2023; Why Nigerians May Yield Obedience to Development-Minded Aspirants
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Taken objectively, there is no doubt that as a people, we derive more comfort, protection and security from our ethnic identity than from our common sense of nationhood. It is equally a statement of fact that during the forthcoming elections, most people will vote along sectional lines, be it religion or ethnicity, corporate world, the academia and other sectors of our national life.
Under this condition, can Nigerians truly say in both concrete and moral terms that they are united in all aspects of nationhood? If not, what is holding the nation back? Is it leadership or the people? As a people, have we made an effort to discover the promoters of a disunited Nigeria or paid a price as an individual or a group to make our national oneness a healthy one?
If leadership is the challenge, what plan/plans do Nigerians have up their sleeves to democratically upturn the present political leadership in the country, and in its place, enthrone leadership that will assist in rescuing, repositioning and rebuilding Nigeria which has been battered by the bad economy, insecurity, unemployment and other social ills by the incompetent and inept leaderships? What measures are the masses putting in place to revamp the nation that has fractured into ‘ethnosyncrasies’ and idiosyncrasies?
While answers to the above are awaited, there are, in the opinion of this intervention, hopeful signs that the forthcoming general elections in the country may produce a different result that will usher in the nation of our dreams.
The signs are there that it is not going to be business as usual. This fact partially explains why young Nigerians have lately become obedient to development-minded Nigerians.
Let’s look at these considerations.
Fundamentally, apart from myriads of socio-political contradictions that have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace, one contending factor/actor that will propel a different outcome is the below-average performance of the current federal government which daily manifests in areas such as; ‘continued state of insecurity in the country, the persistent and ceaseless flow of blood of Nigerians on a daily basis in many parts of Nigeria, the near-collapse of the security situation in Nigeria, their inability to manage the nation’s economy and develop the oil-rich but socioeconomically backwards Niger Delta’. Nigerians, who were initially deceived in 2015 and have remained in darkness, appear to have finally seen the light and known the truth and are getting ready for the 2023 general polls.
As an illustration, the present instinct in the country explains two things; first, apart from the fact that the shout of integrity which hitherto rend the nation’s political space has like light faded, jeer has since overtaken the cheers of political performance while fears have displaced reason -resulting in an entirely separate set of consequences – irrational hatred and division.
Admittedly, none of the current challenges (political or socioeconomic) bedevilling the nation started with this administration.
For instance, corruption is, but a human problem that has existed in some forms. Its fight also dates back to the colonial governments as they (colonial overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916 (No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary.
Also, upon independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria was in sections 98 to 116 and 404 of the code. But while the situation then may look ugly, what is going on now is even worse and frightening.
Nigerians are particularly not happy that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led federal government lavishly promised Nigerians ‘change’ and was voted to provide good and qualitative leadership; elected to bring the nation’s economy out of the woods and were chosen to bring democracy’s dividends to the people. But instead of fulfilling these promises, they visit the masses with cluelessness and utopia. Instead of reviving the comatose economy, they threw it further down into recession and instead of bringing dividends of democracy, they democratized poverty, institutionalized unemployment and governmentalized hopelessness and frustration. They are not authentic leaders but political demagogues.
As noted elsewhere, the Nigerian economy has continued to deteriorate and Nigerians have become numb and accustomed to bad economic news as exemplified by the inconsistent and differential exchange rate regime, high interest rates, unsustainable unemployment figures and borrowing spree some of which have not been applied to important projects, and other bad economic indicators.
The running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution, which stipulates forcefully that the commanding heights of the economy must not be concentrated in the hands of a few people. The continuous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programmes by politicians and their collaborators are deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
Another deep-seated reason why Nigerians must act differently in the forthcoming general elections, as doing one thing repeatedly and expecting different results will amount to insanity, is the continued state of insecurity in the country, the persistent and ceaseless flow of Nigerians’ blood on a daily basis in many parts of Nigeria, the near-collapse of the security situation in Nigeria. The strategies to confront terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and other criminals appear to have defiled every formula.
This piece is not alone in this line of belief as a glance at a communiqué issued by one of the major opposition political parties in the country shares similar sentiment. Worthy of note is that this opposition party in question may overtly or in absolute terms not be better, but in that communiqué, the party covertly highlighted what has been on the minds of Nigerians.
It reads in parts; Mr President is unwilling, from his recent comments discountenancing the proposals for state policing, to participate in reviewing the structural problems of tackling insecurity in Nigeria.
While urging Mr President to reconsider his position and consider decentralization and restructuring of the security architecture as the most viable solution, together with proper arming, funding and training requirements for security agencies, it noted that the management of our oil and gas resources, the administration of federation account remittances have remained opaque, confusing and non-transparent.
In addition, the transition to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd under the Petroleum Industry Act has not been properly streamlined to ensure that the interests of all the tiers of government are protected, consistent with the 1999 Constitution.
On the state of the nation’s economy, the party added; it is clear that the APC government is a massive failure when compared with the records of the previous government. The present administration inherited a $550 billion economy (the largest in Africa), but today, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world.
In 2015, under the previous government, the exchange rate was N198 per Dollar, it is now under APC almost N500 to a Dollar (now over N600); in 2015, the unemployment rate was 7.3% under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, it is now 33%, one of the highest in the world under APC; in 2015, the pump price of petroleum was N87 per litre, it is now N165 per litre and climbing under APC. debt servicing now under APC takes over 98% of the federal budget.
What about the education sector where over, 10.5 million children are out of school, the highest in the world. Our industries continue to bear the brunt of a negative economic environment. As a result, job losses and unemployment continue to skyrocket, creating a serious case of social dislocation for the vast majority of people.
In the final analysis, the truth, in my view, is that the people seem to have come to terms that behind every major socioeconomic and security failure in the last seven years in the country, lies a failed decision by the government at the centre, and behind every failed decision lies a government that failed its people- a government that did not carry out its duty properly.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374