Champion Newspapers Limited
For a better society

23 years of uninterrupted democracy and unresolved challenges

35
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 

 

For many citizens, this year’s anniversary of Nigeria’s return to civilian dispensation certainly doesn’t calls for celebration but should serve as sober reflection and deep introspection of dashed hopes, missed opportunities and stunted aspirations orchestrated by the ruling political class, their willing accomplices in the public service and organized private sector.

 

We, therefore challenge the entire citizens to rise up for the onerous task of halting further drift to socio-economic stagnation and turn around the fortunes of the country for good in order to guarantee improved living standards, adequate safety of lives and property as well as ensure  that the most populous black nation on earth takes its rightful place in the global community.

 

Against popular expectations, the takeover of governance at all levels after the military exit on May 29, 1999, though heralded by great optimism and fun fare, regrettably democracy has not transformed into life abundance for the people 23 years after, with the basic necessities of life such as shelter, potable water and food getting increasingly out of the reach of many families and the future appearing bleak.

 

In other words parameters across major sectors of the economy we further note appears not only gloomy but frightening in addition to current security challenges such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, cultism as well as clamour for restructuring which predates the return of democracy over three decades ago.

 

We are also faced with secessionist agitations, poor leadership recruitment, high cost of governance, inadequate health care, deplorable condition of some major highways, perennial fuel scarcity, corrupt fuel subsidy regime, epileptic electricity supply and incessant strikes by academic and non-academic staff of both public universities and polytechnics among others.

 

Similarly, the recent rapid deterioration of all aspects of our national life characterised by increasing poverty, religious intolerance, monumental oil theft, mismanagement of national assets, communal and  religious strifes and near collapse of public services and public institutions should be of utmost concern for every patriotic citizen.

 

For instance the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, had put the  inflation rate at 15.92 percent in March 2022 and composite food index increased to 17.20 percent in the same month; Nigeria’s unemployment rate climbed to 33 per cent; the number of poor Nigerians is projected to hit 95.1 million this year; over 10.5 million out of school children while  total public debt rose by 20.2 percent to N39.56 trillion ($95.77 billion) as at December 31, 2021.

 

The implications of the above grim figures, in our view directly point to the poor ranking of the country in the Human Development Index (HDI) which  measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. Life expectancy for Nigeria is 55.44 years which is also a true reflection of the increasing hardship in the land resulting also from the dwindling purchasing power of the Naira and the attendant high cost of living.

 

Before the deteriorating state of affairs set in, we recall that Nigerians had joyfully welcomed the peaceful transfer of power to civilians after many years of military rule on May 29, 1999 with high expectation of a total turn around of the nation’s fortune for the better and farewell to life of deprivations and squalor with the swearing in of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP as president.

 

His eight years at the presidential villa Abuja, we further note, witnessed some major developmental strides across all sectors and Nigeria commenced a deliberate and what appeared to be a genuine fight against bribery and corruption with the setting up of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission, ICPC; secured debt forgiveness from the Paris Club of Creditors and was able to maintain relative peace, law and order in the country.

 

However, some of his greatest failures were the aborted attempt to perpetuate himself in office with the failed move to amend the 1999 Constitution to legalize a third term in office as against the maximum two terms tenure of four years each guaranteed by the document as well as military massacre of civilians in Odi in Bayelsa state and Zaki Biam in Benue state reprisal attacks.

 

Again, Obasanjo did all that was humanly possible and hand picked his successor in office,  Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua (now late) also of the PDP, who won the controversial 2007 presidential election with the opposition crying foul. Though faced with serious health challenges, Yar’Adua was able to bring relative stability in the troubled Niger Delta through implementation of an amnesty programme for the aggrieved militants who had declared total war on oil and gas installations, a development that restored the nation’s capacity to boost crude oil production.

 

Before his demise in May 2010, the administration of the Katsina born politician we further recall, had a battle front to confront a year earlier with the birth of the Islamic sect Boko Haram insurgents totally opposed to western education who launched a full scale war against the Nigerian state following the extra judicial killing of their leader Mohammed Yusuf in police custody in July 2009.

 

That specter of violence even got intensified following the ascendancy of then Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan via the famous doctrine of necessity by the Senate to power to complete Yar’Ardua’s tenure. He later contested and won the 2011 presidential election to fully take charge of power at the federal level despite security challenges. It is also on record that the insurgents got emboldened and took deadly attacks outside their strongholds in the North East to the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.

