By Clement Udegbe
2015, has come and gone forever, with its risks, lies, cheatings, manipulations, deceits, and deaths, and leaves us with many issues to continue to grapple with. Many may not indeed know how we got here, but I know, that if it were not for God, we won’t have made it.
We entered 2015, with some fears for disintegration as a nation, which made us to pray, and work, to avert a blood bath, and we made it, landed into a change in government, the precipitate of which we must deal with hopefully with same gusto that brought us here if not more.
2015, brought the challenges of climate change closer to us, but we were too pre-occupied with elections and its aftermath, to pay good attention. Many leaders at the states level did not seem to understand and create the time for the effects of climate change, but we must grapple with them or remain in a precariously dangerous environment. Simply put, while increased desertification means more exposure to hunger, disappearance of farm lands, higher wind effects like blindness, fire out breaks etc, in the northern Nigeria, more water into the earth from the Ice countries, means too much rains and water in the southern Nigeria, with increased erosion activities, flooding and loss of farming plains and crops, bringing increased hunger and poverty. Adding the impending economic crunch to these hazards of our time, makes it compulsory that we must learn from our mistakes of 2015.
Part of our mistake was to keep squandering all our financial resources in pursuit of political power and change, when oil prices were preparing to crash, and now that the crash has come, we must grapple with it, without blaming another, for we all jumped into this boat ignoring all the signs and tale tales of impeding global rough economic times that was imminent.
2015, took us as a nation to the height of religious and ethnic interplay in almost everything we did. Much earlier in the 1990s, a northern military Muslim Head of State, took Nigeria by the nose into the Organisation of Islamic Conference, OIC, and nothing happened. In 2015, another northern ex-military President on the saddle, in spite of our democratic setting, intends from his body language, to take Nigeria into the Arab league, in a fight against a terrorist group that was born from purely Muslim thoughts and acts of governance.
How other non-Muslim religions in Nigeria will take this, given the frail nerves from the mostly Christian South East and South South and the increasing agitation for Biafra under this administration will again depend on how righteous and forth right our South Western Christians are willing to be.
2015, in rounding up, made us see religious procession by the Shiites Muslim sect, used to provoke high violence and extra-judicial killings, in the north, and while the Arab world would want to drag Nigeria into their Sunni – Shiites fights, peaceful protest for self-determination by pro-Biafran groups in the South East were shot at and killed extra-judicially in their tens, with no blink of the eyes by the government in power, an action which has surreptitiously ignited support and sympathy for the pro-Biafra groups.
How we made a mountain out of a mole hill in this country, by the share insensitivity of this government remains baffling to many, and may help many Nigerians irrespective of their zone, to resolve never to allow any person who has low premium for their lives to govern them in the future. Whether religion will be a force for peace or war and conflict, will depend entirely on how this government deals with us in this New Year.
2016, will therefore be a year in which only hope can see us through in dealing with the challenges 2015 has thrust upon us all. Hope in the ability of increasing number of Nigerians to resolve to give no rest to all the wicked in power and leadership positions be they political or otherwise.
Hope that Nigerians will develop the capacity to detect divide-and-rule traits in our leaders and resist it, to create a better society.
It is obvious that the continued fall in the world oil price, will spell hardship for all oil exporting nations including Nigeria. It should therefore be unacceptable to have our political leaders approve fat salaries for themselves, or continue in their present levels of emoluments and allowances, as we have for the Senate and NASS etc, budgeting and appropriating huge sums just for food alone as we have seen in the Federal Government 2016 Budget where over N1.7 Billion will be spent on Aso Rock food alone, while they preach austerity to us.
Our leaders from the Presidency, Governors Lodges, to Local Government Chairmen, should start leading by example from henceforth, or they should be given rough times, before they are rejected.
Our hope is that Nigeria will be set on the path to her greatness during the leanness of this New Year, and that will in reality depend on whether the very agents of our backwardness, can also somersault and become agents of growth and development, which I think will be very unlikely, because these same agents would have been too corrupted, polluted, and compromised to help us now. There is a need therefore for something new, a fresh air, a renewing of the mind, and possibly a complete over haul of how we did things to this stage.
This is why Nigerians must take this fight against corruption to the next level in the new year, such that search lights will be beamed on the electric power sector, the past and serving state governors, who displaced Local Governments, cornered the federal allocations and left most rural roads undone, and the communities very poor.
We hope that Ndigbo will find greater peace and unity among themselves, accept their zone and work to make it the best it can be, while building greater bonds of brotherhood with their South South and Yoruba neighbours, to set all political prisoners free in this New Year, our year of HOPE.
*Mr Udegbe, a lawyer, wrote from Lagos.