By: Charles Ibekwe
The year 2016 is one in which many Nigerians groaned as they get used to a different way of doing things, it will go down in history as the year we decided to stick with change irrespective of the difficulties associated with the process. We have President Muhammadu Buhari to thank for remaining committed to seeing the process through despite the harsh criticisms from the very people whose future he is working so hard to secure.
Someone gave an analogy that what some people would have preferred is for Mr President to administer painkillers for a life threatening situation that requires radical surgeries for removing diseased tissues. The surgeries to remove the diseased tissues would definitely lead to post-operation pains as the body heals itself. The same body could have taken the painkillers and get those momentary reliefs and possibly the euphoric feelings that come with some of such mediation and be lulled into a sense of feeling that all is well while the disease spreads farther.
The analogy is apt. Take the economy for instance. It turned out that all that had happened over the years was that the cracks in the system were papered over without the inherent structural defects been corrected, the cracks filled up with mortar and plastered over before painting. Despite years of chanting catchphrases the country continued to be driven by a mono-culture revenue derivable from crude exploration. Citizens were barely allowed to know about dangerous shortfalls that were quickly covered with borrowing.
It is to President Buhari’s credit that we finally confronted the pressing need to pay attention to other sectors for funding the economy. That the international price of crude oil fell coupled with attacks that crippled oil export are happening at this time further worsened the situation. But contrary to initial concerns these twin problems were instead converted to opportunity, a final chance to break the addiction to oil revenue. And like all addictions, the country and entire citizenry experienced the pains of withdrawal symptoms from their addiction.
Surprisingly, the positive results are coming in early. The loss of a large chunk of oil revenue put pressure on the naira and made it drastically lose value against major foreign currencies with the inevitable consequences that that our second addiction, the addiction to imported goods was impacted. It became too expensive to continue cultivating the taste for foreign products so our local entrepreneurs are having a field day, smiling to the bank irrespective to the wails coming from those that were not prepared for such transition.
If the feelers from the last quarter of 2016 are anything to go by small and medium businesses would have a bumper year in 2017 as more of them make more inroads by tapping into the opportunities that have been created as a result of diversifying into other sectors of the economy.
Equally of importance in 2016 under President Buhari is that it would go on record as the year the scourge of Boko Haram, inherited from the previous administrations, was halted, degraded and defeated. The insurgency of the terrorists was all but accepted as final prior to the coming of Mr President but his choice of military leader and the political will to end the reign of the world’s deadliest terror group saw Boko Haram fighters and commanders being killed, captured or surrendering over the course of the year. Remnants of the killer group still stage attacks on unsuspecting places using newly thought up tactics but the incoming year should see them totally routed if the tempo from this year is sustained.
With youth unemployment being identified as one of the root causes of their availability for recruitment into Boko Haram and other vices like militancy, separatists fighters, kidnapping and robbery, the N-Power programme of President Buhari launched in the year is a masterstroke. The first batch of 200,000 youths engaged under the programme will demonstrate what is possible under the programme and how the administration is youth friendly.
In spite of the economic challenges, the government has continued to give priority to rehabilitation and expansion of infrastructures. While it may appear slow, anyone that travelled for the end of year holidays can attest to the work going on to fix the roads, the ones that are not being fixed are being maintained as palliatives. In fact one post on Facebook captured it by saying that even though Nigerians were lamenting how difficult things are, for the first time in several years they celebrated the year end without fuel queues and the number of people that travelled in the spirit of the season defied the cries over an economic recession.
The other sectors, all cannot be outlined in this piece, The positive results trickling in from each sector may not be immediately visible at this early stages. They are a testament to the great things that would happen when Mr President gets the urging and support of Nigerians to do more.
Ibekwe a public affairs analyst contributed this from Enugu