I cried on the inside, reading about the level of suffering which Nigerians have gotten subjected to in recent times and knew that the situation calls for immediate attention. I also felt the inspiration to write this piece on an optimistic note, that all will be well. It is my firm belief that a glorious dawn will surely come to Nigeria and bright smiles will came back on our faces. It will soon be well with the people of the nation called Nigeria and the glory will be multiplied, relative to the level of the current hardship. This is not the time to play the blame game at all. We have to tighten our belts and retie our girdles as we face the current recession.
Our musical legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, of blessed memories, may at last, be proved wrong over his Song about Nigerians – “Suffering and Smiling”. As at now, the mood has changed to “Suffering and Groaning” as our people on the Side-Walks, Bus Stops and Market places are no longer smiling as before. How can they smile? Most homes can no longer afford three meals (1-1-1) a day for their families. Gone are those days. Many have, unfortunately been forced to adopt the 1-0-1, 1-1-0 or the 0-1-1 feeding schemes. In very extreme cases, some people have resorted to eating only once a day! Life has become trying, as the cost of living has sky-rocketed beyond our imagination. Even the ‘so called’ rich, are not smiling like before. Many looters have withdrawn to their shells, as some of their loots may have been frozen or seized. The hitherto, successful private people and contractors are being owed lots of unpaid contract dues by governments. Things are no longer the same. The smiles have vanished and the stern looks, characteristic of the military, have replaced the former friendly smiles on the faces of the Nigerian people, even the Church goers! Things have changed indeed!
The halt on the looting (temporarily or permanently) has reached almost everywhere in the society. Perhaps, it is time to pray and ask God to show us which way to go and what we can do to get back on track. God does not ever want His children to manage poverty and distress. He desires to satisfy us with the good things of life, whether the Government likes it or not. What remains for us, as Nigerians is to let these austere times humble us. We should by now realize that indiscipline, indolence and corruption are not good for us as a nation, group, and individuals in homes, workplaces and the society at large.
The hard time is here at last. The BBC has just announced (end of August) that Nigeria’s economy has finally fallen into recession, after being deemed technically there since early August, 2016. The economy had been fumbling and wobbling since April and June of the year. In effect, this spells further doom for Nigeria and Nigerians, even as the usual wars continue on different fronts – Boko Haram, Delta Militants, Avengers, MASSOB, IPOB, Herdsmen, Kidnappings, Indiscipline, Corruption, Looting, Padding….. etc. These are indeed major wars for Nigeria and there are myriads of other lesser and subtle wars of intrigues – ethnic, tribal and religious in nature.
The hard times are indeed real and the sufferings will, unfortunately exacerbate even further as the year 2016, runs to an end. In the early seventies, it was the case that we had lots of money and did not know what to do with it! For example, in 1973 the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon was reported to have retorted during a discussion that “Nigeria’s problem is not money but how to spend it”. Today, the case for President Buhari is that myriads of problems stare him in the face and there is no money to provide even the basic necessity for millions of his Nigerian brothers and sisters and their children..
It has become difficult to survive as a nation, state, group or families and individuals. Salaries are owed workers for several months in many States. We are a nation, knee deep in debt. What a paradox of a nation! From arrogance, through our affluence (oil boom), to a total submission to abject poverty (oil doom)! When we had money, our leaders squandered it through frugality and profligacy; now there is no money, and the poor is left to suffer from nonpayment of salaries and all sorts of pay cuts. Notwithstanding, the leaders continue to collect their salaries accordingly. What a country without conscience!
People have started to thumb and comb through the dustbins and dumpsters, for daily survival! No thanks to the late Politician, Umaru Dikko, whose utterances of the late seventies/early eighties have finally become real and actualized! The nation has been turned into a nation of beggars, with many unemployed and destitute roaming the streets in quest of alms. Many workers are not paid salaries for as many as six to nine months! The self-employed (entrepreneurs) are in dire straits and unable to keep their families together.
Calling for an end to the present quagmire, Christians are busy praying round the clock for God to open the Heavens to us as a nation. Muslims are not spared of the calls to Allah to forgive us and return the good times to Nigeria, and ease the sufferings. The Atheists are confused as to what else can be done and who to cry to. Should we all cry to the Almighty to fold up Nigeria and recreate her? What an unrealistic wish? We leave the miracle to Him, as the immortal, invisible, God only wise.
