WEDNESDAY COLUMN BY USSIJU MEDANER
Whatever, no matter how slippery the national situation of Nigeria and Nigerians is at the moment, giving up would never be an option for us. We won’t give up and we won’t succumb to these many shades of threats that seemingly want to collapse the roof over our heads. We would not allow anyone, whosoever, however powerful or grandly positioned, to continue to dictate the fate and future of over two hundred million Nigerians.
The entire world is under pressure from an economic downtown, but in reality, it has appeared the mal-administered countries are the ones seriously hit by the global economic meltdown. The United States of America is grossly indebted, and has its share of inflation in recent times. The citizens are under pressure, yet, the country still stays aloof, and has created 350,000 jobs for its citizens in 2024. In the midst of the economic meltdown, its system has been able to create several cushions to prevent the citizens from bearing all the pains and burdens. Nearly half American cannot afford to meet up with payment of house rents, yet, the system has continued to keep its population housed sufficiently. The robust and working education loan has continued to keep hundreds of millions of Americans in tertiary institutions across the country, while child support has made it possible for families to continue to sustain themselves across the country.
There is suffering and agony on our streets, in our houses, no doubt; it is becoming increasingly impossible for families to survive without assistance coming from somewhere, and yet there is no adequate assistance. Cost of feeding has skyrocketed far above existing living wages, cost of housing has become more and more unbearable, cost of education is by the day going out of the reach of the citizen all the way to the once privileged middle class. Cost of healthcare has grown by as much as 300 percent in one year. There is palpable silence on all the streets across the country; Nigerians were suffering and smiling but now quiet and watching. For how long would our people keep hoping and hoping when the resources are available but have been cornered by a privileged few?
Nigeria has no business being in this precarious position. This is a country well endowed with resources on all fronts that are needed for national development; solid minerals, abundant arable lands, petroleum, and a huge population of labour force. The maladministration by past administrations and the continuous presence of elements across power corridors who remain bent on corruptly enriching themselves at the expense of the country has continued to be our undoing.
All attention has been fixated on the President to perform some magic to solve decades-old problems within months; we have all however looked to the Renewed Hope to bring some immediate – and I must emphasise again, immediate – succour to Nigerians but unfortunately none is at sight, at least not now. To so many, it appears the government is apparently insensitive to the plight and suffering of Nigerians, and at times, it appears so. For instance, how could it be in the middle of the cries, that the Federal government will set in the process of forcefully recouping the COVID-19 loan given to citizens to survive the period.
I wonder what the President could do beyond what is being done. This is one of the moments worth unraveling the truth and the exposition of certain realities that have kept us imprisoned. The naira-dollar interrelationship has been presented as the reason and being blamed for the unbearable cost of everything in the country, but no one is touching the issues that have killed and continues to destroy the naira. Nobody as of today is talking about the stashed dollars in the hands of almost all the politicians who considered it the best store of value and would continue to stockpile it regardless of what is happening to the rest of us. Nobody is talking about those in the corridor of power who continue to receive bribes and sidekicks only in dollars; a dark tradition that has grown over the years and may be at its peak as we consider the matter at hand.
This is the point we should begin to search for candidate holistic solutions to our national challenges. Evolving only long term paths to solving the problems is not what Nigerians need right now; but a combination of both feasible long term solutions and immediate responses that could pacify the citizens and reduce the unbearable hardships.
Criminalising the local storage and use of dollars in the country outside the financial institution would be a long way to go in helping the naira. For consideration to addressing this pesky concern, there must be an effective policy measure to drain the country of all the stashed and stored dollars, stop all dollar payments and inclusive of international organisations and companies operating within the shores of Nigeria. If the Federal government can enforce this, we would literally begin to see dollar surplus that strengthens the naira-dollar relationship in the shortest time.
People are hungry and they are not going to be able to wait for even a year for long term plans to mature before they can access food to satisfy their hunger. Access to medicare has become an uphill task; costs of medications have gone so high to the point that Nigerians are unnecessarily dying by the day because of lack of access to health care. The number of out-of-school children is on the increase because many families can no longer afford to send their wards to school. We are not even talking of the cost of transportation within the country since the final removal of petrol subsidy. Long term solutions alone will not suffice in solving these frontal challenges facing the nation.
It is important at this material time that the Federal and state governments engage the policy of direct assistance to citizens to meet basic needs. We would have to fully organise the national registry, to acquire full data of Nigerians using a combination of their NIN and BVN; and then restructure the national humanitarian affair program to directly reach at least 80 percent of Nigerians who fall in the critical need category. A clear pathway to achieve this should be an imperative.
Secondly, there is a need for the Federal government to revisit the once existing national price control policy. The government cannot continue to close its eyes to arbitrary pricing in the country. A new board, an agency, must be established to coordinate national product pricing. At the same time, there is a need to establish a central store in each local government where citizens can buy general goods at common and regulated prices.
And again, the government must be proactive in the drive for national job creation and youth empowerment as a means to immediately reduce redundancy among the youth population, and to end the spate of insecurity in the country. The more youths that we are able to engage, the more starved insecurity will be of willing hands. The government and other agencies should take a clue from the project ongoing at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons; which is directly training the displaced population at IDP camps with self sustaining hand works and gradually releasing and resettling as many as 700 of them monthly into the general population. The government at both the Federal and state levels should also take seriously the matter of skill acquisition programs mostly for the youth population to include training in farming and agriculture practices. This is a point where foreign aids would come handy. International donors are willing to come in with the resources if we can present productive social and human development projects.
Direct agricultural engagement by the government, training and equipping of a large and interested size of the youth and women population in select agricultural and farming practices, to mass produce food crops as well as create jobs would be a strong response from the government. This must go beyond the status quo operations of the ministry of agriculture and its agencies. A committee would need to be set up to draft an emergency response that will deliver the project in a timely, effective and efficient manner for the country.
Finally, we will grow as these problems are tackled with common sense approaches – some of which I have suggested above – and also imperative is to tackle and minimise corruption in our body polity. Nigeria is not working now and will not work anytime in the near future until we effectively address the full length of body corruption that is crippling every MDA and every policy decision in the country. Imagine, successive governments expending up to forty per cent of its time and attention to recover what its predecessors allegedly stole. We cannot continue to pretend about what corruption is doing to us. Enough is enough.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!