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Bola Ahmad Tinubu- The Corn Economist

The Nigerian economy is expected to grow by 3 per cent in 2023, according to the United Nations (UN). Nigerians are eagerly anticipating Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the new president’s private sector expertise and innovation to address some of the economic issues driving Nigeria into yet another round of recession.

Nigeria, with its rich cultural heritage, numerous ethnicities, stunning natural surroundings, and sizable population, continues to be the richest nation in Africa and the top GDP producer on the whole continent. According to Worldometer’s elaboration of the most recent United Nations data, Nigeria has a population of 219,767,935 as of Sunday, March 5, 2023. Nonetheless, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 63% of Nigeria’s population—more than 130 million people—live in poverty. They are already excluded from the economy. Most Nigerians believe the new president, Bola Ahmad Tinubu, will change the course of events this time.

Bola Ahmad Tinubu, 70, was proclaimed the winner of Nigeria’s most contested election since the end of military government in 1999 on March 1, 2023. Following the declaration of the victor of the presidential election on February 25, Nigerians are eagerly anticipating the new president’s private sector expertise and innovation to address some of the economic issues driving Nigeria into yet another round of recession.

A Nigerian politician who is currently Nigeria’s president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was previously Lagos State’s 12th governor (1999 – 2007). He formerly served as the Lagos West Senatorial district’s representative in the House of Senates (1993). Tinubu is a supporter of nationalism, democracy, and true federalism. The pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), of which he was a part, and its actions drew the trained accountant into General Sani Abacha’s sights. Sani Abacha was a military dictator who led Nigeria from 1993 to 1998.

Owing to his keen economic sense and concern for development, Bola Tinubu frequently wrote to former Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan and Ex-Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in November 2014 to inform them of the economic condition in Nigeria at the time. Tinubu said: “…Nigeria is mired in a long-term, secular depression. Forget the rosy GDP numbers. They signify a great economic and financial segregation between those who have and others who have not. If we continue with the policy preferences of the current administration, the haves shall become the “have–mores” and the “have-nots” shall become the “have even less…. The vast majority of the claimed GDP growth has fallen into the laps of those already enjoying obvious luxury. The rest of the people are left to gaze at the enormity of the income and wealth chasm separating them from the cabal orchestrating the discordant political economy. While a small group flourishes, the rest of the nation subsidises their economic bounty. A tight confederacy rides an economic skyrocket while the bulk of the people languish in the swamp. For one group,the economy is effervescent. For the other, it is catatonic. Nigeria is one nation with two economies.”

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Even though the campaign was protracted, challenging, and intense, Tinubu’s commitment to his “The Renewed Hope” action plan remained steadfast. Bola Ahmed Tinubu stated before the election that if elected his administration would bring the country’s industrial policy to life, and foster productive excellence in new areas such as the creative industry. He promised to invest in the power sector to provide affordable, reliable power to drive private sector business and aid industrialization across Nigeria, stressing that it would be difficult for the country to create jobs with the current power crisis. According to Tinubu, “There is no industrialization like we want it without constant supply of Power; it is the most important discovery of humanity in the last 1,000 years.”

If you have a contrarily answer show me, he said. We have all the energy sources that we can explore, we need long term funding, we have the capacity, the bankers are accountable to the shareholders, but we would find the funding to generate the required power to propel our economy.

Similarly, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, promised stakeholders at a Presidential Dialogue hosted by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) in Lagos in January 2023 that, if he were to win, the country’s economy will be driven by the private sector.

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During the campaign, Tinubu reaffirmed his commitment to tackling the fiscal, monetary, and trade reforms swiftly in order to effectively boost local production, reduce imported inflation, and improve macroeconomic stability by fostering inclusive growth and job creation across Nigeria.

He said, “I do not hold to the mainstream view that all forms of inflation are best tackled by interest rate hikes and shrinking the economy. Supply-induced inflation does not lend itself to this harsh medicine, just as one does not cure a headache by plucking out one’s eye.”

“I do not embrace the conventional wisdom that fiscal deficits by the national government are inherently bad. All governments, especially in this fiat currency era, run secular budget deficits. This is an inherent part of modern governance. The most powerful and wealthiest governments run deficits, as do the poorest nations.

“Fiscal policy will be the main driver. Monetary policy is weaker and a less effective instrument. Bad monetary policy is, of course, destructive. But even good monetary policy cannot carry the load the fiscal arm can. Thus, we must steadily remove ourselves from the fiction of tying our budgets to dollar-denominated oil revenues.

“This is effectively pegging our budget to a dollar standard. It is as outdated as the fuel subsidy itself. It is also restrictive and ties the economy to slow growth.”

The Corn “Agbado” Economy

At a Kano event to mark his 69th birthday on March 29, 2021, Mr Tinubu advised the federal government to recruit 50 million youths into the various security agencies to tackle worsening insecurity. “Recruit 50 million youths into the army, what will they eat? Cassava, corn, yam, will grow here,” he said. But, among Nigerians, who claim that the presidential hopeful is out of step with present-day economic realities, the statement has become the subject of ridicule. However, Agbado, which is referred to as corn in Yoruba, is the main grain and it produces a variety of by-products. Food security is referenced in Tinubu’s “Agbado” and “Cassava” remarks.

Although, Nigerian governments have developed a variety of strategies over time to guarantee the nation’s food security. In truth, the country’s governmental focus has centered on agriculture since the 1960s. The country’s agricultural strategy includes measures based on surplus extraction and export adaptation in 1963; the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAAP) in 1972 under General Yakubu Gowon; Operation Feed the Nation under General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976; a Green Revolution under Shehu Shagari in 1980; and Goodluck Jonathan’s Growth Enhancement Scheme in Nigeria in 2008, which revolutionized the country’s value chains for agriculture under his leadership.

