Sunday, January 3, 2016

Making 2016 a better year for Nigerians

Happy New Year folks! My prayer to family, friends and colleagues when­ever they are celebrating their birth­days is that ‘may they never experience a bet­ter last year’. Indeed, everyone should say that prayer. However, having a fruitful, success­ful, glorious, blissful and better year should not be a mere wishful thinking. It’s some­thing all and sundry who desire it has to work hard to achieve.
As it has become very obvious, govern­ment at all levels alone cannot give the cit­izen a better year. In Nigeria, the forecast is very scary. There are austerity measures in place with threat of pay cut or outright retrenchment facing government workers. Even some private companies have start­ed right-sizing and downsizing in order to reduce overhead and other running cost. We have already been told to brace up for increase in the price of electricity while the 50k or thereabout official reduction in the pump price of a litre of Premium Mo­tor Spirit pales into insignificance as pet­rol sells for far higher than official price in many nooks and crannies of the country. Naira as a currency is weak against inter­national currencies like dollar, pounds and euro; with it is the low purchasing power of our legal tender. Unemployment, inflation and poverty are on the increase while de­pendency ratio is high. There is high cost of living rather than high standard of liv­ing, as such wishing for a better new year seems like a mere rhetoric.
Nevertheless, at individual and corpo­rate level, we can still have a better year. How? By imbibing the following tips. As a government and a people, we must em­brace the culture of prudence and mainte­nance. We need to eschew frivolous, lav­ish and ostentatious spending. The era of throwing away what can be easily repaired should be done with. Our legendary lack of maintenance culture, I dare say, has been our major undoing as a nation. We build gigantic projects but earmark little or no fund for servicing and maintenance of those projects. It is true of our public fa­cilities like roads, hospitals, power trans­mission lines, public water pipes, elevators of public buildings; recreation centres e.g. National Art Theatre in Lagos, stadia, et­cetera. We are a wasteful nation that loves to spoil a ship for a ha’p’orth of tar. At indi­vidual and family levels, it’s the same sor­ry sight. We thrash things that can be use­ful if we just spend a little to repair them. Drain pipes of many homes, locks, sockets and many electronic and electrical appli­ances in many apartments are condemned when timely repairs could have salvaged them. Sad, very sad!
To have a better 2016, we must, as a gov­ernment and people, do away with our exot­ic tastes and buy ‘Made in Nigeria’ products. Imagine how many jobs will be created, for­eign exchange saved and value addition that we would have by patronising our indige­nous entrepreneurs. There is no gainsaying that vehicles manufactured or assembled in the country are customised to conform to our tropical climate and as such will last longer than imported foreign cars manu­factured in temperate regions. The value chain includes the spare parts manufac­turers who will ensure that there is a ready supply of genuine spare parts for these cars. Meanwhile, many foreign cars are difficult to fix when spoilt because of non-availabil­ity of genuine spare parts locally. A sim­ilar scenario plays out in our agricultural sector. Take for instance our rice industry. Our local rice, be it Ofada or Abakaliki, has been certified by health practitioners to be more nutritious than the foreign polished rice imported into the country. Patronis­ing local rice manufacturers will mean that more farmers will be encouraged to culti­vate more hectares of rice plantation. This will reduce unemployment and poverty.
Having a better 2016 also means helping the security agencies in their onerous task of securing our various communities. We need to report suspected terrorists and night ma­rauders in our midst to the law enforcement agencies. This we can do through anony­mous petitions if we are afraid of exposing our identities. Failure to assist the security agents will endanger the lives of everyone in our society.
Sanitising our environment of filth and dirt will make us have a better and healthi­er society. We need to stop this reckless atti­tude to our environment. Our waste dispos­al technique should be environment friendly. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, so says an adage. We should learn to tidy our environ­ment by sweeping regularly, ensuring that the drainage is not blocked, and bushes are cut before they constitute an environmental haz­ard. We should also stop building on flood­plains and stop dumping refuse in waterways.
Another unwholesome attitude we should do away with in the New Year is the road abuse. Digging across roads and building road bumps without permission from rele­vant authorities should stop forthwith. We should promptly report burst public water pipes to Water Boards or Water Corporations to enable them carry out quick repairs. In­dividuals and communities can also effect necessary repairs on decaying public facil­ities such as schools or health facilities af­ter obtaining the needed permission to do so from relevant government agency. That is a good community development initiative and a noble cause.
For Nigerians to have a better 2016, we must also play our roles as good citizens by paying our tax as at when due. This will aid national development. Public servants should also stop paying lip service to du­ties. They should shun indolence and tru­ancy and should play their role as patriotic citizen. This will increase national produc­tivity and development. Politicians who play ‘do or die’ politics also need to be more al­truistic and selfless by playing by the rules of the game rather than trying to subvert the electoral process. Elected and appointed government officials should work for public good rather than for self-aggrandisement.
Helping the less privileged, supporting noble causes, shunning crimes and crim­inality, respecting constituted authority, working hard and having unflinching faith in God are all the golden nuggets for a bet­ter 2016. It is that time of the year when we make New Year resolutions. Let us all resolve to play our role in making Nigeria a better place for all to live. Let us be the change we want to see in our country, com­munity and families. May God crown all our noble efforts this year with unparalleled suc­cess. Cheers!
•Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Abuja. Follow me @jideojong