IT is merely stating the obvious to say that these are not the best of times for Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance. How can she be at ease with the latest report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicating that Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased to 17.1 per cent in July from 16.5 per cent in June? The CPI, which measured inflation, was 0.6 percent points higher from the points recorded in June. Even the onset of the harvest season has not started to have a significant impact on food prices. The silver lining behind the cloud though is that, going by the NBS latest report, prices have increased at a slower pace across a few groups within the food sub-index, including milk, cheese and eggs; oils and fats, as well as and fruits.
A day after the NBS report was released, Adesosun found herself confronted with tough questions on the performance of the economy, when she joined other ministers to brief State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which took place that day. There were others ministers there with her, including Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture) whose show the briefing was supposed to be; Audu Ogbeh (Agriculture) and Adamu Adamu (Education), but they were largely ignored because of the exigencies of the moment and Adeosun was kept on the line of fire. Question after question was put to her on the fate of ordinary Nigerians, whose lives are being shattered daily by the perceived poor handling of the economy.
While having the modesty to concede that the economy was in bad shape, as she put it, “times are confusing,” she nonetheless put up a spirited defence of the effort of government to steady the ship. Against the belief in some quarters, she insisted that the Federal Government is not confused about what to do with the worsening economic situation of the country. “It’s the worst possible time for us. Are we confused? Absolutely not,” she said. But she thinks that Nigerians must bear the pains until the economy gets its act together through the strategy government is putting in place.
Hear her: “I think that we have a long way to go. We’re not confused and we’re not deceiving ourselves that everything is rosy. It’s not. It’s a difficult time for Nigeria but I think Nigeria is in the right hands.”
The point is that too many people are suffering unbearably in the country as a result of the economic policies of government and the questions must be asked: does the government have the right policies? How much longer will it take for the policies to cause a turnaround in the fortunes of the suffering masses?
The former Ogun State commissioner may not be the only one responsible for the economy, but not surprisingly, she continues to collect the flak because her office initiates and oversees the implementation of the financial policies of government which, in just over a year, has seen the biggest economy in Africa deflated to a deep recession. She is therefore unable to escape blame from her vociferous critics. Also bothered by the situation, we (State House correspondents) could not gloss over the opportunity to take her to task over the problem such that even after the briefing, she spent a long time standing to offer more explanations to skeptical journalists.
Dino Melaye, ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial district, certainly believes that she is culpable and has consequently advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to relive her of the job because she seemingly has no capacity to deal effectively with the problem. She also managed to draw a fiery Twitter storm, when she described recession as just “a word” at a time it has become the most negatively impactful phenomenon on Nigerians. This suggests that she has a nonchalance approach to a very fundamental condition of the country. But her effort at damage control was even messier than the statement as she denied it, caused her Twitter account to be deleted only for a video to emerge of where and how she actually uttered the statement.
Despite that, one cannot but feel sympathy for her in her uphill task because even Adam Smith (1723-1790), the Scottish moral philosopher and pioneer political economist and author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations (1776), would have had challenges himself proffering quick solutions to the debilitating state of the Nigeria economy.