By Retson Akpomejevwe Nyemachi Tedheke*
It is just about a year now, when a people decided that it was enough with the old ways. Something fundamentally shifted in the thought process of the average Nigerian, it became clear to us all that the Status quo was no longer sustainable and the path to future survival rested squarely on our collective activism and our dedication to the Nigerian cause. The people fought the establishment and the ruling PDP to a standstill, not because we had the weaponry to do so, but because we had the will, the desire, the determination and most important, the man trusted by the Nigerian people.
His discipline, Integrity and single mindedness became a rallying call for all Nigerians. For once, we all fought to overcome Tribalism, Corruption, Ethnicity and Bigotry to elect a Leader who represented something unique to the Nigerian mindset of today. We knew it was not going to be easy, we expected that the path towards realigning the Nigerian State was going to be hard and filled with long suffering.
But, what other choice did we have? 16 years of democracy has left Nigerians with Sorrow, Tears and Blood, a docile populace, a people compromised by Political Leadership, Societal Elders and Moral Institutions. Our choice was clear… Never again should the people be taken for granted knowing that economically we were entering a period of economic uncertainty. Because all the Crude Oil dependent economies were undergoing serious financial and economic crisis then and now. The crisis of earnings and income depletion, Inflation, Debt, Forex/Exchange Rate collapse and Slow Crude Price Recovery. In Nigeria, the Crisis has been particularly bad as there were no savings and no plans for the raining day. Please note that our failure as a country is our fault as a people.
In one year, can I say we the Nigerian people made the right choice? A resounding YES is the answer. I am a Buharist, but Let us outline the facts. For the first time in this country, The Salary problems of the past years of Government wastefulness became the first major business of this government. Majority of Nigerian States got a Salary Stimulus of about N350billion to pay outstanding salaries owed workers for several months.
YES, I know the salary issue is here with us again and the President has responded with not just the suspension of loan deductions from State FAAC Allocations, but the recent fuel pump price increase is also intended to free up more earnings and revenue to enable the State Governments pay their Salary backlogs and arrears. The President has shown that the people who fought for his presidency will never be left to walk alone. Even with the revenue problems this government has been engrossed in the processes of making the civil service efficient, effective and reflective of the new reality.
The ongoing exercise to purge the Nigerian Workforce of Ghost workers (over 23,000 have so far been identified) is one of such examples. The linking of the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) to the Salary Accounts of all Public and Civil Servant is another major change to the way business was done. The reorientation of the workforce on ethics, discipline and anti-corruption processes are just few of the re-engineering process of the Public and Civil Services. If the current discussion on the New Minimum wage is pursed to a logical conclusion, it would also indicate that the interest of the Nigerian workers would not be compromised by this government and the President even in the face of mounting pressure on our revenue stream.
The Treasury Single Account (TSA) is a unique and a noble idea to monitor and account for every government Revenue and Expenditure. Before now, every end of a financial Year in Government was a Bazaar, a Thanksgiving and a Looting avenue for Politicians and Civil Servants to retire all unspent funds through fraudulent contracts and invoices. It became standard practice in Government. Ministries and all Agencies of government were guilty; all their earning was kept in special and personal accounts without accountability. Government money became the property of a few; our Commonwealth became the right of the privileged. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the Man’. As we speak, over N3Trillion Naira is saved in the TSA, all government agencies will be forced to fully comply before the end of 2016. Banks are also being punished for failing to comply with directives in this regard.
Our Resources, the People’s Commonwealth has never been safer. Nigerians trust that PMB will not loot our collective wealth for his own interest. It is obvious. He was a governor and a Petroleum Minister in the 1970s, He was a Head of State in the 1980s and He was the Chairman of Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) in the 1990s. The President does not have a Single Oil Well or even a Petrol Station to his name. He did not take what was not rightfully his during decades in the Military and in government. That He will not begin to steal now in his 70s is certified. The TSA is so successful that several States are keying into it, including Lagos and Kaduna State, some of the best performing States in the Country today.
The Nigerian Economy is shrinking, weak and the suffering of the Nigerian people as a result of the weak economy is intense as we speak. But the fundamentals are changing positively. The Nigerian economy was built on corruption and it was sustained by deception. There has been no foundational growth in the Nigerian economy for decades. Imports have sky rocked from some N400billion about a decade ago to Several Trillion annually today. Crude Oil is the only source of export for a country of 180million people. The Previous Coordinating Minister of the Economy rebased the economy to give the impression that we were the largest economy in Africa.
As truthfully as that was, the component of the economy said something rather different. The Nigerian economy has been subsiding corruption, waste and impunity. This President has set out to correct the many deceptions in the economy. A foundational and systemic change is ongoing, Infrastructure is being prioritized and Real growth is being promoted. For the first time in decades, our Capital expenditure in the 2016 Budget is about 30%. Major developmental initiatives are being aggressively pursued. Serious attention is being accorded Agriculture and related opportunities.
