Femi Aribisala: What Exactly Is ‘Clueless’ About Goodluck Jonathan? (2)
I am the Chairman of Financial Nigeria International Limited. As chairmanships go, it is an honorary position. All the work is actually done by the Managing Editor, Jide Akintunde, who is really my employer; and his able assistant, Martins Hile. The company publishes Financial Nigeria magazine; a development and finance journal that provides an in-depth digest of the Nigerian economy and other frontier economies in sub Saharan Africa every month. I write a column in this on “Nigeria and the World.”
If you want to know what is happening in global development and various sectors of the Nigerian economy, presented from an objective and non-partisan point of view, you cannot do better than Financial Nigeria.
Over the past five years, Financial Nigeria has organised what we call the Nigeria Development and Finance Forum (NDFF). This colloquium is held in leading (financial) capitals around the world. The first three were held in London, England. Then we moved to Washington D.C., United States. The one of this year was held in New York, U.S.A. The purpose is to provide policy briefings and investment opportunities in Nigeria to the international community and Nigerians in the diaspora; and to tell them why we believe that Nigeria is now a major frontier market they need to come and invest in.
Financial Nigeria is a private non-governmental organization. We are neither backed nor financed by the government. But we contribute our widow’s mite to Nigeria’s development by showcasing Nigeria to the world. Therefore, we fly government functionaries, captains of Nigerian industries and other members of the Nigerian intelligentsia to these NDFF gatherings, and give them the platform to tell the world the changes that are now taking place back home.
Those who have participated at these sessions from Nigeria include Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Honourable Minister of Power; Dr. Sam Amadi, Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission; Dr. Kingsley Moghalu, Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria; Mr. Roberts Orya. M.D., Nigerian Export-Import Bank; Mr. Gimba Ya’u Kumo, M.D., Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria; and Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Chairman, UAC Nigeria Plc. The U.S. Department of Commerce has become one of our organizing partners for NDFF conferences in the United States.
Financial Nigeria would not be doing this every year if we did not believe Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is making a major difference to the Nigerian economy. We would not be doing this if we did not know that Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda is laying a concrete foundation for Nigeria’s economic growth and development.
When you point to the giant strides Nigeria is making under Goodluck Jonathan, in spite of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, some cynical Nigerians maintain you are either looking for a government “brown envelope,” or you want to replace Reuben Abati as the government spokesman. But I wonder who else is hankering after a handout from Goodluck Jonathan. Could Barack Obama also be looking for a job as our president’s press secretary?
At the U.S.-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum organised by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation of the Americas (NIDOA) in Washington DC in 2012, Obama acknowledged Nigeria is now a strategic centre of gravity in Africa, even proclaiming the country “the world’s next economic giant.” He declared U.S. readiness to invest in Nigeria’s success on a wide range of issues. This perspective cannot be divorced from the salutary measures put in place by the Jonathan administration.
Later that year, Obama sent Hilary Clinton, his Secretary of State, to Nigeria. Clinton’s visit was followed by the signing of a bi-national commission agreement to facilitate U.S.-Nigerian cooperation on issues of common concern and shared responsibility. It is on record that Nigeria is the only African country with whom the United States has signed this kind of agreement, and it did not take place until Jonathan became president.
Africa’s economic giant
Under Jonathan, the Nigerian economy has been growing at an average annual rate of 7%. After a number of postponements by previous administrations, the Jonathan administration re-based the Nigerian GDP. The new figures released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics indicate that Nigeria’s GDP is now $503 billion; nearly double the previous estimates. This means Nigeria has leapfrogged South Africa, whose GDP is around $350 billion, to become by far the biggest economy in Africa.
This has pushed Nigeria up by twelve places to become the 23rd largest economy in the world; level-pegging with Poland and Norway, but now ahead of Belgium, Venezuela and Austria. Some of the sectors that showed marked improvement include those where the Jonathan administration made judicious interventions: including agriculture, housing and (Nollywood) entertainment. This shows the government’s economic policy is well-aligned with the growth sectors, and it belies all the negative noises currently being made by the “born to rule” delusionists of the APC.
