MY WISHES FOR NIGERIA IN 2017!
As we start a new year, it is usual to make new year wishes. Some make new year resolutions. In normal circumstances, wishes and resolutions are not often the same thing. Wishes are usually made without much effort, often without much thinking and some times utopian or unrealistic, whereas resolutions are more serious decisions for a future implementation, usually reached after much thought, reflection and perhaps debate. But at the start of the year,very often and for many people, what goes as new year resolutions are mere wishes. And that is why many new year resolutions are often un realized. For many,some effort is made to implement the resolutions for a few days, few weeks and in exceptional cases, for a few months and then they return to square one or in my own case way back, I usually returned to square zero. But to be sure my wishes for Nigeria for 2017, though optimistic, are realistic and reflect deep thought.
THAT NIGERIA GETS OUT OF RECESSION
This is one wish, I believe that all my readers will chorus a loud "amen". 2016 was like no other in recent Nigerian economic history. The last time, we saw a year like that was about 30 years ago. I did not meet any Nigerian who was not affected by the Recession. If you did not lose you job, your salary was many months late in coming for many. If your business did not close down or fold up, your sales and profit declined. Every industry was affected including the religious and the philanthropic. My stress level went up so high, essentially because I could not help as many people as I was won't to. I was willing but severely limited. Not much dividend or consulting income! I was home this Christmas and I was surprised by the number of widows and orphans that turned up at our Christmas party for widows and orphans. In 2015 we had 100 widows but in 2016 December we had 240 widows! What happened? Did we loose more husbands in 2016 or was it that many otherwise well to do widows could not balance their budget in 2016 and had to come out to benefit from the little help that Arochukwu For Christ Movement offered.What ever the case, we do not want another year like 2016 in terms of the economic recession it offered us. Please God Help Nigeria to come out of recession in 2017! But I hope that the Government now understands better how we got here and will be humble to accept the prescriptions fully and freely offered by many knowledgable experts to help us work our way out!
THAT THE 2017 BUDGET WILL BE FULLY REALIZED
I am certain that 2016 budget will have underperformed. Both in terms of realizing the budgeted income, achieving the expected expenditure and accomplishing the intended outcomes and impact. In 2017, the FGN has sent a budget proposal of 7.7 trillion Naira to the National Assembly before the Christmas vacation. My wish is that the National Assembly will pass this budget before the end of February. So that the budget implementation will start from this Quater one and be consistently implemented throughout out every quarter in 2017. We thank God that global oil prices have moved up somewhat, allowing us to accrue excess crude income. So we should not have any excuse to delay the budget expenditure especially in the capital area. Planned massive investment in infrastructure and interventionist social sector spending must be pursued to the letter. We are tired of having budgets that are not implemented fully or even significantly. Certainly the budgeted capital expenditure of 30% of total budget for 2016 was not realized as we had to ask for virement from capital to recurrent expenditure. I wish that in 2017, the virement should be from Recurrent to capital, otherwise the oft-repeated claim that millions of ghost workers had been eliminated from the federal pay roll will be only propaganda.
THAT ALL FORMS OF INSURGENCY AND MILITANCY WILL CEASE
The cost of the Boko Haram insurgency in human blood, money,communal misery and economic losses may never be fully calculated. The economic loss to the Nation and the cost of environmental degradation arising from the renewed militancy in Niger Delta in 2016 may never be known, but those who bore the brunt know the pain. It is good news that the Nigerian Army captured the Sambisa Forest before the close of the year. But we still read of activities of the terrorists on soft targets. Now that the military operations seem to have accomplished its target, we must find other methods of fully resolving this insurgency if at all possible. Last week, I applauded Dr Ibe Kachikwu for what has been achieved in helping to calm the situation in the Niger Delta. I know that several meetings have been held with the Niger Delta stakeholders. My wish is that all the agreements will be speedily implemented to bring the agitation to a peaceful end. In 2017, we should be praying for a stabilization of global oil prices without worrying about the supply situation. It is in our hands to sort this problem out and I implore the government to maintain its current reconciliatory posture. It is in the overall interest of all of us to pursue this problem to a peaceful conclusion.
MAKE DEFINITE EFFORTS TO UNITE THE NATION
Since 2015, Nigeria has been in a state of increased hostility and conflict. The militant Fulani herdsmen from Futa Jalon, Mali or Niger or wherever must be stopped from creating disunity in Nigeria. It is distressing that the Federal Government has not shown any visible determination to confront the problem and the situation deteriorated badly towards the close of 2016 especially in Southern Kaduna. Governor El'Rufai seems to know how to relate to these marauders. Let us work with him and others who understand the motivation of these gun-wielding devil-incarnates and exterminate a major irritant and destabilizing factor to Nigeria's peace and tranquility.
On the agitation for Biafra, I believe that the South East traditional rulers that visited President Buhari late last year had given him the formula to help deal with the agitation. Central to resolving this and other agitations for self determination in Nigeria is for this government to run an inclusive administration where every one feels a sense of ownership and belonging. For the umpteenth time, one way to begin this resolution is to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National conference. Denying reality or bullying those in pain and asking them not to shout for help or seeking to flee to where they can find refuge will be like kicking the stone. The man who kicks will have injury but the stone will remain in its position .
Happy New Year Nigerians and may we all rejoice in 2017!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR