By Uche Amunike
This week, I bring you an article written by my very good friend, Victor Agusiobo. This erudite gentleman wrote this article two years ago and it really hurts to know that even two years after he wrote this article, Nigerians are still hungry. I can only hope that Nigerians will exercise their franchise come February 16, 2018. I also hope that we truly understand that power lies in our hands. Let us not be hopeless about the Nigerian situation and think that our votes do not matter. Let us not assume that because of the power of incumbency, Buhari will remain on seat even though he has not added value to the lives of Nigerians since he came into power. Truth is, he has failed this country and we have lost confidence in him. It is said that to whom much is given, much more is expected and yet, a lot of Nigerians gave Buhari their votes and entrusted their utmost confidence in him, all for nought. I am glad I never believed in him nor in his ideals. Perhaps that's why I am not as disappointed as most people I know.
Kindly read on. It is truly as apt as it is interesting...
There are powerfully idiosyncratic reasons why many Nigerians voted Muhammadu Buhari as president of their country. Vindictively , some believe that the few who had taken criminal advantage over their fellow country men and women must not only be hobbled but afforded some pain for their vile indulgences. And Buhari to them was the only man who could courageously do that. Many others feel that Buhari has trained himself to be so ascetic that he can at least to a very high level resist the allure of money and if he can, then possibly he would be on top of the situation as a governor of his people. There is no doubt that extreme love for money and the outcome of the corrupt pursuit of it, tarnishes even gold, fades beauty, berates age, debases one's station and reduces to dross, what ordinarily should constitute a priceless reputation. And Buhari has lived within and above the environment of so much wealth and still came out with a strong reputation. Even his enemies give it to him.
Correct or not, perception is reality. So, one way or the other, there are many Nigerians upon the canvas of the choice they made during the election including this writer who can talk to the president, the way their heart feels. Oga, president, Nigerians are hungry, very hungry.
Even when predictions of the crash in oil prices are rife, noble providence is still lavish on the over 160 million Nigerians, given that our nation's oil still oscillates from 40 to 50 dollars per barrel. At that price, it is still a plus for an honest, focused, people-oriented government. It is still enough to comfortably tide the country into serious introspection of ideating alternatives to the almighty oil. Many nations of the world are not this lucky. The savings made from government's prudence under the circumstance must impact on the lowest of the low in this country.
It must be noted that any government by whatever mode that fails to reduce poverty substantially in any given polity suffers a possible backlash from the people. There is always a certain correlation between indiscipline, crime, hunger and poverty.
I have since suggested that whatever economic theories that are experimented on Nigerians at this moment, be them those as early as Adams Smith's or Maynard Keynes, they must have the capacity of putting food on the tables of the populace. To ensure the actualization of this last component, therefore, economists of the Buhari government must have by their sides, grounded sociologists who must interpret the impact of some chimerical economic theories on the governed. In the absence of this moderating system, economics will become sufficiently useless especially if it turns out a mere metallic science, dealing only with cold statistics of GNPs and rebased economics bereft of the people element.
One of the first indications of disequilibrium in society is the increase in crime. There are signs of resurgence in crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cons of all shapes. The few extremely wealthy ones upon whom the legion of poor people depend have strategically refused to spend money, so liquidity has become a problem.
The government bail-out of states made sense as an energizer of economic activity but it must not be misconstrued as economic policy. Outcomes of governments need to sublimate at the local government level with a focused power decentralization process and policy in place. That is where they will directly make sense and meaning to the people. Grassroots people may never enjoy the positive outcomes of government nor be empowered if the local government system is not working and it seems not to be working in most states of the federation.
So our president, we give it to you that there is obviously a new face to our national government, too many things are changing hopefully, positively but the people are hungry. President Buhari should be mindful of the fire after the pan. There is hunger in the land. Hunger breeds urban jungles; deviants of all hues, ant-life apostles etc. They are not good for Nigeria. The price of a bag of rice is up. Being a staple, its spiral effect on other foods cannot be tamed by economic pontifications. Check out your foreign exchange policy.
Compulsion and brute force as exemplified by the CBN, do not appreciate a nation's currency. A bit of market forces do, but not limited to them. The economic sin of arbitrage is not perpetrated by genuine traders and importers but by the banks. So, genuine traders and importers are presently suffering while the prices of available goods are up in the high heavens without the varieties and choices that modulate pricing in a free but slightly regulated market.
The patience of Nigerians is presently sustained by the glimmer of hope that things can be turned aright. As they continue to hear some of the billions stolen by their countrymen without conscience, it is possible to ignite an all consuming hatred for society in them, such that will be made more manifest, perverted and sinister than what we have seen before.
Our present national government must understand how money is distributed and how, with a view to redistributing it more equitably. A contractor who did just one job as reported with NIMASA and made a profit of 13 billion naira can as well go into any religious gathering and give out 600m of it. He may ultimately not be a philanthropist but a criminal trying to con God. But whatever moral commentary we may run on it, the truth is that the beneficiaries may have been sufficiently energized by 'stolen' money. The other bizarre side of the same truth is that if government succeeds in stopping the cheat, and he invariably stops parting with his loot and without anything done to assuage the hunger of the former beneficiaries, government's best intentions would have created a new social problem. This seems to capture where we are at the moment.
The point being made even with some repetition is that the Buhari administration must look at the nation's wealth; the reward patterns and the slackness or otherwise of the distribution systems. It is only those self acclaimed moralists who like to dance in the sun, believing it wouldn't hurt will not see the near direct correlation between hunger and crime. Exceptions can be, but they possess not enough weight to tilt the balance. Let no economists befuddle our president or insulate him from reality. Nigerians are hungry.
The reward pattern is awkward. A very good engineer who has a less talented god father manages to work in a State ministry where he is paid 45,000 a month, his less endowed colleague with a gifted god father walks into NNPC and earns over a million a month. Well, keep your breath, the debate on this is for another day but one must be a custodian of good home training not to be abashed, embarrassed and harassed by this awkwardness. The philosophy behind it, is the breeding ground for some of the vilest distortions in the system.
Erstwhile governor Peter Obi realized this much and made teaching a bit attractive by raising the bar of their promotion to level 17 almost a permanent secretary grade for secondary schools.
Nigerians are angry, restless and hungry. A little satanic ignition will spark off the worst in them. We do not want a situation where even with your best intentions, Nigerians will move from frying pan to fire. Never in the annals of this country have we had a president walk into office with so much goodwill, commanding stupendous credibility and credulity. Hope is still high.
Well, like I pointed out, this article was written two years ago. Presently, I look at the last sentence about our hopes still being high and completely go weak in the knees at the reality on ground. Our hopes have been dashed a long time ago and I can only pray that God takes pity on Nigerians and help us vote in tested and trusted people with nothing but good wishes for our dear country. We really need to get it right this time!!!