By Denrele Animasun
“Most people do not really want freedom because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility”— Sigmund Freud
Independence Day came and went. And in case you blinked, you would have missed it. I may have been in the minority as I know that some diehards took the trouble to dress up in the celebratory green, white and green to mark Independence Day.
I have not been one to celebrate Independence Day as a matter of principle, there has never been anything of note to celebrate. On the other hand, you cannot knock what floats some people’s boat; their optimism, and joviality. And far be it from me to subscribe anyone to my way of thinking. It is their prerogative to do whatever they like personally. I have always treated 1st of October as a day of reflection and I say a prayer for Nigeria. I do have a vested interest in what is going on in Nigeria and love or loathe the present state, we all hold on to hope and better times .
As usual, I was not expecting much; just the dreaded ostentatious federal celebration from the head honcho. This time, I could not have been more wrong.
I was pleasantly surprised by the president’s candid independence speech. PMB set the tone with a conciliatory approach; the content was forensically laid bare, it was the truth and nothing but the truth. This was a departure from the past independence day debacle where the obligatory cake and merriment was the de riguer and there has always been disconnection between the government and its people. Not this time, in PMB’s speech, it was warts and all; the whole caboodle and everything that faces Nigeria was admitted, recognised, acknowledged and solutions were prescribed for every ill that plagues the country and its people.
It was in fact; the first time in living memory that a presidential independence speech was not sugar coated or dressed up in fantasy. Instead, it was delivered with a chance of succour and sincerity.
As a people, we hold on to hope and have been disappointed many times over so it is understandable that people did not hold out that this administration will be any different from the last.
As it is, people have a difficult time seeing the proverbial wood from the trees and who could blame them. PMB’s speech was peeled back, pitched right, factual, empathetic and pragmatic but, it was a bitter pill to swallow and he left no hiding place by telling it like it is. PMB spoke directly to Nigerians, reminding Nigerians of the founding fathers and their fight for independence and one Nigeria. He reminded Nigerians of their freedom and independence. It seems that in the ensuing years, we have lost sight of what makes us Nigerians.
He said: “On this day, 56 years ago our people achieved the most important of all human desires – freedom and independence. We should all, therefore, give thanks and pray for our founding fathers without whose efforts and toil we would not reap the bounties of today”. He had my attention from the very beginning and when he acknowledged the economic crisis, I took notes .
I believe that the level of his honesty will mark his tenure positively, and a well-earned legacy. Those who voted for him to change the country have indeed done well. We have got a safe pair of hands, a principled man with a cool head at the helm. It seems that he will and can steer the nation through this choppy economic waters.
In his speech, he said; “I know that uppermost in your minds today is the economic crisis. The recession for many individuals and families is real. For some it means not being able to pay school fees, for others it’s not being able to afford the high cost of food (rice and millet) or the high cost of local or international travel, and for many of our young people the recession means joblessness, sometimes after graduating from university or Polytechnic”
This is a man that does not tell us that all is well, knowing fully well it is clearly not the case. This is refreshingly different and he knows that nothing else matters if people are neck deep in poverty and debts. Let us get real here, I can assure you that I am not gushing and I am saying that he owned up and acknowledge that there is wholesale suffering and that too many are finding it tough merely existing in the protracted recession.
He said;” I know how difficult things are, and how rough business is. All my adult life I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices” The sacrifices some are making is not top to bottom but all the same many Nigerians have to struggle on a daily basis and many are young people without prospect of employment, education or training, Unless, the government addresses the dearth of employment and education for young people, it will face an uphill struggle for the nation’s economy to recover and grow.
When Buhari was elected, there were high and unrealistic expectations that things will change for the better almost immediately and in reality, to some people’s disappointment, this was not the case. It is understandable that, people want change and they wanted it so much like yesterday. What we fail to acknowledge is that Nigeria did not arrive at this dire situation overnight. It has been long time in the making and PMB addresses that in his speech: “I ran for office four times to make the point that we can rule this nation with honesty and transparency, that we can stop the stealing of Nigeria’s resources so that the resources could be used to provide jobs for our young people, security, infrastructure for commerce, education and healthcare”
At the core of the Nigerian psyche, it will take a lot longer to shift the mentality of mass greed, looting and corruption, it is not impossible but it will take time. What we have seen so far, is indicative on how deep the rut goes in every cellular function of Nigerian life. In as much as I detest slogans, it is true that the change should begin with the individual and only then can real change take place and everyone will feel the changes. It is not a far fetch goal; in fact, there was a time it happened with Buhari at the helm. PMB addressed this and his determination to go the whole hog:”
Temporary problems should not blind or divert us from the corrective course this government has charted for our nation”
It may be a shock to some that Saudi Arabia is intending to cut its ministers’ salaries by 20 per cent and is going to scale back on the financial perks that their top public employees have grown accustomed to. Even the richest kingdom has to make adjustments to its spending as a cost reduction measures. Reality bites as the price of oil hit rock bottom and they are looking to save money and this will affect the majority of its workers; there will be no bonuses or financial benefits. A top minister read out to assembled ministers and royals including King Salman: “The cabinet has decided to stop and cancel some bonuses and financial benefits,”
The kingdom was hit hard by the low price in oil and it has a budget deficit of nearly $100 billion so it has to find savings and raise money in other ways. So by Royal decree there will be a cut in ministers’ pay, with housing and car allowances to be cut by 15 per cent. Overtime will be curbed between 25 and 50 per cent of their basic salaries; annual leave will no longer exceed 30 days. Saudi is reforming itself over reliance on oil and wants to diversify .I hope that Dino Melaye is taking note.
He has said that he will personally champion a reduction in lawmakers pay so that the saving can be used for essential projects. He may need to sell some of his vintage cars!