29th September, 2019
59th ANNIVERSARY: THERE IS CAUSE FOR WORRY
Nigeria gained independence 59 years ago from Britain. History records that it was an electrifying experience because for once the founding fathers, nay Nigerians will now determine their own fate. It was a trying period but without bloodshed.
However, the bloodletting came almost six years after independence with the military interregnum that saw to the end of the First Republic. The military incursion into politics, corruption, ethnicity, religious crisis, etc. have worked against our national development. It is even more worrisome and unfortunate that at this time and age the crack is widening by the day.
Truth be said, all the administrations we have so far had brought something remarkable to the table of national growth, including the present administration. However, what is important is that we must interrogate the reason(s) why countries we were at par with have left us far behind. China, India, Indonesia, etc. were our contemporaries but they are now in the first league while we are dragging economic space with some countries in Africa.
Before independence agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. When oil was later discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa attention shifted from agriculture instead of diversifying the economy. Other sectors were left untapped. This has made Nigeria a one-legged economy. Although revenue from tax has improved significantly but unfortunately instead of widening the tax net the impoverished public are over taxed, leading to despondency and despair.
Nigeria is a country blessed with human and material resources but goes cap in hand begging for grants and asking for loans. The Debt Management Office (DMO) posted recently that as at 31st March, 2019, our external debt is $25, 691.63m while domestic is $55, 664.46, totaling $81, 274, 090m. We are not saying that borrowing is bad, after all, the strongest economy in the world also borrow. Our concern is the reason for the loan. We are indebted in trillions yet we are told we have not borrowed enough. The bane of the nation’s underdevelopment is selfish leadership and people who cling to power for personal aggrandizement.
i. Economic team
It is a good thing that the Federal Government has set up an Economic Team made up of seasoned technocrats with good pedigree. We implore them to work to diversify the economy so the teaming youths can be gainfully engaged. If there were jobs in Nigeria our youths will not migrate in droves to other countries in search for greener pasture. It is saddening that our children die in different oceans in an attempt to cross over to Europe. Only recently hundreds of young men and women were forcefully ejected from South Africa; it is same with India, Ghana, Kenya, etc. That should not be.
In the same vein, the team must take into cognizance the fact that we are now members of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Government must not toy with the key objective of the agreement; else Nigeria will become a dumping ground. The world is a global village but every country jealously protects its corner, which is why they weigh options before partaking in agreements such as this.
Our constitution is not fair enough to Nigerians. It is wrong for the country to have 68 items on the Exclusive List while the Concurrent has only 12. The Federal Government has so much money to play with which to many is the reason for the do-or-die and winners-take-all kind of politics we have today. Justice is the watch-word here.
National Minimum Wage
We find it disturbing that months after the National Minimum Wage Committee (NMC) set up by the Federal Government to work on the new wage had submitted their report government is still not committed to paying the new wage. We are beginning to think that signing it in the first place was because of the 2019 General elections. To talk about setting up another Committee over the same issue makes us feel we have been swindled. We have learnt our lessons.
The argument on the part of government has always been that there is no money to pay minimum wage whereas lawmakers have budgeted N5.6bn to purchase automobile that are not produced in Nigeria. Our believe is that government can actually pay if only the cost of governance will be reduced. As long as some people continue to feel that they are more Nigerian and therefore should enjoy more than others we cannot have a sane society.
At a time when countries like Ghana and Rwanda have almost perfected their electoral process the credibility of our elections are still being questioned. At 59 years we still have the challenge of; planning and logistic; government’s interest, use of federal security agencies, the role of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); thuggery; commercialization of votes and outright rigging; technology aided exercise, multiple thump printing, etc. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past in 2023. There should be no room for failure this time around.
Insecurity and various forms of agitations have become a major threat to lives and properties. It has even discouraged potential investors, especially foreigners. The billions of naira that should be invested to create jobs and build infrastructure are yearly budgeted for arms and ammunition, yet there appear to be no end in sight. We are beginning to think that there are people feeding from our insecurity challenge. This must be investigated and culprits brought to book. In the last 10 years according to report, Boko Haram sect have killed about 27, 000 civilians and 24 aid workers. We have a dire situation in our hand.
The war on agitations is arising from what some call marginalization. There is need for inclusiveness in governance. People should be given a sense of belonging. All the regions are still deficient in terms of basic infrastructure and therefore should be attended to. No country can make any significant progress where there is absence of justice and equity. A united Nigeria can truly be stronger than European Union but a lot depends on the leadership.
Corruption/ Cost of governance
The challenge before Nigeria is not necessarily that of lack of resources like I stated earlier, but of corruption at various levels. It is demoralizing that people in public service take advantage of their positions to enrich themselves and cronies. Corruption has put the country is a shameful state before the international community.
It is our thinking that corrupt individuals or group should face the law when found guilty of misappropriation, irrespective of their party affiliation, religion or tribe. We make a mockery of ourselves before the world if we claim we are fighting corruption but close our eyes when our friends are involved. That cannot happen in China.
We strongly call for a drastic reduction in the course of governance; which has only led to ostentatious lifestyle of politicians. Some lawmakers have been there since 1999 (20 years ago) yet they are still there, even though they have nothing in terms of ideas to bring to the table on how to fix the country.
$9.6bn judgment against Nigeria
While we commend the Federal Government on the effort made so far to save the country from paying a whopping some of $9.6bn to an Irish firm, Process and Industrial development over a failed gas contract, we also advise that they be more tactful and make consultations. As an organization we see a serious conspiracy between the government of Britain and the firm against Nigeria. This is purely international relations- if they are bent on hitting us we should also look for how we can hit back badly.
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, sees a very bright future if we can convert the resources nature has bequeathed to wealth. Yes, we have a role to play. There is cause for worry but we can change the narrative if we have the WILL.
We wish Nigerians a happy Independence Anniversary.
Comrade Quadri A. Olaleye
Comrade (Barr.) Musa-Lawal Ozigi, mni
Secretary General, TUC