Let the music change for presidential candidates
“When the French were challenged, they turned to their General, Charles De Gaulle. When Britain were challenged, they turned to their great General, Wilson Churchill. Today, Nigeria is challenged, economically challenged, physically challenged, security challenged… who do we turn to? Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is the right man for the job.” This was the utterance of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, ushering Nigerians finally into looking up to the General to save them from their many miseries.
Barely six years after, the question of whether we have truly been saved remained unanswered. On the contrary, we have been put into more economic, physical and security turmoil.
Statistical data show that India may have overtaken Nigeria as the world poverty capital but 33 per cent of the 200 million Nigerians are in extreme poverty compared to that of 6.7 per cent of India’s population. Even with this, the Federal Government’s Sustainability Committee (FGSC) led by the Vice President alluded to the fact that Nigeria is facing its most serious economic challenges ever in this period.
Despite the fact that Nigeria has large natural resources but lead Africa with the highest number of people living below poverty line, the debt stock has risen to as high as N41.6 trillion. When it comes to debt, the government and most analysts look at debt to GDP ratio but what revenue is the GDP producing? These infrastructure that are debt financed are not operational. The Abuja-Kaduna train route has not been in operation for over eight months until December 5 and even the one under construction, Port Harcourt–Maiduguri Eastern rail line has been suspended because of the failure of government to protect its investments from attacks.
If the Federal Government cannot protect its investments, how can it protect that of the citizens? How will the debt be paid off when investments that should be yielding revenue are not operational? It seems we are dipping into more debts and by implication, poverty, much more than we could ever imagined.
JP Morgan delisted Nigeria from Emerging markets as a result of Nigeria’s failure to take advantage of higher oil prices and higher oil production. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) did increase Nigeria’s quota to 1.830 million barrels per day but production stood below 1 million barrels per day in August 2022, making Nigeria drop from the first largest producer in Africa behind Angola, Algeria and Libya.
The underutilisation of opportunities does not end there. Criminal waste is evident in the administration of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited especially in managing local refineries. N54 billion has been spent on rehabilitating refineries in the country this year yet the average oil production is the worst since 1999 more so the 2022 budget benchmark for oil is $62 meaning we should be saving not less than $38 since average crude oil for year 2022 is $103 as a result of the Russian-Ukraine war. Oil price and the Nigeria economy usually have a positive relationship but things are not so under the present minister of petroleum.
Inflation figure in Nigeria has been on a continuous monthly increase since January this year, meaning the purchasing power of Nigerians have continuously been eroded. The implication is that life becomes more difficult and financially unbearable for the average Nigerian to survive this harsh economic situation.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has a nine per cent ceiling on inflation but the November inflation rate is 21.47 per cent. All these indicators are few of the many reasons Nigeria’s teeming young population may have decided to reject the present political leadership in the country. They are witnesses to our politicians enjoying heaven on earth while reverse is the case for the populace.
In effect, the Nigerian youths have been impoverished in one way or the other, through inadequate employment opportunities, unfriendly business environment and absence of formidable security to protect their communities, leading to avoidable loss of loved ones. The political class has not been able to transform the country to an industrial society even with the enormous human and economic endowment of Nigeria but they’ve done so well in painting the youths lazy. The labelling of the youth as lazy is a misnomer since the system has failed to create opportunities for young people to utilise their human capital. This explains the emigration of many young Nigerians to foreign countries as a result of frustration, limited opportunities in the land and the use of abusive words against political opponents with a divergent view. We must always remember that even if ‘Sùúrù kò lérè, Iṣẹ́ náà kò ní èrè’ (patience has no gain and work is unprofitable) in the country, our dissatisfaction as youths to the current trajectory of the country should be expressed in respectful manner without bullying people of opposing political views. Youth on the other should not express hate on social media.
Our youths have to face the reality that everybody cannot jell with the Peter Obi Movement; some will have good reasons for supporting other presidential candidates like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Sowore Omoyele and Adebayo Adewole among other presidential candidates. They all have qualities that people will find acceptable no matter the predominant political interest. One may not support the candidacy of Tinubu but at the same token cannot deny that he has been able to nurture political leaders like Babatunde Fashola, Rauf Aregbesola and even the current Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who chairs the National Economic Council.
The OBIdent supporters are not also free from political attack. For instance, other parties refer to Obi as ‘him tu lie”, (pathological liar) and that he quotes unverifiable facts. However, anybody with the knowledge of statistical data will know how difficult it is to get data from reliable sources, even the U.S. Agency for international development once said we have nearly ‘40 million twitter users,’ whereas a further research revealed that this was absolutely untrue. The figure was attributed to NOI Polls, a survey company in Nigeria. Nigeria has about three million active twitter users. Even the Nigeria government is not free from dishing out outrageously fallacious data. In December 2015, the Federal Government declared that Boko Haram had been technically defeated but evidence of further gruesome attacks revealed that it was not true.
My advice is that all persons be allowed their freedom to vote for their preferred candidates. Nobody should be discriminated against by virtue of their choices. We need a paradigm shift in the way the next generation is raised and nurtured. We should create a society where justice prevails.
We are crude oil dependent for forex, our outputs are in primary mode of production but we have a sophisticated taste without the zeal to add value to our raw produce. Untill we start turning our cassava to breakfast cereals, starch, ethanol and cocoa to butter and chocolate, the Nigerian economy will not be stimulated and will not grow. Mars Wrigley confectionery rake in $45 billion in sales of chocolates in 2021. We need to restructure the foreign exchange market, make it more transparent and create an economic ecosystem for the production and exportation of finished products.
This 2023 election should not be about tribe, religion or personal interest, it should be about Nigeria and her progress. In a way, Nigerian youths seem to have decided to stand solidly with verifiable statistics rather than a “unifier” or “cassava accountant.”
Omoferimi is a teacher in Lagos.