Tope Fasua, a Nigerian economist, wrote a commentary titled The 7 grievous sins of Bola Ahmed Tinubu that outlined the ‘Agbado’ economic tenets of the Nigeria’s new leader. He remarked: “And so, when Tinubu spoke about employing 50 million youths to tackle our insecurity problem, because according to him ‘we need to reduce the source from which terrorists recruit new members’, Nigerians mocked him for saying that the Agbado (corn) and cassava that the youths will eat is grown here. Again, Nigerian youths missed the point. There is no way we will solve our insecurity crisis except we mass mobilise our youths to do the job. And so, this is an opportunity, indeed, to solve the unemployment and insecurity crisis in one fell swoop. The proposal demands deep scrutiny rather than mockery. Maybe what we should be looking at is 10 million or 15 million youths taken off the streets to solve our existential problems, but I think the man has hit on something critical; our government must hand over power, and ownership of this country back to the youths. The insight and experience of older people is useful at the level of politics, leadership and wisdom, but the operationalised aspect of fixing the nation is fully a matter for the youths of Nigeria to tackle. I can even give a back-of-the-envelope calculation of where this employment may come from; we need at least five hundred thousand teachers if we are to tackle the phenomenon of 13 million out-of-school children. We need a massive social security system that takes children off the streets and keeps them in school and this can take out another 300,000 young Nigerians to do the job nationally. We need millions of people taking care of and obsessing over our physical environment and therefore creating a new outlook and reputation for our country through trees, grass, flower planting and maintenance. We need a national task team around plastic pollution. We need millions of new workers to boost our police, immigration (to stop this nonsense whereby anybody walks into Nigeria unchecked and at will from anywhere), civil defence, the Department of State Services (DSS) and indeed the Armed Forces, and so on. The real impediment to employing these much-needed millions of our youths is because our leaders cannot bring themselves to pay the humongous monies involved in such a critical investment. That it is a good, and in fact, inevitable investment is not in question. We just need to check for ghost workers, using technology.”

The 2019 Nigeria Presidential candidate for the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) said further: “I asked him about this the last time we saw and told him plainly that it was a dangerous idea on several fronts. First, it is about de-dollarisation. From what I have heard so far, the Americans don’t play with their currency. They can tell you to devalue yours, but you try to hurt theirs at your own peril. Tinubu has espoused it several times that we needn’t have to sell crude oil, realise the dollars, change these back to naira, before paying the salaries of those who do tangible work, especially in the public service. He believes that if we assert the sovereignty of the naira, then we can employ quite a few of those we need to employ to turn around our fortunes. The downside to this is that printing more naira to pay salaries will drive inflation. I think one of the things government could do in the interim is to really engage the youths in the production of the real things that we need. We don’t have to apologise to anyone about this strategy. By being productive beyond the primary products that we are currently stuck with, we can visibly reduce the dependence on foreign products, and the constant search for the US dollar. Our currency may do better, and inflation may trend down because money will circulate more here in the country.”

“Tinubu has specifically mentioned and several times too, in his colloquia, that there is a need to moderately close the economy to the influx of imports, to give Nigeria a breather to organise herself and be able to produce the things our people need. He stated clearly that this is what the developed nations did. And he is very right. Remember the Tea Party? It was the culmination of resistance by the Americans to the dumping of goods on the new world, and it marked the beginning of the American Revolution.”

Hence, the Nigerian economy is expected to grow by 3 per cent in 2023, the United Nations (UN) has said. The UN, in its 2023 World Economic Situation and Prospects report published on its website, said high inflation and power supply issues are impacting growth in Nigeria. Similarly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has upgraded Nigeria’s economic growth projection to 3.2 percent in 2023. The latest forecast is 0.1 percentage point higher than the 3.0 percent earlier projected in its October 2022 report.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s economy grew by 3.6% in 2021 from a 1.8% contraction in 2020, underpinned on the supply side by 4.4% expansion in the non-oil sector against 8.3% contraction in the oil sector; non-oil growth was driven by agriculture (2.1%) and services (5.6%). On the demand side, public and private consumption were contributors to GDP growth. Per capita income grew by 1.0% in 2021. The fiscal deficit narrowed to 4.8% of GDP in 2021 from 5.4% in 2020, due to a modest uptick in revenues, and was financed by borrowing. Public debt stood at $95.8 billion in 2021, or about 22.5% of GDP. Annual average inflation stood at 17.0% in 2021 against 13.2% the previous year and above the central bank’s 6–9% target, according to African Development Bank Group (AfDB). African Development Bank or Banque Africaine de Développement is a multilateral development finance institution headquartered in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The World Bank indicated that Nigeria’s economic growth has slowed on the back of declining oil output and moderating non-oil activity. Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 3.1 percent year-on-year (y-o-y) in the first three quarters of 2022, little more than the annual population growth of 2.6 percent. Also, between 2015–2021, Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC said “GDP growth averaged 1.1 percent as the country experienced two economic recessions. Unemployment and underemployment rates increased to an all-time high of 56.1 percent in 2020, pushing 133 million Nigerians into multidimensional poverty (NBS, 2023). Also, economic growth has not been inclusive, and Nigeria’s economy faced key challenges of lower productivity, and the weak expansion of sectors with high employment elasticity.

In conclusion, as the report noted, “to domesticate industrial production, a Tinubu administration will encourage international manufacturing companies to produce what we import domestically, in the conviction that laws such as the Local Content Law will oblige backward integration and transfer of knowledge to Nigerians. With agriculture and industry driving a new phase of the Nigerian economy, the additional impetus from the new measures to be introduced in energy, transportation, technology, health and education will generate the surplus needed to tame inflation, strengthen the Naira and put the economy in faster track.”

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