Impact of Buhari’s positive strides will outlive his administration – Tonye Princewill
What informed your positive disposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Sochi in Russia where some African leaders met with President Vladimir Putin?
I always prefer to be cautious with my comments. But even in my constructive skepticism, I know that the efforts so far made by this administration are beginning to yield results even though many Nigerians may not see it that way. I see a few reasons Nigerians should celebrate. The first reason is the number of jobs that the 13 takeaways will bring. I don’t have the numbers of direct or indirect jobs that will be created, but the total number of jobs will be significant. To me, the issue of jobs is the most important takeaway.
Nigeria is heading to the third position in the world in population rankings. We already have a major problem in terms of unemployment and under employment as of today and it is likely going to get a lot worse. In the North, the average house has seven children. In the South, it’s three. A study shows that of the seven children in the North if one gets to the university, that fellow is lucky. In the South, that number is 2 out of 3. I don’t want to talk about the standard of learning, that’s a different matter. What the statistics tell us is that we are breeding a crisis. The next leaders will soon be chosen by very angry youths. So any news that addresses this should be given support by those who think beyond the nose.
The second reason is the symbolism of it. For Russia to make this investment, it means we are now quite clearly a preferred destination for investment. I can go on and on about the infrastructure the Russia-Africa summit will bring to Nigeria, I can talk about the fact that every part of Nigeria will be affected by this, I can even go on to discuss the benefits to our security infrastructure, but they’re all a result of the investment. The symbolism itself will bring similar stories, which will, in turn, bring more of the above. So, to me, the symbolism is the father of all – the infrastructure, the development and the improved security the Russia-Africa summit will bring.
What’s your view concerning the recent announcement about Nigeria’s climb up the ease of doing business index? People say it has not alleviated poverty in the country?
Nigerians will always complain. It’s one of our national pastimes but that is not to downplay our reality. Yes, things are tough, but most reasonable Nigerians know that there is a fair price to pay for progress. The days of getting something for nothing are gone and rightly, we have to be creative to survive. You cannot be where we were in 2015 at 171 in the rankings and take Nigeria to the next level unless you want to take us to the next level of despair and hopelessness. So, when people complain about the absence of any impact, I wonder; they are like commuters who grumble about road works designed to improve their travel times.
I would say that those with the responsibility of leadership should prod on regardless of any lack of appreciation they feel. If you want to get anything done in Nigeria, forget about any short-term commentaries and move ahead regardless. I’ve seen government functionaries make very huge progress and not even bother about the media or publicity. This government fortunately or unfortunately does not go out of its way to court the media. The advantage is they remain focused; the disadvantage is the public assumes nothing is happening.
Why is the government not focusing more on the arts and culture industry?
I don’t agree with that assertion. This government is doing a lot more than they are credited for. But I agree they are not doing enough. The problem is on both sides. The industry does not have a voice, operates in silence and hasn’t learnt the basics of lobbying, while the government is guilty of not going out of their way to nurture a sector that is quite easily the next billion dollar industry in Nigeria.
The presence of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is a testimony to the hope some of us still have in its future. I know he has an interest in the industry. Add that to the interest from the Central Bank (CBN) and BOI, and I believe we have the beginning of a solution. No government can do all things at once. What is worse is when they hope on the advice of experts and the experts are not singing from the same hymn sheet. That is a major cause of stagnation because no wise government wants to make mistakes. My advice to the industry is if you want to make progress, articulate a coherent message and drive it.
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