Welcome to the new year 2017!
In spite of the hard times that characterised the economic circumstances in this country in 2016, Nigerians still travelled in large numbers to celebrate the festive season of Christmas and New Year. Even in the harshest of conditions, the existential resilience of Nigerians was evident in the volume of traffic on our roads, the gridlock in bottleneck spots, and the congestion at the airports. For some, it is to partake in genuine celebration with kindred, but for others, it is to escape, if only for a while, the ravages of a long year of stress.
The ubiquity of economic recession became our own reality check in 2016. Yet Nigerians did not just wake up to a regime of recession overnight. An economy that is anchored principally on a single product subsists or falters on the stability or volatility of that product in the marketplace. Our national life that is charted around the proceeds of oil began to unravel and pay the price of a crash in global oil prices. And with economic and fiscal policy summersaults on the part of the current administration, one tragedy led to another.
However, long before now many Nigerians did little else aside from sitting on their hands and waiting on oil. We neither grew enough food for ourselves nor did we have any viable industries. We neither produced enough energy to power anything, nor did we have the discipline to save from oil proceeds for the rainy day. We neither developed sustainable infrastructure, nor cultivated an essential maintenance culture. We were simply mired in inordinate consumption.
As a people, we had become so accustomed to life on easy street, where consumption is not directly associated with productivity, where there is no place for the planting and growing seasons, but only for instant harvest. And so, 2016 caught up with us under a mantra of change that many thinking Nigerians recognised as inevitable. Yet others are quick to lay all the blame for our plight on the doorstep of the current administration whom they accuse of concocting the recession.
As if the nation’s economic woes were not enough the nation began to contend with a basket of agitations on other fronts. Did the reemergence of agitation for a Biafra State wait for a change of baton? Are the federal and state governments so clueless and ineffective with the intractable year-round farmer/herdsmen imbroglio? Are our governments so insensitive to the plight of unpaid public workers and those who depend on them? Is our national security apparatus so powerless in the face of rampant kidnapping that has become such a thriving industry? Must the do-or-die syndrome continue to dominate our electoral processes? What of the budgetary politics being played out in our executive and legislative governance? Beyond rhetoric, aren’t there measures that government can take to reduce the ever increasing unemployment level? Why is it that today’s hardship is sprouting Ponzi schemes such as the MMM and others?
It is indeed a salutary development that Nigerians are jolted to the reality of today’s circumstance and to the realisation that the country cannot continue to thrive on potential alone. Nigerians must realise that today’s crisis of finance and infrastructure development for economic well-being could be a lengthy road to tangible results. We must willy-nilly learn to recalibrate our expectations of the good life. This does not necessarily mean lowering our standards, but that we must work and toil for a meal a day, and not just walk the corridors of power, work inflated contracts and purchase justice. It means that we can deliberately plan to transform our health profile with state of the art facilities that function with international best practices, to curtail health tourism abroad and conserve foreign exchange. One outstanding social deficit that has dogged this country has always been the corruption factor. The alleged arms deal otherwise tagged Dasukigate, continues to wend its way through the judicial system, a system that itself has emerged a revelation in the corruption cancer. This ‘sacred’ arm of government has become not so sacred afterall.
The Year 2016, however, did not end without some bright spots. Among other successes, the release of 21 of the Chibok school girls, and the routing of Boko Haram insurgents from the Sambisa forest at year’s end brought joy to Nigerians and praise to government and the gallant soldiers. As the year ended, there were indeed clear signs that the struggle against the Boko Haram insurgency is bearing fruit. There is no gainsaying that the ultimate release of the remaining Chibok girls and all other persons being held captive will bring some relief.
As we enter into a new year, our leaders must learn to stay with viable, credible economic policies that are guaranteed to yield beneficial results. This is a huge challenge in a country where the fightback from corruption will constantly seek to frustrate genuine implementation. The clear signals from the agriculture and other sectors should set the country on a new trajectory of economic diversification and development that merits active support.
Ours is a country that prides itself as being deeply religious. This New Year day provides a moment of respite and reflection, not just for Christians alone, but for all citizens who claim a stake in the fortunes and destiny of this country. We must all reflect today on how much we have contributed as individuals and groups to the debasement of our country, how often we have made the deliberate choice of wrong over right, how often we have set the common good aside in favour of personal or group interests. A wrong is not wrong only because it favours us, our kindred, community or state. The celebration of an evil act such as we have witnessed now and again in these climes, makes nonsense of our claim to any measure of religiosity.
Our hope and anticipation of a change of fortune for the better in the New Year will not ring hollow, if in our dealings we follow the path of truth, justice, and service of the common good. Our lofty expectations will not be misplaced if as individuals and groups we decide today to shine the light of truth and justice on our country. We can together re-create this country and make it a much better place to live in. On this note The Guardian wishes our readers and indeed all Nigerians a very happy New Year!