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The people’s agenda – Part 2


The lack of basic facilities for self-actualisation has led to two major problems with their scally hands on the nation’s jugular: poverty and unemployment. They rate as number six and seven respectively on the people’s agendaPoverty. This country is living the nightmare of the paradox of a rich but poor nation. The people cannot understand why our nation is unable to convert its immense human and natural resources into wealth such that poverty would remain far away in India. They know that we have everything – extensive arable land, liquid and solid mineral resources, educated men and women, some of whom were great successes in their fields in developed countries. They know that we have hardworking and resourceful citizens.

So, why, they ask, is our country trailing behind other poorer African countries in the race for human capital development? They do not find it funny that the Indians are smirking because their country has passed the baton to us as the poverty capital of the world. The people cannot understand this paradox, particularly when they hear of how much is stolen from our common purse by those entrusted with its safety. Nor do they understand why there is so much money in circulation among the politicians while the people, at least 87 million of them, wallow in poverty. This country ought not fly the flag as the poverty capital of the world.

The people are worried that our response to this endemic and excruciating problem has been cynical. Poverty eradication and poverty reduction programmes exemplified this national attitude. No nation has ever succeeded in tackling poverty through a fire brigade approach. Dealing with it meaningfully requires a systematic approach through a policy that makes this possible over a given period of time.

The people want a road map for getting us out of poverty. What say the presidential candidates?
Unemployment. Unemployment is not an individual problem. It is a family problem. And it is a national problem. We send our children to school to be trained to work in the public and the private sectors of the economy. We want them to be useful to themselves and the country. But parents and guardians are not getting fair returns on the investment in their children’s education. Because of unemployment.

Few things are more confusing to the people than that parents who scratched the bottom of their pots to put their children through school find them idling away at home, wearing down their second hand shoes on the pavements in search of jobs, elusive jobs. These young people are wracked by despair and desperation, wondering just as their parents do, why a nation with potentials for responding positively to the creativity and resourcefulness of its young men and women watches them being turned into tools in the devil’s workshop.

But the people know that unemployment is not a shared burden between the children of the rich and those of the poor. The children of the rich and the powerful enjoy the privilege of choosing what work to do. Putting our children back to work is an important national narrative for the 2019 presidential election. The candidates must address, among other things, these questions: Why is our country unable to guarantee its citizen equal opportunities? Why does it insist on building two countries – rich and poor countries – and yet expect the people to be patriotic and united?

What say the candidates?
Food. Food is life. Think of food and think of our peasant farmers engaged in the back-breaking system of farming handed down to them by their forefathers. Agriculture was the mainstay of our economy before oil displaced it. Nigeria was the leading producer and exporter of cocoa,groundnuts and palm produce. Everything about the glorious days of our agriculture is in the past tense.

Petro-dollar is easy to earn in huge quantities. Nigeria entered and has remained in the rentier economy status ever since. Thus did it happen that the verdant fields of agriculture were turned into brown fields of agricultural neglect. Thus did it happen that our country with 87 per cent arable land imports rice from South Korea with only thirteen per cent arable land. Yes, we no get shame.

The people are aware that various administrations put up various policies to revamp our agriculture. We can judge their success by this unalterable face: our country is still a net importer of food and meat. You can see why there is hunger in the land.

Our agricultural development is a victim of contradictory policies and policy summersaults. The people are tired of buttered words about the place of agriculture in our national life. They want to see an agricultural blueprint intended to change the story over a given period of time – five, ten or fifteen years. Hunger in an agrarian economy is an insult to the resourcefulness of the people.

What say the presidential candidates?
Corruption. This rates as number eight on the people’s agenda not because the people are unaware of the comprehensive damage it has done to the country and its people. It is rated this low on the agenda because corruption is a consequence of the exploitation of the egregious rape of our national policies. If we police our policies, there would be less corruption.

The brazen looting of our common purse is abetted and aided by our collective ambivalence. We hail the looters but join the chorus of condemning them when the long arm of the law draws them in. The late Mallam Adamu Ciroma once said to me, “don’t call anyone incorruptible who has not been exposed to the temptation and resisted it.” There must be those who were exposed to the temptation but resisted it. Try to count them on your fingers in a country of 198 million people.

The people are not impressed by the raucous noise that attends the anti-corruption war. They can see that the bayonets of the commanders and their foot soldiers are not stained with blood but with palm oil. The people know that we cannot win this war so long as its prosecution is confined to the looters of the treasuries. A serious anti-graft war must take into due consideration policies and measures to prevent the easy looting of the treasuries. In any case, this war is waged after the fact, as in against former public officers who, if we policed preventive measures, could not have so easily helped themselves to our common purse.

But so far we have forgotten that moral corruption is just as bad as the looting of the treasuries. We have not paid attention to moral corruption because we do not seem to think that the cynical misuse of power and position denies people of their legitimate rights and opportunities as citizens just as the looting of the treasuries short changes all citizens. The people want a fresh take on the anti-graft war.

What say the presidential candidates?
I have presented the people’s agenda to the 30 presidential candidates in the 2019 presidential election. My objective is to help the presidential candidates think more seriously about those things that agitate us and hobble our leap as a nation. It would not do for them to promise us heaven because heaven is attainable only after death. It would not do for them to promise us the moon because if they get our electricity right, we could do without the moon light. The people want campaigns driven by issues, not insults. The Let us sit back and see what each of them has to offer in reference to the people’s agenda.

In this article:
Dan Agbese
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