2023 as turning point in Nigerian History

2023 as turning point in Nigerian History

By Wale Ajao

Quite frankly the excitement about the 2023 elections is worthwhile. Nigeria is at a crossroads.

The survival of the Nigerian State has never before now been so vigorously questioned by various groups of agitators calling for new nation-states to be carved out of Nigeria. The road to this present parlous state of the nation has been long and tortuous.

As far back as 1981, the Fourth Dimension Publishing Company based in Enugu published a book written by the late Dr Authur Nwanko and titled can Nigeria Survive.

Essentially the author argued that unless the ugly trend of bad leadership and corruption along with the exploitative domination of the Nigerian economy by multinational companies are corrected the survival of the Nigerian state will always be a peril.

The last paragraph of the book says the ultimate test of a good government is the welfare of the people. No nation can provide for the welfare of its citizens as long as its economy is fettered.

It is for this reason that the government which legitimately aspires to lead black Africa must cut off the pervasive tentacles of the multinational companies. Nigeria’s survival depends on this.

Since the publication of that book, multinational companies’ hold on the Nigerian economy has increased. Yet Nigeria has not collapsed. Corruption has increased yet Nigeria keeps rolling on.

Some will say the country has been wobbling and fumbling under bad leadership whether military or civilian.

From the second republic till date, it had been the trend for legislators to suspend the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission Law and award themselves bogus salaries and allowances that are clearly unfair and unsustainable in a mono-product economy that is bedevilled with unending klepto crazy.

At present in Nigeria, the monthly running cost of a Senator is N13 million or about N70 billion for all 109 senators in just one month. That amount could have given Nigeria about seven radiotherapy centres, yet the country has only four radiotherapy centres as of January this year according to an online social commentary.

Life in Nigeria is so tight to the extent that 14 million children are out of school due to poverty and ignorance while 69 million Nigerians have no access to drinkable water.

No fewer than 49,000 workers cannot get N30,000 minimum wage yet the legislators have awarded for themselves N70 billion monthly payments for themselves.

This means that a Senator calmly pockets about N30 million monthly as salaries and allowances. It also means it costs the nation over N300 million for a senator per year.

It means that, as a commentator has observed, the working day earnings of a senator are more than the annual income of a medical doctor.

In addition to the huge remuneration of legislators, governors have also cornered themselves with fantastic severance packages that could daze a critical observer.

In Akwa Ibom State, for example, the law provides that Ex-Governor and Ex-Deputy Governor receive a pension equivalent to the salary of the incumbent.

The package also includes a new official car and a utility vehicle every four years, one personal aide, a cook, chauffeurs and security guards for the Governor at a sum not exceeding N5 million per month and N 2.5 million for the Deputy Governor.

In Rivers State, the law provides 100 per cent of the annual basic salary for the Ex-Governor and Deputy. One residential house for the former governor anywhere he chooses in Nigeria.

One residential house for the Deputy in Rivers State, three cars for the former governor every four years and two cars for the Deputy every four years. This kind of manifestly bogus severance package is replicated in other states around the country.

As the opportunism of the political class continues unabated corruption has become a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. The corruption perception index released annually by Transparency International affirms that Nigeria is among the most corrupt countries in the world.

According to the UN, because of corruption and bad governance, Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) keeps falling as looting goes on endlessly to the extent that Nigeria has overtaken India in terms of poverty. Yet another albatross on the neck of the Nigerian state is a very high level of illiteracy, a problem that has received little or no attention from the Buhari administration and many of the state governments such that, over six decades after Independence, the illiteracy rate in Nigeria is still as high as 45 per cent.

With poverty so chronic to the point that per capita income in Nigeria may not be up to three hundred dollars and youth unemployment standing at about forty per cent one can see the background to the social and economic hardship most Nigerians are coping with.

A comparative study of poverty worldwide shows that in Israel poverty rate is at present about 17.9 per cent, in the USA it is about 17.5 per cent, in Syria about 72 per cent and in Madagascar 78 per cent while in Nigeria, it is hovering around 55 per cent.

The level of indebtedness of the Nigerian state under the Buhari administration is a real embarrassment to those who believe in sound economic management. Those who follow the report by the Debt Management Office (DMO) will recollect that former President Olusegun Obasanjo paid our debt and left funds as a national reserve.

But from late President Musa Yar’Adua to former President Goodluck Jonathan, our debt profile keep rising till it became very big under Buhari.

Recently the DMO said that the debt profile of our country is as follows:

2015 – $7.35 billion, 2016 – $7.84 billion, 2017 – $14.8 billion, 2018 – $21.04 billion, 2019 – $23.11 billion and 2020 – $23.57 billion.

It is clear that the heavy indebtedness of the Nigerian state will pose a serious challenge to the president that will rule Nigeria after the 2023 election.
However, one more serious challenge facing the nation which the next president will contend with is insecurity as a national malaise.

It has become clear that apart from occasional propaganda of claiming victory the Buhari administration is likely to hand over to the next president a nation thoroughly terrified by kidnapping for ransom.

All of these issues along with nepotism and inclination towards religious bigotry and ethnic jingoism are the foundation for separatist agitation that has now reached a level that the next president cannot take with levity.

It has become clear that the excitement of the 2023 election will fizzle out quickly if whoever becomes president next year cannot find a quick-fix solution to these problems some of which are as old as the Nigerian state itself.

It follows therefore that the real challenges facing the Nigerian state will come out more blatantly from next year and without a readily available quick-fix solution the next president may become a warmonger as he tries to rid the nation of insecurity instability and deep-rooted animosity.

The question is has any of the available presidential candidates spoken clearly and in detail on the quick-fix solution that can calm down the nerves of millions of unemployed youths and poverty-stricken masses?

Has any of the presidential candidates articulated a clear-cut programme for the eradication of illiteracy? Have we been given a real and believed agenda on how insecurity, especially kidnapping for random, will be put to an end?

Is any of the presidential candidates saying something tangible on how separatist agitations will be negotiated out of the way? Is any presidential candidate sure of how he will restore the confidence of Nigerians in their country and bring all hands on deck for national unity and development? Maybe the answers will come next year.


Wale Ojo, an editorial board member of the suspended National Mirror, writes from Lagos.



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1 Comment

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