Things Must Fall in Place

Guest Columnist: ISSA AREMU

The enthusiasm that trails the new national initiative on national building should not be wasted.
Many compatriots are joining daily and hourly. Even those reported to have not been “consulted” have welcome the new initiative.

There is no doubt that National Consultative Front (NCF) is an idea whose time has come.
Things are fast falling apart in Nigeria beyond what the late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, documented about colonial Nigeria in the classic African story, “Things Fall Apart” and and post colonial Nigeria, “The Trouble with Nigeria.”

It’s time for a new political paradigm to get things done in a new way to deliver the much needed public good to Nigerians.

Therefore, the facilitating Secretariat of the National Consultative Front (NCF) must intensify consultation with all to retain confidence.

In the new political normal, nobody should be taken for granted just as the Nigerians have almost been taken for a ride since 1999.

However compatriots too should jettison the old idea of entitlement to be “consulted” on the task which we all agonise over daily: repositioning our dear Nation on the path of development, deepening democracy, political and electoral reforms and eradication of poverty.

I was not “consulted” as such. But I wholeheartedly accept that I am enlisted in the task of pushing for sustainable development.

I certainly don’t need “consultation” “on a new political intervention for rescuing our dear country from the exploitative grip of a lacklustre leadership and the manipulation of a bickering, factionalised ruling political elites in Nigeria” as Professor Pat Utomi rightly puts it.

Kudos to fellow compatriots and comrades who have not given up an Nigeria but willing to sacrifice and organise for a better Nigeria.

We should stop grumbling but take some concrete actions.

There was a democratic country with focused political class.
Despite their legitimate disagreements they found a common ground to resist British imperialism together with mass of people, students organised labour, peasants and women.

There was once a post- colonial country of inclusion, manufacturing value addition, beneficiation and prosperity. It’s time to give back to a country that has invested in our education and wellbeing when resources were far more limited.

We must pass on to our children a country that works just as our parents out of nothing gave all to make us what we are. Godliness is in the details. All experiences are needed.

As a member of 2014 national conference, I bear witness that there is strength in diversity of old and young, women and men, capital and labour, tongues and faiths and regions and states.
Without loathing nor being romantic with the past, we must factor memory and history to build a modern Nigeria in a globalized world of technology and best governance practices.

Again Pat Utomi offers a template for constructive and critical engagement: namely “the structure of the federation with the principle of decentralization or subsidiarity as motive force.

A code of ethics and conduct for political actors with emphasis on selfless service and the agency function of the politician requiring strict accountability to the electorate and the most prudent use of public resources”.

There is also a need for a national vision that should be consensual and participatory as envisaged by Sustainable Developments Goals of 2030 and Africa Union Agenda 2060.

The ultimate goal of the NCF is for a new political economy . We must connect to the daily struggles of Nigerians against the current crisis of governance. The new fuel price increase during Coronavirus pandemic is certainly unacceptable and insensitive.

It will deepen poverty which ironically President Buhari recently accepts has worsened with lockdowns. With 10 percent inflation rate, Nigerians are already oppressed by high prices and eroded purchasing power.

Fuel price hike at the time of ease of movement after protracted lock downs means the Federal government is not committed to sustainable livelihoods. NLC’s demand that government reverses from the current arbitrary N143 to the old fuel price of N121.50 per litre is legitimate.

There should be transparency in pricing governance on the part of the Board of Petroleum Products Price Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) on the so-called market fundamentals which inform pricing of petroleum products.

Marketers are in business to make profit which they would do through padded fuel price template or blatant products diversions . However the government is there to ensure the prosperity of the nation and the welfare of the citizens. It is wrong for government officials to privilege marketers who are just interested in “profit making fundamentals” that promote price increase with utter disregard for the real sector of the economy and welfare of all.

The challenge facing the petroleum downstream sector goes beyond pricing. The fundamental issue is sustainable domestic supply which can only be made possible through reinvention of the existing domestic refineries and building of more.

Nigerians want to see the President and Vice President commissioning new refineries in line with the promise of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan that Nigeria will refine 80 percent of crude oil by 2018.

The existing debt servicing of 80 per cent of revenue is not sustainable. It’s unacceptable for national development.

Nigeria should urgently demand for debt forgiveness or push for debt cancellation. It is commendable that within the context of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) initiative, China had pledged to cancel the debts of some African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020. Nigeria should demand that China’s debt deal includes Nigeria.

Comrade Aremu is a Member of the National Institute, Kuru, Jos.