Our season of warnings
The last few weeks must go down as our season of warnings.
This perhaps is because something has gone very wrong concerning our political, economic and social life as directed, controlled and run by the government and its officials.
In a way, the warnings are coming as a result of multiple factors but essentially a finger can easily be pointed at the country’s failing economy and the runaway inflation in frightening digits causing the misery of economic hardship for Nigerians.
Sadly, in moments of great national distress, political leadership are miles apart from a widely shared belief by idealists who see leadership as steering the ship of state in the right direction, while the realists believe leadership is the ability to seize the horse of history by the tail and lever yourself onto its back. However, whatever the nature of leadership (government) everyone can agree when it is absent, as is the case with Nigeria today.
At the moment, without mincing words, in the life of the nation, leadership is not only conspicuously absent, but it is also very far away from the lives and living conditions of many Nigerians. Even in the face of this reality, the political leadership remains in the illusion of denials and believes that all is well with the masses.
The government on its part, continue to cajole the people that there are no easy options out of the nation’s economic straits. But, it is highly worrisome why government always chose the easy path and as we see it today, governments in this part of the globe are not in the habit of listening to advice from political or economic advisers, talking less from newspaper columnists or any recognised body for that matter.
There is perhaps no greater testimony that for any policy to bear fruit, there has to be the security of lives and property and a minimum of industrial peace between the employer and the employees. But nothing less pernicious than the government watching the destabilization of society as insecurity takes its toll on everything. Just as industrial disputes have put public tertiary institutions on standstill for the past six months due to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.
In light of Nigeria’s shrinking revenue, the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed confessed that the nation is battling with revenue problems, which had compelled the government to keep borrowing causing the debt stock to rise to N41.6 trillion. Also, Nigeria stands at fifth position on the list of World Bank debtors with 11. 7bn dollars debt as of June 30, 2021.
Believing firmly in non-oil revenue, the World Bank, the other day, through the Senior Public Sector Specialist, Domestic Resource Mobilization, Rajul Awasthi raised an alarm that if the country continues to be deficient in its tax system and failed to look for other areas to boost its revenue, the country may risk facing an existential threat. It is hard to determine the exact point in the nation’s history at which our economy took a nose dive.
This is simply because, our governments past and present are known to hide in denials and with the empty claim and assumption that Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa and the largest country in Africa by population, remains critical to Africa’s progress. But, the true reality is that the Nigerian government is not working hard enough to maintain what it claims hence public finance is facing an existential threat.
Before he became president, Muhammadu Buhari made several statements on how to reposition the economy, healthcare and education just to mention a few. But it is worrisome that, the continued fall in the standard of education and the incessant strike actions by tertiary institutions teachers have spawned a new warning from the United Nations (UN).
It would not have made the slightest difference if the warning was coming from other sources other than the UN, through its Humanitarian Coordinator, Matthias Schmale, who warned that, Nigeria may not achieve the global agenda for universal inclusive and equitable basic education for all school-age children by 2030 if the current seven per cent budget for education by the federal government was not increased to the recommended UNESCO 20 per cent minimum education funding.
Indeed, I was glad to see President Buhari on the rostrum at the Global Education Summit held in London some months ago, where he pledged to increase the budget for the education sector by 50 per cent in the next two years.
Today, that pledge has seen the education budget raise from its paltry 5 per cent to 7 per cent in decades. But the UN evaluation says it would need to further increase to 20 per cent with clear accountabilities on delivery.
Of course, the continued poor funding for education has helped to see Nigeria’s education sector enter unfamiliar territory. In the recent past, we have seen how insecurity (kidnapping) has played a set-back role in further causing harm to an already worse education situation.
Today, the ugly state of affairs in the education sector is alarmingly disturbing, particularly its effect on the girl-child. Millions of school-age children are out of the classroom, while hundreds are in captivity having been abducted in their various schools by terrorists.
However, it is indeed heartwarming to see the slight increase in the 2022 budget for education. It appears self-compelling that the government seems willing to adequately fund education.
Basically, the government is required to fashion an appropriate and serious policy action to redress the deteriorating standard of education. This, of course, will stimulate education stakeholders to join the government, and collectively push forward with education and health sector-specific transformative initiatives such as prioritizing and revitalising basic primary healthcare and improving the quality of teachers and learning in and out of the classroom in the country.