Japheth J. Omojuwa: Wailing Wailers, Buharists and Nigeria’s Disgraceful 2016 Budget


Before I address the essence of this piece, I will start by addressing the reaction. There are two main elements that are likely to ignore rationality when reading and commenting on this piece; the so called Wailing Wailers and the group of people who are still voting President Buhari despite the fact that he is already president. They are often both irrational groups who hold on to opposite sides of an issue mostly based on where they stood during the last polls.

Of the two, the Wailing Wailers are of course the most disgraceful, colourfully shameless and with zilch credibility. The reason being that, everything they criticize today, they once cheered and supported. Their only anger with anything today is that Goodluck Jonathan is no longer president. For most of them, they would cheer the stealing of billions of dollars, defend same and even protest if you start the prosecution process of the suspects, all because they supported Goodluck Jonathan. They do not love Nigeria and even if they wail from now till 2090, those who know better will never take them seriously.

The other group, those who are still voting President Buhari, are held back by the desperation not to be seen that they made a mistake at the polls. That is an unfortunate state to be in because of the two major options before Nigerians last year, Mohammadu Buhari was a no brainer. Goodluck Jonathan had supervised Nigeria’s longest oil boom, despite that, he left Nigeria with its lowest foreign reserve in a decade, less than 1000 MW of power supply, some 112 million poor souls, over 10 million school kids out of school, gargantuan corruption of which Nigeria would still be recovering the stolen funds 10 years from now.

Buhari was the better candidate of the two and Nigerians rightly settled that argument. What Buhari does with that mandate does not make the Nigerians who voted him the wrong party. If doing the right thing eventually results in a bad thing happening, you do not regret doing the right thing.

But Nigeria is bigger than the so called Wailing Wailers, Nigerians already proved that on March 28, 2015. End of. Nigeria is bigger than the Buharists too, Nigerians proved it three times before the 2015 elections. Buhari became president because non-Buharists voted him. Let this be clear before people get swept off by the wind and tide that swept Jonathan and his “best president ever” court of jesters.

The 2016 budget is a joke, a disgrace and a representation of the unwholesome reality of governance in Nigeria. What that budget simply shows is that we simply are not ready for the change we so mouthed during the last elections. Government officials are speaking of austerity measures and the need for Nigerians to make sacrifices, yet our Budget Office is proposing to spend some bizarre sums on some irrelevant, good for nothing materials that contribute zero-value to the average Nigerian.

The 2016 budget has N1 billion for the purchase of tables and chairs. We cannot introduce PDPian reality into governance and then pretend things have changed. N1 billion? For what? That amount will start a big furniture company with the capacity, not only to make enough chairs for the federal government, it will also create jobs. I don’t believe in government starting companies but I’d rather N1 billion spent that way than spent buying tables and chairs.

Almost N7 billion will be wasted on the Senate President’s residence and some joke consultancy distraction. If we want to run Nigeria down, let us be frank with Nigerians, instead of telling them now things will be different while continuing with the inanities that led us here in the first place.

As we speak, no one knows how the National Assembly spends its allocation. It collects its share and spends it without accounting to Nigerians. We can fool one another, but we cannot fool those watching from outside. So far, nothing has changed here! N4.8 billion has been proposed for operational vehicles for Nigerian Prisons. Let us assume these new vehicles are being bought in anticipation of the billionaires that will be jailed by president Buhari, should they then have access to the same exotic vehicles in prison as they did when eating out our collective wealth out of prison? N237 million was spent in 2015 – at least according to that budget – to purchase kitchen equipment for the state house. Now, another N89 million has been budgeted for same. How is it that kitchen equipment that cost almost N237 million cannot survive beyond a budget cycle? Haba!

We cannot stay repeating the same mistakes – should they be called mistakes if they happen every year? – and expect that somehow things will change for the better. The biggest indication of a government’s direction and intention is its budget. If this budget represents the change the APC promised, we might as well now agree that the disaster that was the “Transformation Agenda” has a match in the joke that this is turning out to be. The most part of this is that those who ought to speak are scared to speak out, they would rather speak angrily against the budget privately, then go into the Senate chamber to praise the very same document they tore apart just minutes before.

If we continue to make government about individuals, our country will not move an inch forward. What has been stated above about the budget is not a finger at who is wrong, it is a finger at what is wrong. The 2016 budget is wrong. Capital Expenditure at 30 per cent, despite an expanded budget essentially means the reality of recurrent expenditure against capital expenditure remains as it was under the Jonathan years. The difference is too marginal to be emphasized as “change.” President Buhari presented a great speech at the National Assembly when presenting the 2016 budget but if he had actually gone through some of the items in that budget, he would have instead sent those who prepared the budget to present it.

This is the first budget under a new party since the PDP’s 16-year reign. It was not expected to be markedly different from theirs because reforms need to be gradual to be sustainable, and to avoid shocks on the economy. Having said this, some items on the 2016 budget could easily have been avoided altogether. Lessons must be learnt, the Buhari administration must do better. If there is one thing this administration can learn from the last, it is this; those who are seen as critics are better than those who praise your every move. We cannot afford to get carried away by the praises of those who will not be there when we are out of power. Those who hailed the last president, as the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria could not even spend a few thousands to wish him a happy birthday just months after he left office. It is the nature of power, it is transient and it carries sycophants along with it, in droves.

Let it not be said that we did not speak when things go wrong. Let it not be said that our voices went dead when the very things we criticized under one government reared its head under another. The Wailing Wailers will say this is being done because people like us were not rewarded with government positions, but those with the power to share the offices know those who are begging them for same. And those who do not care who became what or didn’t. May we know to do better!

© JJ. Omojuwa

This piece is also in The Punch Newspaper of 3rd February, 2016