By Adisa Adeleye
It looks as if the principal gladiators in the March 28, 2015 Presidential election are using the opportunities provided by the postponement of February 14, 2015 to re-emphasise their earlier promises of making the country more secure and prosperous. There is no doubt that all Nigerians are very happy with the exploits of our patriotic and fearless security outfits (aided by their neighbours) in overcoming the armed and murderous insurgents. It has been pleasant news that the brutally displaced persons are now returning to their homes.
However, it appears that euphoria of the military successes against the Boko Haram sect in some parts of the North East seems to have redirected emphasis from some vital issues.
As the political campaigns are gradually winding up, the media have done great job in bringing out some prominent supporters of the contending parties to speak on various topics. Many supporters see the election as a personal (or beauty) contest between President Jonathan and his challenger, General Buhari (rtd).
It is absolutely necessary to bring back the agitated minds of the gladiators to some vital National issues before the close of the long but dull debate. These are issues on Security, Power, Employment and Political/Economic stability.
It is true that no nation could survive long if its subjects are subjected to constant attack by insurgents and the ‘life and property‘ is not safe. The worse scenario is offered by the Hobbesian ‘State of Nature‘ where everything is in total chaos (without any trace of civilization) and where ‘life is nasty, brutish and short‘. This looks like a philosophical fantasy until Boko Haram descended on some parts of the country with guns and bombs. And in the cool evening at Chibok, they carted away more than 200 School girls, unchallenged. The Sambisa Forest, it was reported, had been cleared by our gallant forces, but where are the abducted girls? Perhaps, their release would be a pleasant pre-election surprise, May it be so.
The pertinent question being asked by patriotic Nigerians is what happens when Boko Haram insurgency has been suppressed and the foreign troops are back in their neighbouring countries? There are other national problems of incessant daylight bank robberies, political thuggery and intolerance of opposition (Okirika incidence of shooting and bombing); kidnapping of people (including medical personnel) and ritual killings. It is generally agreed that an insecure environment could not promote stability and prosperity.
Another vital national issue is the problem of electricity supply which has become a bogey of the present federal government. In fairness, the federal government under the PDP has laboured vigorously though in vain, to butcher the beast of darkness in the country in the past 15 years; it is understood that more than $32 billion had been invested to brighten the dark alleys and provide the engine of economic growth and healthy living. The latest attempt on privatization has thrown the country back into dark ages.
Perhaps, as some patriots argue, if willing State governments have been brought into the exercise, it would have been better. There is no doubt that Lagos, Oyo and Ogun State governments would have shown interest in EGBIN Power Station which requires enormous capital quite beyond what private investors (looking for quick profits) could afford in the short term.
But addiction to crude oil production seems to have blocked the vision of the country‘s economic planners to exploit successfully other means.
It is generally believed that widespread unemployment has been responsible or has direct link with the rise of crime in this country. Both the government and the opposition have been promising extensive investment in job creating ventures without convincing facts. Unfortunately, unemployment is a serious matter which could not be wished away by moral suasion. The Western economically advanced nations, since Keynes, have adopted the policy of mass injection of public funds into the dormant economy to stimulate effective demand and thereby, increase employment opportunities.
A typical case is that of President Roosevelt of the United States (USA) who in the 1930s used the tool of Budget Deficit (spending more than income) to tackle the problems of depression and unemployment, by directing massive investments into the clearing of drains, building of new ports, new houses and roads. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s budget deficits over the years had gone into sustaining bloated recurrent expenditure with small allocation for infrastructural development (capital expenditure). The 2015 Budget is another typical example of low emphasis on capital expenditure.
In a situation of high rate of unemployment as the case in Nigeria, such problem according to a noted British economist; Professor R. G. Lipsey is best tackled by encouraging governments, firms and households to be spend thrift as much as possible because, other things being equal, the more prodigal and spend thrift the households, the higher will be the level of national income and employment. So it is possible to vary the volume of aggregate expenditure and thus, stimulate effective demand for goods and services.
However, in Nigeria, other things are far from being equal. The federal government over the years, would not inject massive funds into the economy for fear of inflation. The conservative Central Bank – the monetary authority has always been in the habit of mopping up any sign of excess liquidity in the economy. Often, what looks like the liberal fiscal policy of incentives for industrial expansion is contradicted by harsh monetary stance to create misery in the midst of plenty.
Many Nigerians see the challenging problems of the country after the elections. There is that reduction in income from oil exports, reduction in monthly allocations to all tiers of governments (with high recurrent expenditures). The Nigerian Senate has wisely suggested the reduction of the 2015 Budget by 25 per cent in the face of oil price cut by more than 50 per cent.
There is no doubt that any party that wins the election would face the post election social and economic problems of adding the figures and balancing the unpredictable and uneven equations. From empirical evidence, the social, political and economic problems of a plural society are too weighty for a single party with its jaded mentality of “winners-take-all” to carry.
Perhaps the gallant gladiators will assure all Nigerians that, the next government will be the government of best Nigerians for Nigeria – no winner no loser.