By Rotimi Fasan
If Nigerians like nationals of other countries remember 2020 as the year that coronavirus rendered useless, 2021 might well be remembered as the year of unprecedented inflation when the prices of goods and services apparently quadrupled.
Never mind the figures from the National Bureau of Statistics or any of those agencies whose peculiar analyses of the situation make nonsense of our common-sense understanding, Nigerians know where the shoe pinches them.
They know how hard it is to put food on the table and how it’s become more difficult to meet their basic needs. Living meaningfully as opposed to struggling to survive is still a matter of concern.
It is true that issues of insecurity remain as they have been in the last six years with the so-called bandits taking the prize for violent crimes, while the Nigerian government continues to grapple with how best to respond.
The downward slide in the economic fortunes of Nigerians is still of major concern to Nigerians.
Nigerians know, however, that their economic problems are partly a result of the unresolved problem of insecurity caused mostly by career criminals now called bandits terrorising communities across the country.
It is clear also that whether or not Nigerians will experience respite from the predation of bandits depends on the readiness of government to label them terrorists.
We have got to that point in spite of protests from Sheik Ahmad Gumi, the lone voice in the wilderness crying for a sympathetic treatment of the bandits – we’ve reached and gone beyond the point of renaming the bandits terrorists but this naming ceremony has not brought about any reduction in banditry.
The bandits have found new and more creative ways to make their presence felt while the military debates the appropriate time to deploy their ultimate war machine in battle – the Super Tucano jets.
Scores of Nigerians are being kidnapped on highways or right inside their homes and their abductors have next to nothing to worry about even as they walk away with huge ransoms. It’s a game of survival for everyone and the only protection Nigerians have against being kidnapped or becoming a victim of armed robbers or cultists, is to keep as far as possible from places that make them easy prey of criminals.
That seems to be the only guarantee left. Otherwise, the struggle against criminals is far from over.
Amid all of this and as 2021 goes into the ages, electoral politics is threatening to steal the attention of everyone with the manner the President, Muhammadu Buhari, has chosen to withhold assent to the passage of the electoral reform bill whose existence appears permanently doomed for as long as Buhari remains in office.
It does not matter that the president may have good reasons for not assenting to the passage of the bill this time around, the manner he has gone about it in the last two years gives the impression he is not particularly keen on the reforms being proposed to our electoral system.
He appears to derive some perverse pleasure from keeping Nigerians guessing and waiting for his response each time the bill makes its interminable trip to his table. Although he has all of a month within which to take a decision on a bill, President Buhari has a way of waiting until the very last moment before highlighting a minor point of disagreement in the bill.
Each time, there is a new reason. On this latest rigmarole, the issue is about whether or not political aspirants should be selected through direct primaries or not, or whether other options such as consensus arrangement is acceptable.
The presidency looks on smugly as Nigerians work themselves into a frenzy, wondering if the president’s position should be overturned by a legislative leadership that has from the beginning pledged unalloyed allegiance to the president.
The pretence that the Ahmed Lawan-led National Assembly would ever summon the courage to oppose any position taken by Muhammadu Buhari is laughable. Most of them owe their positions in the legislative assembly to him or by claiming affinity to his kind of politics.
But Nigerians, misled by sections of the political class, continue to deceive themselves that anyone or group within the legislature can look Buhari in the eye. That is highly unlikely and even if it does happen, it cannot be on any matter of grave importance.
The national legislature under this dispensation looks doomed to be a rubber stamp.
Which is not saying there is any sense in taking any contrary step to the president’s if there is no serious merit to it.
There is wisdom in looking at every side of the electoral reforms being proposed before a final decision is taken and it would be futile to take a stand simply because it is in opposition to the preferred stand of President Buhari if only to prove to him that the legislature is not a spineless body.
But no matter the merit of its present argument on the electoral reform bill, it does look like the All Progressives Congress-led government has a particular agenda of its own it wants to execute and until the time is right for it to do that it will continue to delay the passage of the electoral reform bill.
The passage of this bill will not end the economic problem that Nigerians are bound to face in 2022 with the impending cessation of oil subsidy.
Which brings us back again to my earlier point that the economy is still the major concern for Nigerians and how we are able to navigate the economic trail will determine the immediate relevance or irrelevance of any reforms whether electoral or political.
The lament that the country is broke and must necessarily survive by running, bowl in hand, to foreign creditors will bring no respite where public officials still live lavishly and take no measure to cut down on their extravagant ways fuelled by corruption.
Corruption itself is not an issue for state or public officials alone. It’s also a matter for Nigerians to consider.
More than ever before we must take a wider view of corruption as a problem that unites both the governed and the governors in Nigeria.
Everyone has a part to play and until Nigerians begin to see the question of corruption as not a matter of Abuja politicians alone or one that needs worry only members of the APC or the PDP but every concerned Nigerian- until we take this general view of things, we would remain inadequately equipped to demand accountability from public office holders.
The critical point of difference between the public and private sectors in Nigeria is in the manner each responds to issues of corruption which the private sector punishes severely but the public sector papers over.