In the last two weeks, I have dedicated this column to focusing on the positive developments in the Nigerian Nation. I have done so because of my belief that the media and most commentators seem to focus a lot on our shortcomings and negative developments and end up inadvertently painting an unbalanced picture of our Nation and it's struggles. In deed, many first time visitors to Nigeria are shocked to see the orderliness in Lagos and the beauty of Abuja, because all they read in our media is bad news and negative portrayal of events in the Country. Besides, we needed to cheer ourselves up and count our blessings especially in line with the spirit of Christmas.Nevertheless,Nigeria is work in progress and no effort should be spared to recover lost grounds and attain our Vision 2020. We thank God that we have survived 2013 and have entered into 2014 as a united Country. In the last couple of days in this new year, I have been busy making new year resolutions and sending good wishes to my acquaintances. As a patriotic Nigerian, I am making the following wishes for Nigeria in 2014.
1. PEACEFUL ELECTIONEERING CAMPAIGNS AND FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
It is certain that 2014 will be a politically active if not politically explosive year. The Political parties will hold their primaries for most of the elective positions from the local government councils to the office of the President of the Federal Republic. Indeed it is anticipated that most, if not all the elections will be held this year to allow sufficient time for election petitions to be concluded before swearing in the winners on the 29th of May 2015. It will be a very very busy year indeed.
Going by what has happened in 2013 and indeed the premature campaigns,some of which started in 2012, it is clear that this year will be one full year of politicking,more so that INEC's political programme towards 2015 will also be released. Therefore, it is my wish that every effort be made to manage these political activities in a manner that will neither threaten National Peace nor imperil Economic activities. Firstly, INEC must rise up and take full control of the political environment,so to say. It must not be left as a free-for-all political space where any body can do what he or she likes. INEC's political programme or agenda, backed up by the Electoral laws must be strictly followed and enforced. The room must not be created for any body to take us for a ride or disturb the orderly conduct of our national life just because they seek to lead us or is it to serve us. INEC's Chairman, must ensure that the rules and codes of conduct are well advertised and then courageously enforced. We must not wait for disruptions to occur before we begin to appeal to politicians and their political parties to behave well. Every little infringement must be immediately punished to show that we are not prepared to allow any one disturb our peace. I wish that I can make this point strongly enough, because I am afraid that if this is not done,Some Nigerian politicians are prepared to cause mayhem without caring a hoot as long as it will promote their selfish political ambitions. Critical to this point, is that INEC must really wake up and put its house in order. It seems that it has become complacent and weak. The kind of poor show it put up in Anambra state recently is the stuff that allows exploitation by Politicians to visit mayhem on the People. A repeat of this must not be tolerated. INEC Should deliver a perfect election. No excuse is tolerable. Period!
Secondly the law enforcement agents must prepare to enforce the electoral laws and other extant laws that govern political behaviour. Any infringement, no matter how trifle must be visited with the full weight of the law. Here the Police and INEC must work together to ensure, there is no breach of peace by politicians or political parties and their supporters.
Thirdly, our Political leaders must decide that the peace and orderly development of Nigeria is more important that partisan political victories. They must lead by example by obeying the rules and encouraging their members and supporters to do same. In this wise, we must commend the example shown by President Goodluck Jonathan who has consistently refused to jump the gun by declaring his interest puplicly in a second term in office,despite all the pressure from friends and foes. I wish that our Political leaders will demonstrate love for this Nation and encourage their members to play by the rule, avoiding any breaches. We know that the inflammatory and inciting statements made by some notable Politicians led to the post election violence in 2011 in parts of the North that consumed so much life and property,including those of many innocent Nigerians who were maimed and killed out of hate, incited by Notable Politicians whose seditious words were on tape. Our Law enforcement agents must never allow this to happen again. So much of innocent blood has been shed on the altar of political rascality and cult worship. NEVER AGAIN MUST THE BLOOD OF INNOCENT NIGERIANS BE SHED BY THE INCITEMENT AND CONNIVANCE OF NOTABLE POLITICIANS AND THEN SUCH PURVEYORS OF HATE AND DEATH ARE ALLOWED TO WALK FREE, PERHAPS WAITING FOR THE NEXT OPPORTUNITY...all in the name of political expediency or cowardice. Innocent Nigerians can not continue to be cannon fodder to protect or promote the partisan interest of any politician no matter how highly placed or highly projected. NO NIGERIAN POLITICIAN- dead or Alife is WORTH THE BLOOD OF ANY ORDINARY NIGERIAN!!!
2. HIGH RATE OF JOB CREATION AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION
I heartily wish that unemployment will drastically decline in Nigeria in 2014. The benefits of that will be salutary to the Country. Not only will it help to reduce poverty but it will help to improve social harmony and help reduce crime. Though not defensible, many miscreants blame unemployment as their motivation for branching off into nefarious and criminal activities.
