Saturday, January 8, 2011

My wishes for Nigeria in 2011

It is the dawn of a new year and a new decade. 2011 was ushered in with a bang in Abuja, nay Nigeria as terrorists blew up the mammy market inside Mogadishu Barrack. It is commonplace for individuals, corporate organisations and indeed a country to observe a ritual called New Year resolutions. Nigeria‘s budget, presented by President Goodluck Jonathan on December15, 2010 to the joint sitting of the National Assembly could be taken to be our dear country‘s New Year resolutions, our economic wish list. What I have set out to do in this piece is to add my own personal wishes for Nigeria in 2011.

Why, in spite of the billions of Naira budgeted annually for the construction and repairs of Nigerian roads, do many of these roads be it Trunk A, B or C still remain death-traps? Are we not deserving of good roads or is it because our leaders fly around the country and hardly ever drive on the same road as the populace?

This last Christmas, I travelled with my family from Abuja to Ibadan and I could not contain my anger as the vehicles we travelled in meandered to avoid the many failed portions on the road. Abuja to Okene axis was terrible. My heart was in my mouth as we journeyed past this section of the expressway.

I learnt from news reports that some commuters were held up in the gridlock at Gwagwalada for several hours as they travelled to meet their loved ones during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The irony of this annual traffic jam on this flank of Abuja – Lokoja Road is that the contract for the expansion of the road was awarded in 2006 or thereabout to three construction companies. Work on this road had been progressing at a snail-pace with the project being less that 50 per cent completed four years after the award of the contract.

The Niger Bridge before Lokoja is nearly severed into two and any reckless drive on that bridge can lead to a fatal accident. My wish for Nigeria on the state of our roads is that government at all levels will take pity on the suffering commuters and get this vital infrastructure fixed so that many Nigerians who cannot afford air fare will have good roads to use.

Aside roads, I am equally worried about the dilapidating and deplorable state of our other social infrastructures. The mantra under the late Umaru Yar’Adua was Seven Point Agenda with a promise of 6,000 megawatts of electricity before the end of 2010. Since, President Jonathan got to power on May 6, 2010; he has ceased to either mouth any agenda or promise any megawatts of electricity.

Indeed, Nigeria celebrated its Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary in October 2010 in pitch darkness. In fairness to government, we continue to hear of power sector reform and a presidential committee meeting regularly to earmark billions of naira to Nigeria Integrated Power Projects.

The question is, when shall we start to experience significant increase in power generation, distribution and consumption in this country? I have said severally and still maintain that there is no poverty reduction strategy that is as effective as having electricity available to the productive sectors of this country to work. Cottage industries, small and medium scale enterprises and indeed manufacturing concerns will only perform optimally when they can access affordable and uninterrupted power supply.

My wish for Nigeria in 2011 is that there will be significant improvement in the provision of social amenities such as electricity, health care delivery, qualitative education, mass and affordable housing projects as well as potable water.

Another of my hearty wish for Nigeria is that this country shall experience peace. The escalating incidences of crime and criminality should be arrested. All acts of terrorism such as kidnappings, arson, banditry, bombings must be halted. The general elections comes up in few months’ time, the rampant disorderly behaviour, maiming and killings being reported at party congresses, conventions, primaries and campaigns make peace loving Nigerians jittery and concerned. The political elites must be reminded that the credibility of the elections is not only measured by whether electorate votes count but also whether the election was peaceful. I hereby enjoin all the 63 registered political parties and their candidates to shun all acts of violence; obey their code of conduct as well as the Electoral Act 2010.
All security agencies also need to be properly equipped not only to secure the environment for the forthcoming elections but also to protect the country from external aggression and internal insurrection.

My last wish for Nigeria in 2011 is to witness a significant reduction in the unemployment rate and poverty level. I hope to see higher standard of living and not a soaring cost of living; real development and not statistical growth. Truth be told, the current poverty and unemployment situation in Nigeria is not sustainable. Good enough, the federal government in the 2011 budget has earmarked N50bn for the provision of jobs, under the National Job Creation Scheme.

However, considering that the budget having been submitted to the National Assembly late may not be passed on time, coupled with the fact that in times past, beneficial programmes like this had been used as compensation for party members and loyalists. The current proposal should not be allowed to go the same way. Politicians must be told that they form less than 10 per cent of the population as the majority of Nigerians are apolitical. Thus, the job creation scheme must be implemented to the benefit of all interested Nigerians.