By IHEANACHO NWOSU
THERE is a new buzz in town . The country is broke and cannot pay some ministers. In addition to that, not all the minister designates will be given portfolios . These are tales swarming the political space. They appear not ready to fizzle out soon.
In the last one week the President has spoken twice on the issue. First was during his recent visit to India where he participated at the India-Africa Summit, which took place in New Delhi. He re-emphasized it last Tuesday when he played host to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who was at Aso vila to present the list of ministerial nominees who scaled Senate’s screening.
According to Buhari, Nigeria is indeed broke and is at the moment struggling to pay workers salaries . As a result of the new realities he declared that in the coming days he would have to prune the number of ministries to enable his government pay salaries.
He said “Where is the money? You must have known that the Federal Government has to help 27 states out of 36 to pay salaries. Nigeria cannot pay salaries; the Federal Government itself has to summon the Governor of Central Bank on how it could pay salaries, not to talk of projects, agreements were signed with other countries on counterpart funding and so on.”
Buhari’s comment has drawn reactions from diverse circles . The reactions were not unexpected. What perhaps seems astonishing is that the comment served as a new platform for political gladiators from different divides to renew their battles.
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the first to go for the jugular of the President over the comment. It accused Buhari of demarketing Nigeria .
National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metu contended that the consistent claim by the President that Nigeria’s economy was in poor shape was taking a huge toll on the image f the country.
Metu said “it is worrisome that in the last six months, the President, instead of making efforts to harness resources and grow the economy, has rather continued to apply himself, perhaps unwittingly, to demarketing the nation and scaring away investors through negative labelling of Nigerians and unwarranted unhealthy portrayal of the nation’s economy”.
where millions of honest and hardworking individuals/firms are genuinely contributing daily to the development effort, is indeed a disservice and injurious to the nation and the people.
“Furthermore, Mr. President’s recent announcement to the world that the nation, with its abundant human and natural resources, is broke and cannot pay cabinet ministers not only sends a discouraging signal to the domestic and international business community, but also exposes the ineptitude of the present administration to meaningfully and sincerely exert itself and work with industrious and innovative investors to create and manage wealth.
“We ask; how can any reasonable investor still have the confidence to invest in a country where the President himself continues to alert that his country reeks of corrupt people and that the government is broke to the extent it cannot pay cabinet ministers?
“Is the President not directly advising investors against having confidence in Nigeria and the system, and that they risk not being paid for jobs awarded by government at any level?
“More worrisome is the fact that Mr. President most times, makes his damaging comments in international fora with potential investors in attendance to the extent that reminds one of the proverbial father who, in the presence of potential suitors, often portrays his daughters as wayward and yet constantly complain of their inability to find husbands.”
The party did not stop there. It further argued “Indeed, this is not the way to go, Nigeria is a country blessed with abundant human and natural resources. What we need at the moment is a serious, innovative and practical approach with the capacity to harness the resources and create wealth for the benefit of all, instead of an apparently laidback scapegoat tactics with outworn excuses and unhelpful comments.
“May we remind Mr. President that even in the darkest period of our economic challenges, successive administrations made efforts in steadying the economy, while always reassuring our citizens and the international community of the strength and economic potentials of our great nation.
The Presidency was peeved by the PDP’s criticism . So also was the leadership of All Progressives Congress(APC). They descended PDP and took it to the cleaners. They accusing PDP of overseeing the raping and bleeding of the country’s socio-economic life .
Presidential spokesman , Femi Adesina while likening Metu to a broken record said the President would not be distracted by the opposition party’s allegations.
Adesina said, President Buhari will continue to say the truth which endeared him to Nigerians and made them prefer his leadership to that of a lying and deceptive PDP administration. He insisted that, the President will not, in the guise of marketing Nigeria, or “attracting” investors, follow in the footsteps of the PDP Administration and its discredited officials who ‘shamelessly lied to Nigerians and the world about the buoyancy and vibrancy of an economy they had bled dry for personal gain.’’
National Publicity Secretary of APC, Lai Mohammed took the denigration of the opposition party to a new height by describing Metu and his party members as noisemakers. He stressed that there were statistics to back the position of government that PDP government left a huge rot in the economy and the polity generally .
National publicity secretary of Conference for Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) , Osita Okechukwu, equally came in defence of President Buhari. He declared that President Buhari’s statement that Nigeria was broke was a true statement of fact that does not in anyway harm the socio-economic affairs of Nigerians.
He said “Rather, President Buhari is sincerely letting the world know that a man with credible integrity quotient is in charge of the helm of affairs in Nigeria today. This is not in any way negative, but will in every particular way enhance trust and build confidence on Foreign Direct Investors.
“The reality is that no amount of self-denial or propaganda will hide the decay of physical and social critical infrastructure in Nigeria, and the unfriendly business environment consequent upon the rot simulated by unbridled and pervasive corruption of the last decade. This is common knowledge to the international community,”
The division of opinions that have trailed the President’s statement that Nigeria is broke is equally being visited on his pronoucemet that not all the ministers would be given portfolios and that the country does not have enough resources to pay all the ministers.
While some are home with the President’s proposition that he may prune the number of ministers , not a few are waiting to see how he would deny some of the 37 ministers he appointed portfolios without flouting the law. This is because the constitution mandates him to pick a minister from all the states.
Outside what the constitution says, which state will be happy to watch its representative be on the cabinet without a portfolio? The assurance by the President last Wednesday that all the ministers would be handed portfolios may have been induced by the barrage of criticisms that trailed hs earlier position. He will still incur the wrath of many if he maintains his position that there is no money to pay ministers.
Jilt Ogunye, lawyer said the President can’t say he will not pay ministers . He also argued that it will be untenable for the President to anchor his decision to prune the number of ministers on the fact that they cannot be paid. There are many who hold similar views with Ogunye . The next few days when President Buhari is expected to swear-in the ministers will tell if he woll pander to the growing opposition to his plans on the matter.
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