My Layman's View

June 19, 2009

The romance of Year 2011 and the realities of today

By Adisa Adebayo
As the nation is still gripped in the  euphoria of the celebration of Ten Years of Democracy, there is that joy that military adventurers are looking somewhere else for their popular game – Coup, always couched in the familiar phrase, “Fellow Nigerians…”

The absence of men in Khaki at the corridors of power has perhaps given the politicians the freedom to practice their own familiar trade – lying, cheating and broken promises. Thus, the trade of  politics has become the most dominant aspect of the ill-gotten wealth syndrome, nick-named corruption.

The lack of political discipline has allowed corruption to flourish in the country and its tentacles have spread to every segment of the Nigerian society. If politicians as leaders (admittedly some are clean) could not challenge the scourge of corruption, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for any segment of society to mount any successful challenge.

It is more than two years that the last disputed elections were held throughout the country. Apart from empirical evidence of patriotic Nigerians on the elections which were far from free and fair, other foreign observers also saw what some party agents of the winning candidates described as unnecessary interference in our domestic affairs.

According to Mr. Van Den Berg, the leader of foreign observers, “the 2007 State and Federal elections have fallen far short of democratic standards”. That view was supported by the American Madeline Bright who mused that, “the 2007 elections represented a step backward in the conduct of elections in Nigeria”.

President Yar’Adua himself having survived the electoral battle at the Supreme Court (by a majority of four to three) wisely set up an electoral Committee of respectable Nigerians whose report was unfortunately mutilated. His many Bills are before the Legislature, some of whose membership many Nigerians feel might have benefited from electoral impropriety.

The recent Ekiti governorship re-run contest perhaps has demonstrated the extent to which politicians (supported by their parties) would sacrifice decency on the altar of personal and political gain.

The alluring prospects of the 2nd term, with keen eyes on easy money dolled out every month at Abuja are too tempting to ignore.

The talk about the golden year 2011 should therefore be predicated on the resolution of electoral reforms which would ensure the election of the election of true leaders.

Like the former President Obasanjo, the present President is taking the nation through promises of steady power supply, good roads and gainful employment – all through the awards of mouth-watering contracts.

It should be understood that making promises without hope of fulfillment is an unpardonable political sin which no amount of rigging could assuage at the day of reckoning.

On employment generation, the reality of today is mass unemployment and the dismissal hope for the future.

It is no exaggeration to say that poverty is deepening fast causing diseases among the aged; armed robberies among the youths; prostitution among women; armed struggle by the militants and act of kidnapping by the enemies of the nation.

It may be dangerous and very foolish for certain politicians to be dreaming of 2011 in the prevailing deep ocean of political and economic distress.

While not totally abandoning the elegant 7 – Point Programme of the President, and while waiting for those juicy contracts to take off and completed, President Yar’Adua as a Statesman could examine the options examined below in an attempt to stimulate the economy and increase employment.

First, through fiscal measures such as tax reduction and wage increment he could enrich the pockets of workers, low-income group and pensioners whose propensity to consume locally produced goods is very high.

The right action is to “let as much money as possible fructify in the pockets of the citizens, rather than to fritter it away on government activities not absolutely necessary,” like the present Re-branding Exercise. It is immoral for leaders to keep capable hands presently unemployed when they should be producing economic goods.

Also, while road contractors are busy mobilizing for construction of new roads, daily or weekly paid workers (like the old PWD) should be engaged to mend old Federal and State roads (with the co-operation of State governments.) The dichotomy between federal, state and local government roads should be discarded under a suitable and agreed arrangement to ensure that all hands are on deck for effective road maintenance all the year round.

It is easy to eradicate Malaria and other diseases by engaging workers to constantly clear the drains, sweep the streets and keep the environment clean in order to find job for idle and dangerous hands.

Local manufacturing industries should be encouraged to survive and expand through tax reliefs, support against unhealthy foreign competition and cheap import of essential inputs, not produced locally.

There is no reason why the old Kingsway Stores, Leventis, UTC, PZ etc – all big retail stores dotted all over Nigerian urban Centres closed under the harsh regime of SAP, should not be encouraged to re-appear to ease our serious unemployment problem.

With due respect to the country’s penchant for award of big contracts, it is believed that some small scale operations as suggested could push the economy to a certain level of full capacity, ensure a satisfactory rate of growth and generate mass employment.

If the Federal government, State governments and local councils could cooperate and work together on sustaining economic activities, it would be easier to promote economic growth and generate employment.

Any party in power that could guarantee macro-economic stability with full employment and controlled inflation is a sure winner in 2011. There would be no need for manipulation of election results.