By Dele Momodu.
Fellow Nigerians, something melodramatic occurred some days ago in Doha, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, where President Muhammadu Buhari dropped a bombshell inadvertently. And what was the matter? The President in his usual candour and uncommon honesty announced that one of his major campaign promises was no longer feasible and practicable; the plan to pay unemployed youths a paltry sum of N5,000 monthly stipend was thus summarily jettisoned. Or so it seemed. To be accurate, what Mr President said with a wry smile was that this was a campaign promise of his Party and was one of the cardinal points of his Party’s Manifesto but he had not personally campaigned about it and it was not going to be a priority of his administration in view of other more significant and important challenges.
However, all hell broke loose on social media because the President’s body language actually suggested that the pledge was dead in the water and had not just been demoted from the list of priorities. There were several reasons why social and popular media became instantly agog with activity on this issue. Nigerian youths took great risk to get Major General Buhari elected. They trusted him with their lives and expected the change mantra to become reality as soon as the People’s General regained power after being sacked as a military ruler in 1985. Truth is there are already some loud whispers in many quarters that lofty expectations are turning to a mirage and that things are already falling apart. Every explanation that it is too early to expect miracles is hardly treated with belief.
Thus when the President delivered this seemingly bad news to the expectant nation, it did not go down well with many people. First the location was wrong. I agree that such monumental decisions should not have been announced while sojourning abroad. To some it would appear as if the President was taking the easy pusillanimous way out. Perhaps, the President should have addressed the nation on home soil. Maybe the President could have requested his ruling APC party to take the bullet for him by getting the Party Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, to talk to the nation about the need to revise the manifesto that was sold to the electorate with so much glee. There is nothing wrong if fresh realities have necessitated a change of plans. There is usually a world of difference between the idealism of opposition and the reality of being on the hot seat. It is one of the reasons I don’t envy the President on this present job.
Mr President and his Party would have to sit down urgently to reappraise things and come out with a tidier and clearer agenda containing the realistic plan for Nigeria and Nigerians in this dispensation. Sooner rather than later, the first year of this administration will come knocking. It would be disastrous if by May 29, 2016, we still cannot have a glimpse of where the government is headed or heading. The staccato, stop-start fashion by which things are being currently handled must yield way to a smoother policy manifestation and implementation. There are many things that need to be worked on speedily.
The first and most pressing is the economy. What is on ground now has been described by a famous economist as “Robinson Crusoe economics.” Like Robinson Crusoe, our economy is being handled like one man living alone on an uninhabited island but surrounded by cannibals and vermin. The economy is on a freefall, the sort we’ve not encountered before. My humble suggestion is that the President should assemble a crack economic team immediately. Those who wish to hold conferences can still do so especially as we know where similar jamboree conferences have gotten us in the past. However, it is obvious that some people have hijacked the misfortune of Nigeria and turned it into a spectacular goldmine. “Voodoo economics” is being practised by those milking the country dry and their acolytes as well as by others wishing to manipulate themselves into the position of latter day economics experts and get a slice of the national cake. There are at this moment only a few sincere economists about and we should tap into these people but not make the mistake of putting them on the same platform with the evildoers lest we become unable to separate the wheat from the chaff. A nation that fails to consult and use its best brains is doomed and may be permanently jinxed like we seem to have been forever. In any event what is necessary now is not to make the country a debating society where esoteric and grand economic principles are postulated and propounded but a society where practical visionary and meaningful economic policies are garnered and implemented.
As young as I was in the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, I was aware that his best asset were the brightest brains he was able to attract and assemble. He gathered their brilliant ideas and merged them with his own. Leadership is thus an art and science of skillfully managing people and resources. It is even easier these days. In the age of advanced technology, where you can buy whatever you lack, including brains. As advanced as Britain is, the Governor of the Bank of England was recruited from Canada. No one raised eyebrows because the most important thing was getting the job done. Our parochialism will kill Nigeria ultimately if care is not taken. Many of the voodooists controlling Nigeria know nothing about modern governance or managing an economy, not to mention an ailing one. What is worse is that they know that they know not but would not agree to allow those who know something to do anything.
The time has come to declare an emergency on an evil economic apparatus foisted on us by selfish people that may end up ruining our otherwise great country. I believe we should rise above partisan politics and bring our past and present geniuses together including The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, The Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Godwin Emefiele, The Emir of Kano, His Highness Lamido Sanusi, Professor Charles Soludo, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, Professor Part Utomi, Mr Bismark Rewane, and some of our brilliant University dons to fashion out a way out of this scandalous debacle.
The next thing is for this government to reflect true frugality and shed the toga of prodigality that is already rearing its ugly head. The President should be alerted about how those outside now believe he has already joined the psychedelic class by wasting resources on flights of fancy and excessively flamboyant and ostentatious airport ceremonies. The social media caught fire last Monday as the pictures of our Brigade of Guards in Scottish kilt fully piped up welcomed the President on his arrival from his Middle East tour went viral. Such frivolity did not reflect the mood of the nation. The President’s winning formula had always been his simplicity, humility and childlike innocence. He must resist the temptation of being corrupted by the carpetbaggers who litter our corridors of power. Running the different tiers of government has been a major drain on our economy. It is also the reason the citizens would not change their ways when government refuses to set good examples.
Everything humanly possible should be done to empower and encourage Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola to give us power. There will never be any meaningful development and progress until we can generate enough electricity and be able to transmit and distribute this effectively. When people shout that we should patronize made in Nigeria products they conveniently forget that most of what we use in making the made in Nigeria products were fabricated and made abroad. At best we are only an assembly line for these products. An average company loses its profit to what should have been provided ordinarily by government. I cannot begin to overemphasise the importance of electricity. Nigerians will never forget whoever can put an end to their life in perpetual darkness. It is worth every effort and investment.
It is heartening to note that there are those ready and willing to partner with Government at little or no cost to make our dire power situation a thing of the past using both conventional and sustainable energy solutions. All that seems to be required is for government to discard any policy that would be a stumbling block to the utilisation of these opportunities. Nothing must be seen as set in stone. National development requires not only flexibility but a willingness to think outside the box. It is time to seize the moment!
In the name of God, we must revamp our educational institutions. It is disgraceful that we watched them collapse and we have refused to do anything tangible to bring them back to par with their counterparts elsewhere. The APC should tell and demonstrate in concrete terms what it intends to do to restore the lost glory of our schools from primary to tertiary institutions. Mercifully, the Vice President comes from a scholarly background and hopefully should be able to activate and actualize what the former President Goodluck Jonathan, himself an academic, could not achieve in the five years he spent as substantive number one citizen of Nigeria.
Without quality education, most of our graduates would never be employed or even become employable. Our school curriculum must now be redesigned in such a way that it can be relevant to the needs and requirements of our tough situations. Entrepreneurship should become a compulsory subject. This is why we must commend and recommend the great initiative by Tony Elumelu’s foundation that seeks to locate and situate hidden talents and future captains of industry. Innovation and inventiveness must be encouraged. There are Nigerians undertaking breathtaking research in many fields of human endeavour within the hallowed precincts of our university communities but they do not have the financial muscle or government encouragement and backing to be able to bring their dreams into reality. Great nations are made from developing such talents. Research and development (R & D) is the way to go. Most of our manufacturing companies hardly have any such viable R & D departments. Incentives must be given to all concerned, including funding and tax initiatives, so that our nation may truly enter the industrialised comity of nations and not just pretend that we are better than mere panel beaters!
Yes, it is time for APC and the Government to set their priorities again but this must be done with a sense of purpose and a desire to take the people to a higher level. May God help them.