 

During his tenure, the nation’s economy was rated as the largest in Africa, with the value of Naira against international currencies relatively stable with purchasing power on the average while the people’s living standards remained relatively better than what subsists currently. In our view therefore, apart from insecurity, endemic corruption constituted the weakest link of the Jonathan administration before his defeat and that of PDP by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress in the 2015 general elections.

 

It is also worthy of note that the APC had taken full advantage of these weaknesses to map out its strategies before unleashing its electioneering slogan of ‘Change’ promising to focus on security, anti-corruption and strengthening of the economy without the electorate sufficiently interrogating how the programmes would be implemented.

 

Significantly, the Buhari administration has made serious impact in striving for food security through increased funding of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to boost food production. But the gains of that intervention hasn’t been felt as the cost of basic food items remains very high for the average citizens,

 

The administration has also declared a total war on insurgents, rehabilitated some strategic highways, intensified the anti graft campaign and began massive modernization of railways as well as construction of standard gauge including the Lagos- Ibadan tracks. The government and the organized private sector were able to rise up to the challenge posed by the deadly Corona virus (COVID-19) and greatly contained its devastating effects hence the low rate of deaths recorded.

 

However, even though the incumbent administration was able to exit economic recession, experience in the past seven years of the ruling APC at the centre has shown that the living conditions of most Nigerians, the HDI and socio-economic indicators had degenerated when compared with the 16 years administration of the PDP. Truly the suffering in the land has worsened with millions of citizens wallowing in penury, unable to eat three square meals daily and lamenting the near absence of democracy dividends promised by the politicians.The security situation has remained very challenging under the current despite the huge resources and additional equipment deployed.

 

Besides, the general down turn of the economy, we note with deep concern the protracted crisis in the tertiary education which has kept students at home for months due to strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU following the failure of the federal government to implement the 2009 agreement reached with the academics.

 

Like we observed in our recent editorial on the subject, no effort should be spared by President Buhari to immediately step into the dispute to meet some of the grievances of the lecturers in order for them to suspend strike and return to the classroom for the students to return to their campuses as one of the legacies to bequeath to the incoming federal administration. Since qualitative education is the basis of all development, the federal government must act fast to finding a lasting solution to the issues at stake.

 

Furthermore, corruption has remained a monster despite government’s promise to tackle it under the incumbent administration even as it is clear to all that the war against the vice is far from being won and requires additional impetus and fresh strategies on the part of the anti-agencies such as the EFCC and ICPC. Towards this end, we recommend amendments to the establishment laws to stiffen penalties for offenders including long jail terms and possibly life sentence.

 

And since the Buhari administration has barely one year left in office, it is our strong view that such challenges enumerated earlier as restructuring of the country, restoration of the federal principle that will redefine the interrelationship between the component units of the federation to make the political system work more efficiently, State Police, reducing the size and cost of government, new revenue allocation formula and some far reaching recommendations of National Conference report should be part of electioneering issues by the political parties ahead of next year’s general elections to guide the choices of the electorate.

 

Similarly, the federal government, should as a matter of priority release all budgetary allocation to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to enable the umpire prepare adequately for the polls including recruitment of personnel, purchase of needed equipment, vehicles and speed boats while no effort must be spared in tackling the spate of criminality and vicious attacks on civilians, military and police personnel even if that requires seeking foreign assistance to guarantee peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the exercises.

The officials of INEC are further challenged to remain truly independent and shun all inducements in order to conduct free, fair, credible and hitch-free polls so that every vote will count.

 

We implore delegates yet to pick their presidential candidates to  vote wisely and utmost sense of patriotism in order to ensure that only leaders with proven integrity, track record of unblemished service to fatherland are elected. Since leadership has been identified as the bane of the nation’s development, posterity will not forgive party members in particular and the voters in general who receive bribes and other inducements to mortgage their consciences, the future of their children and the country. Happy anniversary to all Nigerians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“During my recent nationwide trips, I came face to face with angry and hungry youths, children, boys and girls abandoned by their states who ought to provide them with education and vocational training. These had become the recruiting grounds of criminals, religious and political extremists.

 

. We planned to make Nigeria the continental economic powerhouse which would guarantee high quality of life to the vast majority of our citizens.

 

“I planned to provide peace by ending insurgency of all types occasioned by the absence of a robust and coherent plan and lack of engagements with those involved and by improving the capacity of our intelligence services, the armed forces, the police and paramilitary services.

 

“It is therefore based on personal principles and with great humility that I have decided after wide consultations to withdraw from this contest which has been obscenely monetized.

 

 

Comments are closed.