Various stakeholders from all works of life within the polity have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for constituting an economic advisory council to replace the Economic Management Team chaired by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. The seven man council is populated by technocrats and tested economists, to be chaired by Prof. Doyin Salami, two former Economic Advisers to former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Professors Charles Soludo and Ode Ojowu (Soludo was later appointed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria), Dr. Shehu Yahaya, Dr. Iyabo Masha, Mr. BismarkRewane and Dr. Mohammed Shasagi who is a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Development Policy and Secretary to the Council.
When the news broke, it brought reminiscence of the Economic Team also constituted during the second term in office of former President Obasanjo. it was that of expectations and surprise, signaling the determination of President Buhari to take charge of the economy. Two of the council members were part of the Obasanjo economic team, Professors Charles Soludo and Ode Ojowu (though at different times) which also had Dr. Okonjo Iweala, Nasir el-Rufai (Executive Governor of Kaduna State), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Mansur Muhtar, former Debt Managemet Office Director General and later Minister of Finance among others.
The team then gave the economy a rebirth that saw the economy growing at 6/7 percent consecutively, and through their efforts Nigeria got debt relief from Paris Club and other creditor institutions. It was one of the post-independence glorious era of Nigeria that offered a new beginning. Sadly, the momentum and commitment was not sustained by succeeding regimes.
President Buhari’s initiative to bring on board, tested, independent minded and apolitical hands to advise and help him in steering the economic ship of the country and on issues concerning internal and global economic matters is indeed maverick.
The council is also expected to work with relevant cabinet members and heads of both monetary and fiscal authorities on economic growth and job creation. The President’s action is indeed timely and signals his determination to strengthen the economy by reconstituting the team, a departure from erstwhile appointments.
The composition and professional pedigree of the council members, capped with private and public sector experience, is welcoming as they are not known to be overtly associated with any political party except Charles Soludo who strayed into the turf few years back. Their independent mindedness not shackled with bureaucracy, hopefully, will help the Buhari administration achieve its objective. Just as it was during his predecessor time, the council is to report directly to the President.
Good as the composition is, political pundits have started to see the action as politically motivated, pointing at one or two as having political leaning with the opposition party or politicians. They pointed to some as having served the present administration in one capacity or the other, some Nigerians never get satisfied or appreciate laudable actions of government. However, what no one can take away from the President’s economic team is that they have proved their mettle in their various areas of endeavour and are better positioned to provide the President with good and sound economic advice.
As commendable as the President’s decision was, one essential part of the term of reference was the charge he gave to the team to work with relevant cabinet members as well as the monetary and fiscal authorities. The synergy everyone has clamoured for, is sound fiscal policies from the side of the government to complement whatever the Central Bank of Nigeria has been doing in the last five years.
The government has pledged to provide ten million jobs within the next 10 years while the CBN through its intervention development initiatives has assured Nigerians that it will continue to support the economy and has pledged to create 5 million jobs within the next 5 years. It is the hope of this writer that efforts will be harmonised to achieve these objectives.
The Council should work and synergise with the CBN on economic revival and diversification programmme and not allow ego and unnecessary bickering that later bedeviled the Obasanjo economic team to reoccur and put asunder the ultimate goal of constituting the team. Their mission is to rescue the Nigerian economy from stagflation and unemployment. The federal government too must give them unfettered empowerment to do the job. The council must, as a matter of necessity, meet to form a common front with the CBN, particularly on its intervention models in order to breathe life back into the economy and through it come out with an economic blueprint for the government.
Gbolahan Bidemi writes from Gwagwa, Abuja.