Dr. Obiajulu Aduba’s preliminary analysis of the Buhari Budget is right on target.

Dr. Wumi Akintide

I like it more when he argued that the devil is in the details. I would like to add that the language Buhari used in his budget speech stands up well compared to other budget speeches in Nigeria, including those presented during all of the years of Okonjo Iweala as Finance Minister. Dr. Aduba specifically compared Okonjo-Iweala’s performance to that of her successor who neither went to Harvard nor earned a Ph.D. Mrs. Adeosun never worked for the World Bank, but she served a few years as Commissioner for Finance at Ogun State before her appointment as Federal Minister of Finance.

A Ph.D is desirable but not nearly as good as the discipline, the hard work, the integrity, and the cumulative experience and dedication an individual brings to his or her job. It would be a mistake to rush to judgment on whether or not Ngozi has been a better Finance Minister than her successor.

It is true that Mrs. Adeosun has been less visible than her predecessor who doubled down as the Coordinating Minister of the Economy under Jonathan. The Jonathan Government saw Ngozi as the only elephant in the room based on her bloated resume and reputation.

Her other colleagues in the cabinet were intimidated. President Jonathan himself felt inadequate given  his Ph.D in Zoology obtained from Port Harcourt University.

My point is that Jonathan knew next to nothing about budgeting and finance per se. However, he knew enough to make the office of his Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki the main conduit pipe for looting the Nigerian Treasury, because he knew nobody would need to account for how the Security Vote is spent.

President Jonathan saw Ngozi Okonjo-iweala as the Nigerian equivalent of Houdini, the world’s greatest magicians whose activities are never to be criticized by anyone because she was the preferred candidate by the World Bank and the IMF to manage the Nigerian economy.  Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, also was mystified by her credentials, as evidenced by his agreement to pay her salary in US dollars.

Until tomorrow, nobody in Nigeria but Obasanjo and Jonathan knew how much Okonjo’s total package was. She was an authority to herself and whatever approval she sought from the President was granted without any scrutiny at all. The revelations coming from the Sambo Dasuki has lent more and more credence to that assumption. Lamido Sanusi the Governor of the Central Bank was suspended and fired on the advice of Okonjo-Iweala for alerting the public to the gross kleptomania and incompetence of the Jonathan Administration.

I dare say based on some information from my learned friend, Professor Ozodi Osuji that Okonjo-Iweala’s major in her PhD in Harvard was not in Finance or Budgeting per see. She received all the publicity as being the most qualified to serve as the Nigerian Minister of Finance and the coordinating Minister of the Nigerian economy because of where she came from and the Ivy League institution she attended.

I am not saying this to belittle her. I am saying it to underscore my point that the mere fact that Mrs. Adeosun is not as vocal or educated as Ngozi does not necessarily make her a less effective Minister than Okonjo-Iweala. I could clearly see Mrs. Adeosun’s handwriting in the budget speech that Buhari delivered to the National Assembly a few days ago.

It was the best budget speech I have ever had any President deliver in that sanctuary. It was short, precise, and focused on the right priorities for Nigeria as pointed out by Dr. Aduba and as brilliantly articulated and amplified by Patrick Utomi in his brilliant analysis after the budget speech.

The emphasis placed on education, health and agriculture, and mining and the shift of emphasis from total dependence on a one–product economy, oil/gas was the best of all. That the initial draft of that budget speech must have originated from the office of Mrs. Adeosun as Finance Minister is not something to dismiss with the wave of the hand. Mrs. Adeosun and the others in the economic team deserve as much credit as President Buhari.

It was an excellent speech that could only have come from the best Finance Minister of Nigeria thus far and the best President the country never had with apologies to Odumegwu Ojukwu. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo only had a Bachelor’s degree in Law and another Bachelor’s degree in Commerce/Economics. He never went to Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard or Yale, yet the economy performed better under him than it did under Okonjo-Iweala. Nigeria economy is in total ruins today in large part because of Okonjo-Iweala. She had so much influence to redirect Jonathan like Awolowo had done to Yakubu Gowon but she woefully failed to do so. Nigeria is paying today the price for her lackluster management of the Nigerian economy. Governor Lamido Sanusi as Governor of the Central Bank played a more effective role by becoming a whistle -blower but neither Okonjo nor Jonathan were prepared to listen.

I recall Awolowo putting his imprimatur in much of the budget speeches during his tenure as Finance Minister and during the civil war years from 1967 to 1970. The man got Nigeria’s priorities exactly right at the time. That was why Nigeria was able to prosecute that war without burrowing a kobo from either the IMF or the World Bank.

He, in fact, courageously changed the Nigerian currency half way thru the war to ensure that the money looted from the Enugu and the Benin branches of the Central Bank by the Biafran High Command could not be used to prolong the war thereby saving more lives and property.

I do know that Awolowo was pilloried for that action by the Biafrans but it was the right thing to do. The war lasted only 3 years because Awolowo had made it so. Nigeria won the war on a platter of gold in large part because of the foresight and the intellectual power and resourcefulness of Obafemi Awolowo.

I actually think that Dr. Aduba covered most of the basics of that Budget Speech with his brilliant analysis but the part I think he did not cover enough was what I call the implementation of the Budget. As rightly pointed out by Pat Utomi, implementation is the real Herculean task that we all must not underestimate if the budget plan is to succeed

Pat Utomi clearly mentioned that 80 percent of whatever we write in the budget quite often falls through the cracks or is completely swept under the carpet while only 20 percent is fully pursued and implemented. He was dead right on that. I was an insider in the Federal Public Service for 25 years of my prime and I can attest to that observation.

I am particularly pleased that Buhari and his government have based their projections on oil revenues at only 15 Dollar per barrel thereby shifting away our total dependence on Oil and Gas revenues to something else for once in the history of budget-making in Nigeria. That calculus presumes that if the price of oil continues to nose-dive in the world market, Nigeria has already made allowance for such a conundrum in the world market.

I can only hope that poor implementation will not cripple the good intentions of President Buhari as clearly stated in that budget speech. I find myself agreeing more than I disagree with Dr. Aduba on many of his conclusions in that article.

That clearly is a good development. We can agree to disagree or disagree to agree without any bitterness or rancor as fellow Nigerians and fellow columnists on ChatAfrik. We both love our country with passion, and we both want Nigeria to be the leader God has made her to be in the committee of nations in the African continent.

I like the fact that Dr. Aduba has shown with his analysis a deep knowledge of the Southeast, his home base among the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria. I like that

Change is something that Dr. Aduba and I can agree on. Change is hard at first, messy half way thru but gorgeous at the end if we all persevere and not rush to condemn President Buhari before most of his initiatives start to bear fruit. The nihilists in the PDP want him to fail but we must not allow them to succeed.

Nigeria is going to get worse before it gets better. The Buhari 2016 Budget Speech exemplifies change, in my opinion, better than anything Buhari has done as President, but Implementation remains the litmus test.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all of you till next year. Shalom!    

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