There is worldwide economic recession at the moment.  This is a fact, and repeating it will only be stating the obvious.  Most countries today are faced with one type of hardship or the other.  Most people the world over are struggling to feed themselves, not caring for other comforts and luxuries.  The rate of migrations from other countries to Europe and the Americas is indicative of the desperate situation in which many people find themselves.  Interestingly, countries worst hit by the recession are those dependent on oil as a major foreign income earner.

Individual countries reacted to the recession in different ways.  Those that invested heavily in infrastructure and other revenue earning ventures during the boom years are less susceptible to the harshness of the meltdown than those countries unlucky to be ruled by visionless and kleptocratic leaders.  Nigeria is among the latter group.  Even though investments were made in the power, oil and gas, transportation and other revenue yielding ventures, the accruals ended up in the pockets of a few, and now all of us are paying the price.  Most infrastructures were established about forty years ago and over time they gradually atrophied because of the lack of vision of our leaders, whose forte is to steal us blind without contributing to the maintenance of these infrastructures.  

Sadly, because of this lack of vision, whenever we sail the country into turbulent waters, our reaction is all too well predictable and knee-jerk.  Sale our crown jewels assets.  It is of no significance to the proponents of the “sale campaign” that these assets were put up in the first place to generate income for the country by some foresighted men in the past.  It is not the fault of the assets that those who took over from those that built them are thieves.  I am yet to come across any suggestion that these assets that the Buhari government want to put on the block are not making money nor are they hemorrhaging the economy in any way.

If history is to be our guide, then recent history tells us that we have gone down this road before without anything to show for it.  Since the days of the Technical Committee on Privatization and Commercialization (TCPC), the number of government owned companies and enterprises sold by the government are well over 150.  The most recent daylight robbery perpetrated on Nigerians by the ruling class was the doling out of power sector assets to robber barons that strut our landscape as successful businessmen.  We have seen how a sector that got an investment of well over $25 billion sold for less than $4 billion dollars.  What happened to the proceeds?  We are yet to be told.

Mr. President, I am of the strong belief that those who lost out in robbing our country blind in the scramble for our national assets like banks, power generating and distribution companies, telecommunication companies, etc. in the past, are those trying to bamboozle you into selling to them what little remains for 180 million people.  They are not satisfied with buying fuel stations so they want to buy refineries, gas liquefaction plants and oil fields.  Check out and you will begin to understand those behind this new criminal enterprise.

Mr. President, a majority of Nigerians voted for you because of certain qualities which you possess.  One of these qualities is your firmness on issues you believe in.  We all know you don’t believe in selling our assets, or devaluing our currency or increasing the price of petroleum products.  We know because you have said this several times.  The summary of all these is that you always believe strongly in your convictions, which led to your being labeled as rigid.  Your bending backwards to project a Buhari that is different from the one Nigerians trusted and voted for is giving us sleepless nights.  

In your desire to prove to crooks that you are not rigid, they succeeded in making you eat humble pie and in the process make you look uncertain and feeble.  Most of us who voted for you didn’t bargain for the policy summersaults we have been going through under your watch.  We were hoping to see a reversal of the privatization of the power sector which didn’t happen.  And suddenly out of left field, we are presented with a proposal to sell the remaining assets.  Putin did it in Russia and heavens didn’t fall.  Yukos, one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world, was sold for one ruble by the late Yeltsin to Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a drunken stupor.  Realizing the importance of the company to the Russian economy, Putin did not hesitate to reverse this daylight robbery.

Nigerians were ripped-off by neo-oligarchs in the past and what we are seeing today is peer rivalry among this unscrupulous, vicious arm of the business class in collaboration with their comrades in government trying to go in for the kill.  Those who lost out in the past are the ones who are pushing you to auction the country to them.  They bought all government interests in oil marketing companies, banks, construction companies and manufacturing concerns.  The same reason was given – injecting the proceeds in to the economy.  If it were injected, will we have been where we are today?

Mr. President, we are in recession, not depression.  The only time in recent history that the United States went into depression was in the 1930s.  Franklin Roosevelt, from his wheelchair, pulled the country out of the meltdown without selling a single government asset.  He fought a war and even assisted in rebuilding Europe through the Marshall Plan.

Mr. President, act like Roosevelt.  Be our Putin.

President Muhammadu Buhari addressing the 71st UN General Assembly in New York

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