Like a thief in the night, the year preluding the all important general election has crept in. Like soothing rains after a scorching sun, Nigerians are expecting to be at ease in the new year. They expect respites and those feet-sweeping promises akin to those a would be bride must get from her eager groom.
Yes, this is the year of jubilee as those in authorities, as well as in opposition, must court the people for votes. This is even more so when the people have been made to endure years of sweet-bitter experiences. It is, in fact, a year of stock-taking and exponential accountability from those in power at all levels.
At the federal level, there are certain irreducible minimum in the expectations of the people from the ‘change’ administration of President Muhammadu Buhari if actually he expects to retain the confidence of the people and return to power in 2019. Between now and the next twelve months, politicians, both in power and opposition, must recognize the sovereignty of the people and the government in power would do whatever it is within its capacity to woo them ahead of the general elections.
To this extent, the year 2018 represents a year of precision in policy and one that must record convincing successes in the three areas of fight against corruption, combating insecurity and revamping the economy.
It is expected that the gains recorded in the fight against insecurity, especially that against the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency would be taken beyond their ‘technical’ defeat to total annihilation.
The President, as one of his campaign promises in 2015, promised to rout the insurgents and return peace to the beleaguered people of the North east.
It is therefore not expected that the fight against the Boko Haram guys would be another campaign point for the President should he present himself to the electorates for re-election. Ditto for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). However, the main preoccupation of the President in the new year should be how to consolidate the successes recorded in the North east by ensuring that those people in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps are safely resettled in their original abode.
Apart from resettling the IDPs, the onerous task of rebuilding the war ravaged North east should leave the drawing board. All efforts should be coordinated at bringing the much needed succour to the people.
Also, Nigerians expect that the Buhari’s administration would be more frontal and proactive in tackling the menace of herders/farmers skirmishes across the country. Some have observed that killings of innocent men, women and children allegedly perpetrated by the herdsmen within the last few years could rival those done by the mindless Boko Haramists.
Therefore, it is expected that the government would carry out a total overhaul of the nation’s security architecture to nip in the bud the ubiquitous blood suckers masquerading as herdsmen across the country.
It has been argued that some of the herders are actually foreigners and this made it imperative for the government to be more circumspect in the area of border policing. Deploying aerial technology to ensure surveillance won’t be a bad idea. Some people have suggested that the government should constitute a special squad, similar to that of Operation Python Dance in theSouth-East, to tackle the deadly herders.
Similarly, the Buhari administration must do more to tackle the menace of kidnapping, armed robberies and other crimes in the southern parts of the country for it to beat its chest for an overall success in the fight against insecurity. All government security agencies must be on red alert to ensure the safety of the people at all times.
The President must not leave any stone unturned so that his detractors would not exploit any of the missing links as a campaign tool against him in 2019.
No doubt, the Buhari administration is aware of the existential challenge facing the nation at the moment. That challenge, of course, is unemployment. Closely related to this scourge is that of widespread poverty in the land. The problem of unemployment inherited by the Buhari’s administration was exacerbated by the nation’s economic crisis occasioned by the recession caused by the unprecedented drop in the price of crude at the international market last year.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) gave an apocalyptic indication when it announced that over 4 million people lost their jobs last year. But, thankfully, the price of crude has begun to climb up again signaling that fortune may still smile on the country.
With the expectation that the nation’s earnings would improve in 2018, it is expected that the government should reflate the economy and create more jobs by investing into infrastructures across the country.
All road and rail projects approved by the government should be executed in order to facilitate trade and thereby create both direct and indirect employment for the citizenry.
Economic experts have warned that the government must diversify if it wishes to become a major player in the 21st century global economy.
They have argued that the world had already moved beyond oil and depending solely on the commodity to generate the much needed foreign exchange could be dangerous and counter-productive.
Though the Buhari’s administration had taken steps in this direction by investing into agriculture, more proactive policies should be evolved this year to encourage the unemployed young men to take to farming.
Yes, Nigeria may be self sufficient in the production of rice this year, farmers must be be encouraged to grow other crops, both for local consumption and export. It has always been said that the greatest job creating endeavor remains agriculture, therefore windows of opportunities where soft loans could be made readily available to budding farmers should be opened by the nation’s financial institutions. The President’s charge of grow-what-you-eat should be taken to the grassroots so that people would be made to realize that real wealth resides in the soil under their feet.
With the increase in the price of crude at the international market came the attendant rise in the landing cost of petroleum products. The refusal of the oil marketers to import fuel marred the 2017 Yuletide and this eroded the popularity of the Buhari’s administration in no small measure.
Common sense would dictate that the natural thing for the government to do, faced with the reality of high fuel import, would be to reflect the corresponding increase in the retail pump price. Those economists without human sympathy have been drumming it into the President’s ear that full deregulation was the only way to go. Hearkening to this mercantile counsel would further alienate the government from the people as they currently lack the capacity to absorb any further increase in the price of fuel. At N145 per liter, the product is already considered as being outrageously priced. So, it would be ill-advised for a government going to election in the next one year to increase pump price of the all important commodity.
Therefore, Nigerians expect that the government this year would overhaul all the nation’s refineries and encourage private participation in the downstream sector for them to produce fuel for local consumption. It is also expected that those individuals licensed to establish modular refineries are encouraged to come on stream so that the country would no longer depend on imported petroleum products to run its economy.
Again, the expectation of the Nigerian workers regarding the review of the minimum wage must not be dashed if the President is interested in returning to power in 2019 as being touted by his lieutenants. This has even become more imperative considering the current economic reality where staff salaries could no longer suffice.
Similarly, those state governors owing staff salaries would have their judgement day this season. Governors eyeing re-election but still owing several months salaries should by now be preparing their hand-over notes because chances are that they would be voted out.
In the fight against corruption, Nigerians expect more outstanding results this year owing to preliminary steps taken by the Buhari administration in the last two years.
With the bilateral agreements entered into with several foreign countries, it is expected that looted funds belonging to kleptomaniacs in government now and in the past would be repatriated with relative ease.
Nigerians are looking forward to more seizures of properties acquired with illicit and unexplained wealth; they want to see more of the suspected looters being prosecuted and jailed to serve as deterrents.
Nigerians are also looking forward to more transparency in governance; they are hoping to see a country where all men would be treated as equal mortals.
To shut the political detractors of the President and the ruling party down, it is expected that the government would spread its anti-corruption dragnets to those considered to be its friends and sympathizers. Let everyone be seen to be equal before the law this year.
These and many more are expected from the government in 2018. They are, of course, great expectations! Are people really asking for too much? Compliments of the season.