By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
For Nigerians that have their thinking divided between the present and the future, with part of it dedicated to finding solution to current nagging challenges in the country, and the other, concerned with what becomes the future of the country, if the present administration fails to get its leadership priorities right, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Christmas and New year messages to Nigerians were received with mixed feelings.
Essentially, there is no doubt that the country recently made some political and socioeconomic progress. But looking at the Federal Government performance in the out-gone 2021, it becomes evident in my view that Mr. President’s Remarks though qualifies as an easy read, yet, some of his claims are in dire need of re-appraisals in areas of approach and outcome. It showed Nigerians quite clearly that there is still a need for our public office holders to learn how to match words expressed with faith and behavioural patterns that demonstrate the faith.
This observation becomes overwhelmingly important when one remembers that there exist in the greater part of 2021 particulars of demonstrated idleness, laziness, cluelessness and outright lack of leadership and problem solving creativity on the part of the present Federal Government. These failures are very re-sounding in the areas of incapacity to end insecurity and non pursuit of economic welfare of citizens which of course are the only two constitutional responsibilities of the state all leaders must achieve.
At this stage, let’s cast a cursory look first, at the good side of Mr. President’s declarations
First, this piece aligns completely with President Buhari’s plan to in the year 2022 and going forward, intentionally leverage ICT platforms to create jobs, while ensuring that the diversification of our economy creates more support to other emerging sectors.
It is also gratifying, and the world is of course in agreement with Mr. President’s position that the path to nationhood is often fraught with unpredictable difficulties and challenges, and most tried and tested nations have often prevailed through dogged determination, resilience, concerted commitment to unity, and the conviction that the whole of the nation, standing together against all odds, is by far greater and would ultimately be more prosperous and viable than the sum of its distinguishable parts.
However, despite the validity of the above positions, the ideas about the procedure to follow in this effort as well as the order of priority are not very clear. Making this a crisis and a reality that all should worry about is the awareness that the Federal Government has recently become reputed for applying methods and operating along frameworks that are outdated.
Another troubling aspect of the New Year speech has to do with Mr. President’s declaration that the issue of Security remains at the front burner of priority areas that his Administration has given utmost attention to.
Without doubt, Mr. President may have re-energized and reorganized the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police.
These realities notwithstanding, looking at the level of insecurity that flourished in the country through the year 2021,particularly;banditry, terrorism and kidnapping , it will in my view not be characterized as an over statement to describe the gains emanating from Mr. President’s efforts as too few.
Away from insecurity to the economy, Mr. President among other things said; we have shown a high level of resilience to record some significant achievements despite the turbulence that has characterized our economy and indeed the global economy.
Continuing, he said; the major wins we have recorded can be clearly seen in Nigeria’s most recent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The 4.03% growth recorded in the third quarter of 2021 is indicative of the recovery being recorded in our economy and the confidence that is being shown through the policies that our Administration has put in place after the outbreak of the pandemic. We may also recall that this recent growth is closely followed by the 5.1% (year on year) growth in real terms recorded by Nigeria in Quarter 2 of 2021. This growth was one of the best recorded by any nation across Sub-Saharan Africa. The 5.1% growth at that time was and remains the highest growth recorded by the Nigerian economy since 2014. The good news is that we have so far recorded four consecutive quarters of growth after the negative growth rates recorded in Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 of 2020 due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. He concluded.
Certainly in my views, President Buhari’s narrative looks good and alluring. But regardless of what others may say, this piece holds the opinion that the orchestrated growth of the nation’s economy only exists in theory. The poor masses are not feeling the impact of such growth.
Viewed differently, one point Mr. President and his handlers must not fail to remember is that ‘principles work only when we work the principle’. I trust Nigerians. They are not interested in data, figures or statistics. Their indomitable spirit could have been well expressed or demonstrated if those in public leadership like Mr. President had taken responsibility for their actions, failures and failings or better still created the enabling environment.
Still on Mr. President’s promise that his administration will continue to create opportunities for our teeming youths to ventilate their tremendous energy, this piece could not emphasize strongly but there are those who might wish to ask; why is it still a mere declaration by President Buhari that his government will not abandon the promises made to Nigerians for a better lease of life, whereas he has been in the office for close to 7years without achieving the feat?
As this piece expects the FG to provide answers to the above question, another thorny issue mentioned by President Buhari has to do with the Niger Delta region.
He captured it this way; on August 16, 2021 I signed the landmark Petroleum Industry Act into law. The signing of this legacy legislation is a watershed moment in the history of our Nation, considering the massive positive impact the new Act would have on the economy. I would like to sincerely commend the 9th Assembly for the grit they demonstrated, succeeding where others have failed, and the cooperation that led to the completion of this process after almost two decades.
Whatever Mr. President may say about Petroleum Industry Act/ Niger Delta region, two stands out; first, the truth is that until the Federal Government see through to completion of all the critical projects embarked upon in the region as promised at an event in Lagos, by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, nobody will take the present Federal Government seriously. Secondly, the people of the region are particularly not happy with the paltry 3% allocation by the Petroleum Industry Act, for the host communities.
But of all the content of Mr. President Messages, the hardest to believe is his claim that the diversification of the economy embarked upon by his administration is yielding fruits.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374