Nigeria: Time Counting Featured

Monday, 21 November 2016 00:00 Written by  Published in Cover Story Read 443 times
President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari

 

 

Orji Iheanyi writes that the life-span of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government in Nigeria is already more than a year shorter, and the administration tends not to have come to terms with the realities of the country’s socio-economic situations.

As one grows older, one is bound to learn so much from experiences. There is a conscious awakening that makes him realize that some things he once believed in never existed, as the ones he never knew about keep presenting themselves. That is maturity! And as one day passes after another, President Muhammadu Buhari keeps reminding Nigerians of the song of the vineyard: The “noble vine” that turns into a “degenerate plant of an alien vine”. And as a result, it is still not clear what the future holds in stock for an average Nigerian.

Prior to now, Nigerians once believed that Buhari was the only person that has the ken to block leakages and husband scarce resources to re-write the record of the unkempt life Nigerians led. But for the meanwhile, the reverse seems to have been the case. As always circulated on the social media for vilification but true, had it been that Buhari did not become president, Nigerians would have thought that by now: fuel will be N45 per litre, N1 will be equal to $1, 3 million jobs would have been created, unemployed at least ‘managing life’ with N5000 monthly stipends, 720,000 jobs created annually throughout the federation, there would be maximum peace within Nigeria’s boarders, maternal and children healthcare services would be free, etc.

Today, everything has changed, but for the worse. No one talks about standard of living nowadays but of existence because majority of Nigerians are existing in the meanwhile – they are not living. They now dance to the rhythm of change on an empty stomach. Little wonders that the mentality of some are not spared as critics are no longer reactionary but numb; some in tacit support of the president spurred by ethnocentrism and religious sentiments that have been deeply entrenched into politics lately, while others don’t just care, leaving one to wonder what happened to the voices of criticisms that were a reoccurring decimal in the past administration. Yes! To love the king is not bad, but a king who loves you is better. Does your king love you? Ask your stomach and that of your neighbour, and your guess is as good as mine.

In 2007, the Washington Post newspaper conducted an experiment. They arranged for Joshua Bell, one of the world’s leading classical violinists to play just outside the L Enfant Plaza Metro Station in Washington, D. C. They wanted to gauge the reaction of passing commuters. It was early morning rush hour on a cold winter’s day. Holding his $3.5 million Stradivarius violin, he played six pieces for about half an hour. During that time, only seven people stopped to listen at least for a minute; another 1,097 walked by and didn’t care. People tossed loose change into his violin case, totaling $32.17 – this was a world-famous genius who can earn $ 1,000 a minute playing at the Great Concert Halls of the world. People care less about every other person on a morning rush hour and on a cold winter’s day when everyone is for himself, the experiment concluded. Are Nigerians on a cold winter’s day or are they just too disappointed in this administration to care?

What we have in Nigeria presently is what Ambrose Bierce in his 1911 The Devil Dictionary has described as “strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles”. All decisions and policies are now founded on interests rather than on the betterment of the common man. Governance has briskly degraded to a theatre of sorts manned by actors who daily dish out consolations, apologies and blames in place of the substance. As hope become an endangered species, the people watched on helplessly as hunger is canonized into a source of national carnivalesque, and lack engrossed into the sanctum sanctorum of national attention. Being broke, like the national flag, has been given a nationalist gloss, a hyper-patriotic make-over. In fact, being broke makes you a better and incorruptible Nigerian nowadays!

Within the first quarter of this year, the US News and World Report, in collaboration with BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania produced the best countries rankings. The survey sampled the perceptions of thousands of persons in four global regions of the world. A common thread among the high ranking countries is a strong role played by the governments in everyday lives of its citizenry which also involves affordable education and healthcare, favourable economic policies etc.

Germany was viewed as the overall “best country”. They were ranked highest for encouraging entrepreneurship, providing global leadership, caring for its citizens and is seen as a model in the way it took it upon itself to train its citizens in apprenticeships following secondary school education. Germany rose from the ashes of World War II to become Europe’s foremost power and a world leader in many areas, not least of which is its economic prowess founded on its network of small and medium businesses known as “Mittlestand”.

US, ranking 4th below Canada and UK, is seen as the world’s greatest military power and largest economy. Canada was rated high on quality of life issues and transparency, while the UK was seen as an influential country that is best to obtain an education. On the ladder was Japan, rated for its technological prowess; France and Italy, scored highly on cultural heritage; Singapore, seen as the most forward-looking country; Luxembourg, viewed as the best country to conduct business; while Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines were seen as the best countries to start a business. Even Egypt was rated as a country with a promise. But Nigeria, together with Iran and Pakistan, were lumped at the bottom of the table with conflict and poor quality of life for their citizens as the only overarching constant.

Can someone quarrel with statistics? No!

In May, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that unemployment rate rose to 12.1% in the first quarter of 2016 while it was at 8.2% in the quarter that Buhari was inaugurated. This means that the number of the unemployed has increased by nearly 4 million between the second quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. According to the same report, within the same period, the total number of persons in full time employment decreased by 528, 148 persons or 0.97%.

Correspondingly, data from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission showed that Nigeria reached a peak electricity generation capacity of 4, 800 MW in 2015. But in July 2016, generation capacity stood at 3, 032 MW which was even an improvement from the 1, 580.6 MW and 2, 591 MW respectively it were on the March and April, 2016.

The status quo still remained. About 30 children die daily from hunger or illness in IDP camps in Nigeria; recently, over 1, 200 persons died of starvation and illness in just one of the IDP camps. Nigerians outside the camps are not spared: 145 Nigerians die daily from pile; 2, 300 under-5 die daily from malaria; and an estimated 1.8 million Nigerians stand the risk of dying of HIV/AIDS this year warned the House of Representatives Committee on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Control, because the government cannot bear the cost of placing them on ART.

According to WHO, over 100, 000 Nigerians are diagnosed with cancer annually and about 80,000 die from the disease yearly. Last November, a report by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) revealed that there were only two functional radiotherapy machines, essential equipment for the treatment of cancer in the country, one of which belonged to a private hospital. Thousands of people die annually by accidents partly as a result of bad roads and partly as a result of poorly resourced hospitals, but expending N8 billion to subsidize pilgrimage to Mecca and fine-tuning the State House Clinic with a sum of N3.2 billion becomes the most pertinent to a President that has the people at heart.

What more should be said?

No fewer than 3, 094 Nigerians have been killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani Herdsmen since PMB assumed office, Saturday Punch investigations have revealed; and another population close to that allegedly exterminated extra-judicially by the Nigerian Army. This administration can be likened to a totally irresponsible lover who gives you nothing but migraines and yet makes entitled intrusions into your life and insists permanently on your time and attention. And this isn’t what Nigerians were expecting when they were willing to sacrifice their lives at the polling booth in 2015.

The populace did what have not been done before in 2015. They performed a miracle in taking away power from an incumbent for the first time in Nigeria’s democratic history. PMB should also perform a miracle in fixing all the malaise in the country even if it entails using a magic wand. This is a job he had longed for 12 years. He now has it. Let him deliver.

Anxieties are ascendant. The malaise in Nigeria is becoming more deep-rooted, increasingly troubling and potentially tragic. Certainly, we are in a precarious situation and anything short of a desperate measure will not do.

 

Last modified on Monday, 21 November 2016 06:32
Orji Iheanyi

Orji Iheanyi is a journalist and novelist. He is also an academician and seasoned agronomist. He can be reached at orjilla@gmail.com

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