An economic policy in a lay man’s term is the actions taken by the government to determine the level of taxation, budget allocation, interest rates, money supply, labor market, national assets, and general intervention of government in the economy. Most of the times, these policies will be influenced by international organizations such as World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and international politics etc. Some nationalist government will reject external influences and implement policies as deemed fit for the country.
Every government has an economic policy therefore having an economic policy is not the issue but making one that works. In a country like Nigeria, several governments have come up with several economic policies and programs but I dare say that just a few has worked. While the intentions might be right, the reality is different. In my personal analysis of all the economic policies, programs and strategies that have been implemented by the Nigerian government since independence, the one that has really worked were the policies implemented under the regime of General Muhammadu Buhari. These set of policies are now referred to as ‘BUHARISM’ by economists.
Buharism refers to the economic principles and political ideology implemented during the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari between 31 December 1983 and 27 August 1985. Many economics and political commentators classify Buharism as fascism. While this is not entirely true, it is important to state that it contains several elements of fascism in it. These enabled it to implement a huge amount of austerity measures in other to get the nation back on its feet.
Some of the Austerity Measures Taken by the Regime Were:
1. The freezing of accounts of political parties and corrupt ex-political office holders in the Second Republic in 1984
2. 15 percent cut from Shagari's 1983 Budget
3. Reducing the balance of payment deficit by cutting imports
4. The clamp down on economic saboteurs with the legal backing of the Miscellaneous Offences Decree No. 20 of 1984
5. The initiation of counter trade in Petroleum products in May, 1984.
6. The setting up of taskforce to check bunkering as a result of expert's estimation of a loss of one million Naira a day under the civilian government
7. The slashing of the basic travelling allowance (BTA) from N500 to N100 per annum in 1984.
8. The introduction of N 100 airport special levy for travelers going outside Africa.
9. The imposition of a levy on dormant companies
10. The halving of civil servants' leave entitlement in January, 1985
11. The trial and conviction of ex-politicians who illegally enriched themselves or their political parties
12. The encouragement of self-sufficiency in agricultural food production etc.
Almost everyone accepts the fact that Buhari took over a country that was in economic shambles. The Shagari-Ekwueme’s government literally brought the economy of the country to its knees which necessitated the military takeover. While many will argue about the moral aspect of the military taking over a legitimate government, the concern of this article is the economic correctness of the Buhari regime.
It is important to note that the austerity measures taken by General Buhari and his economic think-tanks is just a preamble of the actual economic ideology of the government as many anti-Buhari commentators would stipulate. The austerity measures taken were just an urgent but a necessary and a ‘righteous’ step taken to save the economy of the country.
Buhari took the step that no other President or Head of State in Nigeria could have taken. It was a dangerous one that could have set the country against the Western Powers. But it was ‘righteously implemented’ else it would have back fired before it took off.
The economy of Nigeria was in a great mess to the extent that it was required to devalue its currency under what was to be latter known as the Washington Consensus in other to be at peace with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Washington Consensus states that for an economically-wrecked country to improve its balance of payments successfully, the currency of such a country should be devalued. Buhari could have easily obliged to this and devalued the Naira but instead he believed that there must be a more superior alternative for the wrecked-economy of Nigeria.
Instead of devaluing the Naira in other to trade with other countries, Buhari encouraged and improved exports through counter trade policy. The government started cracking down on oil bunkering and using the illegally bunkered crude-oil to trade by barter with other countries and getting needed goods such as machineries in return. During this period Nigeria exported crude-oil exceeding the quota allocated to Nigeria by OPEC. Furthermore, the government started curtailing importation of what it tagged ‘needless goods’ in order to stop capital flight.
With all these strategies in place, the government of General Buhari was able to drastically reduce the Nigerian balance of payment deficit defiling contrary opinions by the World Bank and IMF. Can you pause for a while and shout “…wow…!”
That is not all though. The core of Buharism is in aligning economically with other African Countries and Asian countries as it believed that Nigeria and these countries has a lot in common and can align more strategically to improve their welfare. This is against the ‘boot-licking’ of Western Governments by the previous administrations which continues till this day. Buharism believed in Nationalism therefore it implemented economic policies that necessitated a drastic change from an economy dominated by the political class to one that encouraged the emergence of a nationalistic class. It encouraged the domination of the patriotic class who considers not personal aggrandizement but such that holds the interest of the nation supreme. The economic policy cracked down on economic-rent seekers and supported the productive class.
Any Nigerian, especially the average and hard working class like my late Father would never cease to sing praises for the Buhari-Idiagbon regime. My late Father though a core and ardent Igbo man who would not buy even a single plot of land in Abuja always told us another synonym for Change is Buhari, perhaps not necessarily Buhari in person but a Buhari in principles.
Let me state categorically, that the opinion expressed in this article is based on my understanding of the economic principles and ideologies that underpinned the short-lived General Buhari’s regime, which I still consider to be the most supreme economic action ever taken by any head of state in Nigeria. It is by no means a campaign for the Presidential aspiration of General Muhammadu Buhari.
The part 2 of this article would be coming up next week in which I would further espouse on the political undertones of the administration and why Nigeria missed a golden opportunity to change for the better.
Chinedu Nnanweuba is an entrepreneur and the author of 2 books; Imbibe Entrepreneurship
and Miltonomics: Economic Principles for Sustainable Development in the 21st Century.
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Twitter: Chinedu Nnanweuba @ApexStrategist