BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, as we enter the last day of the year today and start the beginning of a new year tomorrow, please, permit me to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous year ahead. This is the ritual we are all familiar with. Many of us would head to church tonight to try and pray and possibly cajole God to grant all our best wishes pronto, as soon as the new year begins. More often than not, we want God to do things for us even if we refuse to do His bidding, the commonest of which, according to my faith, is to love our neighbours as ourselves and forgive our enemies seventy times seven times. The dearth of love and the absence of forgiveness, I believe, is one of the major reasons Nigeria is in such a mess today.
I will never get tired of sermonising about this unfortunate reality. Nigeria needs love in all ramifications. It seems we are too oppressive to one another. The wickedness of man’s inhumanity to man has manifested itself in our daily lives. It is the reason some of us misbehave and carry on with no modicum of care in the world. We love religion but hate religious tenets which regulate our beliefs. We love the good things that we see abroad but fail to replicate same at home. In fact, we believe those things are not meant for us and should be the exclusive preserve of those who can afford to travel and return home to regale us with tales of a glittering Dubai and a New York that never sleeps.
We have lamented endlessly and it seems there is no end to our woes in sight. Life should not be as tough and rough as it is in our dear beloved country. I think this season affords us the opportunity to rethink and reroute our ways of doing things. We must start by reconciling our many and varying differences. We can’t and won’t go far until we come to terms with the issues that divide us and make a conscious effort to embrace the things that can unite us. No nation can ever develop in an atmosphere of permanent state of topsy-turvy.
At the level of different tiers of governments in Nigeria, there is so much chaos everywhere; unpaid salaries, poor infrastructure, vindictiveness, profligacy, nepotism, and all the ailments Fela sang about aeons ago are still very much with us. We have blatantly refused to try new methods and methodology and yet expect miracles to happen. Of all our problems, the one that worries me the most is our propensity to prefer the use of brute force above the well-tested strategy of persuasion despite the failure of tyranny on too many occasions. I wonder why mankind starts a war, destroys everything along its path before returning to the negotiation table. Why was it blinded in the first instance about the possibility of peaceful settlement?
The latest theatre of madness is in Syria where foreign powers are taking time and turns to gang-rape that historic country. No matter the outcome of the latest ceasefire, Syria and Syrians are already sentenced to a life of perpetual misery and penury. When and if tomorrow comes, the same super powers would queue up to determine who gets what business for the reconstruction of a totally battered nation. It is such a big shame. I’ve noticed and noted the same similarities in Nigeria where we prefer to waste our resources on fighting dirty and abandoning governance before returning to our senses and begin to preach peace and reconciliation.
I had admonished the ruling party in Nigeria, APC, when it started its own war of attrition but hardly did anyone listen. Rather they accused us of working for certain enemies at the time when we were only concerned about the collateral damage to true and productive governance. Nigerians voted last year for a singular purpose which was to arrest the drift towards perdition and enthrone a new regime of performance, discipline and integrity as opposed to incompetence and corruption. Nigerians wanted to witness a sporadic change in their lives and not listen to a plethora of excuses for failure. If truth be told, the APC frittered away its humongous goodwill and lost a lot of its uncommon equity when it got carried away over the assumption of its invincibility. APC behaved like it had all the time in the world and failed to take cognisance of the traditional impatience of Nigerians. It is not too late for APC to retrace its steps and give Nigerians a new political order. I shall endeavour to give my humble suggestions, as always.
I have always maintained that nations are never governed by saints but by performers. Therefore, let me assure President Muhammadu Buhari that his seeming search for saints to work with may not yield fruits after-all. I now plead with him to urgently search for some vibrant and accomplished Nigerians to work with in the new year. In another five months, two years would have passed since Nigerians in our collective wisdom or amnesia catapulted the President back to power after over three decades in retirement. It is a rare honour and privilege that should never be rubbished by anyone. I’m certainly convinced that a few things have definitely gone wrong with his avowed plans to make Nigeria one of the greatest nations on earth. Let me fathom a few guesses.
The President is probably surrounded by people who are not in tune with current trends in the modern world. The President may be a veritable victim of his own persona which makes people around him to live in dizzying fear of an omnipotent boss. Only the President can release such people from their gilded cage. The President would not be privy to quality advice and factual information if the people around him are too timid jelly-like to speak out their minds because they are afraid of a backlash. There may truly be a powerful mafia that has grabbed the jugular of Nigeria while the President has been practically hypnotised by them. Whatever it is, only the President can confirm if he thinks the current mafia is what he needs to deliver on his attractive promises to Nigerians made on the soap box.