Nigeria’s emergence as Africa’s premier economy under Goodluck Jonathan is bound to give a filip to the economy by attracting even more foreign investment to Nigeria. Indeed, within the last three years, Nigeria has emerged as the preferred destination for foreign direct investments in Africa. For the second year running, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has ranked Nigeria as the number one destination for investments in Africa, and as having the fourth highest returns in the world.
The World Bank also forecasts that Nigeria will receive this year an inflow of $21 billion in remittances from Nigerians living and working abroad. This will place Nigeria as the top recipient of foreign remittances in Africa; followed by Egypt with projected remittances of $18 billion.
In addition, Nigeria became this year the first country in West Africa to host the World Economic Forum (WEF). It was the most successful forum of its kind in history, boasting a global reach of 2.1 billion people according to estimates. It raised $68 billion in investments for Africa, according to Dr Philip Rosler, the Managing Director of the Forum. Surely, these developments are not the outcome of “clueless” economic policies by the Jonathan administration.
In the agricultural sector, there is a major revolution unfolding under Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda. There is now more private investment in agriculture, including bank lending, than ever before. The new regime of fertiliser subsidy is well-targeted. Middle-men and ghost-farmers have been eliminated. Fertilizer distribution and allocation has been digitalised, thereby eliminating the fraud and nepotism that characterised the process in the past. Farmers now receive assistance in the form of loans, equipment on lease and seedlings.
The result has been dramatic. Under Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria has reduced its food imports by over 40% as of 2013, moving the country closer to self sufficiency in agriculture. The increase in food production has helped to stabilize food prices, driving down inflation into single digits. Today, Nigeria is now the largest producer of cassava in the world, with an output of over 45 million metric tonnes in 2014 according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina is determined to bring about a sea-change in the way Nigerians regard agriculture. The new operational philosophy is that agriculture must be seen as a business and not just as a means of livelihood.
In the capital market, President Jonathan is pro-reform and a firm supporter of institution-building. His support has been instrumental to the sustenance of the reforms instituted by the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arunma Oteh. These reforms have restored confidence to the Nigerian capital market in the aftermath of the crash of 2008/2009.
Today, the main index of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the All Shares Index, has surpassed its pre-crisis level. It is significant that the Nigerian capital market and the naira have held firm; unlike other frontier and emerging markets which experienced downturns when the reversal of capital flows followed the slowdown (or tapering-off) of the bond-buying programme of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States.
Under Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) was established by law to manage Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) as obtainable in almost all oil-producing countries of the world. This Fund of funds is an important assurance that Nigeria’s oil wealth will be trans-generational.
All indications point to the revival of the industrial sectors and the Small- and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) under the Jonathan administration. For example, FBN Capital, one of the leading financial services groups in Nigeria, avers in a recent report that there is “a dramatic increase in manufacturing growth” in the country. The pool of vocational skills to support the industrial sector is being developed with the revival of the Industrial Training Fund, National Power Training Institute of Nigeria and other vocational centres that are designed to provide manpower for the development of the industrial value-chain.
An industrial revolution has been re-ignited with the revival of automobile assembling plants in Nigeria under the leadership of the indefatigable Minister of Commerce, Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga and with the full support of President Jonathan. Under this administration, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company (IVM), Nigeria’s flagship indigenous automaker, began the sale of its first made-in-Nigeria cars and SUVs in August 2014.
Nigeria has now become a major destination for multinational investment in car manufacturing. Big auto giants, including Peugeot, Nissan and Hyundai, now either assemble, or entirely manufacture, their cars, SUVs, trucks and buses at various locations in Nigeria,
The evidence is overwhelming: “Clueless” Jonathan has revolutionized Nigeria in more ways than many have perceived or are willing to acknowledge. Under his administration, Nigeria has made and is making giants strides. Perhaps the administration should be blamed for not tooting its own horn more stridently. But the truth is that many people who are against South-South rule have simply been maligning the government. These attacks have no validity in fact.
Nigerians should not allow themselves to be deceived. There is no doubt that on the basis of merit alone, Goodluck Jonathan deserves another term in office. Few governments of Nigeria have been as purposeful as that of Goodluck Jonathan. (CONTINUED).
Article written by Femi Aribisala
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