Before we get to the breaking point
Most Nigerians went hysteric when All Progressives Congress (APC) won the Presidential election last year. Goodluck Jonathan’s regime was sent packing after six years of misrule characterised by stinking corruption, gross ineptitude and high level of impunity on the part of the leaders.
At a point, the government was labelled clueless. The truth is that Jonathan was hardly in charge. Good riddance to bad rubbish, you might say. The APC came up with the change mantra which is yet to translate to better life for an average Nigerian. We are yet to see the positive changes and we are still waiting like a patient dog. But for how long can we wait? The dream for a better Nigeria is dying fast as we are yet to see a semblance of light at the end of the tunnel. Despite all odds an average Nigerian is still keeping hope alive.
This government has done so well in fighting corruption but corruption is not the only problem facing Nigerians. Other problems like hunger, unemployment, terrorism (to a large extent), kidnapping and arms banditry are still there to be resolved. Corruption war is yielding good results and as at the last count, over one (1) trillion naira has been recovered. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) must have generated some good money from which government can spend.
The problem is that Buhari has refused to spend despite the fact that the economy is near comatose with inflation rate spiraling every day and the naira sliding rapidly against the Dollar. Today a bag of cement is going for close to N2,500 and a bag of rice for as much as N18,000 not to talk of other necessities of life.
I want to believe that President is seeing an average Nigerian as a thief (which is not possible) and that if money is released, such money will be mismanaged or misappropriated. If not, why is he finding it difficult to release money into the economy? The full implementation of this year’s budget is in doubt. We are already in September and you wander what can be achieved between now and December or March next year for capital projects.
This government is just too slow and looks insensitive to people’s plight. It took Buhari six months to appoint ministers and at the end of the long wait, the calibre was not worth the wait as most Nigerians were disappointed by the quality of the team. To me Goodluck Jonathan’s team was better but for his timid approach to governance as he was not really in charge.
I keep doubting the competence of ministers like that of Finance (Kemi Adeosun), Solid Minerals Development (Dr Kayode Fayemi), Information and Culture (Alhaji Lai Mohammed), Education (Dr. Adamu Adamu), Sports and Youth Development (Solomon Dalung) and a host of others in the cabinet. The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria is in this group, by my estimation. He is not doing well at all.
The price of crude oil in the international market is unstable and we are left with no other choice than to diversify. Agriculture and Solid mineral sectors are supposed to be good grounds for diversification, yet the efforts being made in the two sectors look too little to achieve the desired result. The Minister for Solid Minerals looks too inexperienced to me and has refused to go beyond rhetoric. It is not always about grammar. By now one would have expected him to have organised up to three stakeholders/investors fora where ideas can be shared with a roadmap to tapping the overabundant mineral resources of the country but we are yet to see that happening.
It’s becoming more glaring that we need to restructure but yet the powers that be do not want to hear the word but they forget that when you make whispering impossible then you make an uproar possible. There is trouble ahead if we continue this way and the signs are there already for all to see. The Niger Delta Avengers have a point except for the way they are going about it. Most of our leaders have failed us and they should bury their heads in shame. After all, a huge amount of money has been allocated to the region in the past with nothing tangible to show for it. One of the past leaders is still languishing in jail in Britain for money laundry and corrupt practices.
Former President Jonathan Goodluck spent eight years at Aso Rock but what did he do for his people? He had the opportunity to restructure but shied away from it. Instead he organised a National Conference which is more political than anything else. The recommendations are yet to be looked at not to talk of implementation.
Coming back to the government of the day, the present administration has refused to really cut the cost of governance. It has been business as usual and conspicuous consumption is the order of the day. Despite the fact that transport allowance has been monetised, you keep seeing top government officials driving round the town in luxury sports utility vehicles and you can imagine the amount of money spent on fueling and keeping such vehicles on the road. In some cases, such officials engage drivers and pay them with government money.
Then you want to ask- who is fooling whom? When will government cut down on such excesses and face reality of the time. The money is not just there and those in government carry on without care. What a selfish attitude!Government officials should be made to ride on less expensive vehicles (if they must) while they fuel the vehicles from their pockets. That is why most of them find it difficult to leave office when the time is up – they want to die in the office and they keep on falsifying their ages and cutting corners.
In the final analysis, we are yet to see the change and the government should sit up. Nigerians can still afford to give Buhari more time to see if dividends of democracy will start to flow. But, according to a Yoruba proverb – “dried dog meat is sweet but what do you eat before the meat gets dried.” Where are the palliatives to cushion the effect of the hard times we are going through? This question is still begging for an answer. The President and all other leaders should know Nigerians are almost at breaking point now.
• Freeman wrote from Abuja.