Reno Omokri, a one time Special Assistant to former president Goodluck Jonathan and founder of the the Mind of Christ Christian Center in California, penned an article in the Vanguard, a Nigerian newspaper, that he called “And the truth shall make Buhari free”.
Omokri, is very active on Twitter, where he calls himself a “Lover of God” and regularly inundates his over 120,000 followers on the missteps of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
While his Vanguard piece contained some truths, that Buhari would do well to pay heed to, Omokri padded up the rest of the article with a handful of half-truths.
He claimed on the current economic downturn: “But I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubts that this negative trend owes more to President Muhammadu Buhari’s utterances on our economy and polity than to any other single causative factor”. This is crass oversimplification. The economy is tanking because of structural and major fundamental issues such as the over-reliance on oil for export revenue, the fact Nigeria hardly manufactures anything, so has to import much of its processed goods, low productivity due to decrepit infrastructure, virtually non-existent power supply and companies having to pay fortunes to provide their own electricity, poor public education and public healthcare meaning a healthy and economically competitive workforce is in short supply.
Another major factor in the economy’s downward spiral is insecurity. Boko Haram has virtually ground the northeast to a halt. Farming in the country’s “bread basket” – the fertile lands of the “Middle Belt” is coming to a standstill due to Fulani herdsmen violence. Kidnappings in the southeast and beyond also contribute to hindering economic growth. None of these factors have much to do with anything Buhari spits out in his usual incoherent manner.
To support his shaky point about Buhari’s negative talk, Omokri claimed: “You go to India for a summit where other world leaders are competing with you for the attention of venture capitalists and foreign investors and while your counterparts are talking about how great their countries are, you tell the audience how everybody in your country is corrupt except you and oh, can they come and invest in your country?
“Only a foolish investor would go and invest in a country whose President thinks his citizens are ‘criminals’ (as the President said to the Telegraph of UK in February) and whose officials are ‘fantastically corrupt’ (as the President said in agreement with British PM David Cameron when questioned by Sky News)”.
The idea that venture capitalists and foreign “investors” avoiding Nigeria is necessarily a bad thing is a half truth not grounded in economic reality. Nigeria has been a recipient of “foreign investment” from the days of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, right through to colonial rule and continued through the pillage and destruction of the Niger Delta by the oil majors. What benefits has this “investment” brought the country?
A lot of these venture (vulture) capitalists and so-called “investors” actually thrive in places like Nigeria with little or no regulation and the collaboration of Nigerian rulers. Perhaps, the more they are kept away, the better for Nigeria. Korean development economist Ha-Joon Chang in his book “23 Things they don’t tell you about capitalism” wrote: “Virtually all of today’s rich countries used protectionism and subsidies to promote their infant industries. Many of them (especially Japan, Finland and Korea) also severely restricted foreign investment. Between the 1930s and the 1980s, Finland used to classify all enterprises with more than 20% foreign ownership officially as ‘dangerous enterprises’”.
Omokri went on to claim: “A little over a year ago, Nigeria was projected by CNNMoney to be the third fastest growing economy in the world behind China and Qatar yet just two weeks ago the International Monetary Fund released its World Economic Outlook and Nigeria is not even among the top 15 fastest growing economies in Africa let alone the world!” The so-called fastest growing economy and largest economy in Africa were just exercises in magic accounting and voodoo economics. That growth was fuelled by the high oil price. Very little of it was invested in programmes that guarantee sustainable development. Very little of it trickled down to the majority of Nigerians.
Another half-truth from Omokri was that it is the service, commercial and real sector that are the engines of economic growth. The engines of economic growth are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). There was little from the Jonathan administration in terms of support for SMEs. Nigeria’s so-called banking boom of the past 16 years was oiled by handling government revenues. There was virtually no lending to SMEs or to the “real” economy. There was little consumer lending by banks, as at 2014 there were only 20,000 mortgages in the entire country. It is estimated that only 70% of Nigerian adults have a bank account.
Chang wrote recently in an article in the UK’s Guardian: “First of all, despite the relative increase in the importance of services, the manufacturing sector is still – and will always be – the main source of productivity growth and economic prosperity. It is a sector that is most open to the use of machines and chemical processes, which raises productivity. It is also where most research and development, which generates new technologies, is done”. Nigeria was not even taking the baby steps towards serious manufacturing under the last adminstration or previous ones. And many manufacturing industries closed shop under Jonathan’s watch due to chronic shortages in power supply.
Things may be bad under Buhari, but Omokri, who was on the Goodluck gravy train, should stop trying to paint the very recent past as rosy. It was Goodluck for them and their crew, but not for Nigeria.
As Omokri claims to be a Christian, he should remember that Jesus Christ said in John 18:37: “I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of the truth listen to my voice”.