Saturday, 2 January 2016

YEAR 2016, A YEAR OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS

President Muhammadu Buhari
The year 2015 will go on record as a watershed in the affairs of Nigeria. Of the many momentous events in the period, the democratic change of baton at the centre stands out boldly. Before the change that brought in the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party and Muhammadu Buhari as President, Nigeria witnessed one of the most turbulent and virulent electoral engagements in her political history; and from it has flowed a post-election period of tentative steps, brazen political maneuvers and scandalous revelations of corruption in high places, amidst a national environment of great expectations.

A number of the contentious results from the elections were the subjects of tribunal and appeal court verdicts which appear to be changing the political demography and democratic configurations across the states and nation. As the year ended, the ultimate landings of all the governorship and legislative seats were yet to be fully resolved. Yet, under Professor Attahiru Jega, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had transformed into a better organised electoral umpire that raised electoral conduct to a new level with the introduction of novel features and measures, which ought to have reduced rigging opportunities to the desperate use of barefaced violence.

On the economic front, the global oil glut and threatening economic recession continue to present enormous challenges for the nation. Governments across the land have, by default, become chronic debtors, racking up months of unpaid salaries and other bills. Yet in such a situation where vital needs across the nation are competing for scarce financial resources, Nigerians witnessed a most callous and despicable betrayal of trust by leaders who had no qualms funneling available reserves into the private pockets of party loyalists and cronies, as is evident in the mind-boggling revelations of corruption now making the rounds.

Sadly, the fate of the abducted Chibok girls remains a sore issue gnawing at the conscience of a bewildered nation, an embarrassment for a sovereign state that ought to have the capacity to find and rescue even one missing person. Unfortunately, owing to the failings of a compromised and ineffective security leadership, by the time our security apparatus was sufficiently empowered, the birds had flown. Parents and relations are left gutted and in desperate anguish, not knowing if their children will ever return. Alive or dead, the over 200 girl students are yet to be located and until they are found, our government cannot claim any significant measure of victory in the ongoing war against the Boko Haram insurgency.

The year 2015 will thus go down with the negative legacies of insecurity, of impunity and profligacy in governance, of indiscipline, of elaborate sleaze, of a distressed economy serviced by a distorted energy and power supply base, and of an imploding social infrastructure. The society is riddled with burgeoning unemployment, civil strife between communities, a subsisting Boko Haram insurgency, renewed agitation for a breakaway Biafra state, and sporadic fuel crises exacerbated by industry malfunctions. Seemingly bereft of answers to a stagnated economy, the past administration had driven the country to the precipice. And many still wonder whether the new government team – riding on the mantra of change – has the technical capacity and the political will to arrest the slide and steer the ship of state towards greater peace and stability, as well as economic growth and social progress.

What then is in store for Nigerians coming into 2016, a new year of high hopes? Given that our circumstance calls for hard decisions, deliberate steps must be taken to address the various crises confronting the nation. First, the security and territorial integrity of the nation must be pursued with all vigour and determination until the terrorist insurgency is neutralised and all captives are released. In the process, the security agencies must be adequately empowered beyond the resources of which they had been starved.

Next, even though by personal example, the new leadership has shown signs of a willingness to curtail overhead costs of the apparatus of governance; but to make any meaning out of the gesture beyond the charge of tokenism, government should proactively negotiate a cost-saving legislation in recognition of current economic realities, as they affect governance structures and their bureaucracies.

Then there is the herculean task of taming the monster that corruption has become. Instilling discipline and enforcing appropriate sanctions are a sine qua non for curbing corrupt tendencies. For too long, Nigerian leaders have paid lip service to fighting corruption and have in fact been complicit in its entrenchment in the national psyche, by giving room for plea bargaining with treasury looters, and now and again granting pardon and political rehabilitation for convicted and indicted persons. The present government must, therefore, develop zero tolerance for corruption and strengthen anti-corruption laws and the judiciary as enforcer.

President Muhammadu Buhari, doubling as Minister for Petroleum, should more than well understand the rot that has infested the industry for years, and must once and for all untangle Nigeria’s anomalous position as perhaps the only oil producing country in the world without its own refining capacity. Bunkering, piracy, oil pipeline vandalism, uncontrolled gas flaring, subsidy scams and outright theft and manipulation of oil proceeds have so ravaged the industry that an economic war has to be waged.

In the same vein, Nigerians expect the delivery of the promise to enhance the power generation capacity to at least twice its current figure in two or three years. The time has come for our leaders to prove critics wrong that vested interests are invariably behind the perennial failure of national projects. Nigerians can muster the doggedness, discipline and synergy to perform when they face a challenge with resilience and determination, which can be replicated in other critical national endeavours. (Guardian)