By Jide Ajani, General Editor
The spectre of gloom is real. So is the frustrating anxiety that heralds it. On the economic front, social front, ethnic front and all the imaginable fronts that combine to make for a great nation, there is exasperating apprehension.
It is in the pursuit of that greatness that Nigeria continues to miss her way like a drunk driver in a perpetual state of inebriation. Year on year – and from independence 62 years ago – like a country under a spell, the former years always appeared better than the latter years. And nothing best typifies this than the frightening level of crude oil theft.
In August 2013, Nigeria lost N365billion to crude oil theft – about 600,000 barrels’ worth. Scandalous as that was, today’s theft level is embarrassingly worse. According to one of the presidential candidates, “in July 2022, Nigeria’s crude oil production was 1,083,000, (as against the OPEC quota of 1.8mbpd) which means in July, we had 717,000 barrels shortage. Just multiply that by 31days, that gives 22,227,000 barrels; and this is on the average pricing of $110 per barrel, so, we lost $2,445,000,000 (two billion, four hundred and forty-five million dollars) in one month. Even at the official N410 to $1, (meanwhile, the real rate is N690) thats a lot of money.
Using a N550 to $1 average, multiply $2,445,000,000 by N550, you’ll have N1, 344,750,000,000 (N1,3trillion). One month’s crude theft, almost quadrupling the figures of 2013. In August, Nigeria’s supply went down to 975,000 barrels, losing 825,000 in a day. Multiply by 31days of August, it will give 25,652,500 barrels and throughout the month of August, crude sold for $100 per barrel. So, Nigeria lost another $2.5billion. Multiply, again, by N550, it is about N1.4trillion.”
Therefore, if, in August 2013, Nigeria lost N365billion to crude theft and in August 2022, Nigeria lost N1.4trillion, under an administration that came to power on the wave of a change mantra, something must be wrong somewhere. Truth is, Nigeria’s contemporary reality is steeped in a dysfunctional system but many choose to live in denial.
One hundred and forty-eight days to today, Nigerians would go to the polls to elect a president as well as members of the national assembly. They expect a change for the better but they, too, are complicit in the process that throws up the bad leadership that appears to have become a permanent feature and fixture of the Nigerian state. That a nation deserves the type of leadership it gets rings true heavily for Nigerians.
For Vanguard, preparatory to marking Nigeria’s 62nd independence day, its editors considered some aspects of the Nigerian state and identified key areas where the incoming administration would have to contend with.
By no means exhaustive, the editors identified Insecurity, the Economy, Education, the ASUU issue, Healthcare, Corruption, Federalism, Unemployment, Crude Theft, the National Question, Gender Equality and its Sustainability, Food Security, Value of Naira and Sports. In good prose which captured expert views and application of data, the editors have looked at these areas examining the challenges and proferring solutions.
This had to be done because in the build-up to the presidential primaries which produced the candidates, we’ve heard a presidential aspirant declare on national television that a solution to insecurity is that ‘if terrorists hear my name, they will run’. We’ve heard ‘recruit 50 million youths’ and agbado, garri and cassava’.
We’ve heard a candidate ask ‘are my friends not entitled to be rich?’ Another candidate keeps churning out data that turns out not to be correct in all materials in particular. While some of those who would vote are already making up their minds based on ethnicity, religion and other such considerations that may not impact, positively, their conditions of living, there are those who are focused on the issues listed above.
The world acknowledges that democracy is good for the people. But are Nigerians good for democracy? Particularly, in the types of choices they make. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “we learn geology the morning after the earthquake”, meaning Nigerians should be able to understand how to choose better leaders after being pummelled by misgovernance. But do Nigerians learn? Every four years, the opportunity presents itself for Nigerians to make informed decisions about who to vote for.
But do they? Worse are those Nigerians who voted into office. When Oscar Wilde said “public office is the last refuge of incompetence”, he may have had Nigeria’s public office in mind because the manifest incompetence that runs through different levels of government is disturbing.
Shall we begin to dwell on what happened in the past? It might be helpful but not too important.
So, in the past, we must dwell in some ways if only it would create an inner awareness to learn useful lessons.
But what is the past? What constitutes the past? Is the past just the mere sum total of all that happened yesterday or in yesteryears, or decades? Of course yes! Mind you, the past could also be any semblance of yesterday’s failings or successes. If we agree on that, then the past is already here with us.
The past pokes fun at us, reminding us of how we think we can escape it. The past makes a mockery of Nigerians especially its leaders; and the electorate whose collective amnesia does no good when deciding on who to elect.
This collection is a humble contribution to set the agenda for those who would take over next year.