While playing host on Tuesday to the president of Niger Republic, Alhaji Mahamadou Issoufou, in Daura, Katsina state, President Muhammadu Buhari directly responded to news that the Nigerian economy has officially come out of recession.
“I am looking forward to ensuring that the ordinary Nigerian feels the impact,’’ Buhari told journalists.
Simple, important message. If there was anything Nigerians hoped their president would have taken away from today’s good news, it was exactly that. Development must accompany growth.
Buhari’s response is particularly instructive considering the triumphal statement earlier made on Tuesday by his top media aide, Femi Adesina. Adesina, who addressed a solidarity rally in Abuja, claimed that Nigeria’s exit from the recession “shows that we have a government that is working for us. We have a government that is interested in our welfare. We have a government that is interested in our well-being. Recession came due to some mistakes of the past and in just about a year, the government battled it and today we are officially out of recession…’’
That’s the kind of unnecessary exuberance that Buhari needs to be wary of. As Bismarck Rewane, the Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Co. told Bloomberg after the announcement, the 0.55% GDP growth is “way below optimal,” and “insufficient to create more work for the 14.2 percent of Nigerians who want to work but can’t find jobs.” Rewane said the growth “is sustainable, but it means that a lot more work needs to be done and it’s too early to start celebrating.”
All the more reason why Buhari’s comments that the “real impact of coming out recession will be better felt when ordinary Nigerians experience a meaningful improvement in their living conditions” is commendable. Whether he is able to match his good talk with smart, decisive and inclusive actions is another matter altogether. But we will take the talk for now.