Columns

December 9, 2023

Road to repairing the nation by a concerned nationalist, By Muyiwa Adetiba

Road to repairing the nation by a concerned nationalist, By Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

It would be presumptuous to think all those who read my articlelast week are also going to read this article. That is not what my training and experience tell me. Back in the days as a young journalist, we were told that a significant percentage of readers would read you only once in their life time. Some because you didn’t make an impression on them.

Some because they didn’t like your style. Some because the write-up was a chance encounter and the opportunity might not present itself again. Although it pre-dated the now ubiquitous internet where anything can be found at the press of a button, this type of training teaches you humility. It teaches you to try and make every article a good index of what you represent – your core values and professionalism. But more importantly, it teaches you the need to background every article for clarity especially if it is a news report or a carry-over piece. Not backgrounding is a ‘sin’ that is common with many young journalists today unfortunately. It is a ‘sin’ I should not be seen committing.

Last week, in an article titled ‘Can Nigeria be repaired?’ I mentioned that the seed for the article was planted by a retired politician – if there is anything like that – for whom I have a tremendous respect. We had met at a function and he had posed the question amidst the din of a party atmosphere. I rued the fact that we couldn’t discuss the topic because of the time and place. I felt I would have learnt from his knowledge and experience.

Well, my prayers were answered because we got in touch during the week. I don’t know whether he read the previous article because he didn’t refer to it or because he wanted to unburden himself to an old journalist for whom he also had some respect. Whatever his reasons were doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he offered some of his thoughts on how to begin the necessary repairs of the nation state called Nigeria.

 First to the question ‘Can Nigeria be repaired?’ His answer was like mine, positive. He then gave four distinct routes towards the desired national repair. First, the leaders have to stop being manipulative and deceitful. They have to stop exploiting the fault lines of religion and ethnicity – and recently the judiciary – when decisions don’t go their way. This means respecting institutions that will make for a strong, united country.

Second, Nigeria has to stop listening to those who urge devaluation and floating of our currency. It has not helped us; it has not helped any African country; it has not helped the Latin American countries.Awolowo, the late sage warned against it and Shagari, who was the President at the time heeded the warning. Unfortunately, other Presidents did not heed the warning which is why we are where we are today.

Then the country, through the National Assembly, must promulgate a law banning what he called the dollarization of the Naira. All transactions in dollars within the country should stop. Naira is our only recognized currency. Those who ask for payments in dollars must be called out. Unfortunately, the politicians themselves are the guiltiest in putting pressure on the Naira. They are the ones who have the cash to buy dollars at any rate and store in their bedrooms because it makes underhand transactions easier.

According to him, many Governors simply use the now increased allocations at their disposal due to oil subsidy removal to buy dollars at any rate. The Naira will continue to be difficult to defend unless something is done about this dollarization. Third, the nation has to go back to the rural communities and invest massively in education, skill acquisition and cottage industries. It has to stop the rural/urban migration that is tempting our unemployed youths to crime and putting pressure on life in the cities.

He cited examples of countries especially in Asia which had done this and the benefits they reaped as a result. Finally, he suggested that idle hands must be put to productive endeavours. According to him, the largest employers of labour are in agriculture and construction. He suggested the building of hostels in every Federal University as a private/government initiative. Not only would this address the acute accommodation issues at the tertiary level, it would generate employment in the process. He also suggested pooling of resources for agro/allied industries.

I am glad we had the conversation. His recipe is a lot more specific than mine which is more on self-introspection and facing the realities of our situation. His suggestions are those of someone who has had more time think the issues through. This is not surprising. He has been ‘there, done it’ as they say. In his almost fifty years of politics, he has been at the State and Federal levels. He has been in the Executive, the Legislature and in Administration including the Constituent Assembly.

He understands the dynamics of national politics and what needs to be done beginning with the low hanging fruits. Perhaps more than his colleagues who are still enjoying the perks and indulgences of office, he understands a time-bomb is ticking – the French Revolution started along a similar path according to him. He also understands that the likes of him might not be spared if things break down and therefore understands the urgency of NOW.

Can Nigeria be repaired? And how? Over to you readers. Your comments would be welcomed.