By Uche Amunike
A lot of aspersions have been cast on the figures quoted by the PDP vice-presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi during the last debate held with all other vice presidential candidates, recently. Certain people have doubted those figures and indeed questioned their accuracy. It is however pertinent to understand the reasons why Mr Obi backed up his submissions with economic data. That is the reason for writing this article. It is important to see the credibility of those figures and also, understand the need for debates to be done with a good knowledge of statistics. Even in cases where these statistics have minor discrepancies with the available official statistics on ground, the important thing is that it gives a correct picture of what a situation is because these figures are usually based on estimates arrived at, after the systematic assessment of every sector. And because they are estimated figures, even if other bodies carry out the estimate, there would still be discrepancies.
For instance, it won't be out of place if the IMF and World Bank have different estimates on a particular sector, because it's difficult to have an accuracy about their figures. However, the important thing is that the figures are close. So, nobody is looking for mathematical exactness, but a reasonable range that captures the true situation of things. If for instance, the rate of unemployment is quoted to be 30% and another body quotes it to be 28%, it's still within the same range until another estimation is done and perhaps an entirely different figure is gotten, then the latest figures will be adopted as correct.
Peter Obi is someone who strongly believes in working with evidence based development. So many people will not understand why he always emphasizes on statistics. Development in the modern sense is evidence based. Obi, as a governor, thrived on knowing what the problem on ground is before knowing from which angle to start tackling it and seeking solutions. This was the reason why he was productive and progressive during his tenure. He knew the statistics on ground for all the sectors which made it easy for him to know what to channel towards each sector, unlike some politicians in the past that would make unachievable promises to the electorate without having a faint idea of the statistics they have on ground.
No experienced person can come on board as a governor and tell the masses that he will create one million jobs when he does not have an idea of the number of people that are unemployed or the number of jobs available. You need a base. You need to know how much is in the coffers of the state before deciding on what promises to make. If you promise to build roads, you will be sure of the amount of money you have on ground before you make promises. Without having the statistics of both resources and the kilometers of roads to be built and the statistics of the already built roads, it would be hard to fulfill such promises.
Indeed, it is such bogus claims made by politicians that make it difficult for the governed to trust them because they end up reneging on their promises due to a lack of evidence based statistics on ground.
I remember the present government of Buhari telling Nigerians of their plans to start feeding school children in all schools. Those promises would have been workable if they were based on statistics; how many pupils are in these schools? How much will it cost to feed all of them?
How much does the government have on ground? These questions need statistical facts to be able to carry out such a plan. Well, the plan failed and the reason is obvious. Prof Chukwuma Soludo once said that a good planner makes plans with the knowledge of what is on ground and how much he has on ground. Still talking about roads, If you promise to build roads, you will be sure of the amount of money you have on ground before you make promises. Without having the statistics of both resources and the kilometers of roads to be built and statistics of the already built roads, it would be hard to fulfill such promises. Indeed, it is such bogus claims made by politicians that make it difficult for the governed to trust them because they end up reneging on their promises due to a lack of evidence based statistics on ground.
Peter Obi is a perfect example of an evidence based planner which is why he has recorded successes hard to find in these climes as far as governance is concerned. As the Vice Presidential candidate for his party, PDP it will be easy for him to deliver his campaign promises because he is at home with the statistics of the various sectors in the country and knows what it will entail to take on them and ultimately deliver. They are truly familiar grounds for him.
Certain people argued that knowing about statistics was a different ball game from developing the country. Such arguments can only tell one the level of ignorance some Nigerians are shrouded with, for such schools of thought can only be likened to one embarking on a journey without having a faint idea of where they took off from or where exactly they are headed. If you are not knowledgeable about what obtains in the country and in the polity, then, you will find it very difficult to know from which direction to start making plans to move the country forward. The statistics used by Obi are therefore, launch pads to analyze the myriad problems in Nigeria while also comparing them with those of other developed countries that were erstwhile third world like Nigeria, but still able to develop tremendously.
In the context of modern development, you do not develop while you're blind. You don't grope in the dark in the name of development. You should know what is there and what you don't have. That's the only way to know where you're coming from.
In conclusion, Obi will become the Chairman of the National Economic Commission if he becomes the Vice President of this country. As chairman of that commission, he will be charged with the major functions of being responsible for guarding the president on his economic policies; coordinating economic policy advice for the president; ensuring that policy decisions and programmes are consistent with the president's economic goals and also monitoring the implementation of the president's economic policy agenda. That is why his knowledge of the details of not just the economic situation of the country, but also, the socio-economic situation is a big plus for this country, especially at this time that the economy of the country has become comatose.
Atiku Abubakar was a former vice president of this country which is why he chose Obi as running mate, knowing that with his training as an Economist and his panoramically vast experience in handling economic situations both within Nigeria and beyond her shores, saving our dwindling economy will be like child's play to him. Nigeria is our country and we can't sit back and let it sink. It's time to change the narrative and the duo of Atiku and Obi are the only glimmers of hope in sight.