If you like, blame it on leadership, the clueless government, as expressed by many writers and schools of thought. If you like, blame it on the wrong choice of voting out a former government, credited with the unparalleled level of looting and corruption. Better still, you may blame it on yourself for having indulged in living a totally false life of affluence, when you are supposed to be modest or outright poor. Going a step further, you may blame it on yourself for living a fraudulent life; by living above your legitimate income through stealing, looting, extorting, cutting corners, by cheating people who come your way, on the job. I can go on and on but let us stop here for now and ask a simple question. Sincerely, how many of these four types of the ‘blame’ can you truthfully associate with? The daily papers are full of news on the bad situations around Nigeria. For example the Guardian News carried the headline – “Angst as Nigerians feel the pains of increasing hard times”.
This now brings me to the most important aspect of this write-up and it is the lessons of hardship or the inverse of affluence. It is not funny, when citizens cannot be guaranteed of their next meal, not to talk of two or three square meals a day! Many children are out of the fee paying schools today because of their parents’ inability to pay requisite fees. This may eventually level the poor and ‘so called’ fake rich people and fill the public schools up with the ordinary honest Nigerian children. The effect of bringing more children into public schools is that many private fee paying, mushroom schools, will die a natural death! This may be a welcome idea, provided the Governments are willing to improve the quality of the Public Schools for ALL, as opposed to being left for only the poor in the society.
In the health sector, Nigerians may again be forced to consider the new herbal route for their medical needs since the hospital fees and the high cost of drugs (fake and genuine) will not be affordable. Many private, substandard and poorly staffed hospitals which are proliferated in big and small cities may die a natural death, like the private schools described above. I am not an advocate of the unorthodox and unscientific herbal medicine, however, this seems to be the new direction in the health sector. Who knows, maybe ONLY politicians will be able to go abroad for medical attention, at the expense of the poor masses, who are left to survive or die using the herbal alternatives? Health care will become, further out of reach, for the poor Nigerians, especially in these hard times.
Public and private transportations will become difficult in urban and rural areas since vehicles will breakdown and remain in states of disrepair for very long periods because of poverty. No one should, any longer need to preach to Nigerians, to cut their clothe according to their size/cloth. Consequently there may be no more need to preach to Nigerians to buy or use MADE IN NIGERIA goods and services.
Reading the daily papers, listening to the radio and television, and the social media, one is inundated with bizarre news and stories of the heightened level of poverty ravaging our dear nation Nigeria. This is the best time to call back what we should brand as the NEW AUSTERITY MEASURE. It is certainly not the first of its type in Nigeria. It was first introduced in the first Obasanjo Regime in in 1978 and many semblances of it had been witnessed, such as the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). This new measure has to be institutionalized at all levels, from top to bottom, in all areas of life in Nigeria. All luxury items in homes, offices, public places and in our social life may need to be put away (jettisoned) for all of us to be seen as, collectively feeling the pinch of recession. Let us all tame our tastes from this time on so that our nation can bounce back from recession and Nigerians can smile like they did before.
Recession is here and it is real. Failure to let the poor people realize, that we are in it together, means that we are risking incurring the wrath of the poverty stricken populace. It is clear that the poverty bubble in Nigeria is about to burst and the effect may be devastating. If the government does not come up with a magic solution, to alleviate the sufferings of the Nigerian people, who are almost at the end of their tether, the poor, hungry and angry people of Nigeria may explode. They will be forced by their plight, to cry out loud that ENOGH IS ENOUGH, through violent protests or peaceful revolution as happened for example in the Philippines, Egypt, Libya, Iran and other countries of the world.
This is the time to call everybody round the table to see clearly that greed, looting, padding, stealing and corruption have brought our nation to a standstill. We have been dethroned as the Giant of Africa to the Midget of Africa! Big and Small countries of Africa, who were nurtured by Nigeria such as Botswana, Ghana and even South Africa are now able to disparage and ridicule us, as they like. Gone are the Ghana Must Go days! We are the ones now running to Ghana for one thing or another, including university education for our children. We can all see what bad leadership has brought on us. We now know that corruption, Kleptocracy, greed, padding, selfishness, gross indiscipline, and flamboyant life-styles can KILL a nation. Nigeria is now groaning bitterly under these rampant malaise. It is time to retrace our steps, change our ways and redeem our economy. We will bounce back. I am very confident.
