Monday, 30 January 2017

Article: Interpreting The 'Change' We Voted For!


By abiodun KOMOLAFE

The world had barely settled down to the reality of Brexit when Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton to clinch victory in an election that would eventually shame the power of opinion polls. Trump purportedly played a fast one on unsuspecting Americans and the world was left to grapple with 'Trump Trauma'. A few weeks after, Fidel Castro was done with the wildness  of this  world and  the  world, with the exception  of  those who felt threatened by his Marxist-Leninist  disposition, mourned the passing of a great humanist. Along the line,  Yahya  Jammeh  happened to our democratic psyche and that tragically revived memories of sit-tightism that  has all  along  been the bane of our Africanness. Elsewhere in Europe, Italy stunned the world with a referendum which, though looked and sounded marginal in shape and size,  has, in all the important ways, changed the face of global politics. And, uninterested in being uncounted, Nigeria continues to grapple with recession even as economic  juggernauts catwalk excuses!


Indeed,  the  global village is in a mess  and all eyes can see it! Nations are waging wars against nations!  Sicknesses and diseases are defying medical prescriptions! Conflicts, endless droughts, hunger and deprivations are separating us from our journey and it is as if signs of the end times  are already staring us  in the face.

With a special attention  on Nigeria, that   dear country is experiencing a siege revolution is no longer news! Willingly  or by happenstance, the  town is tough while the glory of the gown is tormented.  In addition to the global uncertainty  which has  shaken Nigeria to her foundational relevance, politics, not policy, threatens  her existence and it is as if godly minds have eloped with their prudent counsels. Like a steeringless vehicle, inflation has gone to an  unbearable  level  and it is as if those witches and wizards of the military-era Nigeria are back at work! To make matters worse, Africa's foremost giant, and world’s 10th biggest oil reserves, now  joys  in  having more than 60 per cent of her people living on less than $1 a day. In 2016, unemployment  rose from 12.1 per cent in the first quarter to 13.3 per cent in the second quarter.  Only  God  knows  where  it  now  stands!

Truth be told, events of the last few months have again compelled  bewildered  Nigerians to debate  the particular nature of the 'Change' they voted for! Of considerable worry is their  inability to discern whether or not the events of March 28, 2015 were destined to take Nigeria to her Promised Land or Muhammadu  Buhari was merely ordained to act Nigeria's Moses. For God's sake, why has a bag of rice, which sold for N7,500.00 in December 2015, now  gone beyond double and how come less than 500 people are sitting on not less than 20% of Nigeria's 2017 budget, all in the name of constituency and other meaningless projects? Widening the scope of our worries, why has Cuba, in spite of her travails, become  a socio-economic success while Nigeria, despite  its  touted  giantness,  continues to look Northwards, not inwards, for succour? All said, will Nigeria get out of this miasma unbowed  and where  lies the road to comfort?

An Igbo proverb says: "you don't need a mirror to see what you are wearing on your hand".  Agreed! The times are quite unusual. But Nigerians  must have to work together for their teeth to  chew the meat! Bola Tinubu struck the right chord when he urged the government to  "re-engineer the economy bottom up, diversify the economic base, strengthen our industrial base, modernize infrastructure,   enhance agriculture, and provide employment and of course, ease of doing business."  It is interesting to not that Buhari has been there before. Therefore, that  he knows what to do to navigate the country out of the  economic  turbulence is not in doubt. But he has to act fast and the earlier he does this, the better for the ruling party and this fractured microcosm.

Assuming without conceding that government at the centre is currently  moving  beyond sharing our pains to making genuine efforts at restoring Nigeria's political and economic credibility,  keying  into  Osun State's  'government unusual'  which has made the business of governing and growing the state an exciting experience will not be out of place. With its  adoption of  some of the state's  initiatives like the School Feeding,  Elderly Welfare and Youth Empowerment  schemes, Nigerians will agree with me that  the  Federal  Government  is  on the right track. But, more still need to be done, especially, in the area of massive infrastructure development,  if  it must timeously deliver on the promised  dividends of democracy to the citizenry. The  president  must  come to terms, not only with the details and the intricacies of 'cash' in the people's "pockets and food in their belly" but also the basics of the "promises of a brighter future."  After all,  a naked man does not put his hands in his pocket.

Platitudes aside, for any country in the world to develop, the socio-economic benefits of good road network can never be overemphasized. Apart from getting people, markets, services and knowledge connected, it is also advantageous in the economic growth of the society.  Osun, under Rauf  Aregbesola,  has demonstrated the impactful interaction between the state's economic development and the sufficiency and quality of its road network. Therefore, it's  time Buhari  rose to the task of tapping from this wonderful experience that has turned Osun  State into 'a permanent construction site'.

Again, this is where those who are accusing the governor of wasting resources  on the construction of an airport  have also missed it. As a matter of fact, there is a lot of benefits derivable  from an  initiative  as laudable as this. Among them  are speed, reliability, rapid delivery of medical supplies as well as efficiency in connection of markets across states, countries and continents. Statistics  revealed  that  not  less  than   35% of world trade by value are transported by air.  In  2013  alone,  about  49.3% million tones of freight were handled by air.

As we know, Osun State is adjoined  by not less than five other states: Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Akure and Kwara. At a time like this when the state  is  putting  its  trust  in  diversification, a cargo airport will in no small way  add to its income generation capacity. In like manner, Nigeria can truly serve as Africa's hub for "distant markets and global supply chains in a speedy and reliable manner" if only those  in positions  of  authority   can look in the direction of upgrading facilities at  our airports with  a  view  to  serving  the original purposes for which they were established.  But for paucity of funds, the story of MKO Abiola Airport in Ido Osun would have been pleasantly different. All the same, Aregbesola has demonstrated that it can work and Buhari will do well by borrowing a leaf from this worthy venture.

And, to those who delight in accusing Aregbesola of engaging in 'capital flight', it may interest them  to know  how Dubai got to where it  is as well as the contributions of Jews and people of colour to the development of the United States of America. Added  to this  will be some  tutorials  on  the indices for measuring growth. In my considered opinion,  Buhari will be doing progressive governance a lot of good by learning  some useful tips,  along this line,  from Osun  State.

Education, Agriculture and Security are some other  important  areas where I  am optimistic  the Federal Government can effectively partner  Osun State in order to meaningfully impact the lives of Nigerians and I hope to  address them in  subsequent interventions.

Well, this is not to say that hypocrites and  pathological naysayers  whose portion is in attitudes that bring failure will not attack the president for taking a bold step like the aforementioned. Unfortunately, that's  their  professional  calling  and  there's nothing one can do to cure their mischief.  Beyond their disjointed preachments, they see politics as a game of death  even as they represent all the bad things that poverty can give.   Shepherdless in the journey of life, they once accused Bisi  Akande of mismanaging Osun State but, not unexpectedly, the stone that the builders rejected have eventually become the cornerstone.  And, in their eager, sometimes feverishly paranoid attempt to interpret the times, they fail to understand that Osun is an integral part of the project called Nigeria; and that both are constituents  of the global village. So, whatever ails the eye is not unlikely to ail the nose!

Warren Buffet made a strong statement when he remarked that no one gets credit for predicting rain but for building the ark. In other words, how  Buhari  goes about fulfilling his election promises to Nigerians will go a long way in determining how posterity will remember him.

May principalities and powers, assigned to rubbish our leaders' efforts, scatter!

(KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk))

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