By Adia Adeleye
For some weeks, the quiet but serious minds of many Nigerians might
have been disturbed by the incessant noises about the 2011 elections by some politicians of various shades.
Rationally, the topic of discussion, â€˜zoningâ€˜ has nothing to do with the noble concept of democracy but basically a devious device to share power, prestige and wealth among the privileged members of the ruling elite. However, there is that freedom of expression even on trivialities.
Among the dividends of democracy being claimed by the unrepentant optimists are liberty and freedom from arrests and detention without due process of law (as under the military rulers now turned democrats for election purposes).
Indeed many lives have been unjustifiably sacrificed in the pursuit of freedom of expression and the liberty of the individual under the law Many, in their childish innocence, still continue to hum the melodious stanza of the nationalist hymn that the worst form of democracy (as found in a failing state) is preferable to the benevolent regime of a military dictator.
They, perhaps in their pardonable mindset, still hold fast to the idea that freedom with danger is better than prosperity in bondage. Nigerian experience so far has been a â€˜riskyâ€˜ existence under freedom.
It may be pertinent to ask why some Nigerians are daily complaining about the state of the nation and the gradual but steady descent into slothful decadence almost about fifty years of independence granted to us by imperial Britain on the cracking â€˜platter of goldâ€˜.
Some, out of utter desperation or inspired mischief are already recollecting inspiringly the political rigidity and economic instability of the terrible past under the ignoble military regimes.
In fact, the study of our survival under the harsh military rulers is now being viewed with refreshing nostalgia.
Hence, the re-appearance of General Babangida on the political scene with fanfare. What could be described as the realities of today which lure non inspiring candidates for the highest job?
Of all the complex problems of the nation, some stand out clearly and unmistakably so. These are deep social depression, caused by deepening poverty and leading to widespread distress; continuous political crisis leading to intense anxieties; past weak leadership that tended to encourage a free fall into a corrupt, money lusting and decadent society.
It is a sad scenario of moving from an unguarded optimism to an unexpected pessimism and from that point of pessimism to an undesired fatalism, as some adherents of Muslim faith would agree. Is there any hope before entry into that catastrophic cave?
Yes, if the present leadership becomes tougher (not a â€˜party yesâ€˜ man), pertinacious and overtly sagacious in the pursuit of national issues. It is not impossible to get many capable hands to put Nigeria on the solid ground of fast development, while leaving the legislators to exercise their acquisitive instinct for wealth, and leaving the politicians to their usual â€˜petty, snarling, grumblings and petty notorious traitsâ€˜.
There is an urgent need to attempt to bridge the widening economic and social gaps of over two centuries between us and the developed white races of the world, the fifty years of a deep valley of South East Asia countries and about forty years of economic advantage of South Africa has over us.
The pity is that most of the South-East Asia had independence about the same time Nigeria was liberated. The road to socio-economic development lies in the change of attitude of Nigerians and the awareness that real prosperity could be grown at home and not manufactured abroad as a commodity to be exported.
That calls for a curb to the insatiable taste of many Nigerians for foreign â€˜luxuryâ€˜ goods. It is sad that as the general elections approach, less than one year away (2011), issues discussed have not been on concrete measures that would stimulate the economy and promote peace and prosperity in the country.
Zoning as useful as it is in a rural environment, could not be relied upon where radicalization and opportunism would be needed.
Also, the staggering sum of about N84 billion to be spent on the gadgets to ensure that the â€˜Vote Countsâ€˜ could have been used to stimulate the local economy and increase employment, other things being equal. Since the belief that politicians donâ€˜t care much about the future of their country, it is the responsibility of the media to direct attention of a visionary leader to knotty issues.
One of the most essential tools to grow the economy is to support the manufacturing section to cater adequately for the local populace and also export to earn its need of foreign exchange for necessary raw materials and spare parts.
Though necessary at the moment, bailing out our ailing manufacturing industry is rather patronizing and inefficient especially if the cause of deterioration could be traced to official bad policies in the past.
In simple theory, devaluation of a countryâ€˜s currency in international market would tend to expand that countryâ€sâ€˜ export (through lower prices) and discourage imports (through higher prices).
Thus, devaluation is a reliable tool (if there is no retaliation) to expand a countryâ€˜s exports at the expense of its imports (reduction in amount spent). However, crude oil and gas which form about ninety percent of Nigeriaâ€˜s export earnings have their prices designated in $, so devaluation would not help in increasing revenue.
The problems of the Naira started with Gen. Ibrahim Babangida who thought it was over valued. In a military assault, the value of the naira was moved from N2 to $1 to about N8 to a $ during his time.
His army colleague in a civilian toga crushed the naira to N125 to $1, not by any rational economic thinking but by stargazing. Under the Dutch Auction, President Obasanjo bellowed, â€˜some people recommended N120 to a dollar.
I said that is good; but if you put it at N120 and something happens, and it is N125, people will say â€˜ o yes, it is a free fall. So I said look, put it at N125, because if we make it N125 and the rates arrive at N125, then we are keeping within our objectives. I believe that the Central Bank can manage that. Yes N125 is very comfortable for us.
W e came in at N96. Even N96 to N125, in a span of four years is about 12 per cent increase. You cannot say that is too bad!â€˜ That was President Obasanjo in 2003. Soludo moved the Naira to over N140 to $1 during his regime, a rate which Lamido seems to be comfortable with.
There should be a general review of policy in this direction and that of the banking lending rate to supplement CBNâ€˜s generous rates on Power and Small Scale Industries (7 per cent?).
The government should also clarify its stand on private ownership of banks in view of the Central bankâ€˜s willingness to sell bailed out banks without the support of the Shareholders.
If the elections are well conducted and victory won fairly by the new President, many believe that nothing much could be achieved in Nigeria, which is badly structured, sorrowfully deprived of development funds, and available funds, sadly mismanaged.
There are problems more demanding than the argument of whether President Jonathan should contest or the Presidency being zoned to the North.
There are so many issues to be solved before and after 2011 elections. Why the hurry. Letâ€˜s get it right this time.