Even if the APC government is being wrongfully blamed for the present situation, it is clear that the Buhari led APC Government has opened our eyes WIDE to the high level of looting, corruption indiscipline and other anomalies in our political landscape and society as a whole. It is now time to sober ourselves, take stock and re-strategize on our best way forward. The ills that had plagued our society must come to an end. There is an urgent need to be cleansed from inside out and in every sector of our economy and recraft a new set of VALUES for a new Nigeria from now on. Failure to do this will bring us back to square one or keep us as a nation of unserious people in the new global community.
Nigeria must, from now on develop new strategies which can lead the nation to have ZERO TOLERANCE for the following:
Corruption, Bribery, Looting, Stealing, Padding,
Dishonesty, Forgery, Kidnapping, & Inflation of Contracts.
First, we will need to re-define corruption, looting, stealing, indiscipline, dishonesty etc. and code them with appropriate punishments/consequences.
Second, we need to close all loopholes of corruption in organizations and the society as a whole and make people sign a pledge of incorruptibility in every organization from now on.
Third, we may need to adopt/adapt the templates of countries where corruption has been successfully controlled or curbed (Indonesia, China, Botswana, etc). This is absolutely necessary.
Fourth, we need to prescribe stringent penalties and appropriate consequences on major and minor acts of indiscipline, as in the example of Lagos State, where LASMA has been able to enforce and instill traffic sanity on the Lagos State roads.
Fifth, we need to restructure and re-zone the nation for appropriate self-management, and accountability and let each zone decide its modus operandi for survival (Self-Governance). This can be a model, similar to the former East, West, Mid-West, and North Regional format or other as in the former six geopolitical zones, if not more.
Sixth, we need to redefine our VALUES as a nation, away from the flamboyant and wasteful so wa mbe lifestyles, which have led us to the present comatose state. We have even innovated with the GUN SPRAYING of celebrants in Social Parties with both the Dollar ($) and the Naira (N), as if soldiers are spraying bullets on their enemies on the war front! Can this be hard-earned money, if one may ask? What an embarrassment in a nation where the masses are starving?
Seventh, we need to put together a referendum to bring all groups to the table and get us all on the same page as brothers and sisters, in one family called Nigeria, rather than as superior and inferior class of citizenry. We can be a United States of Nigeria (USN) or United Provinces of Nigeria (UPN). Can’t we?
If what Nigeria is going through now will not yield positive results of bringing us to change our ways (values), then there may afterwards be NO light at the end of the tunnel for Nigeria. This will be a bizarre end to our beautiful nation. This is indeed a good time for us to appeal to our sense of decency or expediency so that when things get better we do not get too comfortable and forget where we had found ourselves in the past two decades or so. Tough times don’t last. Only tough people do and we are tough and resilient, as Nigerians. What good attributes!
Casting our minds back, many of the older readers of this article will agree with me that the Cameroon Republic, Nigeria’s neighbor to the right, was right to have pulled out of the former amalgamation or combination by the British as “Nigeria and the Cameroons”. Maybe several Republics from the present unworkable arrangement of “One Nigeria” will end the present imbroglio. If ONE must continue to be ONE, in the context of Nigeria, the model may have to change, if we continue to behave like strange bed-fellows with different – tongues, tribes, religions, ideologies, etc. Such change has to be through a restructure as the United States of Nigeria. It may also take any other form or shape where we may not, necessarily need visas to cross from one State to another! Nigeria has to ‘make hay while the sun shines’. The people are hapless, helpless and hopeless, as starvation and survival pains are at their highest. The people are indeed suffering as the nation is at crossroads. Nigerians are no longer smiling, like we used to smile – as a happy people. I am optimistic and I believe that it will be well with Nigeria, very soon by the special grace of God. Government should Bring Back the Smiles on the faces of Nigerians as soon as possible.