By Josef Omorotionmwan
IN keeping with the tradition we started in 2014, it has become necessary to put every passing year in perspective. We believe that the end of the year should not necessarily terminate the life of a programme or any important issue, for that matter. We must remind ourselves that there are salient issues raised in the course of the passing year, which cannot be swept under the carpet. Given the frailty of the human mind, there is the constant need to maintain follow-up actions on such issues, as matters carried forward to subsequent years.
The most significant issue that troubled the minds of all Nigerians in the course of the year was on President Muhammadu Buhari’s health. Two times during the year, he left the country and travelled to Great Britain in search of superior health-care.
At a point, Buhari’s wife travelled to Britain to see him. She returned with only one message – that the President had requested all Nigerians to pray relentlessly for him. Like the Biblical Paul and Silas, Nigerians prayed; they sang; and the Holy Ghost came down. There is the general view that even where the President “had never been this ill,” he returned to Nigeria stronger and healthier than ever. At least, he looks fitter than he was before the 2015 presidential election, no wonder, he suddenly finds himself today at the very centre of the 2019 contest.
Even where we keep basking in the euphoria of the President’s total regeneration and recreation, we cannot miss the single most important lesson from the President’s overseas experience – rather than keep exporting Executive ailments, we should import those facilities into Nigeria. There is no doubt in our minds that the billions we squander abroad on the Executive aliments will go a long way in providing those facilities in Nigeria. We challenge our leaders to do the needful here; and save us the national embarrassment of their going abroad at the least prompting.
The next issue that caught our attention during the year is the issue of our national budgets. We wrote close to ten essays on the issue of budgeting. One single theme that ran across all the writings is that half a loaf is worse than no bread. Over the years, Nigeria got fixated on executing half of its budgets in every full Financial Year; and that is the very bane of our development.
We have maintained, perhaps with monotonous regularity, that the only thing that can remove us from this quagmire is to develop a Budget Cycle, which will, by superior legislation, compel certain actions on the budget by specific dates. We went ahead to produce a sketch, which the National Assembly could modify to its taste: March 1 (2018): The Budget Ministry shall issue call letters to all Ministries, Agencies and Departments, including the Judiciary and NASS. April 30 (2018): All Requests are received and collated for onward transmission to the NASS. July 31 (2018): The President presents the Appropriation Bill to NASS. August 31 (2018): End of debates on general principles of the budget, and referral to relevant Committees of both Chambers. October 15 (2018): Committees report out the Appropriation Bill. November 15 (2018): Appropriation Bill passed in both Houses; and differences are referred to the Conference Committee. November 30 (2018): Harmonised Budget is passed by both Chambers and forwarded to the President for his assent. December 15 (2018): President assents to the Bill.
Evidently, failing to plan is planning to fail. Enough of this fire brigade approach. Let the National Assembly give us an Act for A Budget Cycle for our Federal Government.
We dwelt extensively on the resurgence of the new slave trade, which involves the sale and purchase of Nigerians as human cargoes or articles of trade. Many of our youths have fallen victims of this indignation under the guise of seeking greener pastures abroad. And in the process of this dehumanising adventurism, many of our citizens have perished in the high sea and in the desert.
Our governments have not abandoned these unfortunate ones to their fate. They must continue the good job of rehabilitation of the returnees. It also behooves all of us to continuously inculcate in our youths that the bright light at the end of the tunnel could also be that of a moving train. They must watch carefully, lest they might be crushed. For every Nigerian, Nigeria is the best place to live.
President Buhari’s anti-graft war is still on course. However, the fight still needs more openness and greater transparency. We demand equal treatment for all offenders, which will rid the fight of the perceived colouration of “disinfectants” and “deodorants”. At a point, too, it may amount to corruption for the Federal Government to hold the records of recovered loots too close to its chest. We deserve to know the looters and their loots. After all, some of the recovered loots belong to other tiers of government. For instance, anything recovered from a governor – past or present – belongs to his State. There are also some loots that must be ploughed back to the Federation Account for redistribution to the federating units.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was essentially right, “Nothing beats an idea whose time has come”. One such idea is the Revolution of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Walter Onnoghen, in his prescription of “ Equal but separate courts for looters”. This noble idea must be developed further and must not be allowed to die with the dying year.
The National Assembly is currently attempting to further amend the Nation’s Constitution. Restructuring and some other important reforms have dominated the debates. We urge the National Assembly to face the task here with the desired seriousness so that it does not suffer the same fate that befell it in the President Goodluck Jonathan era.
Every citizen has an inalienable right to life, hence we shall use every opportunity, including the one provided here, to plead with President Buhari to exercise the prerogative of mercy to set the “Mutiny 66” free.