By Pini Jason
JANUARY 2012 began with an ill-timed fuel tax, called removal of fuel subsidy. That act inflamed passion and caused a nationwide conflagration that nearly consumed the government. It seems that in the absence of such drama this year, some people tried to create their own drama by pasting President Jonathan’s campaign posters in some parts of Abuja.
If that was meant to create unnecessary crisis for President Jonathan or distract the nation, it simply showed how irresponsible Nigerian politics is. What the authors of that mischief and the media (especially some television networks) that tried to make needless controversy out of it forgot is that it is not yet a crime to have ANY political ambition. It is still a free world here. Secondly posters pasted in the affluent neighbourhood of Abuja and not all over the country did not deserve the attention, airtime and ink given to them.
What ought to preoccupy us is the sorry state of the nation and the President’s promise to do better this year. The year kicked off with no one certain of the whereabouts of the 2013 Budget. We heard it was with the presidency. We also heard that it was yet to reach the presidency. We yet heard that it was half way to the presidency. That is exactly the problem with Nigeria as a nation! Lack of precision! Nothing is ever precise, specific or certain; not even figures.
The only thing certain here is lawlessness which breeds indiscipline and corruption. Why would a nation not know for sure where its budget is? If we do not know that, how then can we know where the N69 billion padded into the budget by the National Assembly will go or how many jobs it will create? Ours is the only Legislature that uses its power of the purse to pad the budget. Oh, I get reminded often that they are doing their job and that whatever the Executive sends to the National Assembly is a mere proposal which they must not rubber stamp. Good! But they have been doing this and getting away with it simply because they are lucky that Nigerians lack the capacity to track budget spending!
A critical year
The way I see things, 2013 will be a very critical year for Nigeria. I am not saying this in the sense of a numerologist or a prophet. The year may still turn out lucky for many, after all. I am saying this simply because Nigerians have taken a lot of beatings. Nigerians are now at a breaking point! Nigerians feel betrayed and angry. Every day is a doomsday yet our so-called leaders pretend not to know. Nigeria is fighting an undeclared war in which every home has been turned into a war front. Death and destruction haunts citizens everywhere. It seems to me that our rulers do not get it yet. When death that hitherto stalked ordinary unprotected Nigerians breaks through the cocoon of the privileged and now assaults them randomly, it is a wakeup call that the nation is in a grave danger. All it may take to ignite the fuse is a little indiscretion on the part of some misguided politicians. So, at the end of this very critical year we want to look back and see how well our politicians understood the situation and how much the government responded to it.
Today the greatest time bomb ticking for this nation is unemployment. The other day I read that 800,000 applicants turned up for a recruitment exercise for 1,500 vacancies. It is possible that at ten different locations in this country on the same day, another 800,000 turned up for jobs that offered no more than 1,000 vacancies. Now the problem is that Nigeria does not have an accurate statistics of its unemployed. From my experience in Imo State where we took steps to tackle this cancer by directly employing 10,000 unemployed graduates, some of these unfortunate Nigerians have been jobless for up to 10 years since graduation.
Therefore the President must treat unemployment as a national emergency this year and devise a special means of dealing with it. It is dangerous to allow millions of educated Nigerians to roam the streets in a nation that, ironically, has so much to do. It does not make sense. The 2013 budget must open the economy for jobs. At the end of the year, the President must be able to tell Nigerians that he has drastically reduced the unemployment line by so-so millions! Anything less will not do.
Transformation, law and order
The President’s mantra is transformation. Transformation? Ninety-nine per cent of Nigerians are doing with freewheeling audacity things they dare not do, if they were in a civilised clime. And that means breaking the law. Unfortunately, our rulers are leading the pack of law breakers and all they do is to manipulate the system to escape punishment.
By the end of this year, we want to look back and feel satisfied that our laws have been enforced and criminals have been put in jail. We want to look back and find clear evidence that our system is no longer so scandalously porous that trillions of Naira can fly out of pension funds while pensioners are suffering; or billions disappear from the books while roads remain death traps. We want to see our money working for us. The capacity of corruption to fight back must be curbed. Those exposed must not prevail against the whistle blowers!
The only pillar that can support transformation and, in fact our democracy, is law and order. Law and order is the foundation of any civilised society. We want to look back at the end of the year and feel relieved that people no longer break the law with impunity. If Governor Fashola is doing it in Lagos and transforming the state to a model modern state, the Federal Government can, and must do it. It is a matter of will! Criminals must no longer run around the country shooting, blowing up and killing people at random and getting away with it.
The primary responsibility of any government is the security of life and property; that is what our constitution said. The President swore an oath to uphold the constitution. He must take steps to protect Nigerians and their property. These issues are far more immediate than campaign posters. These issues are far more important than mud wrestling for power. These are the important issues that may decide who Nigerians vote for in 2015. To attempt to side track these issues to undeservedly capture power will spell doom for Nigeria.
The CATALAN Cup is not AFCON
SINCE Super Eagles pulled off a draw in a friendly with the Catalonians, people connected with our football have been celebrating and running their mouths as if we have won the African Cup of Nations! We must snap out of the euphoria and get to work.
The culture of celebrating mediocrity could undermine us in South Africa. The team played well, no doubt. But they lacked the killer instinct that makes teams outstanding. In short, there is work to be done in rebuilding the Super Eagles. We must, therefore, not put undue pressure on Keshi to achieve what took Clemense Westerhoff five years to achieve!