hoto taken on December 30, 2016 shows a woman selling “Happy New Year 2017” headwear on a busy shopping street in Sydney. Global terror attacks have cast a pall over New Year celebrations but Sydney was on December 31, 2016 set to defy the threats and ring in 2017 with a firework extravaganza on the glittering harbor. / AFP
After spending all the seven months available to him in 2015 just forming his government, 2016 was the first true test of the character and purpose of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime. Faced with a withering economic recession, the war against Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, the return of militancy in the Niger Delta, the upsurge of Biafra separatists, his war on corruption and the menace of armed herdsmen and cattle rustlers, the President had quite a lot on his plate.
The regime was forced to take a painful decision that would have been taken in January 2012, if not for massive opposition and the lack of resolve of the then President Goodluck Jonathan regime: withdraw from subsidising petrol. This, added to higher electricity tariffs, the steep fall in the value of the Naira against foreign currencies, huge job/salary cuts and inability of governments and many companies in the private sector to pay their workers promptly, the amount of suffering among the people skyrocketed.
Matters were not helped by the clumsiness at the Federal level which attended the “budget padding” controversy and the gradual creep into this regime of alleged corruption among some very senior regime officials.
There are reasons, however, to believe that the Buhari regime is gradually beginning to find its feet. The recent recapture of Sambisa Forest by Nigeria’s gallant troops will definitely reduce the quantum of funds allocated for the upkeep of soldiers on the war front. Secondly, turning necessity into a positive value, many state governments keyed into the regime’s agricultural vision as propagated chiefly by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) Anchor Borrowers programme and the efforts of Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
For the first time since oil became our foremost national revenue earner, 2017 could be that year when we begin our march to self-sufficiency in many agricultural products, especially rice and wheat. If the current momentum is maintained, Nigeria will free up the N517 billion she spends annually importing rice and enriching foreign farmers.
There is still a lot to be done before we escape the recession as President Buhari promised in his 2017 budget. 2017 is probably the last opportunity the regime has to get Nigerians to close ranks with it to deliver on its campaign promises. After this year, we will be back to high political atmosphere, and unless things move at a faster and more result-oriented fashion, we may be talking about another largely wasted tenure. The President must lead a very personal campaign for import substitution and the consumption of Made-In-Nigeria products.
We call on Nigerians to put aside their differences and make sure that in this New Year, we go back to the path of economic growth. We wish all Nigerians a happy New Year!