I doubt if there is any serious Nigerian today outside the corridors of power who feels the present team of President Buhari can drive Nigeria to the promised land we all anxiously want to see. If I were the President, I will change the tempo of governance within the first month of 2017. I do not know the level of power and authority currently given to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, but I would like to see him get more involved and become very assertive. He is relatively young, highly cerebral and innovative with far reaching global contacts that Nigeria can benefit from. As a distinguished scholar, he is conversant with modern trends and can gain access to the most brilliant Nigerians that litter everywhere on this planet. I’m not sure Nigeria is currently making use of one of its best assets in government today.
The time has come to reduce the dangerous level of mistrust and distrust in our country today. From North to South and West to East, Nigerians are at war against themselves and their country. The perceived fear of a Northernisation agenda can be curtailed if President Buhari can make that extra effort to speak directly to Nigerians and explain certain decisions that inform some of his appointments. He should never dismiss the agitations of any part or group of Nigerians. Every Nigerian citizen should be given a sense of belonging. The senseless killing of Nigerians in certain parts of our country should be totally discouraged. No country can afford to operate in complete paranoia. The rule of law must be followed and obeyed in dealing with criminals and troublemakers. The government should never assume the role of accuser and judge at the same time. A situation where the government becomes a Law unto itself may lead to occasional skirmishes and even anarchy. This explains the volatility we’ve witnessed recently in some parts of Nigeria.
The Buhari government must rejig its war against corruption. There is no marked difference between the style operated by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the current format. Instead of the present staccato fashion, President Buhari should restructure the operations in a way that it would not only target certain individuals but also the particular institutions that attract and thrive on corruption. As noted on this page in the past, not all corrupt tendencies emanate from greed. My thesis is that corruption in Nigeria has become almost irredeemably endemic as a result of chronic needs from top to bottom. It is so easy to attack a few Governors, Ministers and legislators but corruption begins from the time many of the government operatives were certified paupers. Significantly, the government cannot preach integrity when it is distinctly lacking in such integrity itself, epitomised by its failure to keep its covenant with its workers through the payment of their salaries. You cannot continue to recklessly commit the country’s funds to frivolous and wasteful projects and expect that those involved in doing the donkey work on these projects should go unpaid but nevertheless retain a semblance of decency.
It is impossible for an average Nigerian to survive on his normal income. I still don’t know how most workers manage to get to work on paltry salaries. Many don’t receive their salaries for several months and the employers can also not be totally blamed due to some dwindling turnover. The quality of education has dropped abysmally and many graduates are thus not employable by the few companies that can still afford to do so. And if lucky to get the job, you must pay for transport, cough out one or two years’ rent in advance, feed on something and still cover sundry bills. This reality has driven many Nigerians to desperation and the need to survive, by fire by force. No amount of preaching by any government can change the debilitating conditions that force many honest people to resist the temptations of surviving against all odds.
In other climes, the solution is not too far-fetched; there must be a credit system. It is a no-brainer that credit begets and creates wealth. It expands the economy and puts more money and purchasing power into the hands of a lot more people. However, obtaining credit in Nigeria is not an easy matter and never a better option due to many factors that are so obvious to you and I. The Buhari government should work with the Central Bank of Nigeria on how to ease the inherent fiasco of obtaining rents, mortgages, car loans, health insurance, education grants and scholarships, business start-ups and so on. No government can employ even ten percent of all employables but it can help facilitate many difficult necessities of life. Those hoping President Buhari would help them find jobs should, please, stop living on false and misguided hopes. I reiterate, there is a limit to the number of jobs that any government can create of its own accord. All that government can do is to formulate policies that can alleviate the suffering of average Nigerians. This is not too visible at the moment.
President Buhari should not be distracted by the politicians who think more of contesting elections and who will therefore be telling him that all is well. Mr President Sir, all is definitely not well. Indeed, it seems that nothing is well! The best and easier way for you to win the next Presidential election if you are so interested, and rightly so, is to perform now. Believe me, Nigerians would voluntarily ask you to continue. That should be your priority at this highly critical, tense and depressive period in our country’s development. Only true change across board can ameliorate the situation. The time to embrace such change is now, as we begin a new year. That must be the President’s New Year Resolution. It will take us all out of the doldrums.