By Emmanuel Edukugho
The return to democratic system of government in 1999 after a long period of military rule did not meet the expectations of the people for a better life in terms of social and economic development. Nigerians hoped to be transformed from poverty, joblessness, hunger, disease, ignorance, and exploitation into affluence and abundance considering the immense natural, mineral and petroleum resources available.
Democracy has been defined as government of the people, by the people and for the people. However, with the experience of nearly 15 years, many Nigerians have not fared better as regards improved standard of living because they are only of importance to politicians at times of electoral contests. After that, nobody cares about them any more.
Interactions between government and the governed based on mutual understanding and trust to provide dividends of democracy seemed almost non-existent. There is a yawning gap between government and the society making participatory governance a mirage. Political leaders are in their comfort zone far removed from the suffering world of the people on whose crest, contrived support they came to power.
Politicians, as in several parts of the world make empty, spurious, deceitful electoral promises which the electorate tend to believe which are not carried out at the end of the day.
They are never sincere, credible, transparent nor accountable to the people.
What happened last year and even in the previous years since the advent of democracy left so much to be desired. Over 70% of the country’s budget were spent on recurrent expenditure – as salaries, allowances, emoluments, benefits, welfare, tracts for politicians and public office holders. Just a paltry 30% or less were left for capital development from which a chunk is either stolen, pilfered, misappropriated, diverted or swindled by state offices and cronies.
An economic development analysts, Mr. Funsho Ifeoluwa, told Saturday Vanguard that the overbearing nature of politicians for easy money at the expense of national development is likely to spell doom for this country.
“How can the nation develop its infrastructure, grow the economy and drastically reduce poverty when over 70% of the national revenue is consumed by the political leadership, including executive,legislature and the judiciary? In such a situation, the ordinary people are deprived of good roads, water, electricity, proper healthcare, good education, adequate security, housing, transportation employment and so on.”
Ifeoluwa said governance must be service-driven in 2014 to avert chronic underdevelopment doyning the country.
“Our political leaders are so highly paid and should reduce their wages by half. What are they doing with constituency allowances running into billions of naira yearly when most of them don’t even visit their constituencies to ascertain the projects needed? Most of the funds are swindled. So, also are security funds collected by governors which are not accounted for. These are funds that can be used for infrastructure development but siphoned into private pockets.”
On the other hand, Dupe Ajayi, a lawyer, journalist, in a radio programme said the presidential system is too expensive to operate and that we should return to parliamentary governance to cut cost.
“Power is too heavy at the centre. States are merely struggling to make ends meet. We cannot ensure proper development because the system is too expensive. Every interest ought to be taken care of for even development.Also, Nigeria is too large for a single police organisation. Efforts at unity of the county should be intensified.”
“The need to curb corruption in our national life cannot be over emphasised. They should be killed as done in China. In Nigeria, corruption is celebrated and offenders are never sent to jail except petty thieves. The big thieves who embezzle billions are given fines which are paid easily and released. If corrupt officials are strongly dealt with, the trend will reduce as corruption in high and low places is one of the biggest problems facing the country today.
“In this 2014, budget implementation must be taken seriously, and sentiments and emotions must be avoided to ensure prudence in spending of public fund”.
Okafor said less than 40% of the budget is implemented and nobody accounts for the remaining 60% of unspent budgetary allocation.
“And this boils down to corruption which must be adequately tackled in all the sectors of our economy. There is collective fraud in the polity, theft and misuse of funds as political leaders don’t have conscience or the fear of God. Greed and avarice should be done away with in this new year.
Nigeria must turn a new leaf in 2014. Despite reforms in the power sector, the country is still in darkness as many people don’t have smooth electricity supply.
“If Nigeria is to develop industrially and commercially and grow small scale enterprises, there should be stable power supply,” a business centre manager, Mr. Davies Ojo said.
He also talked about the need for development of a national road network to link all the capital and major cities of the country.
“The case of the second Niger Bridge, dualisation of major highways across North/South, East-West road in the Niger Delta region are some of the projects government must ensure their completion in 2014. The railway development should be accorded priority for transportation of heavy goods and luggage across the country to reduce heavy pressure on the roads.”
Another area of interest for the people according to Saturday Vanguard investigation is the insecurity caused by Boko Haram terrorism, kidnapping and extra-judicial killings by over zealous security operatives.
The need to curb excessive strike by university teachers which shut down public universities for almost six months before it was resolved was stressed by some education stakeholders.
“We must not allow non-implementation of agreements to cause unwarranted strikes by personnel in essential and critical sectors such as education, health and power in this new year. We should do everything to avoid strike by the petroleum workers over the privatisation of refineries which could threaten peace and stability of the nation,” said Ahmed Umar, a university teacher.
It is incomprehensible that the government is trying to increase the presidential fleet with purchase of new jets. Nothing can be more insensitive when people cannot afford three square meals in a country of abundant wealth and mineral resources.