he debunks the idea that Jonathan set the country back with ill-advised policies, stating that the country’s economic growth increased significantly. During the Jonathan administration, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ranked Nigeria as the number one country for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. In its 2013 report titled Global Value Chains: Investment and Trade for Development,” it says that FDI inflows to Nigeria stood at $7.03billion. South Africa recorded $4.572 billion, Ghana ($3.295 billion), Egypt ($2.798 billion), and Angola (-6.898 billion). In a 2014 journal, the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President, notes that the Jonathan administration implemented policies which boosted commerce through resumption of railway transportation. Food production companies like Flour Mills of Nigeria, petroleum product companies and haulage companies benefited from the revamped railway system.

Singleness of purpose must be reflected in policies

While maintaining that past leaders ought not to share the spotlight with the government of the day, saying that apportioning blame to a Jonathan only empowers him and makes him relevant. Bruce recommends that government builds on existing policies, implying that policies implemented by past administrations should not be abandoned.

In April 2015, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggested one of the challenges facing African governments was the perpetual desire to begin on a clean slate. “Some of these policies need to be continued; some fiscal consolidation needs to take place and we very much hope that the next budget would reflect the good policies that have been put in place in order to resist external shocks”, she said while commenting on Nigeria’s economic policies at a World Bank-IMF Spring Meeting in Washington DC.

Bruce puts the current administration on blast for attempting to start from scratch in terms of governance, he implies that this track will not help Nigeria.

Emefiele may be the only one not given to blame-shifting

Finally, he commends the policies currently implemented by Governor Godwin Emefiele of Central Bank of Nigeria as one way out of the many challenges facing the country. In closing, he implies that while everyone else is performing their blame-shifting dance, Emefiele remains focused on the present and tries to steer Nigeria’s economy to some kind of normalcy.

Emefiele’s recent financial policies became unpopular after JP Morgan revealed plans to remove Nigeria from its Government Bond Index (GBI) at the end of the year. As of today, Nigerian equities markets have appreciated by N277 billion in the last two weeks as investors have swooped on highly discounted equities. The market rose to N10.425 trillion from N10.148 trillion in two weeks. Time will tell, perhaps this may turn out positive for the economy.

In closing, Bruce’s piece may not appeal to a lot of people but it is a sharp call for Nigerians to recognize what is important. The blame game, ethnic, and religious favoritism are major challenges to progress. For Nigeria to become great again, government of the day has to focus on what is right in front of them. Citizens also need to hold the current administration accountable for all its actions or lack thereof.

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