By Dan Amor
There is a lamentable and disturbing magnitude of violence in Nigeria. So is crime. The country is constantly on the boil. The atmosphere in the country has been nothing but a tawny volcano. The situation conveys at once the chief features of the Nigerian spirit: it is vertical, spontaneous, immaterial, upward. It is ardent. And even as tongues of fire do, it turns into fire everything it touches. What we are experiencing today is induced by poverty, hunger, frustration, apathy, desperation and sectional or tribal expansionist ambition. In the midst of the misery and lack that is the lot of our youth and other Nigerians, a few Nigerians are still swimming in affluence and under the best security system and protection one can think of. What has indeed compounded the Nigerian misfortune is the sheer bravado, if not braggadocio with which Fulani herdsmen are butchering other Nigerians on a large scale across the country. This is even happening without the sitting government raising an eyebrow against it. Many Nigerians even believe that the Federal Government of President Buhari is culpable in the mass hysteria afflicting the country. It hardly seems a time for timidity and restraint.
In fact, unbridled activities of fraudsters, narcotics couriers, swindlers and the emergence of a class of billionaire idle politicians, have diminished our international stature to an embarrassing level. The net effect of this has been the sorry spectacle we have cut for Nigeria and Nigerians in the international arena. The reality is that the corporate image of the country is almost irretrievably steeped in crises. It is therefore no more news that the high rate of criminality in the country is traceable to the endemic corruption which has enveloped the land. Nigeria’s name is synonymous with corruption and crime all over the world. It is agreed that with the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as President since May 29, 2015, given his much vaunted integrity and principled stance against corruption, the international image of the country would be redeemed. But it seems, from the reality on ground, that the change mantra of the APC-led Federal Government is fraught with contradictions and ironies. Almost three years into the regime, Nigerians are gasping for relief. There is discontent in the country as hunger and lack rule the land. And one can sense the fear of the unknown. The signs are not difficult to see. They are the signs of internal decay; the dry rot of apathy and indifference within the ruling party. Nigerians have mistaken baboon for monkey.
The whole scenario is unwholesome: the decadent social institutions, the comatose and despondent state of the once vibrant economy, the decaying infrastructure, and the unnerving bout of high cost of energy and scarcity of petrol in the six largest producer of crude in the world. All this could not have been mere speculation by whatever standards. Indeed, it was speculated recently that more than 80 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line. Economically, there can never be anything more humiliating and even frustrating than the current exchange rate of the Naira. Anyone who had witnessed the strength of the Nigerian currency against the dollar in the late 1970’s would realise that the slightest tinkering with the economy spins off a frantic palpitation which may lead to a cardiac arrest. This is why wiser nations often fix their gaze on the enigmatic ups and downs in the stock market. They are wise and experienced enough to know that an ostensibly inconsequential drop in the currency rate of a nation may precipitate a phenomenal fall of any government. How does President Buhari feel when he sees the Naira exchanging for 365 to the US Dollar? Does he ever remember his campaign promise to Nigerians when the Dollar was even exchanging for N165, that he would make the Naira at par with the Dollar within his first six months in office? This is not all. Hundreds of thousands of our graduates and school leavers still trudge the streets of our cities in search of jobs that are not in sight, and the communal bonds that once held our various nationalities together have been rendered taut by the forces of annihilating and devastating poverty and inter-tribal wars.
Nigerians now keep a feeding regime that skips meals. Yet the country is said to be one of the most endowed nations in the world. Buhari must set targets for his ministers. It is curiously shameful that Nigerians are experiencing untold hardships under Buhari, an administration that boasted of so much goodies for the poor and downtrodden. It is awfully disappointing that market women were forced by circumstances to stage a peaceful protest in Lagos recently. Almost three years after his inauguration, Nigerians are yet to see any sign of change in their standard of living. Rather, things are deteriorating to their nadir by the day. The Federal Executive Council meetings must generate fresh ideas and must bring to a logical order fresh initiatives for the effective implementation of budgets in ministries and other strategic government departments and agencies. Nigerians, on their part must ask Buhari what his administration’s blueprint is. Despite its high-profile intentions, not many Nigerians are impressed with the President’s proposition. The alarm raised during the immediate past administration and also during the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo by some budget monitoring groups and agencies over the low performance ratings of Federal ministries, departments and agencies would have been enough to jolt the present administration from illusions into stark realities. It would be recalled that General Theophilus Danjuma, Defence Minister in President Obasanjo’s cabinet resigned from his appointment alleging that Obasanjo was not implementing budget, which was accountable for his abysmal performance in office.
Also, the fact that the phenomenon of “unspent budget” was padded into the nation’s over-bloated political lexicon and became public knowledge even during the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua would have been enough cause for President Buhari to set targets for his ministers. Yet, a point too potent to be over-stretched is that with the sudden collapse of public infrastructure across the country and the alarming rate of poverty among Nigerians since Buhari became president precipitated by mass unemployment, no sensible minister would need to be reminded to work hard. Again, the President and his advisers must note that even though liberal democracy can thrive only in a relatively prosperous national economy, the economy itself can only grow in a relatively liberal and accountable atmosphere. Therefore, while the government takes an unflattering look at the corruption and squandermania of the past office holders, if only to serve as a deterrent to the present ones, the anti-graft war must not be seen to be selective. And since the menace permeates all sectors of the national economy, the only thing that will serve as a bulwark against corruption is beaming the searchlight on the business sector also and ensuring that this highly inflated economy is reflated. Added to this is the urgent need for government to support manufacturing and agriculture.
Only exceptionally viable and favourable policies can make the nation produce competitive goods and services that can earn hard currency for the economy. The current effort at revamping the power sector which started with the Jonathan administration must be taken to its logical conclusion. A high premium on agriculture will make the country at least self-sufficient and secure in food production. Emphasis should thus be placed on long term lending and low interest rates for farmers, manufacturers and small and medium scale entrepreneurs. But revamping the agricultural sector cannot work in the face of horrendous killings of farmers across the country by Fulani herdsmen. The value of the Naira can only be strengthened if the government summons the political will to scrap the parallel (black) market and break the continuous monopolization of the Afex market by the Central Bank of Nigeria. A state of emergency should be declared on our failing network of roads and other infrastructure to attract foreign investors into the country.
Good roads and bridges engender economic activities and their construction creates jobs. But investors can only come into our shores if security of lives and property is guaranteed. Consequently, while the Boko Haram insurgency is brought to its knees, government must halt the heinous killing of people by Fulani herdsmen across the country. The absence of peace is affecting the pace of development in the country. A surgical operation should be undertaken in the health sector while government should be seen to be encouraging private sector participation in the building of modular refineries. Above all, Nigeria must be returned to its original federal republican structure, to make the centre less attractive for peace to reign. Without all these in place, no amount of propaganda can change Nigeria. Not even the planned dubious sale of our national assets to willing buyers who looted our collective wealth into their private pockets would do.