By Oke Epia
Telephone (sms only): 07059850016 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The beginning of a year like this offers opportunities for fresh aspirations and renewal of hopes for many. For many individuals across the world, new year resolutions are routinely expressed even if not properly defined or realistically thought through. For state actors and corporate entities, the beginning of the year often presents a chance to review efficacy and effectiveness of plans, policies and programmes whether short, medium and/or long term. This review is made against the background of observed effects of the implementation of the subsisting plans on citizens, concerned publics, stakeholders and the general operating environment. In the corporate world, the task is that of management while for the public sector, the political leadership takes the responsibility. That is why the new year message of leaders are very important because they point to the direction of what to expect in the next 12 months or thereabout.
For Nigeria, 2017 is a new window of hope for a nation sunk deep in despair and despoliation occasioned by decades of misrule, maladministration and bad governance. My position is in spite of the preparedness, resolve and roadmap of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government to move the country forward. Even though the government has done much to erode the mass goodwill and confidence that heralded its assumption of office in 2015, I submit that citizens must continue to give the benefit of the doubt. After all, the mandate is not even half-way through yet; and the tides can still turn in the right directions. An indication in this regard is the good news of the commencement of payment of N5000 subsistence stipends to poor and unemployed Nigerians as promised by the APC during the election campaigns. This cheering development no matter how bumpy the start of the scheme is, should attract kudos even from critics of the administration.
While I concede that leadership is key, I believe that citizens must also resolve to innovate, sustain and organize at their own level. The economic hardship carried over from last year should buoy self-confidence in citizens such that can catalyze positive energies to breed innovations in business, professions and entrepreneurship. The never-say-die spirit inherent in many Nigerians should energize an organized defiance against both contrived and unwitting odds thrown up by the decisions and/or indecisions as well as the actions and/or inactions of leaders and those in positions of political authority. This year should not be all about lamentations like last year was. Beyond all the worries, foibles and troubles of life and living in Nigeria, citizens must elevate the conversation from agonizing to organizing. There have been tales of woes as citizens blamed the government while the government in turn blamed its predecessors. There was lavish sharing of blame at the expense of solutions-sourcing and amelioration of hardships. 2017 must be different; if the government chooses to persist in blame allocation, citizens must decide to engage in tactical preparations for the next election circle. Hopefully, the lessons of 2015 should be a guide: Nigerians must not leave their fate in the hands of a hurriedly contrived mega party that promised heaven and earth only to deliver little or nothing; citizens cannot afford to fall for deceitful calls of so-called rebranded messiahs and politicians steeped in the old ways of the political process. The days of deceit and political gangsterism should be put behind and conscious efforts made to change the rules and mode of engagement between leaders and the led. And the time to begin is now.
2016 was a very trying period for the country. The economy officially relapsed into recession in spite of deceitful denials by those in charge of its management who tried to deflect the real import of the situation by latching on to the phrase ‘technical recession’ for long. But facts and figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) were gloomy and unsparing. The rate of unemployment rose consecutively last year, reaching higher levels each quarter. From the first quarter of the year, the figure rose incrementally to the closing weeks of 2016. In December, the NBS said the country’s unemployment rate had risen from 13.3percent in the second quarter of the year to 13.9percent by the third quarter. This represented an increase of 555,311 persons in the unemployment loop of the labour force.
A previous release by the Bureau had said the number of people that were unemployed or underemployed increased from 24.4 million as at the end of the first quarter to 26.06 million persons. The last release from the Bureau on the degree of joblessness did not only heighten apprehension on the state of the economy but also substantiated fears that its managers were probably pressing the wrong buttons or were simply clueless as to how to get the country out of the woods. The economic downturn also reflected on the level of inflation in the country as the prices of essential goods and services kept rising above the reach of many citizens in different parts of the land. If you think these were mere statistics that communicated just figures that did not quite reflect the calamitous state of affairs, then you may have got it all wrong. For perhaps the first time in the history of the nation, there were instances of hijacking of pots of meals right from the fire by hungry neighbours and passers-by. There was a particular report where a man caught with a stolen pot of soup belonging to a food vendor was subjected to community rebuke by the local authorities and then forgiven to benefit his shameful theft. The reality of 2016 which unfortunately has spilled into the current year saw many families in dire straits of being unable to feed and afford school fees or clothing or even shelter.
The size of the ‘have-not’ in society increased dangerously in 2016 even as the class of the ‘haves’ faced more mortal threats than ever. Kidnapping rose sharply in many parts of the country as gangs transformed into syndicates taking territories in forests where they keep their victims in relative obscurity and receive payments in ransom for freedom. Sadly, both the rich and middle-class became vulnerable to abductions-for-ransom perpetuated by criminal gangs. Even more saddening is the fact that some in leadership and positions of responsibility engaged in a form of abduction of public resources for private gains. In 2016 for instance, we heard of how a high-ranking government official in Abuja engaged in mis-prioritized grass-cutting contract bazaar with funds meant to alleviate the sufferings of millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Ironically, this happened in an administration that trumpets anti-corruption as a priority policy of state. Yet nothing has happened beyond a terse presidential statement that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice has been directed to probe the allegations. This is clearly not how to practice the ‘change begins with me’ value reorientation campaign of the government.
This is why I submitted earlier in this piece that citizens must remain resilient in the pursuit of self-development goals and innovation in business and profession. We must find something to hold on to in the face of leadership failures and disappointment. We must not give our individual and collective destinies to buccaneers and ransom-takers. 2017 provides a chance to organize ahead of the next elections. And importantly however, we must strive in our different little corners to remain civil, law-abiding and non-violent in our agitation for a better deal for Nigeria and fulfilling individual aspirations. I wish us all a prosperously productive 2017.
––Epia, Publisher of OrderPaper.ng is on Twitter @resourceme.