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Nigeria and the new decade


Days ago, we completed a trip that lasted 365 days! The journey – 2019 to 2020, shaped by the workings of time and man’s sense of coordination, has its completion immersed in the waters of contention. One part says 2020 isn’t the start of a new decade. The other group hangs on to the mantra: 2020 signposts the commencement of a new decade.

Perhaps, the debate will remain open to views and perspectives as 2020 continues to take shape. However, there is a fact in the mix: we have parted with another period of mixed fortunes. Aligning with the norm, conversations at workplaces and social circles continue to give regards to New Year’s Resolutions.

In the final moments of 2019, a friend conveyed notes from his ‘2020 resolutions’ in a brief conversation. He spoke glowingly about dropping some bad habits and turning a new leaf. The conversation climaxed with my position on how to avoid missing targets with the resolutions. Resolutions have a comical outlook: they carve jesters out of individuals who fail at set goals and take dangerous plunges.

At the December 2019 breakfast meeting of the Lagos Business School, financial analyst Bismarck Rewane offered timely admonition on avoiding dangerous plunges and making wise choices this year.

Rewane, CEO at Financial Derivatives Company Limited projected: “For Nigeria, consumers will groan about the hike in VAT, the restoration of tollgates and cost-reflective electricity tariffs.”

What does this imply with the 50% VAT hike proposed last September and low income per capita which could drop further from $2.236? Smart moves…Smart decisions, transcending writing goals with the best handwritings somewhere without action.

There are a couple of things to cheer in Rewane’s frightening projections for the country. Hear him: “The good news is that the payment of the new minimum wage and the arrears would offer some succour to workers. Investors would also keep a close watch on the stock market and the impact of government policies on their portfolio strategy.”

To achieve goals premised on “improving the economy” captured in his New Year Letter to Nigerians, President Buhari should listen to the expert recommendations of Rewane and other members of the eight-man Economic Advisory Council constituted in September 2019. In this regard, my advice to the President would be Refining economic goals in a manner that identifies problems and improves the nation’s economic potentials. This is not a time to assume a rigid position.

In extracting opportunities and growth from the 2020s, the President and his cabinet must do more with creativity. Creativity must serve as the driving force for revenue generation (taxing citizens to death is not an option). Creativity must be at the centre of policy formulation and execution (quality of life requires a boost). Specific orders should be issued to ministries, departments and agencies in the current set-up to ensure uniformity and keep goals on track.

The President desires a spot on the right side of history. There is a window of opportunity for him to explore with the rest of the years that his Presidency offers. I disagree with his stand on being a respecter of the rule of law, wrapped in his New Year correspondence and urge him to improve on his performance here. History will be kind to him when the rule of law is held in high esteem, earning us respect in the international community.

At this point, I am leaving you in the care of optimism. As you make efforts to make the most of the first year of the 2020s, please draw relief and hope from the projects President Buhari says he would deliver in the 2020/2021 period. With sincerity, Lagos-Ibadan and Itakpe-Warri rail lines will enhance economic prosperity. Hopefully, the 47 road projects earmarked for completion in the same period, including roads to the nation’s ports will kick out congestion and harrowing gridlock.

In a not too distant time when stocktaking takes centre stage, May Nigerians and indeed Nigeria remember the 2020s for great moves and strategies on all fronts.

Happy New Year!

Odunoye, a social commentator wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria

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