21 years of unbroken democracy and Nigeria’s parlous affairs

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NOT many Nigerians will charge their glasses today in toast to the country’s 21st anniversary of the return of democratic governance due largely to broken promises of life abundant by the political class which has manifested in deep rooted bribery and corruption, huge deficits in housing, water, food, health care, education, power supply as well as massive poverty and insecurity, among others in the land.
We, therefore, challenge government at all levels to evolve fresh and pragmatic strategies to address these challenges confronting the citizenry with a view to ameliorating the situation and make life more meaningful for them to contribute their quota to the nation’s socio-economic development and the greatest good of the majority.
Apart from Nigeria remaining an indivisible entity so far, it is regrettable that the people don’t have reasons to celebrate despite the high expectations that trailed the peaceful transfer of power from the military to civilian administration at the federal, state, local levels on May 29, 1999, with then President Olusegun Obasanjo receiving the mantle of leadership from the military Head of State, Gen Abdusalami Abubakar, given the socio-economic under development that had been the country’s lot for a little over two decades.

Though modest achievements had been recorded  in expanding manufacturing, service, financial banking, technology, communications, and entertainment sectors during the period, in our view, human development index and the people’s living standard had suffered setback with over 80.9million representing 40 per cent of the estimated 200million Nigerians are within the poverty bracket and living on less than $1 (N360) daily while the unemployment rate stands at 33.5 per cent according to latest statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS ,and a troubled educational and health sectors.

This grim situation, regrettably, is also not helped by closely related fundamental challenges such as epileptic power supply that continues to hinder production of goods and services and making locally manufactured ones uncompetitive with imported ones;  a mono- product economy that is largely dependent on oil revenue due to non-diversification; uncontrolled population growth that is not matched by economic development; high cost of governance, prohibitive cost of elections, slow dispensation of justice and high cost of litigation as well as a very powerful central government.

The tale of woes for the (giant of Africa) also include a vicious regime of terror unleashed by the deadly Islamic State’s West African Province, ISWAP, popularly known as Boki Haram insurgents that have killed and maimed thousands of citizens and displacing many others, violent criminal groups such as the Fulani herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, militancy, drug abuse thereby aggravating the state of insecurity across the country and disrupting socio-economic activities, coupled with the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 that is taking a devastating toll on the global economy.

But for us, the occasion should not be that of lamentations or despair for Project Nigeria on account of not reaping the expected full dividends of democracy. Rather, it should serve as a sober reflection for the people especially the leadership to turn a new leave, rededicate themselves to the goals of nationhood and a sincere commitment to changing the negative narrative and launch the country on a path of sustainable socio-economic development.

We further challenge  the leadership at all levels both in the private and public sectors, which the famous novelist, the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, blamed in his book as ‘The Problem with Nigeria.’ For our woes, it should as a matter of national urgency resolve to shun  such vices as corruption, ethnicity and nepotism with a focus to better the lot of the people while the citizenry on the other hand must rise, see themselves first as Nigerians before their ethnic groups as well as shake off  their  docility and hold public office holders more accountable to the electorate.

Similarly, we demand that the National Assembly in their current review of the 1999 Constitution as amended should leave no stone unturned in giving effect to the clamour by sections of the country for the necessary amendment that will birth true federalism, concentrate less powers and resources at the federal level in favour of states and cut down drastically the cost of governance nationwide which is reputed to be one of the most expensive federal system of government the world over.

The vexed issue of independent candidacy should also occupy a front burner and be resolved finally in the proposed amendment as part of comprehensive strategies to reduce the current high cost of political contests by parties and their candidates in future while the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should be supported in its strides to introduce electronic voting in future elections to make the process more transparent, credible and acceptable.

We further demand that the Federal Government should intensify its current war against terrorism and other violent crimes in order to defeat the criminals in no time as no meaningful socio-economic development thrive amid insecurity and perpetual threat to lives and property.
Similarly, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, are further challenged to intensify the campaign against graft and bringing perpetrators promptly  to justice in line with the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s  avowed commitment  eradicate corruption and pillaging of the common patrimony while recovered loot should  be channeled to the provision of such critical infrastructures as regular power supply, upgrading of health and educational institutions across the country.
The educational system should be overhauled and facilities that are needed to adequately teach students for them to acquire relevant practical experience so that they can be useful to companies after graduation provided as against the current emphasis on theoretical aspect especially in our secondary and tertiary institutions.

Since poverty and rising youth unemployment have been identified as potential time bomb waiting to explode any moment, there should be a coordinated national approach by the federal, state and local governments to address the threats frontally through provision of the enabling environment for a private sector driven agricultural and industrial revolution with micro, small and medium scale enterprises as the main drivers.

The anticipated boost in agricultural yield through modernized system, therefore, will provide not only food security for citizens but attract the otherwise millions of idle youths to join the sector and grow the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, produce for export and break the decades of overdependence on crude oil exports which accounts for over 90 per cent revenue of the nation’s export.

The human development problems facing Nigeria should be tackled immediately as human resources play a pivotal role in the success or failure of any nation in order for all hands to be on deck and the culture of production entrenched. In other words, good governance is at heart of breaking the jinx of  Nigeria’s under development.

We are in complete agreement with the recent submission of versatile economists, Prof. Pat Utomi that Nigeria’s leaders and citizens realize that across the globe, leadership plays a critical role in statecraft and nations’ development with “Asian Tigers” and the emerging economies of the 21st century as clear examples.

“The bottom line is that the Nigerian people have to take their future into their own hands but we need to begin again. This system is not working, it cannot work and is not going to get Nigeria to  the Promised Land”,   he further argued.

For a better society

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