Osoba: “Tinubu must keep borrowing to keep Nigeria going”, he met empty treasury

The former Governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, yesterday argued that President Bola Tinubu met an empty treasury when he took over from President Muhammadu Buhari, explaining that the Nigerian leader will need to borrow to fill the gap in the meantime.

Speaking on Arise Television,the politician noted that Nigerians already experienced the worst of the economy in 2023 and therefore should look forward to a better standard of living in 2024.

Stressing that Tinubu was working hard to contain the widespread hardship in the land, the former journalist noted that Nigeria was almost crashing on May 29 when Tinubu took over the reins of government.

Osoba, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), stated that in the last few days he had had meetings with the president, whom he insisted feels the pains Nigerians are currently going through.

“When the treasury was empty and the last administration was borrowing to pay salaries, the whole place was empty. What else can you do other than in the meantime, borrowing to fill the gap?

“That does not mean that the culture of borrowing will go on forever. You met an empty treasury. There was nowhere to turn other than to still engage in a bit of borrowing. After the first year in office, the whole thing will be reviewed and we will see.

“Talking of borrowing, when your pocket is empty, you have to go to your bank to shore you up for some time. It depends on how you manage that situation.

“I have explained to you that we are lucky, but by June 1, the whole system was set up to totally collapse. I’m telling you if he (Tinubu) didn’t go the way the government had to go (things would have collapsed),” Osoba noted.

He stated that in the last few days he had had very sincere discussions with the president as somebody who wasn’t seeking any favours from the Nigerian leader at his 84 years of age.

“He is a listening person. I had quality time with him on Christmas day and even my grandson engaged him in discussion and the young boy was very honest with him and told him some of the things that are going on,” he explained.

Osoba said he had advised Tinubu on what to do about the humongous monies outside the banking system.

He disclosed that when he met with the president on Christmas Day, he suggested that the anti-corruption agencies should allow the banks to accept deposits without asking for the sources of the funds.

He said this would encourage the huge money outside the banking sector to find its way back to the bank vaults.

The former editor of the old Daily Times said that the president hinted that he was planning to sign an executive order that would liberalise deposits by Nigerians in the deposit money banks.

Osoba said that once the coast was clear, those who buried money in their homes would be encouraged to exhume it and deposit the same in the banks.

He lamented that due to scarcity of naira both within and outside the banking system, Nigerians had resorted to saving their money in $20, $50 notes instead of in local currency.

He also decried a situation whereby naira that is said to be scarce always found its way to venues of parties where hawkers sell the notes for a commission to those who indulge in open display of spraying the notes.

“In the history of foreign exchange, do you know that Nigerians are also not helping? The amount of money out of the system even as a grassroots person and as a journalist, even ordinary drivers are changing their little N50 to $20 and $50 at home.

“The confidence that everybody lost before Tinubu came which spilled over into his administration, I said Mr. President, can you do something? The amount of money out of the system is enormous. What can you do to encourage people?,” he disclosed on his meeting with the president.

He said that Tinubu was very worried about the development and had heeded his advice to act expeditiously to control the liquidity outside the banking system.

“I have reasonable confidence that year 2023 is going to be perhaps the worst of the years we have ever had. Starting from that, I strongly believe the year 2024 will be the beginning of the year of the president’s renewed hope.

“I do agree that things are very tough for everybody, irrespective of status in society. But there is nobody in this country, who is not feeling the pain and the current hardship. That I will admit, that I will not pretend not to know.

“But I can tell you that the government at the same time is struggling very hard to contain the hardship and reduce the pain,” the former governor said.

He noted that the increase in the budget sum for 2024 by the legislature was not out of place, but stated that the implementation was the most important thing.

On why Tinubu hadn’t visited Plateau state, Osoba stated that while it was regrettable that many people were killed in the state, Tinubu was committed to solving the problems from the roots, insisting that the ‘issue of token appearance’ shouldn’t detract from the magnitude of the killings.

He added that by the time the president visits, he should be able to tell the people the steps he had taken or was taking to solve the problems.

Osoba stated that he wouldn’t engage the president on national TV since he has direct access to him, stressing that the president inherited a very bad situation from the previous administration.

“There is hardship, there are problems. But we expected it because at the time that President Bola Tinubu assumed office, there was not a single allocation for oil subsidy.

“The previous administration did not allocate a kobo from May 30 for oil subsidy. What else did you expect from Tinubu when he cannot go outside the Act, the law is there.

“Not one kobo allocation. He had no choice but to pronounce the removal of subsidy because he would have breached the law immediately he was sworn in if he continued with the subsidy,” he argued.

The former governor said both the rich and the poor were feeling the pinch of the outcome of Tinubu’s policies, but argued that the decisions were necessary to grow the country’s economy.

“But what you can say about him is that he exhibited great courage to have taken such very painful, very hard decisions,” he added.

According to him, Tinubu had no option but to stop the opaque petrol subsidy programme when he took over the reins of government.

“We were virtually subsidising the economy of all our neighbouring countries. smuggling was thriving heavily. They didn’t even have room for one kobo for capital expenditure,” he added. He also declined to rate Tinubu publicly.

Osoba added that the president was feeling the pains of the masses regarding the impact of the economic reforms.

“I can tell you he (Tinubu) is in pain. And when I talk to him, I can see the pain in him,” he stated.

He added that he can only do a comprehensive review of the Tinubu’s administration after one year.

Osoba took a swipe at the sub-nationals stressing that there was a lot of misspending and extravagance by the state governors.

“I’m amazed about the size of government in the states and the cost of governance in the states. Many governors spend more time in Abuja, I can tell you, and it’s not something I can defend.

“So I can tell you the state governments need to be up and doing in a way that even we the elite who are short-changing government are dealt with,” he added.