By Maiwada Dammallam: No gainsaying we are in the season of fake mouthwatering promises by politicians. This much is the case when last week PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, invaded the city of Katsina charioting Trojan horses; making senseless promises and “political donations” rather than apologize to Katsina electorates and explain why the administration he served as VP failed to impact their lives significantly. High on the cheers of the rented crowd, Atiku went berserk uploading promises that at best, were hallucinatory. At worse, a clear determination to reverse the gains achieved by the present administration to make the lives of Nigerians better or at least bearable.
As reported by Daily Trust (21/12/22), Atiku Abubakar, has vowed to reopen all Nigerian borders if elected president in 2023. Atiku stated this while addressing thousands of supporters at the Muhammadu Dikko Stadium in Katsina during a campaign rally. DT quoted Atiku thus:
“It is part of our promises to return peace and security and also revamp the economy. I will therefore reopen all Nigerian borders.”
I find this vow very irritating and overly insulting to the good people of Katsina State. That Katsina is a border state and expectedly, prone to smuggling activities, Atiku only attempted to deceptively entice the sizable community of economic saboteurs involved in smuggling activities to push forward his presidential ambition without recourse to the dangers of smuggling on the Nigerian economy and of course, without recourse to the sensibilities of the people Katsina State who, unlike Atiku, are very aware that all closed land borders in Katsina State and elsewhere are now opened for legitimate businesses since April 2022. How will Atiku open what’s already opened and how will Atiku revamp the Nigerian economy by opening Nigerian borders wider than they are today?
That it’s unlikely for Atiku Abubakar to be unaware that Nigerian borders are now reopened for legitimate businesses says only thing, he’s not talking about opening Nigerian borders for legitimate businesses but planning to open the borders for illicit businesses and unpatriotic activities. This, Nigerians should be wary about while appreciating the necessity of closing the borders at some point by the Buhari administration to sanitize cross-border activities with a clear intention to protect the Nigerian economy. President Buhari did not close Nigerian borders because he’s sadistic and wanted to inflict unnecessary hardship for Nigerians. It was to help check the dangerous activities of smugglers who are sabotaging government efforts to make Nigeria achieve among other things, a drug and weapon free Nigeria, sustainable agricultural self-sufficiency with the multiplier effect of job creation as richly embedded in the agricultural value chain which hitherto was recklessly neglected.
Let me explain a bit. The illegitimate smuggling business Atiku is planning to re-introduce by “re-opening” (read: legitimizing smuggling activities), is the reason why Nigeria is overly dependent on imported goods. It’s the reason why Nigeria drains its foreign reserve by importing as little as toothpicks and tomato pastes rather than exporting especially finished agricultural products to achieve a more respectable balance of payment which in turn, will support Nigeria’s industrialization and greater international respectability and economic buoyancy and stability.
Being careless with items imported into Nigeria as proposed by Atiku would only lead to the killing of local industries with the attendant consequence of creating unemployment because, for instance, the rice mills in Thailand, India and China will continue to employ millions of youth in these countries while denying Nigerian youths employments as farmers and workers of rice mills, tomato paste factories etc. How Atiku missed this elementary economic principle, I don’t know.
The Buhari administration identified this serious economic disaster for what it is and closed Nigerian borders to encourage local farmers, improve productivity, creates jobs in the agricultural value chain with a clear view to revamp the Nigerian economy. Just how is reversing this bold effort a step forward in revamping the Nigerian economy as not only seen by Atiku Abubakar but made an agenda to implement when and if elected? Is Atiku Abubakar fighting for the Nigerian economy by lifting the ban on the exportation of imported PMS subsidized for the benefits of poor Nigerians and importation of rice and some selected items which importation has been accurately identified by experts as adversarial to the economic development of Nigeria?
Isn’t Atiku being deceptive by promising to revamp the economy of Nigeria on one hand while on the other he’s planning to reduce Nigeria to a dumping ground for finished goods which will kill local industries beside creating unemployments? That’s not to mention Atiku turning Nigeria into the end destination of dangerous weapons with which to further worsen the already bad security situation his PDP hurriedly left behind in 2015 — something the present administration is still fighting to defeat because of its complexity.
Is it not obvious that importation of rice is one and the same with supporting a foreign economy against the local economy? Simple economic logic should tell one that the rice mills in Thailand, India and China are offering jobs for millions of youths in these countries. Then, why shouldn’t Nigeria ban the importation of rice to force Nigerians back to farm doing which will automatically have investors opening new rice mills that could employ Nigerian youths? Will Atiku say with all sincerity he’s not aware of the new rice mills springing up where hitherto there were none in almost every community especially in Northern Nigeria? Is reversing this feat what he sees as revamping the Nigerian economy? Perhaps, Atiku is from planet Uranus where economic principles works in reverse.
