Sunday, 24 September 2017

"When you look at the various indicators, you will know that the country is still deeply in recession"........ Prof. Abubakar Suleiman

A former minister and politician, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, granted Punch an interview recently, where he talked about the country, embattled former Minister of petroleum, Diezani, among others. Excerpts......

On if Nigeria is really out of recession........
The government of the day, out of their own propaganda and a way of impressing Nigerians and the international community, could find it convenient to posit that the country is out of recession. But when you look at the various indicators, you will know that the country is still deeply in recession. There is nothing that was there last year that has really changed. There could be slight improvement and there could be some kind of fluctuation. Yes, today perhaps the exchange rate has calmed down, but it is fluctuating. It has not come to stay. It has not stabilised; inflation rate is still on the increase. The investment profile has not really improved. So when you look at those things that qualify an economy to be in recession, they are still very much there. Since they are still there, I do not believe that the country is out of recession yet. Yes, even though we are a party in opposition and I belong to the party in opposition, when a country is in recession, either you are in opposition or in government, a Muslim or a Christian, we all feel the pinch.

It is our prayer and our hope that we get out of recession. But we will only come out of recession if we are able to advance our facts and figures in a way that they will not deceive the international community and our sympathisers that are there to assist us. Nigeria is still in recession. Joblessness is still on the increase. Inflation rate has not changed. The exchange rate keeps on fluctuating. It has not gone back where it used to be when we left government. Starvation is still there. The banking sector is not improving. There is nothing to show that we are out of it.

On if the government is actually fighting corruption....................
I keep on saying that what this government is doing is not fighting against corruption. What we have been experiencing since this administration came on board is a fight against perceived enemies. What we are experiencing, so far, is propaganda to further decimate the opposition party. What is happening in Nigeria is not fight against corruption. If it is fighting against corruption, the questions are: Has the Nigeria Police Force stopped collecting of ‘tips’ on the street? Have lecturers stopped collecting ‘tips’? Have average civil servants changed their attitude towards corrupt practices? Recently, the National Bureau of Statistics said, for the last one year, the number of civil servants who have collected bribes is on the increase. The NBS is a government agency. So, nothing has changed.

There is nothing to show that what Buhari’s government has been doing is a fight against corruption. Most of us are not even corrupt but are being adjudged by the government of the day as being corrupt, thus creating an impression before the public that they took government from us because we were corrupt: ‘You can see the figure of the money they took.’ If anybody is not a case study, I am a case study. Nigerian people are very intelligent but appear to be gullible. We take everything from the government, especially a government that claims to have integrity – whatever they say is final. Some of us do not even read between the lines. Out of the many cases they took to court, they didn’t win one. 
If they are fighting corruption, based on the various revelations, even from the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, and the Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, are their no allegations of corrupt practices against them? What are they doing about that? When you look at it all over, you see that the essence of the anti-corruption posture of this government is to decimate the opposition and give an impression that people of the (Goodluck) Jonathan administration are corrupt people. It is a policy of extinction from the political space and you have to justify it. 

On if Diezani is corrupt......

I cannot speak for Diezani. You must know that Jonathan inherited her from (Olusegun) Obasanjo and (Umaru) Yar’Adua’s governments. She has not spoken on most of these allegations. She has not appeared before any court of law to defend herself, so it would be unfair on my own side to speak on whether she is guilty or not. Yes, the revelation is shocking and worrisome, but it will be unfair for me as an intellectual and a Muslim to now pass blame on whether she is right or wrong. One thing you must know is that Diezani was never a poor person before she came to government. She worked with Shell Petroleum. She was in money before she came on board as a minister to the best of my knowledge. So, to just make a sweeping condemnation, believing that everything forfeited or identified as Diezani’s property or assets are ill-gotten, I do not think that is fair enough. But the revelations are worrisome, mind-boggling. It took a lot of people by surprise, including me but again, we should still give her the benefit of the doubt.


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