By UMAR SA’AD HASSAN –
For the second time in a presidential election, a lot of Nigerians are yet again saddled with a choice between two frontline contenders they would rather not vote for. President Buhari was elected into office largely due to public discontent with the Jonathan administration, not for any sterling quality he might have possessed. We were like that lady who had just suffered a heartbreak and sought comfort in the arms of another man. In the desperation to ease her pain and feel loved again, she allows his words to sweep her to the realm of no second thoughts.’Buhari will end Boko Haram in 2 months.’ Of course he could. He was an army general. ‘Buhari will make N1 equal to $1’. Yes, he lived in times when the exchange rate was just that. The man’s gross incompetence aside, a lot of people are now ashamed they fell for such words. To put Buhari’s performance in one sentence, it is the worst by any Nigerian president, dead or alive.
The very urgent need to rid ourselves of this administration has made separating the ideal from the pragmatic highly imperative. Many are going to vote for the PDP because they don’t want to take chances. They don’t want Buhari in office when his tenure lapses. The Sowores, Moghalus and Durotoyes would have stood a much better chance in a different time and under different circumstances.
At the start of Atiku’s campaign, as far back as 2016 (unofficially I must add),it only seemed possible he would be president not only if he was running against Buhari but also as his main opponent. He has managed to get himself in place.
Yet another president thrust at us by the discontent with an incumbent? Most likely. We are again the metaphorical heartbroken lady and Atiku has chosen ‘jobs’ as his soothing melody. Yet again, nobody is asking the comforter any questions.
With external debt having risen by $11bn to an unprecedented high of $22bn and President Buhari planning to take a fresh $3bn loan, how will Atiku create these jobs he talks about? A video was going round this week of his speech at Chatham House, London, and he spoke of engaging the private sector and proposing a mass recruitment drive on their end while they get some tax reliefs. Government’s lost revenue in taxes paid by those private companies, he intends to recoup in personal income taxes of the new employees. This reasoning is faulty and if it’s the best he can do, then it’s best we start to lower our expectations and console ourselves with the fact that he likely won’t turn out a leader to justify every agitation for a separate state with a 95%/5% dividend formula, or one who would tell us he needs to reward his loyalists instead of appointing competent hands.
Atiku’s private-sector partnership can’t generate more than 70,000 jobs at the very most for the simple reason that these companies are already going the extra mile to cut costs due to the harsh economic climate, and it would be catastrophic to keep cutting down government revenue to make it work.
To take him up on giving companies a tax rebate, Nigeria generated N680bn in the first six months of 2018 in company income tax. It is safe to say we will earn approximately N1.3trn off that by the end of the year. Say the Federal government gives a N300bn tax concession to these companies and each of about 70,000 employees make N720, 000 per annum at best and pay a personal income tax of N7, 200: if you multiply that by 70,000 employees you get N504m.How does losing N300bn and gaining N504m make any sense, especially in a place contending with reduced oil income which is its primary source amidst huge debt commitments? Governments in developed countries are in much better positions to grant concessions to companies to generate employment because they don’t face our type of problems. Simply put, they are richer and have less burden than us. If this administration doesn’t increase the minimum wage, Atiku would be pressurized to do that. More financial commitments!
Inasmuch as we all want to see Buhari leave, it is important we ensure we aren’t taken for fools or experimental lab rats. Atiku has been screaming jobs too loud not to get asked some very good questions on how he intends to make them happen.
Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.