INTERVIEW: Tinubu Govt’s commitment to Bretton Woods ideology crippling economy – Adebayo


The candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the 2023 presidential elections, Prince Adewole Adebayo has lamented that Nigeria is in its current economic quagmire because the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is deeply committed to the economic ideology of the Bretton Woods institutions.

In this interview with SKYBLAST TV, he suggested how a deviation from the dictates of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, would help the country’s economy to bounce back, the Electoral Act, among other issues. Excerpts!

What is your take on the resolution of the Senate to amend the Electoral Act?

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One thing we need to know in legislation is that the legislators’ eyes are always at the back of their heads as they always like to solve new legislation with the problems of the past.

So, the assumption that the problem of the next election will be the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Result Viewing (IReV) portal is not correct. From what I know, the problems will not be the IReV; it will be another thing. Let us say this is the beginning of the conversations of what we can do, legislatively, to improve our electoral system. But, the problem we have is not a shortage of legislation. There are three things I observed.

The first is that there is nothing in the 2023 elections, in which I participated, that suggested to me that anything went wrong because of the IReV. None of the petitioners has complained that the problem with the IREV was why the results declared at the polling units were different from the results that were ultimately used. When you go through the filings, proceedings, and judgments of the court, you will find it hard to find one record where they said in this particular unit, this was the result, but because it wasn’t immediately transmitted to the INEC website, the result changed. I don’t think you will find anything like that. That is not the problem.

As I said on October 1, 2021, and it was widely reported in the media, I said they would just be disturbing you with issues of technology, which someone, on the day of the elections, might just decide to switch off in INEC, and say it didn’t work. Even if it is in the electoral act, assuming it is passed into law, that the result must be immediately transmitted, if on that day, there is a nationwide network problem, like the VPN isn’t working, the system is corrupted, and things like that, the constitution would still want you to find out whether you can otherwise establish the actual winner of the election.

I think integrity at the polling station is what we should pay attention to. Things like making sure people don’t buy votes, people can’t commit violence, and making sure that the distance between the polling booth and the nearest third party isn’t less than about 100 feet so that anybody who is voting can be in doubt that they are out of sight and out of hearing of the people. So, if a person decides to influence you by giving you money or anything of value, they will not ultimately know what you are doing in the ballot box area. But, if you commit fraud, buy and sell votes, or distort the outcome and electronically transmit that abomination to the IReV, what have we gained? So, I think reform of character is what we are afraid of doing, and we want to be tweaking with technology.

Yes, no problem if you add the issue of the IReV to the solution, but don’t expect that you can go to bed and say you have solved the election controversy in Nigeria.

Nigerians have had cause to question the independence of the name INEC as all members of the board, including the chairman, is appointed by the president. Its former chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, also wants the president to be stripped of the appointing power, what are your views?

There are quite a lot of things to strip the president of. But, who do you give it to? Remember that our founding fathers expected that we would look for the best of the best among us and make him president, and that president is our head of state, so that he would think clearly for the country, and he would be one of the most honorable men in our midst who is willing to take up the job.

For that reason, even in the most important position, constitutional positions that are more important than INEC, for example, the Chief Justice of the Federation, President of Court of Appeal, Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice of Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the entire judiciary, the president is the appointing authority. If more sensitive positions that are even expected to be more independent than the INEC are left in the hands of the president to select, then what is special about the INEC chairman and the commissioners? I think the problem isn’t about taking it from the president, but who do you give it to?

Is the nomination of the judicial officers not different? The NJC, as we know, is empowered in the selection process before the president appoints. Isn’t that another way of checkmating the powers of the president?

No. Under the presidential constitution, all over the world, the president is advised. Despite your advice, the president can take a good, brilliant young lawyer with about 15 years of experience as the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Your advice isn’t binding on him. The president has a lot of future appointments to make. And if you want to go into a new system where you don’t trust him to make sensitive appointments, then you go across the board and look at the appointments the president makes. In some countries, for example, members of the electoral body are chosen from the political parties. Their thinking is that if every political party has someone there, there won’t be any political party that would cheat the other. But, in our system, the chairman is chosen by the president. Even members of the senate are assuming that they don’t have a role to play. When the president appoints electoral or national commissioners or chairman of the commission, the person doesn’t go straight to the office; he goes to the senate for Nigerians to ask whether this person is a good choice or not. Never in the history of the senate have they rejected the chairman of the INEC or national commissioners except Laurieta Onochie.

