DAILY POST——The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has disagreed with those calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to stop laying blames on the past administration for the present woes of the country, asserting that “yesterday remains relevant in understanding today in order to make choices that will make tomorrow different and better.”
Fashola, who spoke while delivering a lecture titled: “Leadership and the Politics of Reform in Africa: Lessons from Nigeria” at the Wilson Centre, Washington D.C, United States, buttressed his position by citing an instance with physicians, who would usually ask a patient complaining of stomach pain what he or she ate the previous day.
Buhari had blamed the previous administrations for the current unpalatable state of the Nigerian economy, but activist Catholic bishop believes that “the previous government did not only do bad things; he did a lot of good things. We did not vote a government to complain about yesterday. If we wanted yesterday, the new government would not be there. It is really about taking responsibility”.
The PDP also rose in defence of the Jonathan administration, saying the poor handling of the economy, lack of vision and incompetence of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is responsible for the current recession. It urged the Buhari administration to stop the blame game and urgently “look inward towards resolving the recession by inviting economic experts irrespective of their political leaning to join hands with the administration at these trying times”.
But Fashola maintained that a situation “where the government chose to distribute cash, rice and imported kerosene in order to win votes, rather than invest it in the payment of contractors, got them to build roads, power projects, housing and real infrastructure,” were some of the factors responsible for today’s economic recession.
“In Nigeria, the choices of yesterday make this winter a very harsh one for our people, because we did not invest in the right things.
“Our government of yesterday expressed its preference for providing ‘infrastructure of the stomach’, giving handouts instead of real infrastructure.
“This is how the seeds of today’s recession were sown. For those who say that today’s government should stop talking about yesterday, with due respect, I disagree.
“Yesterday will remain relevant in understanding today in order to make choices that make tomorrow different and better.
“I once used the allegory of the patient, and I think it deserves repetition. If a patient complains about stomach pain, the first question that the physician is likely to ask is: ‘What did you eat yesterday?’
“The answer helps the physician make a diagnosis and choose a prescription first to solve the problem, and to recommend further dietary habits about what to eat and what not to eat. This is what the current leadership is addressing.”
Insisting that what Nigerians ate yesterday was “that we wasted our money”, the minister said: “We did not invest in roads, highways, bridges, schools and hospitals. Money was taken out of the larger society and invested in private accounts. The economy began to shrink, construction companies laid off workers, who in turn lost income, which resulted in shrinking demand for goods and services, and in turn led to national under-productivity.
“That was what we ate yesterday. The stomach pain is comparable to symptoms of bad dietary choices that manifest in the recession we now deal with.
“The solution is to spend on infrastructure, which has started. The recovery time is a function of what we can spend and how quickly it will go round… If an arid area of land has not witnessed rainfall in two to three years, you know what happens when the first rain falls. It literally disappears into the ground.
“In order to reach a point where any moisture is visible in the soil that may support the germination of a seed to be planted, more rain water needs to be injected. This is the best analogy I can offer for where our national economy is.”
The former Lagos governor, however, expressed optimism in the capacity of the present government to turn things around for the good of the country.