Before this house falls

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By Emeka Alex Duru

(08054103327, [email protected])

In the biblical accounts of St. John, when it was obvious to the Lord Jesus Christ that His disciples did not understand what he meant in telling them that His friend, Lazarus had fallen asleep, He came to their level and told them pointedly, that the man had died.  He then proceeded to raise him.

It has in similar respect, come to a point where we as Nigerians will muster the courage to tell ourselves the truth that this country is presently on its knees and begin to fashion out strategies to bring it back to its feet. Forget about the show-off or shadow-boxing by high officials of the government in selling a dummy to the unwary, the fact is that Nigeria is in a sorry state. But the situation is not irredeemable, if the right steps are taken.

What perhaps, lays bare the frightening state of affairs is the recession which has again hit the country.  Before the development took its critical turn, there were alerts from experts on the steep contraction across manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors of the economy, pointing to imminent recession. Even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) report of October acknowledged the fears. According to the CBN report, the unemployment level index for the non-manufacturing sector stood at 44.2 per cent contraction for the month. Within the period, about 17 sub-sectors reported a decline in employment level below 50 per cent threshold. The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which measures growth in the manufacturing sector, also indicated that employment in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors declined sharply.  All sectors of the economy witnessed the shock but the strategic areas most affected, according to the report, were agriculture, arts, entertainment and recreation, hospitality industry, food and beverage services and petroleum sectors. Others were finance, insurance, healthcare, transportation, information and communication, warehousing, professional services and utilities. That was not the first time we were confronted with such scary statistics. The question has however remained our actions and agenda to pull out from the mess.

Ordinarily, the assurance by the government that it hopes to use the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) to revive the economy can be comforting.  The ESP which was established by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30, 2020 and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on June 24, 2020, aims at developing plans for the country to respond appropriately to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, identify fiscal measures to enhance oil and non-oil government revenues and reduce non-essential spending, create financial stimulus package for the economy, provide support for the medium and small scale enterprises, among others. The body is headed by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. That should accord it some measure of confidence among Nigerians. It is also the prayer of every well-meaning citizen that it succeeds. But that is as far as wishes and patriotic sentiments can go.

Nigeria has not lacked in instituting platforms and programmes on the way forward. There had been such contraptions as the Vision 20 2020, advertised as a vehicle to enlist the country among the 20 most developed economies of the world in 2020. There was the shelter for all  initiative; food fall; education for all and other outfits. What has however been lacking is the political will to translate these lofty objectives to reality. Consequently, the country has continuously gone down on development and other parameters of national life. Thus, from our lofty heights in the early years of political independence in the 1960s, we have nose-dived to the world’s poverty capital and ranked in the same odious league with Iran and Afghanistan on insecurity.

There is no how this ugly story can be told without apportioning some blames to the present administration in the land. On its way to power in 2015, it had promised to make life better for Nigerians. Part of its pledges was to refloat the economy, enhance the political space and widen the frontiers of democracy and individual freedom. But more than five years after, many Nigerians, including those that voted for the government or facilitated its path to victory are in various forms of regret. As if its low performance profile is not enough, the administration carries itself with such nauseating arrogance that sells the impression that it does not really bother at how the people feel.

It for instance, rankles that when the administration came to power in 2015, unemployment rate was a modest 8.2 per cent. It grew progressively worse to 13 per cent in the Q3 2016 to 18.88 per cent in 2017, 23.3 per cent in 2018, and 33.5 per cent in 2019, according to Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports.  In the same vein, the country has not done well in the human capital development index. In 2016, it was in the 127th position out of 130 countries ranked in the World Economic Forum.

In other indices of measuring good governance, such as rule of law; health services; the social service delivery in areas of electricity, roads, education and ease of doing business, Nigeria is virtually in deficit. The state of insecurity is particularly frightening. There is hardly any day that Nigerians are not being slaughtered in tens or hundreds, for one reason or another. Apart from armed gangs robbing and killing with relative ease, kidnappers have also been on the prowl. Because of the worsening security situation in the country, people are now living in perpetual fear as they are not safe on the highways and even in their homes.

A strategic plan is therefore needed to overcome the disturbing trend. As a way forward, the government must admit that there is trouble around and formulate policies to tackle it. The era of chest-thumbing and grandstanding, is clearly over. It is time to roll up the pants and dig into the muddy waters for national recovery.  On coming to power in 1932 as America’s 32nd President and confronted by the great depression, Frederick Delano Roosevelt spearheaded radical legislations and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the fabled New Deal.  In it was a cocktail of programmes designed to produce relief, recovery to the unemployed and farmers among other sectors. England had earlier in the 17th century, built on the glorious revolution to make life easier for its citizens. France had also done so from the lessons of its revolution. In all the instances, the driving force was in dismantling the inhibiting extractive institutions and widening the space for political inclusion. Rescuing Nigeria from its near comatose state demands such measures and other radical actions that may not necessarily come from members of the ruling party. And time is of essence.
*DURU is the Editor of TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos

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