To achieve higher levels of employment, we must intensify efforts at job creation. Here I will wish to reiterate my earlier calls that all our Economic policies, programs and projects must be centred on Job-creation. Every contract we award must be shown to create additional jobs. So when Labarun Maku and his colleague ministers regale us every Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meetings on the number and the value of contracts approved by FEC, they should make a point of indicating how many new Jobs will be created by the execution of the contracts. The State governments and possibly the local governments( when allowed by the state governors) must do the same. Paying lip service to unemployment and sometimes using it as a political ploy to embarrass others will boomerang someday. The interventionist Programs of the Federal Government through SURE-P safety net programs- Graduate Internship Scheme(GIS), YOU-WIN, Community Social, Women and Youth, Employment(CSWYE),Maternal and Child Healthcare(MCH), Ferma- Public works, Technical and Vocational training(TVET) must be complemented by the State Governments and Local Governments( if allowed by State Governors), using their 54% allocation of the Subsidy savings to create jobs for their citizens and stop playing politics with the federal government's projects.
In addition, and to create sustainability, the Governments of the federation must accelerate reforms that expand the economic space and incentivise Private Sector investments in several sectors of the economy- Power, Agric, Telecoms, oil&gas, solid minerals, manufacturing,other infrastructure and Tourism. The work started by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment must intensify and we must continue to benchmark our global competitiveness.
3. SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN INSECURITY AND OIL THEFT
If there is anything that almost all Nigerians are unhappy about, it is the level of insecurity in Nigeria. Life has become so cheap in Nigeria and innocent Nigerians are killed so often,that sometimes you think we are in a war. Perhaps we are! For most of the last three years, the economy of the North East Nigeria has been brought down by the Boko haram insurgents. Many lives and property have been lost and so much National income has been expended in an effort to contain this menace. In the south of Nigeria kidnapping continues to thrive despite ongoing efforts, forcing many Nigerians to live in 'exile'. And when we thought that militancy in the Niger Delta was over, we are confronted with an increased level of oil thefts that now threaten our ability to fund our annual budgets. My wish is that in 2014, there will be a significant reduction in insecurity and oil thefts.
When I hear the President speak on the situation, he gives me the impression, that he is satisfied with the performance of our security forces. He should know as the commander-in-chief. But the truth is that many ordinary Nigerians who daily bear the brunt of this situation mostly as 'undefended' or 'unarmed combatants' feel otherwise. We still hear that the coordination amongst the security agencies still leaves much to be desired. We still hear that so much illegal arms are brought into the country.I personally believe that our agencies can do better if Mr President shows them the 'red' of his eyes. As we say in management, it is difficult to measure effort, what counts is result.
4. ACCELERATED PASSING OF CRITICAL BILLS BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
I truly wish for Nigeria that in this new year, the National Assembly will do its best to avoid shadow boxing and face its assignment squarely. I wish that they will reduce the number of breaks and holidays they give themselves and stay in the chambers and pass the critical bills that are currently causing bottlenecks in the economy.First, I wish that they would give accelerated consideration to the 2014 Appropriation bill which they received before Christmas. I wish that they will focus on the bill and pass it into a law before the end of February. They have shown they can act expeditiously when adequately motivated. I also wish that they will look into their archives and retrieve critical bills that will have positive impact on our economy. Recently, we drew attention to some of this bills such as the PIB, the Railway bill, the Gas to power bill, the EFCC ammendment bill, the Health sector reform bill etc.
5.A SPEEDY DISPENSATION OF JUSTICE
Nigeria is notorious about the slow pace of our judicial system. Many Nigerians and our international partners are most reluctant to go through the Nigerian judicial system. From bungled investigation, fee -for-bail,interlocutary injunctions, Indeterminate adjournments, analogue and tedious long hard recording of court proceedings, to fee-for-judgement, the Nigerian judicial system is a nightmare. Until the recently ammended electoral law, an election petition can last the entire 4 years of the term of the disputed office. True, the current CJN and the NJC are making changes. But these changes are still too few and too slow to change our notoriety and image. I wish that I can wake up one day in 2014 and see a speedier, more transparent judicial system in Nigeria!
6. A RENEWED WAR AGAINT CORRUPTION
Another point on which almost all Nigerians are agreed upon is that the war on corruption seems to have grown cold. This may only be a perception but every comment seems to trend in this direction. I wish therefore that all agencies involved in this war need to rev up the game. From the Police to the EFCC to the ICPC to the COURTS, Nigerians are looking for a new wave of action- arrests, arraignment and convictions. We need to convince our selves and the international community that the war is not yet over. Or is it?. Welcome to 2014,Nigerians!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR