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Great expectation


President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

It is not in my place today, or any other day for that matter, to indulge in any flight of fancy or engage myself in the tedious academic excursion in the search for correlation, if any, between Abraham Marslow’s hierarchy of needs and the current mood in our dear country today – Nigerians’ moments of great expectation which President Muhammadu Buhari has creatively couched in his 34 priority projects for the 2016 budget which has just survived a most turbulent flight between the Presidency and the National Assembly.

By way of a reminder. Marslow, according to Wikipedia, was a psychologist of world repute and founder of the school of thought known as humanistic psychology. In his 1943 paper to a scholarly audience, he came up with what he called the hierarchy of needs, saying that people were motivated to achieve certain needs and when one need was fulfilled, they climbed on to the next one, usually much higher one and so on and so forth. His five motivational needs were depicted in a pyramid form with the most basic of needs at the base of the pyramid.

The most basic need is food to satisfy the demands of hunger (he did not have in mind Nigerian politics of stomach infrastructure but he was pretty prophetic about it), followed by the need for safety (the feeling of security, the absence of Boko Haram, Niger Delta Avengers, the Cattle herdsmen, robbers, cultists and kidnappers; the need to sleep with your two eyes closed), need for love (self-explanatory? Love thy neighbour….) and finally the need for self esteem or sself-actualization(the feeling of having arrived, mistaken in some quarters for greed and avarice, a deadly combination that motivates the crooked to profligacy and kleptomania).

Before we digress too far. Did President Buhari have the Marslow theory of needs in mind when he was crafting his budget of change? If he did, excellent. If he did not, not to worry. Even if the philosophy of the budget has not been adequately articulated, the budget, as it is today, if implemented to the letter, will give enough incentive and motivation for the poor and the hapless in the society to strive to meet their basic needs and move on to those other ingredients of development that make life a little more abundant for the living. And for the rich who appear to have gotten everything, there is enough in the budget to satisfy their greed and avarice, this time sans proclivity towards theft and egregious corruption. There is room for them to work and expand their profit margin without pilfering a kobo.

The 34 priority projects, hereafter called the Group of 34, appear to me to have been designed to critically meet Marslow’s theory of needs. The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed explained that the 34 projects are grouped in four categories of 1. governance and security, 2. diversification of the economy; 3. creating support for the poor and the vulnerable and 4. reflating the economy through investment.

While signing the budget into law, the President said that his administration was committed to changing the structure of the Nigerian economy once and for all. ”We are working night and day to diversify the economy such that we never again have to rely on one commodity to survive as a country. So that we can produce the food we eat, make our own textiles, produce most of the things we use. We intend to create the environment for our young people to be able to innovate and create jobs through technology,” declared the President. This budget, let us make no mistake about it, is a covenant between the President and the citizens and a serious inviolable article of faith that should also underline the seriousness which government attaches to its change mantra. It is an article of faith that was built on the solid expectation of the people which eventually gave rise to the solid support they gave to the candidate Muhammadu Buhari when he sought their votes in the presidential election.

At the height of the disenchantment with Goodluck Jonathan Administration, Nigerians eagerly awaited the presidential election which raised their expectation. APC as a party did not dash their hopes. Again, the generality of the people could not wait to see the back of Jonathan. May 29 last year, finally the baton changed hands with heightened expectation across the country. With Buhari in the saddle and with his no-nonsense mien, NEPA now DISCO, started giving steady supply of electricity even without a single policy statement. Buhari’s body language alone sent signals to some delinquent institutions and they started to behave well, though temporarily.

Nigerians waited eagerly for the President to put his team together. That took some while to do and the impatient Nigerians could not wait to see what manner of men and women he was putting together. Another moment of waiting. Another period of anxiety and great expectation. Finally the team came, and it was a mixed grill of the known and the not so well known. Suddenly people started to show apprehension. The magic had not started. Is the President, the newly converted democrat, devoid of his magic wand, they asked. Disillusionment began to come to the surface and came to a height with the long queues at filling stations because of petrol shortages, the worst in recent years. Added to the fuel shortages was the electricity black-out across the country that had threatened to signal darkness at noon.

The standard explanation for all that went wrong, for the pains and the anguish of the people, was the global crash in the price of crude oil, responsible for more than 80 per cent of the national economy. The bad times had set in with anger and desperation across the land. Fortunately for the government, people did not lose hope. They retained their trust in the President whose standing in the international community was also exceptional. What Buhari has going for him so far is the uncompromising fight against corruption and the determination to see the end of the Boko Haram insurgency.

As for the economy, majority of the people were prepared to give the government a chance, putting all their hopes, their last hopes on the budget.

Now the budget is here, the panacea they patiently waited for is here. Despite the mixed reactions from economists and other public analysts, Nigerians are ready to believe that this budget represents economic salvation. This, now, is the moment of great expectation. Despite the tos and fros that the budget went through before it was finally signed last week, it is hoped that the current hardship will abate. But that is on one condition. That the machinery of government is up to the task, that the President will take steps to curtail the antics of saboteurs, that his brinkmanship must be sharpened to deal with the smart alecs who are always on hand to cut corners and give the citizens the short end of the stick.

The budget is only as good as its implementation. If there is no discipline and there is no will power to adhere scrupulously to the letter of the budget, then the government must be prepared to find other excuses. And I am constrained to think that there will be no reasonable excuse for failure. The government has raised hopes and heighted expectations of the citizens. The poor and the hapless want to move from the base of Marslow pyramid in his hierarchy of needs to the next level. They want to savour the good things of life. Methinks the 34 priority projects in the budget are designed to help not only the poor but the rich who are aiming at self-actualisation; and the poor to attain that goal, the goal of kissing good bye to grinding poverty and a welcome to affluence and some basic comfort. This great expectation should not, must not be allowed to result in great and monumental frustration. We must listen to Elliot Larson who says that anger comes from frustrated expectation.

• Uthman Shodipe on Page 17

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Great expectation
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