When taken to task earlier in the week on why President Muhammadu Buhari failed to fulfill the campaign promise of creating three million jobs for Nigerians on an annual basis, the Presidency’s main mouthpiece replied with a straight face that it is not the responsibility of the government to create jobs! This indolent retort came from the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, while featuring on national television where he attempted to distance the President from one of the promises that enabled him to wrestle power from an incumbent in 2015.
In the words of Adesina, “Did you say three million was the promise? I wouldn’t say he put a figure. What I recall was that President Buhari gave the percentage of joblessness in the country. I wouldn’t recall that he gave a specific figure for the number of jobs we are creating. For all you know, that may have come from anywhere. Be that as it may, it is the job and duty of the government to create an enabling environment for jobs in the country. It is not the government itself that creates jobs. All it does is to create an enabling environment.”
How convenient for the presidency to evade the government’s glaring failure, while latching on to an intangible which is not easily measurable. Although the number of jobs created cannot readily be counted or verified, the much of enabling environment created by the Buhari government for businesses to thrive can actually be decoded. Recently, major pay-tv content providers hiked their subscription fees blaming the new tariffs on the increased cost of doing business in the country. Others who couldn’t cope have since relocated their business to neighboring countries. That is so much for the enabling environment created by the administration of President Buhari.
Indeed, the cost of business operations in recent times has been so debilitating that even commercial banks are reeling and unraveling. Many bank branches now shut their doors to customers at 2 or 3pm as against the hitherto 4pm closing time. If such major enterprises can take this drastic measure to survive, imagine what players in other sectors or small businesses would resort to, to stay afloat in the harsh business environment of the past eight years. There is no doubt that millions of jobs would be the first casualty in the prevailing circumstance.
In the main, it is bewildering that a government that recently prosecuted grueling cash confiscation for months under the guise of a shambolic Naira redesign policy would claim to have created an enabling business climate. Lots of businesses that went belly-up as a result of that paralyzing cash crunch are yet to recover, reminiscent of those crippled by Buhari’s closure of the country’s land borders for 16 months between the years 2019 and 2020.
It is audacious, if not provocative for the presidency to abdicate its job creation responsibility which is integral to the welfare of the citizenry amid job losses occasioned by policy and programmes that threatened and snuffed the life of private enterprises in the country. The Buhari administration is remiss to have glossed over the fact that the very essence of government is in ensuring the safety and welfare of the citizens. The welfare of the citizenry means nothing to a government that is not ashamed to publicly declare job creation isn’t its responsibility. Apart from the insensitivity, such a disposition smacks of laziness!
Nigerians can readily recall the shoddiness that surrounded the Special Public Works (SPW) initiative where the Buhari government was meant to employ 774,000 unemployed itinerant youth who would earn N20,000 monthly for the three-month duration of the programme. The SPW which was “aimed at shielding the most vulnerable from the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” was postponed thrice until it was flagged off in early January 2021. Not much has been heard of it afterward.
Considering Nigeria’s unenviable status as the poverty capital of the world attained under Buhari’s reign, Naija News regrets the attempt to exculpate the administration from the failure to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty as promised. We recall that the same day (June 12, 2021) when the President claimed that his administration had lifted 10 million Nigerians out of poverty within two years, the World Poverty Clock released a report to the effect that the number of Nigerians who live on less than $1.90 daily had risen to 86.8 million, representing 41 per cent of Nigeria’s 209.6 million population. This wouldn’t have been the case if the administration was serious about creating opportunities for unemployed citizens.
Now that it is in its twilight, the Buhari administration would want Nigerians to look elsewhere over its failure to meet the job needs of citizens. But where else should the people look if not to the government that has a fully funded Ministry of Labour and Employment. If indeed the government did not initially see the need to spearhead job creation efforts, that ministry would have been left as that of labour and productivity. So, let the administration not pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians that it has no responsibility in providing jobs to the citizens. It is such an absurd thing to say. In developed climes, unemployment benefits are regularly paid to citizens without jobs because the governments of those countries are mindful of their responsibility to provide jobs to the people.
As it were, successfully run public enterprises like Ibom Air wouldn’t have been set up if indeed the Akwa Ibom government didn’t think it was in its place to create jobs. Similarly, if Adesina’s submission were to be true, then there wouldn’t have been those foreign businesses owned by the likes of the Chinese, South African and Ethiopian governments which are operating in Nigeria and creating jobs for their nationals back home.
This newspaper strongly repudiates Adesina’s claim that the people shouldn’t have expected his principal’s government to generate employment. It explains why the administration tanked the economy which improved management was meant to be one of the administration’s three-point agenda. The government’s total control over the economy should make this unrivaled policymaker the ultimate job provider. We, therefore, advise the administration that takes over on the 29 of this month to be wary of the toxic thinking that job creation isn’t the responsibility of the government. They must also do away with the notion that government has no business in business.
Given the dire need for a course correction as a new government takes over in a few weeks, Naija News recommends to the president-elect and his team a portion of this year’s May Day speech by the Nigeria Labour Congress President, Joe Ajaero, and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Festus Osifo, to wit: “Hiding under the neo-liberal maxim that the government has no business in business rings hollow and is not true. In a weak economy like ours, the Government has business in business and we must invest in businesses to drive economic growth in our nation.”