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.

There is a good reason these issues are dominating the land­scape . They emanated from the table of President Muhammadu Buhari . And many, righty, can­not afford to trifle with the com­ments .Buhari-N-Metuh

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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