Commentary

RE: On Buhari’s asset declaration and economic productivity

When President Buhari’s assets were made public in September of 2015, I felt uneasiness about the portrayal of Mr. President as a man of integrity because of his ‘modest’ possessions.

I then wrote an article about the irrationality of equating his declared assets with integrity.

Contrary to attempts at presenting his material smallness as character strength, it was an ominous sign to what lay ahead for us as a nation. Now we know.

His ‘meager’ assets was not due to integrity, but to an innate incompetence and incapability coupled with high doses of mediocrity and small mindedness at harnessing human and material resources for economic productivity.

In essence, His declared assets did not show that he would be a successful leader at making the country economically productive.

Sadly, many of us who thought that way have been proved right, far beyond our wildest imaginations.

With the country in economic doldrums and the president seeking a second term, I have reproduced my article below, which was published in SAHEL STANDARD of September 2015.

ON ASSET DECLARATION BY PRESIDENT BUHARI AND VP OSINBAJO

The President and Vice President recently declared their assets, which has generated a lot of discussions and assessments.

Documents submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, show that prior to May 29 2015, President Buhari had less than 30million naira to his name.

He also had only one bank account, no foreign account, no factory and no enterprise. He also had no registered company and no oil wells.

He had shares in 3 companies, a farm, an orchard, and a ranch with about 270 head of cattle, 25 sheep, 5 horses, a variety of birds and a number of economic trees.

He also has 2 homes in Kaduna, 1 each in Kano, Daura and Abuja and 2 mud houses in Daura. The Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, declared a bank balance of about 94million naira and 900,000 United States Dollars in his bank accounts.

He also has some homes in Lagos and one in the UK.

The allusion is that because the president owns a mere 30million Naira, he is a man of modest means and therefore is not corrupt.

In essence they are saying president Buhari is not corrupt because he does not have a heavily loaded bank account.

However, what I fault is, equating the president’s seemingly low economic resources with probity and honesty.

I want to state categorically that his integrity is not the reason his assets are small.

His assets are small because his economic productivity is small. His deputy’s assets are commensurate to his productivity.

How productive was our president before assuming office? Financial prosperity is tied to economic productivity.

Nigerians should not be reduced to thinking that integrity is equal to scarcity or scantiness. There is nothing absolutely wrong or amoral for a president to have enormous wealth.

It is a free world where you prosper the way you want to as long as it is by the books. So we should not criminalize it. Lack of wealth or money is not synonymous with integrity.

I agree that many in Nigeria’s political class have robbed the nation of her wealth and have become extremely wealthy. Not even the president’s party stalwarts can be said to be innocent in this regard.

Nevertheless, what message is the president trying to pass across to us? How can they proudly tell Nigerians that the president does not have a registered company or enterprise?

Not even a business name or a Charity? How can he inspire young Nigerians to be enterprising? I am not talking just about monetary venture but also endeavours benefiting the society.

The picture being painted is that our president has very little because his integrity didn’t allow him to have much.

I disagree with this. Genuine wealth outside politics is tied to selling goods or rendering services. So, I think the little he has is just a true reflection of the fact that he was not selling goods nor rendering services that could have earned him plenty money.

There are many presidents who were very wealthy before becoming presidents because they were entrepreneurs and investors.

Some after leaving office engaged in humanitarian and philanthropic activities.

For instance the current president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko owns the largest confectionary empire in Ukraine which he built in the early 1990s.

He also has interests in construction and the media. (source BBC). Sebastian Pinera, Chile’s immediate past president and one of the world’s richest men and according to Forbes, is worth about 2.5billion dollars.

He was responsible for introducing credit cards to Chile in the 70s. Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, after leaving office set up the Carter Center in 1982, which works to advance human rights and alleviate human sufferings around the world.

Carter has been a leader in the fight against 6 preventable diseases including guinea worm and river blindness worldwide. Nigeria has been a major beneficiary of his philanthropy.

He has also written many books. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did not sit down idly after leaving office. They have been engaged in speaking engagements among others.

Clinton makes about $200,000 per speech while Bush averages between 100,000 and 150,000 dollars a speech and they have each given hundreds of speeches since leaving office [Source: Bloomberg].

If truth be told, our president invested, to put it mildly, very little, in the society before becoming president. We should have politicians whose scope of influence and affluence is beyond politics and government funds and therefore can be wealthy to the proportion of their genuine investment in the economy, the people and the land.

It does us no credit as a people that our president did not deliberately and consciously invest in people when he had so many opportunities. I wish our president had navigated the skillfulness of starting a business and operating an enterprise, see it weather difficult times, then grow and flourish.

I wish that the 250 cows were thousands because he had grown them over the decades, with a Dairy factory employing hundreds or even thousands, processing milk, butter, cheese, not only for the Nigerian market but also exporting to neighbouring Niger Republic and beyond.

I wish the CCB report stated that Buhari was an entrepreneur with a meat processing factory and a tannery, and that the tannery was employing hundreds of uneducated youths producing leather products which would earn them income.

I wish he had leveraged on his position as a former Head of State for goodwill and opportunities, and who knows, with his ‘integrity’ he might have secured investors to expand his businesses, not just because he needed to expand his bank account, but because he wanted to create employment opportunities especially for his kinsmen, who are among the most unemployed and poverty stricken in the country.

Faith Berewa on can be followed via: www.facebook.com/faithberewa
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