That Single Leap Into A Hole

That Single Leap Into A Hole

Sunday, April 14, 2019 10:06 pm


Babafemi Ojudu

By Senator Babafemi Ojudu

“It takes one leap to jump into a hole and several leaps to get out” – Maitama Sule

Many young people of today may not know what SAP is or was. SAP is simply Structural Adjustment Program. It was an economic program introduced by the then military president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida.

Babangida was going to obtain International Monetary Fund ( IMF) loan after Nigeria hit a powerful recession following economic mismanagement by the civilian regime of President Shehu Shagari.

The circumstances was like 2015, only that he emerged after disagreeing with the common sense tactics (invest in what matters, eliminate corruption, trust Nigerians) applied 30 years later by the same General Buhari, whom he kicked out after he resisted the IMF Palliatives – austerity for cash.

In 1985 just like 2015, majority of Nigerians said no and pointed out the dangers lurking if Nigeria obtain such a loan with all its conditionality. IBB was bent on taking this loan but he could not do so without incurring the wrath of Nigerians. He then, in his coy way, called for a debate. He wanted Nigerians to come up with a home grown solution to the economic problems facing the country. It was a lie.

There was no home grown solution he was going to take . He rather called for the debate to remove the obstacles from the path of his pact with IMF.

Nigerians debated, shouted and howled . At the end of the so called debate, he came up with the idea of SAP which supposedly was home grown, that is, emanating from the nation wide debate.

IThe SAP shared the same similarities with the IMF loan and its conditionality. He only invested it with a different name. The kernel of the hemlock was the devaluation of the Nigerian currency alongside severe austerity measures that saw public sector funding for education, healthcare and even infrastructure dry up in the name of austerity.

Nigerians cried foul, students and civil society organizations mobilized and went on the street. Many were mowed down. Gani Fawehinmi shouted and went to court. Academics such as Bade Onimode, Dr Ola Oni, the Ife Collectives and many others broke it down in simple language understood by most Nigerians. Their summation was that this recipe was poison: a hemlock for Nigeria nation.

Chief Olu Falae who was at different times Secretary to the government as well as Finance Minister mobilized the yes men and told Nigerians it was the best thing to have happened to our nation. He even went as far as saying there was no alternative to this program. The patriotic ones said no that there is nothing in life without alternative. Life itself, they argued, has alternative which is death. Many like Prof Sam Aluko, the renowned economist had their say but IBB, Olu Falae and co travelers had their way.

We were given SAP. Shortly after, we began to be sapped. If you are looking for where the rain began to beat us cast your mind back to this period.

I watch a video clip recently where Minister of Agriculture eloquently put today’s problems in perspective and came up with the verdict that SAP, the IBB magic recipe, did us in. I couldn’t agree less with him .

Industries collapsed because the naira completely lost its value. Raw materials for manufacturing could no longer be obtained. Foreign exchange became so scarce and weekly the CBN had to do auctions to determine the rate. Investors simply picked what was left and departed Nigeria.

Factories that hitherto catered for our needs soon packed up and their premises sold to the ones who catered for our souls.

Nigeria could not add a single MW of electricity for over twenty years as the population ballooned, as it disinvested in Infrastructure, schools and medical facilities setting the background for the locust years that were to ensue!

Salaries could no longer take the earner beyond one week. Professionals fled Nigeria. The best heads to help us nurture our future picked up their passports and certificates and left when they could no longer subscribe to journals and could barely feed themselves. Nigerian doctors took to their heels first landing in Riyadh for contract appointments before ultimately finding their ways to western capitals for tenured appointments.

Not only did issuance of visas became the main duty and task of western embassies in Nigeria , they made a lot of money too.

We lost our best brains to foreign countries via brain drain galore. World class brains like Biodun Jeyifo, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Toyin Falola , Femi Taiwo and many others across different fields took to their heels.

Books no longer come in. Where they were available they were beyond the reach of both faculty and students . Libraries and bookshops on campus became empty. Our universities became hollow cathedrals and institutions of anything goes where hand outs became king and research a tale by moonlight. Values, ethics, knowledge and the quest for it took flight with the naira.

The consequences of that singular action remains with us and will be here for a long time to come.

Nigeria still pay dearly for the misadventure, even as IBB and the privileged class continued to ply their largesse of access into juicy contracts and awards – that turned an ordinary soldier into an obvious billionaire!

With one unpatriotic and self serving decision by IBB to introduce Structural Adjustment Program ( SAP) we got ourselves into a hole. How I wish we had stayed faithful to the economic nationalism of the earlier regime, give a bloody nose to IMF, and consume what we produced and produce what we consume. We would long have been out of the wood.

Many years after the smiling general we have made several leaps to get out of the hole and we have not yet been able to get completely out. We warned then as young men and women that SAP was not good for Nigeria’s health . Chief Falae and others failed to listen.

We lost our educational system. We lost our health sector. Our research institutions collapsed. Thinkers in philosophy , economics , sciences, social engineering became few in our midst the effect of which we are seeing today in all sectors of our national life.

I remember what Alhaji Yusuf Dikko, former IGP once said when asked to compare the Abacha and Babangida regimes. He said what Abacha did – financial theft and human rights abuses- could be corrected in a few years but the wrong committed by Babangida will take several generations to correct.

Today we are taking leaps to get out of the hole. We are not out yet. There are still many leaps to take to get us out. IMF should let Nigeria do it, and in the famous words of the then Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun- “Nigeria can make her own medicine” – without the blackmail.

No, her sovereign wealth fund is well managed under President Buhari, as IMF have finally conceded after the initial announcement that was confusing and we will make the best decision concerning fuel subsidies as we would currency valuation. Local solutions, for local problems. National pride must count for something.

Senator Babafemi Ojudu is the Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President and he writes from Abuja


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