The timing is very wrong. Just last week, few days to Christmas, the National Bureau for statistics (NBS), released its latest Labour force statistics. Total number of the unemployed increased from 17.6 million in Q3 2017 to 20.9million in Q3 2018. Official unemployment rate moved from 18.8% in Q3 2017 to 21. 3% in Q3 2018. Unemployment plus underemployment reached 40%. Before this unpleasant news from NBS, the UNDP had announced Nigeria as the new World Poverty capital with 53.7% of its 180 million Nigerians living in EXTREME Poverty. That is to say that nearly 97 million Nigerians( those working and those not working) live on less than  two dollars a day( 700 Naira). India with about four times times Nigeria’s population now has about 71 million people in that category. With Nigeria’s GDP growing at 1.8% and population growing at 2.5%, this is bound to happen.
Perhaps this helps to explain why,in the last two weeks, I have constantly been on my Diamond Mobile bank App transferring money to different people in different parts of the country, who have accompanied their pathetic stories with their account numbers. An acquaintance of mine in Kaduna sent me a text message: “Mazi, pls in the name of Jesus Christ, kindly find a place in your heart to assist me this Christmas, as I sms you, not a single pepper do I have at home....your widow’s might will do a lot. Below is my account details”. Single pepper? That is the pattern of most of the messages that pour into my phone repeatedly. Last Friday night, I promised a cousin of mine in Portharcourt that I would send him something to buy rice and chicken for the children after a lengthy cry of woes. That night I tried using my app, the bank said they were doing maintenance and so could not go. This ‘desperate’ cousin of mine had called seven  times and the eighth call woke me from sleep. Why the apparent harassment?; he said he had told the children and their mother that I was sending them something for food, and everybody kept a vigil waiting for the alert! This is the damning reality of today! I can bet that my situation is not exceptional. 
I am wondering what our politicians are going through now? If a retired man like me is facing this deluge of desperate calls for help, I can only imagine what politicians and office holders are facing this season. And coincidentally this is elections season. And some people who have no idea of what the reality is on the ground are talking about banning or legislating against vote buying. How long have we legislated against the police collecting bribes or extorting road users in the open on our highways? Who is obeying? and yet the Nigerian Police authorities  can not do anything about that, let me see how legislation against vote- buying can be enforced. Recently I read a story( I have also read such reports in the past) that the IG asked that all check points be dismantled in Nigeria. I travelled from Portharcourt Airport to Owerri to Umuahia to Arochukwu last week and I passed more than 30 police checkpoints and they were all busy collecting cash and in some cases returning change in the full glare of all. I then wondered if this area was still part of Nigeria and within the jurisdiction of the IGP? But when all is said and done, the situation with Nigeria Police is only symptomatic of what is wrong with Nigeria.
Before I left lagos, I met many of my friends from the South East and when I asked when they were going home, I was shocked that an unusual number said they were going no where, some said they would travel home after Christmas and those that indicated they would travel for Christmas, said they were not going in full force( that is to say they would leave some of their family members behind). What about who would host the meetings at home? No volunteers !. That’s when I knew that Latin has moved from ‘Mensa’.  Yet the cost of transportation did not come down, neither has the cost of foodstuff. Eventually we blackmailed some who have recently received arrears of salary in ABIA state to at least host the compound meeting.
The redeeming feature in all this is that the Federal Government is aware of this persisting challenge. And despite the Large social spending and the efforts in implementing the Economic recovery and growth plan, the continued worsening of unemployment and poverty must be embarrassing the government. Perhaps that’s why President Muhammadu Buhari has asked Nigerians to show understanding, be patient and give him more time to solve this apparently intractable problem. That is hoping that Nigerians have not reached the limit of their patience. But what ever may be their verdict on February 16, 2019, the critical issue now is what to do to enjoy this Christmas.  My first suggestion is to encourage all those who have, to make efforts to share with those who do not have. The Bible said that” those who lend to the poor, lend to the Lord “ and that the Lord will pay them back bountifully. I saw MTN giving out Ten thousand Naira to passengers on Arik flight. What a good gesture. I hear they also went to motor parks. I hope they went to the rural areas as well. But that is the kind of gesture we badly need to help many of our countrymen enjoy this Christmas. Secondly, I urge the suffering Nigerians to accept the invitation given by the Lord Himself whom we celebrate His Birth at Christmas “ Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. This in my view is the surest way to forget about problems and pains of the economy. Because in Him “ there is liberty and fullness of joy”. Merry Christmas Nigerians!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR, FPSN


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RACISM, ETHNICITY AND TRIBALISM .... What's the difference?

THE GROWING MISERY INDEX OF NIGERIANS AND THE SEARCH FOR GOVERNMENT Nigerians readily point out what Governments ought to do which they are not doing. Indeed, virtually every problem in Nigeria is blamed on the government. And for many Nigerians, the government to be blamed often is the Federal government. Many are oblivious of the other tiers of government, especially the local governments. It is as if the local governments have no responsibilities or may be the people have come to expect little from them. The many years of over centralization fostered on the Nation by the military now makes most Nigerians think and act as if the Federal government is the only government in Nigeria. The 1999 Constitution sustains this misnomer by granting the Federal government a long exclusive list and the freedom to dabble into every other matter, some of which should better be left with the traditional councils in the states. This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. For convenience, they are grouped into the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. And that includes politicians, civil servants, public servants, professionals and non professionals of all cadres and categories; from cleaners,security men and permanent secretaries to ministers; from legislative aids to the House Speaker and Senate President; from the court bailiff to the Policeman, to the Registrar and to the Supreme Court Judge; from the gatemen to the Director Generals of Parastatals and Agencies, they are all constituent parts of the government, agents of the State. And that's why they are paid from the tax payers money.Every action, each one of them takes or omits to take reflects on the effectiveness or in effectiveness of the government they are part of. But it looks to me that this realization does not exist sufficiently. Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR