NIGERIA AND THE BURDEN OF CHANGE IN 2018
We must thank God for the gift of life to see a new year. To be fair 2017 was an improvement over 2016 in many respects, even if it is from a psychological point of view. It was a terrible thing to live through a recession, the first in 25 years, but from the 2nd quarter of 2017, Nigeria began the climb out of the black hole. Our exit from recession was propelled largely by the recovery of oil prices in the International market. While the price of crude came down as low as $ 28dollars per barrel in 2016, Nigeria's sweet crude was selling for about $60 dollars per barrel at the end of 2017. The second thing that helped our exit was the change of policy direction by the government. It stopped focusing on managing demand of the dollar to managing supply with the associated policy adjustments.
Many Nigerians ended 2017 in some avoidable agony. Those who owned cars slept in filling stations because of acute refined fuel scarcity or bought PMS at inflated prices reaching 250 Naira per litre in many places outside Lagos & Abuja . Those who did not own cars and needed to travel to enjoy the Festive season outside their bases, incurred unbudgeted transportation costs and even those who planned to travel by air faced so many challenges and these left bitter tastes in the mouths of many citizens. In deed , many people had to cancel their trips because of transportation difficulties. As can be seen, many of the changes promised us in 2015 have either been denied or declined. It has therefore become imperative that certain things must change in 2018 to ensure that Nigerians experience a better and new kind of life in 2018.
LET THIS PERENNIAL FUEL SCARCITY END FOR GOOD
I am often shocked that our leaders seem not to feel any shame, when terrible and despicable things continue to happen in Nigeria. For years now, Nigeria, the 6th largest OPEC oil producer, and the largest oil exporter in Africa, has failed to meet the domestic demand for refined products on a continuous basis. Every once in a while Nigerian citizens are dehumanized and put through unnecessary sufferings and exploitation just because the "giant of Africa" can neither refine enough, nor import enough of refined petroleum products especially PMS to meet local demand. Every regime that comes to power insults the intelligence of Nigerians with cock'n'bull stories of turn around Maintenance ( TAM) that only turns around the pockets of phantom contractors and the contractees.
We had asked the Government to fully deregulate the down stream oil sector and to privatize the epileptic national oil refineries in PH, Warri & Kaduna. President Obasanjo bit the nail and tried to privatize the dilapidated oil refineries. President Yar'adua acting on uninformed advice reversed the sales made and refunded money paid with interest! Again, President Jonathan took the progressive step to deregulate the down stream in early 2012. A so called progressive party led a revolt to abort the progressive policy! Now this progressive party has been in power for nearly three years and they have been unable to relieve Nigerians from this perennial rites of hardship and undue exploitation. Last week the GMD of NNPC felt no shame in finally admitting that the government is now subsidizing the cost of PMS.I truly wish that Nigerians will never again go through the experience they went through in the last six weeks or so. This is one critical area that change must happen in 2018.
LET NIGERIA RUN TRUE ANNUAL BUDGET
I believe that many Nigerians have lost faith in our national budget process. Many now see it as a circus show that yields little benefit to the Citizens.Budget that is expected to run from January to December, never gets approved early because the draft is submitted late and when eventually approved perhaps at mid year is never funded in a timely manner. Year on year, capital budget performance remains below 50% and projects remain uncompleted as we stumble into other projects, wasting national resources in the most inefficient manner.I just wish this will change in 2018 and that we shall have a full year budget that will be fully funded as at when due with results to show- motor-able roads, improved electricity, skill-based education, effective healthcare system and National security system that protects citizens lives and property, etc.
LET PYTHONS REMAIN IN THE FOREST & THE CROCODILES IN THE SEA
Nigeria has shed the blood of innocent Nigerians too much. From the days of military coups, the Progrom that preceded the civil war, the 1967-1970 civil war, and several religious and ethnic clashes and uprisings since them, blood of Nigerian citizens have been needlessly spilled. Innocent Nigerians are daily killed by armed robbers, run-away drivers,kidnappers and cultists, often with ease.Boko Haram continues to kill the innocent almost daily in the North East. The Fulani Herdsmen have turned the whole arable land in Nigeria theirs and dispense death sentence on any one who contests. Life has become so cheap in Nigeria. Let it be known that the shed blood of the innocent cry for Justice daily in this land! What is worse, is when the government which has the responsibility to protect, now partakes in unjustly killing its citizens just because they were exercising their fundamental human rights of peaceful protest. It got so bad that the Nigerian government had to unleash 'venomous pythons and carnivorous crocodiles'on its innocent youth. May God forgive them. My wish is that this never happens again in 2018, nor ever! In 2018, let the life of every Nigerian count and let all the unnecessary shedding of the blood of the innocent be stopped. The Federal Government must therefore stop all excuses and determine to protect the life of every citizen and make it a sacred duty to fish out and punish all criminals irrespective of religion, class or political affiliation. Boko Haram insurgency is only a part of the security problem in the Country, indeed the militant Fulani herdsmen rampage has become a worse security problem.
LET OLD MEN & WOMEN RETIRE FROM SEEKING ELECTED OFFICES
It is a shame that a Nation with a predominantly youth population is ruled by geriatrics. Some of these geriatrics ruled Nigeria in their 30s and still want to remain in elected political offices in their 80s. That is not fair to the Nation. I strongly believe that when people reach the age of 75 years, they should retire from active political competition and leadership. They could play more advisory and legislative roles and allow the younger elements run the political parties and hold other elective executive offices. The advantages are too many for me to begin to mention here and this is the trend in the World except of course in Africa where 90 year olds, some of who wear pampers still want to remain in power. May God save Africa,starting with Nigeria! Thus my hope for Nigeria in 2018 as we get set for the General elections is that the very aged should make way for those younger elements who are more enlightened and more vibrant. That is part of the burden of the change that must happen in 2018.
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR