Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed manages the nation’s portfolio, which makes her one of the country’s most influential ministers.
Based on her performance as finance minister since her appointment as finance minister, many analysts are predicting that the next presidential election in Nigeria will be won by the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), based on the state of the nation’s economy.
According to many observers, the 2023 elections will not be won on how well the APC has done in attracting high-profile political defections, restructuring, domestic terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, ethnic division, corruption, police brutality, or anything of the sort, saying it will be won on the economy, the kitchen table (money in the pocket) type election.
In other words, the decisive factor will not be any of the sensational news headlines now, and in the run-up to 2023. It will be bread-and-butter issues of concern to the voter.
This, they hinted, is a truism applicable in election cycles in both poor and rich countries alike, and cited an example of the crushing defeat of the Late US Republican President George H.W. Bush, (1989-1993), in the hands of President Bill Clinton, who won the Democrat nomination when his campaign strategist, James Carville, came up with the clincher: “It’s the economy stupid”, which propelled Clinton to the White House for two terms in office.
President Muhammadu Buhari will not be on the ballot in 2023; that makes it even more wider open than it would otherwise be.
There are quite a lot of things (good and bad) happening with the Nigerian economy not really chiming with the public. For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), has fixed October for the launch of the N5trillion Infrastructure Fund.
Meanwhile, non-oil exports suffer a N5.8tr revenue shortfall, with consequences for the GDP. There is an on-going debate (or as others say, battle) over ‘fiscal federalism’, while the price of crude inches above $74 a barrel.
In addition to all this, recall that Nigeria’s GDP per capita in 1980 was $2,229, and, it is set to go back to the same figure by 2023; according to the analysts, this is a case of one step forward, three steps backward.
Why is this so, some might ask? High rates of inflation and devaluation are responsible, amongst a plethora of other factors. These are some of the big economic issues that are being drowned out by idle chatter about the APC and the PDP internal political wrangling.
Commenting on the impending N5trillion Infrastructure Fund, the Minister of Finance, at a press conference in Abuja last week, said that the ‘Federal Government is borrowing sensibly to fund infrastructure’; and would ‘regret it’ if it does not invest in infrastructure.
Given that Nigeria’s public debt has hit N33.1 trillion as of March 2021, the minister’s remark about borrowing ‘sensibly’ and ‘regret’ if the country does not, has left many people scratching their heads.
Her critics say the public deserves and expects more substantial analysis from the country’s top economic frontwoman. They point out that except for the occasional press conferences and written statements from the ministry attributed to the minister, who is known to be shy and unassuming, does not have the habit of submitting herself to one-on-one media interviews.
Other harsher critics have pondered on why did she lobby so hard to acquire the all-powerful designation of “Minister of the Economy”.
The position of the minister for the largest economy in Africa is not for the media-shy, nor is it for the quiet backroom operator. Ahmed has failed and is failing to come up with a narrative that connects the dots.
It is the minister’s singular task to drive the APC economic agenda, and connect that with the public. She should be the economic face of the government’s economic vision, but Ahmed is clearly not one who relishes being out there engaging in public discourse.
The APC has zero-chance of winning in 2023 with a featherweight minister who has neither the will nor wherewithal to ‘coordinate’ the economy.