Despite being a “career-presidential candidate, it’s obvious Atiku is not ready for the job given his very poor understanding of the most basic economic principles on which Nigeria and indeed all countries must adopt and apply to the fullest for progress or at least survivability. The economic fate of Nigeria should not be allowed to stagnate just to allow Atiku experiment his bizarre economic principles. Nigeria is not a giant political laboratory for desperate politicians to experiment with. Ditto, the position and criticality of Nigeria in the global socio-political and economic equations is bigger than to be ruled by the fate and convenience of few economic saboteurs who survive on illegal cross-border activities against that of millions of patriotic Nigerians who will be denied job opportunities and chances to earn legitimate livelihoods by revamping the Nigerian economy through pragmatic approaches like the temporary closure of borders to give local industries a chance of computing with their mates elsewhere.
Atiku Abubakar is the least to deny awareness about the impact of smuggling on the national economy being a former senior NCS officer. Just why his sense of duty and patriotism is overridden by his presidential ambition to the level of seeing nothing wrong with unchecked border activities is something Nigerians should be very worried about. In the same Daily Trust’s report I quoted above, he said and I quote:
“If you give me the mandate, I will not be the type that will order the shooting of a businessman just because he is carrying one bag of rice.”
So, which Nigerian President ordered the shooting of a businessman just because he’s carrying one bag of rice? This is preposterous to say the least. Only a dunderhead will assume a president would order officers of the NCS to shoot citizens be they businessmen carrying one bag or a shipload of rice. NCS is a government agency operating with well defined laws and within well specified parameters. It’s quite amazing that a retired senior NCS officer will assume the president is responsible for how officers of the NCS operates within the laws and parameters set for the agency. And if this is logical, will Atiku swear there were no such mishaps under the administration he served as VP! What did he do to mitigate the problem given his experience as a former NCS officer and VP?
Nigerians should learn to differentiate between a legitimate businessman and an economic saboteur. Of course, I don’t support the reckless shooting of fleeing smugglers but then, more than me, Atiku knows better why officials of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) are kitted with arms. At my level, I know customs officials do not carry arms just for fun. They are legitimately armed to tackle smuggling activities which in some cases is a matter of life and death for the officers of the agency. For Atiku to turn the tragic and unfortunate fatalities occurring in the ever mutating game of cat and mouse between customs officials and smugglers into window to score cheap political mileage is repulsive to say the least.
Is Atiku denying the influx of dangerous weapons into Nigeria through our porous borders as they were before the coming of the administration? Ditto, is he denying the smuggling of subsided petroleum products to neighboring countries by an unscrupulous cabal in the downstream sector which must have caused Nigeria trillions of Naira beside creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country or is he denying the dangerous amount of illicit drugs being smuggled into Nigeria which is fueling and sustaining anti-social behaviors among Nigerians? Is Atiku oblivious of these problems when he vowed to open Nigerian borders wider than they already are? This, Nigerians should chew and digest before falling for Atiku’s vows and pledges.
Being a retired senior customs officer Atiku, I thought Atiku will use the opportunity to enlighten Nigerians about the statutory responsibilities of the Nigerian Customs Service and how to avoid the kind of mishaps he’s using as a bait for Katsina citizens to vote for him. He should stop playing to the gallery and educate Nigerians about the basics of the NCS and why citizens shouldn’t engage in smuggling activities rather than ridicule officers of the agency or even set Nigerians against them for the simple objective of improving his not so bright presidential ambition. In any case, is Atiku Abubakar not aware of the numerous efforts by the FG to identify the remote and immediate causes of these misfortunes for the purpose of preventing a repeat?
Talking about Trojan horses, Atiku also gifted Katsina State another one that was wrapped in a N50m “donation” to victims of banditry in the state. One could only wonder why it has to take Atiku a presidential campaign visit to Katsina State for the purpose of begging for votes to remember there are victims of banditry in the state. Why is Atiku’s improvised compassion and humanitarian instincts delayed and clearly juxtaposed with his presidential ambition? Katsina State has been dealing with the problem of supporting citizens displaced by banditry since the inception of the present administration. Somehow, Atiku remained aloof to this predicament until his presidential ambition brought him to Katsina State to beg for votes. Only then he remembered the victims of banditry and the need to open his fat wallet to assist them. “Bani gishiri, in baka manda” as the Hausa will put it (loosely: trade by batter).
Now that Atiku has reminded Katsina people that it’s the season of charity, let me conveniently use the opportunity to remind him about the thousands of people that lost their livelihoods in the Katsina Central market fire inferno which escaped his attention probably because it occurred long before election season. He should have taken a cue from APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who did not wait to win his party’s ticket before coming to Katsina to sympathize with the people of the state, especially the victims of the inferno to whom he donated N50m to cushion the effect of the inferno, convincingly making his donation humanitarian rather than the cash and carry political investment Atiku made it which designed to hoodwink the gullible.