By Adisa Adeleye
Last Sunday saw the inauguration of the President and Governors of the twenty states (some new) with joy and radiance, satisfying new hope and expected transformation. Adherents of the Christian faith would see the colorful event as ‘Baptism’- of the death of sin and the rising of hope.
Since the President and the state Governors have resumed normal duties, it is the duty of the ordinary citizens, often referred to as the commoners, or in the naughty military parlance, ‘bloody civilians’, to remind the servants of the people,(before they become our masters) of their sacred promises voluntary made some weeks ago. This is necessary because of painful experience of the recent past.
At the pain of repeating myself in series of articles in my column every Friday, the issues raised (though not discussed fully) were politics without violence, free and fair elections to reflect the choices of the people and absolute compliance with law and order to maintain a stable society.
These rulers also promised free and qualitative education, improved health care services, living wages and employment opportunities.
If we are to judge by the weight of promises made during election campaigns, it is safe to assume that the present condition of Nigeria would be better than that the past and the future would even be brighter. However, judging by the antecedents of some of the old leaders recently sworn-in, some doubts do exist in the minds of many citizens about the prospects of a new beginning and a total break with the dismal past.
Whatever might have been responsible for the mistakes of the past, millions of voters in May 2011 could have been convinced that under the new national leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, a new Nigeria would be born to witness the promises of unity and prosperity.
President Jonathan is no more that little village boy that once walked barefooted to school but now a fully grown politician who voluntarily made a pledge of uniting the people and eradicating poverty. The amiable Mr. President will as from now be advised, criticized and judged on his promises and not on the origin of his birth or how he won his party nomination and presidential election.
Nigeria is a big country (by African standard) and inhabited by unique people of different cultures, religions and languages. Ethnic sentiments and religious considerations have in the past (and at present) prevented national cohesion and the development of patriotism to the father land.
The ruling party in the last twelve years has failed to find an answer to ethnic and religious disturbances which had led to destruction of precious lives and properties of innocent people. In many places, especially in the Northern states, no compensation has been paid to victims or serious political actions initiated to allay fears of further threat to life and property of the individual.
In Jos, the capital of Plateau state where the ruling party has been returned to power, no compensation and restitution made to victims of dastardly acts of violence. More than 300 houses (of Ogbomoso and the Igbo owners) are still lying in ruins with the owners dead or forced to flee. The hope is that President Jonathan would be able to take a bold stand (apart from usual commission of enquiry) to stem the tide of sectional and sectarian killings and provide security for all Nigerians wherever they live.
Observers believe, and sincerely so, that security is the greatest threat to President Jonathan’s administration. In a country where bombs rock at ease even in a situation where the lives of police (protectors of the people) are no longer safe, where armed robbers kill and maim freely during the day and night and where kidnappers are shifting bases frequently, it is clear that other stronger and more radical measures are needed. It looks as if the menace of Boko Haram is not viewed dangerous enough yet to invite serious official reaction until it reaches a larger dimension.
The adherents of true federalism would prefer a decentralized security outfits, giving each state the power to crush saboteurs in religious garbs. A decentralized police is desirable as it is the practice in many developed countries like USA and Britain. The central Nigerian police force is neither numerically adequate nor sufficiently equipped to cope with various security problems which threaten the unity of the country.
A serious promise which is hardly kept is that of fixing the economy to eradicate poverty and promote wealth. The consequence of many conflicting economic policy have been stunted economic growth, fall in standard of living, large gap between the poor and the rich, mass unemployment and deepening poverty. However, the President has promised to fix the economy, to promote economic growth and prosperity which the ruling party has failed to do since the return of democracy in 1999. But how would he do it under the present circumstances?
The Nigerian economy, we are told, has achieved a GDP growth of above 7.8% through contributions by services, retail trade and non_oil products. Inflation is put at the current rate of about 11 percent; foreign exchange reserves could finance import of twelve months. Under this precarious environment things are not at ease.
The Central Bank is squeezing the economy under the pretext of preventing inflation, its mortal foe. There seems to be a problem of clash between the restrictive policy of the Central Bank and the expansionist policy of Jonathan’s government which promises large public spending and infrastructural developments, full employment and increased minimum wages. If the Central Bank carries its threat to sterilizing enlarged liquidity in the system following increasing government expenditure on viable projects to promote employment and improve the living condition of the people, then it is goodbye to full employment and welcome to abject poverty.
If President Jonathan’s economic policy is to be successful, his strong economic team should work to harmonize broad view of economic development with the narrow but conservative stance of the Central Bank leadership in the interest of the nation.