Paul odili says It’s uncharitable to blame Buhari for our economic woes
Paul Odili is a former media aide to former Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. In this interview with Southsouth Regional Editor SHOLA O’NEIL, he speaks on the prospects of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in next year’s elections.
Why did you leave the PDP for the APC?
The PDP lost its way; we could not fit into what the party became, despite doing our best to ensure victory at all levels. Suggestions were received with hostility; we saw a lot of suspicion, and frankly it became completely an unwelcoming place. We were marginalised to a point that if we wanted to continue to contribute to the political development of our people, we needed to find an alternative platform. The APC as a party was open and welcoming and willing to listen to suggestions on how to do things better. We also saw that the APC has a strong desire to do well for our people and the country. The economy is a sore point for Nigerians; they think the APC government’s policies led to the recession I am happy that the economic crisis is gradually receding and we are gradually seeing growth. It is uncharitable to blame President Buhari for the recession. How is he at fault? He came when oil prices were collapsing and oil production was falling at the same time. From $100 to $34 per barrel, 2.3million barrels of oil per day (bpd), to roughly 800,000bpd of production. There was no savings of any sort. No buffer. Foreign reserves had fallen to I think about $24billion, barely enough to ensure we continue to service imports. It is, I say again, uncharitable to blame President Buhari. Have we forgotten that shortly after assuming office many states could not pay salaries and he had to give bailout to states to enable them pay salaries. The Federal Government even before he assumed office was borrowing to pay salaries of federal civil servants. I find it difficult to fault the man. And what was the money used for? Nobody can say definitively. Was it used for infrastructure development? No, if it was, the situation might have being different. I really don’t know how the President can be blamed. Some say he should have acted quicker. In what sense, I am not certain. Here is a country that was importing virtually everything. From rice, palm oil, corn, toothpick and every other consumable and the oil prices that funds those imports were collapsing. What do you expect will happen? Let’s stop deceiving ourselves and listening to useless propaganda. Nigeria’s economy was not a productive one structured to cater for the needs of the people. This man came at a time we were in a hole and even digging ourselves deeper into the hole and he stopped us from further digging and to start filling the hole we were digging. For me, that is even an achievement. President Buhari is a serious minded leader and that is why I support him.
What’s your assessment of the performance of the past administrations?
The money was flowing into the coffers and flowing out at the same time. No savings and no strategic national programme and projects to wean us out of crude oil dependence. The result was the oil shock that spiral into economic contraction that caused recession. If refineries were working, perhaps we would not need to spend so much in importing fuel. If electricity supply was stable, industries would be operating at higher efficient level. If the railways system was in place and operating, movement of goods and service would be cheaper and affordable, and we can go on and on. Without these basic national infrastructures the economy was primed to collapse. People say before money was flowing, I agree it was. But was it flowing from any serious productive activity? We know the answer. It was not. We were importing, importing and importing everything under the sun. So, no, there was no plan to ease us off crude oil dependence.
How would you compare Uduaghan and Okowa’s administrations?
You cannot compare the two. Obviously, the two administrations have different agendas. The previous administration said its focus was to build an economy less reliant on oil and to invest in sectors that will ensure this happens. The current administration has a different agenda and from all appearances the programmes of the two administrations has not quite complemented each other and the result is that the state is not moving in a definable path. Mark you, each administration is free to prioritise its objectives and so Okowa’s administration can be explained that way. However, compared to the approach by President Buhari who having taken over is going ahead with many projects and programmes he inherited from the previous administration, fine-tuning them as he deems fit, I am not so sure that the current administration in Delta State is doing the same.