Tuesday, 05 December 2023 04:39

Tinubu on the Guinness World Records - Babafemi A. Badejo

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Babafemi Badejo Babafemi Badejo

The Guinness World Records (GWR) has been around since about the time I was born. In fact, I am just a little older than the founding of the British reference book that was a thrill for me as I grew up and visited libraries to look it up, along with the  Encyclopedia Britannica. It used to be known as the Guinness Book of Records until its name changed in 1999. The new name accommodated the American branding of the same thing as Guinness Book of World Records. Trust the Americans. Since they rebelled against the British, they had been using their can-do spirit to ensure that their uniqueness from the motherland is maintained. Aside from insisting on their spellings in their own Americana, they substantially altered the course of history by designing their electricity voltage as 110-120/60 instead of the British 220-240/50. This difference meant that British products would not work in America and thereby forced their own local production, until the Japanese started making products to accommodate both and we no longer needed to carry voltage step-downs anymore.  

So, the frenzy that accompanied Hilda Baci’s getting on GWR for a sustained length of time in cooking was amazing to me. The country was excited on 13 June when she was recognised. I equally developed an affection towards her for her resilience and the efforts she took to know what was required and worked hard for it. All of a sudden, the Guinness World Records started trending in Nigeria. The featuring of Nigerians positively on international platforms build our goodwill in the global arena. Our goodwill has been very low for a while, in spite of the great efforts of our Nollywood and Afrobeat ambassadors and our soft power. Goodwill goes beyond not being discriminated against in tourism or the ease of attending conferences in another country. The son of a friend almost lost his Ph.D hard work for nothing other than the South Africans not being ready to issue him a visa to fulfill an obligation, even when they readily issued visas to his Nordic classmates. His father had to find a number of who knows someone who knows someone who could change the sad situation.

GWR informed the world that there had been an unusual 1,500 applications from Nigerians seeking to follow Hilda Baci’s footsteps. Two or three compatriots tried to upstage her and mainly got the wrath of Nigerians. This is a very bad Nigerian attitude. We should have encouraged others to see if they can do better. Finally, on 7 November, an Irish celebrity chef blew Baci’s record apart. We were unhappy and some, with a condemnable attitude, sent unprintable messages to Chef Fisher.

With Hilda Baci being blown out, on 21 November, President Bola Tinubu, joined the GWR race. According to The Cable, Tinubu announced at the 10th German-Nigerian Business Forum that “he deserves recognition from GWR for the economic reforms he has introduced since assuming office on May 29.” This is an important development. Tinubu is asking foreigners to recognise that he has been improving the lives of Nigerians. There is no doubt that six months is a short period in office. But it is possible for Nigerians to do some trends analysis and examination of his reforms, before our President’s yearning for a foreign recognition.

When self-styled President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida got us debating on whether we wanted an IMF loan with its conditionalities, we overwhelmingly said ‘NO’. Yet, the maradonic dictator tricked us by introducing his Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market as an home-grown alternative to the loan. Then as a young senior lecturer, I was one of those who crusaded against the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). I actually published an academic piece on SAP, as Olu Falae and co. were betting their lives on our long-term El Dorado. I am sure if anyone cares to ask him or IBB today on what happened to the naira, they would readily quip about that popular scapegoat: the lack of implementation.

The problem then, and now, is the failure of our knowledge industry to realise that the post WW II design of the world was to ensure the enslavement of parts of the Americas, Africa and Asia, as hewers of wood and carriers of water for the Western world. Some leaderships in Asia realised this and succeeded in outsmarting the design. With leadership deficit across the board in Nigeria, we will continue to wallow in drilling ourselves into a bottomless pit, using adverse theories taught to us as natural laws of human advancement, without opening our eyes to see them as they should be – an interest based worldview for the sustenance of the West. Of course, the immediate interests of some of us are catered for as we pile up our national patrimony abroad again for investments and creation of employment in the West – as revealed in the Panama, Paradise, and Pandora papers.

Our President is an ardent believer in these adverse-to-our-interests “laws of nature” on the political economy. Please note that I wrote political economy and not economics because production, distribution and consumption are intertwined with interests – politics. Policymaking should be based on well thought through intentionality to change for the better and not show-off to be seen as an action man/woman.   

The President cannot avoid responsibility for the double whammy of the fuel and exchange rates he imposed on the country on an impulse, without a strategic well sequenced effort that should have focused on our income profile (after getting Emefiele out of the way), and Nigeria’s corruption associated behaviour in storing value in dollars, etc. This problem is more so when our President had prepared for the office for so long and had a three-month transition to office after his election, and no-one rushed him after his swearing-in, when he gained control over the CBN, as well as other information on the emptiness of our wallet. We must not forget that part of the campaign of Mr President was to hit the ground running, with the impression that he had many strategic thinkers already lined up.

By the way, “our being almost bankrupt” should be no excuse because Tinubu put himself forward as capable of fixing the situation.

However, the impact on Nigerians of the policies that Tinubu put forward as enough for another Hilda Baci-like heartwarming recognition on GWR, can be seen clearly – Nigerians are worse-off. Of course, the economists, like Falae did, would tell us that what matters is the long-run. But in the long-run, we would all be dead. Fortunately, Falae and IBB are still alive to see what they did to us in 1989.

We are all ready for a tight belt that would improve the life chances of our children, who have continued to seriously vote with their feet by engaging in japa out of the country. But we should not go down the same path of IBB/Falae and 43 years later be saying these were good policies and we should blame their lack of proper implementation for where the economy is today.

At the political level, the cost of governance, in the face of all of us, is skyrocketing under this administration. Borrowing has continued unabated. Femi Falana reportedly put out a documented set of corruption (that economists, bereft of standing up for the truth, euphemistically call leakages) data that would immediately refloat Nigeria if Tinubu’s body language on corruption could boldly change for the better. These billions in dollars are stored in Nigeria and around the world and can be brought back under various moves. $7 billion fixed in 14 banks that Falana pointed to can be recovered from these individuals if they want to continue having bank licences. The crafty use of AMCON to defraud all of us, as dubious loans to friends are forgiven, can be addressed. Different fraudulent thefts of oil can be traced and recovered. We were lucky that we escaped P&ID, but not because of Tinubu. If we had lost that case, the naira may be knocking N2,000+ to a dollar by now.  

It is the duty of the president to ensure a fair balance between the paper analysis of his advisers and the anticipated impacts on the lives of Nigerians. It is on the basis of positive impacts that he should seek our affection. As a Professor and in the category of those who can recommend him, I would gladly nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize if he reverses our downwards trend on corruption. Leadership deficit and corruption are the main drivers of conflict. External dynamics is also important in relation to conflicts in Africa. However, smart leadership can outsmart adverse external dynamics, as some Asians have successfully done. To move on corruption, he would be signaling a significant move to ameliorate our toxic conflict environment in Nigeria, nay in Africa. The buck stops at our president’s table. 

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