The Solid Mineral Sector is being revisited strongly and the President is very clear on what should be achieved over the next four years. This has been an economy without Power, an Effective Manpower and a Working infrastructure. The Transport, Power, Housing and Works Ministries with a collective budget of about N1trillion are empowered not only to significantly improve Electricity to the people and Businesses, But to ensure that Major Infrastructures are judiciously implemented. This time, the foundation is being laid to be sustainable so the people will benefit from Government and Governance.
The Subsidy remove in October of 2015 and the Deregulation recently are tough decisions that will create a temporary hardship but will ultimately create the enabling environment for Government to concentrate on building new Refineries, fixing the existing ones and becoming a net exporter in 2018. Government would not have to spend limited Forex on the importation of PMS, the Private Sector would be encouraged to begin investing in both the downstream and upstream sector of the Nigerian Petroleum Industry. Prices will be reduced over time and the country will be better for it. Real change requires hard choices; it is hard, difficult and painful. If not now, when? If not us, who? Our future and our collective well-being demand it.
The Insecurities in the Nigerian State are many. From Book Haram in the North East to Biafra in the South East, From the Niger Delta Militants in the South South to Violent Fulani Herdsmen in the whole country. There is kidnapping, Crude Oil theft, and Cult Battles across the South. Since he became President, the Boko Harm Menace has been majorly subdued. The Biafra and IPOB agitators have been equally quite. Efforts are ongoing to bring the Criminality in the name of Militancy in the Niger Delta to a halt. It will be hard but it must be done. The Violent Fulani Herdsmen Crisis is major threat and need serious solutions. The Minister of Agriculture has indicated that government is importing grass seedlings to grow and create grazing reserves or ranches for cattle-rearers.
The kidnappings and cult killings will be defeated in the long run with the ongoing effort by this government. The Crude Oil theft has been reduced to the barest minimum. Now the renewed Niger Delta agitation is painfully sad to say the least. Over the past decades, the people in the region have been neglected by Leadership at the Federal, State and Local Government Levels. Leaders from that region have plundered the people’s income for personal agendas rather than the development of the region. Our own son, Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Mortgaged the future of the People of the Region to Militants and Criminals, He did nothing of note for my people, and He neither developed the region, nor saved for the development of the region. Today, the former President left the region worse off than he met it in 2010-2015. Every state of the Niger Delta has seen insane wealth in the hands of the few and monumental poverty in the lives of the many. What we have left is a region with a destroyed and polluted Communities and Environment, a Sick Populace and a tired people.
President Buhari has initiated the cleanup of the Environmental disaster that is in the Niger Delta and serious developmental initiatives have kick started in the region including but not limited to Major Roads, Railways and Bridges to open up our region to the Nigerian Nation Commercially and for diversification purposes. There are lots of works to be done, but the President has made a good start and deserves not Praises, but time to perform to the desires and aspirations of our people.
The President’s Anti-Corruption war has been a great success. The key Investigative agency of Government have never been this active, the EFCC and ICPC are aggressively working on loot recover and the prosecution of Corrupt Government officials who stole from the country. Billions of Dollars was Stolen from the People’s Commonwealth, Our Future was raped, Our Past was ravaged and our Present was mortgaged. Nigeria, a country so blessed became a Country so Cursed. Stealing was certified as Not Corruption, The former President left the Barnyard opened for Goats and he Left the building. Politicians and Most Contractors were mandated to Loot the country and they did with reckless abandon. Monies meant to fight the War against insurgencies were looted and the army was told to go and Fight with bare hands. Monies meant for Road Construction was Looted and our Roads have since become death traps. Monies meant for the education of our people was looted and illiteracy was promoted. All sectors of the Nigerian State was bastardized and looted abnormally.
This President has earned the respect of the world fantastically. Our Military relationship with the United States is being Reestablished, Our Respect Globally is being regrown and our pride of place among the committees of Nations is being recognized. The President has empowered and is empowering Nigerians to become engaged in the battles to free the country from the evils of Corruption and its destructive influence on the lives of our people. There are unprecedented results and most importantly, none of the accused has denied involvement in plundering this country. The war against corruption is just and the confidence is there, but going forward more needs to be done and more will be done especially with the judiciary. The President however, has given the Nigeria people confidence that collectively we will kill Corruption as the alternative is corruption killing us all.
I am mindful that this President is not a Messiah, I am mindful that this President is not God and I am also mindful that this President cannot get it right all the time. But, I am confident that this President will fight for the Nigerian People. The Hardship in the Land is insane and People are struggling, but nothing good comes easy. We are sometimes tempted to ask for corruption instead of this suffering, but the real question should be ‘what are the benefits of the status quo for the people over the past decades? Change is Hard, Change is Difficult and Change is not easy. We all as a people must begin to seek for solutions that are directed towards the uplifting of the Nigerian State.
The Niger Delta must be free of Corruption, Environmental Pollution and Criminals who hide under the umbrella of Militancy. Real Development must come to every home in this country. The North East has to be rebuilt and over 2.5million internally displaced persons returned to their homes. The President must continue to make difficult and hard choices that will be favorable to the people and not some few greedy destructive cabals or Killers of our common dreams. I support this President and hope the Future and Posterity will be kind to us all.
*Retson Akpomejevwe Nyemachi Tedheke is a Marxist, Democratic Socialist & Buharist