Some curiosities in dialogue with countryman
Have you read President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech at the 25th Nigerian economic summit? Oh, you haven’t? It is a thought provoking and amazing revelation I must tell you. Please take a sit as countryman takes you through the event and other relevant matters of national concern. I am sure you know that President Buhari is Mr integrity per excellence; therefore, he says things just the way they are. Yes, I know you are aware. Well, on that faithful day, it was not surprising to once again hear the usual narrative as the ugly nature of Nigeria’s politics of ‘finger point amid shadow politics. Buhari in his characteristic manner tried to turn Nigerians’ attention away from his government’s poor leadership indices. In the speech, Buhari informed his audience and indeed the entire world that few Nigerians control the collective wealth in the country. His research findings did not stop there, these unidentified Nigeria’s moneybags he said could be found in five undisclosed states as well.
However, while Buhari is busy with statistics of the few that control the nation’s economy, OXFAM International, an independent research organisation, the other day, released a report of the Nigerian majority in abject poverty. A whopping 94 million Nigerians according to OXFAM are currently living below poverty line. The country director of OXFAM International, Constant Tchona said, “…this number of people live below the benchmark of N684 per day. The number of people that live below extreme poverty level as at April (2019) was 91,501,377 making Nigeria the world capital of poverty”.
Following this frightful disclosure, and going before the court of public opinion, there is no greater sin of government and its officials than the refusal to be humble and apologise for the inability to keep its promises. You seem to be wondering why Mr. President had to make such an allegation? Well, if he didn’t say that, those good for nothing bloody civilians will think the country is rich. No please, perish that thought and leave crude oil revenue out of the matter. Do you know that renewable energy is gradually displacing oil consumption? Besides, the nation’s huge debt burden seems to make the country irrelevant as an oil producing nation as much of the oil revenues goes into debt service and recurrent expenditure. By the way, what could have gone wrong with the political leaders’ excellent wealth creation ideas during elections campaign but when they attain power everything goes with the wind?
In spite of Buhari’s government unbecoming evasive nature, it was gratifying on that summit as the organised private sector players and economists who were present, people like, Aliko Dangote, Muhammed Sanusi, Ibukun Awosika, Atedo Peterside and Doyin Salami among others without prejudice informed the President in their various comments that time was running out for the reforms his government promised. Clearly, the country does not have the luxury of time as the nation’s education system needs emergency attention, healthcare is known only with hospital structures as consulting centres as medical tourism abound among government officials and those who can afford it. While motorists choose the best pot holes to drive on as the roads are riddled with them. Therefore, government must stimulate investment to attract the needed capital that drives growth this and more must be achieved by the ruling government in no time. The call by Atedo Peterside that government should trim its personnel overheads on account of a bloated headcount in the public sector is timely, patriotic and should not be ignored. He further queried, “Will 98 per cent of the population continue to suffer so that less than two per cent who make up the bloated public sector can maintain their lifestyle”?
Well, as you ponder with that question, let me inform you that the implication to bring back toll gates by the Buhari’s administration depends on which side of the divide you are. For many Nigerians especially motorists, transporters and the organised Labour it is not a welcome idea. According to Labour, “…when former President Olusegun Obasanjo dismantled toll gates in 2003 … and increased the pump price of fuel from N26 to N42 per litre we protested and during negotiations the Obasanjo’s government said the money to be realised from the toll gates were already factored into the pump price. Now any reintroduction of toll gates must lead to the reduction of fuel prices in the country…” However, the Senate in its wisdom thinks that government should concession major roads in the country and get contractors to fix them to international standards, while the ministry of works will become regulator to the contractors.
As you deliberate on the added burden of tolls on deplorable roads, let me give you a cheering news that will raise your spirit and put smile on your face. I hope you are aware that police is your friend? Common jokes apart you don’t need to tell me about the grimness of officers and men of the Nigeria police. Without holding brief for the police, some of them are very refined and modest. Of course, you are right to say of what differences are apples and oranges? However, there is need to applaud good conduct perhaps such will encourage the rest to shape up. Haven’t you heard of the ‘angel’ female police officer who spent her personal money to treat a shot robbery victim? “…You are our role model…,” those were the words Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu used in welcoming Celestina Kalu, a superintendent of police (SP) and the divisional police officer (DPO) of Ogudu police station to his office to receive an award for her selfless act. Sanwo-Olu further remarked: “I am personally amazed by this rare act of kindness…it went beyond the official call of duty to save the life of a citizen…” Over the years, the police conduct and society’s perception towards them taste like a soured soup. Therefore, outstanding officers good conduct like Celestina’s, try to change the negative narratives usually attributed to Nigeria police.
The drama surrounding the Chibok girls abduction once again came to play recently when former British Prime Minister, David Cameron in his memoir, “In for the record” claimed that the British troops traced the location of some of the abducted girls and offered to help but former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government turned down the request. Could that be true? Wonders will never cease. Is it possible for one to taste sugar or honey and spit it out? However, Jonathan being a reverend gentleman in defense said his only unpardonable sin was his decision to sign the anti-gay law. Of course, that singular act he said put him in the black book of not just Cameron but other Western leaders who are behind the immoral culture of gay.
Again, as you marvel about what has gay got to do with rescuing the Chibok girls, I bring to you what economic analysts call the unrealistic venture of the Buhari’s government 2020 budget recently presented to the National Assembly. Analysts have picked several holes in the proposed budget as they call for concern as Nigeria has over the years failed to meet the revenue target projected in budgets. It is disheartening to note that the variance between the budgeted and actual revenues has widened within the past five years forcing the government to resort to huge borrowings to meet its planned expenditures. No doubt, the culture of poor leadership has continued to put Nigerians in complex situation and countryman can do nothing but talk about it.