So, if people are living according to good character, and they are worthy of the offices they are occupying, and the oath of office they have taken, the system we have now will work. The alternative is to say the same Chief Justice of Nigeria should appoint the INEC chairman, but the same Chief Justice is also an appointee of the president anyway. But, if you say he (Chief Justice) should appoint the chairman of INEC, there would be instances where litigants would complain even about the empanelling of justices to hear their matter. I think, more importantly, is what has happened. Why can’t we find any more people of character who are above board? Is it that our political system is so corrupt that we can’t find people who are above board? That is the question we should be asking because one way or another, the person that is going to appoint INEC commissioners or chairman would have to be a Nigerian. Whether he is the president, the chief justice of Nigeria or a senator, that person must be a Nigerian. I think it is the quality of the character of our leadership that we need to examine. It shouldn’t be a difficult role to fill if everyone is playing their roles.

I will be more inclined if the senate says whoever the president chooses, it would open the person to Nigerians and it is not going to approve the person except the person proves to be a thoroughly vetted Nigerian that has the highest esteem, not the one they are trying to deprive someone from the other arm. For example, if you pass such a law that you want to remove appointing power from the president, and the president refuses to sign, and says no, you cannot take my power from me, I will not sign it into law; what do you do? It is better not to be ticking the can to the other side of the blame game. Let the senate look at itself as a chamber and ask itself an honest question. Have we in the senate, done our best in vetting the nominees to INEC?

The National Assembly has the constitutional power to oversee the INEC. It has powers to approve the INEC emoluments and budget, including conducting a hearing to remove an INEC commissioners or national chairman that is not leaving up to his performance. So, I think the system is robust enough if we can have men and women of character to come and run the system.

The economic team of President Bola Tinubu is in full swing. In your view, have they lived up to expectations?

They are on top of the situation they created for themselves. There isn’t anything happening in the economy presently that I haven’t predicted. What they are facing now is what is called factor cost stabilisation. If they can deal with that, then they would have reduced most of the crises they have on their hands.

The trajectory of the economic choices they have made cannot change Nigerians from where they are today. I predicted this. There are many options. Economics is about choices. And the choices they have taken would naturally lead to this. Whoever is the president, if you take the choices they have made, you will have the same result. Economics does not discriminate against your politics; it looks at the facts. What is the state of affairs? What are the options? What are the alternatives you want to forgo? So, you have to live with the consequences of your decision.

Now, the price of money will not be stable. The exchange rates will not be stable. The price of commodities will not be stable. The price of factors of production will not be stable. The only way to sustain is to plan ahead for that instability.

Are you saying there would be a reversal or change of policies?

That would be the best, but they have ideological commitment. This was part of what we were trying to tell the voters about these major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Labour Party (LP), that they have an ideological commitment to Brettonwoods prescriptions. You could see it in their language.

What they are doing now is essentially what they said they would do. The result you have now is essentially the result you have if you take these measures. The best thing is to change, but I don’t see them changing because they are committed to this ideology, and it has been like that since 1986 when General Ibrahim Babangida had the understanding with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Nigeria is going to go the way of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). It is the various versions of it that we have been doing. The late Gen Sani Abacha tried to run a two-tier system with it, with the help of late Professor Sam Aluko. The end result of it is that we are looking for a free market where there would be ingress and egress of capital across national boundaries, and the price of the naira will be determined by what happens in Washington or New York and other commodity exchange houses all over the world.

But, I don’t see them changing from their standpoint at the moment. The time they would have adjusted would have been from the day they came in because we have been saying that it will not work but they believe it would work. There are some people in the international community, who have made promises to President Tinubu, and there have been a lot of discussions between the Bretton Woods institutions and the finance minister, Mr. Wale Edun.

The medium-term expenditure says we are expected to borrow N26tr between 2025 and 2026. It appears there isn’t any difference between the Buhari administration and this present government, what is your take?

President Tinubu was right when he said he continued from where President Buhari stopped. He said it on many occasions, and people thought he was joking. From the ongoing, you will see that President Tinubu doesn’t talk a lot. Each time he talks now, people should listen because he tends to do what he says he would do, whether they are good or bad, but he ends up doing them. I have my concern with the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). I thought he was blinded in terms of his creativity. I also think, maybe, they want to complete some of the obligations contained in the (MTEF) which are legally binding. If, for example, they award some contracts and they need to fund it, they will need to borrow because, in the short term, you are not able to generate enough revenue to offset the borrowing.


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