“I haven’t had the time to plan returning to the scene because I haven’t left it”

Mike Jagger

It is hard sometimes to begin again. To return to the starting blocks, and begin a journey afresh is no mean task, yet there is a pleasure to be derived from going back to yesterday’s dreams because tomorrow’s path is embedded in yesterday.

I love being a reporter. I love the joy of unearthing a story and seeing it unravel before my eyes. I love stringing words together and watching the tapestry of different ideas brilliantly woven together.

But writing is not always mirth. It is catharsis too, but enough of the grammar. This is my roundabout way of saying I have missed this page.

It has been eight and some odd years, and I have meddled in all kinds of territories. I have learnt quite a few lessons and gained some insights into governance, government and Nigeria, but let me be upfront and say don’t wait up for any salacious political gossip or stories that touch the heart. There is none to tell.

So, I am back on the beat and as always, this column will be incisive, but also responsible and ethical. It will remain unapologetic in its defence of the interest of the people, and will strive to tell a rounded and honest story that reflects all sides of the argument as is the tradition of this magazine. We will at all times and in all circumstances be true to our pledge that we hold this trust on the behalf of the people.

Now to the meat of the matter. Some good news filtered out from government last week.

Nigeria is finally out of recession. That should cheer us up, especially with the peddling of doom and gloom. Truly, the numbers are looking up. The question is, is this real growth or aided growth? Better put, is it growth as a result of something we did right or purely circumstantial. Can businesses hope to plan and arrive at a destination based on the recent figures, or should it still be viewed with cautious optimism?

I say the pendulum swings both ways. It is good to see rising figures. Better still, to be told that Nigeria is now officially out of a recession. However one would urge caution.

Oil remains our country’s major product, and is still the determinant for whether we do well or poorly. If you want to know how the economy will do six months down the line, take a look at oil prices. The effect of good oil prices will begin to show about six months after a consistent high. Nigeria is currently reaping the benefits of oil prices that began in October.

The challenge is, what happens if oil prices crash? With all the noise about alternative revenue sources, the country is yet to tap the benefits of an economy more than oil. It is worse at the state levels where governors simply share the money and refuse to think of growing their local economies. Current trends suggest that oil demand might slow down as the United States increases its shale oil output in the coming months. OPEC may not have the upper hand this time, and while crises in the Middle East may mean more move towards the Gulf of Guinea oil supplies, we may see a fall in oil prices by as much as 50 percent. And this is the crux of the matter.

What is government doing to provide safety shields for its more than fragile economy? Who is asking the question, and what are the deliberate policies targeted towards sustaining growth and recovery? All of us must begin to take a more than a passing interest in how our country earns and how it spends. But we must also worry about how we earn. Literally, every Nigerian is a beneficiary of rent including the most prosperous. Beginning to develop other avenues of wealth creation outside government patronage will be our first step towards true economic growth. Taking the famous agricultural revolution beyond paper and actually allowing policy encourage good action in alternative revenue earnings outside oil could make the difference in a game of survival of the fittest.

Back to me and my return. I am not sure I really left. I insist that nothing has changed, but my friends are divided on this. I think we will find out soon enough, like that great sage, Nelson Mandela, said, “there is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways you yourself have altered.” For me though, it is good to be home after such a long and eventful absence. 