I have so many hopes for the year 2019 but let me talk about the most important ones, dear to my heart for our country. Firstly, there must be a change in the economic policy of this administration. Nigerians cannot afford to continue in hardship. Everybody is almost dying of hunger. Already, people are predicting more hardship and hunger this year because of the crisis between the farmers and herdsmen, especially in the northern part of the country. I expect the three tiers of government to do something about it by ensuring that food items mostly consumed in the country which have been affected by the crisis, are imported to augment the short fall. This arrangement should start from January to avoid fire brigade approach. Secondly, I expect the Federal Government to go into serious dialogue with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) so that the current strike will be called off as soon as possible. This is election year and anything that will necessitate public protests should be avoided because the atmosphere is getting charged everyday as a result of hardship in every part of the country. INEC officials should do all they can to ensure free and fair conduct of the elections to avoid protests that may lead to bloodshed thereafter. I foresee a situation where the security agents will find it very difficult to check protests that may arise from the elections. Therefore, anything that could bring about protests should be avoided. Voters should vote according to their conscience, no matter the inducement from the politicians. Take their money because it is our money; they looted it. But, vote the right candidate you believe will take you out of the present hardship. I want to urge the Federal government to finalize the issue of minimum wage this month, so that it will reflect on the worker’s February salary, the month of election. The Federal Government should also ensure that all the bad roads across the 36 states are given attention before the rainy season.
2019 is a significant year for Nigeria. So my expectations for this year are based on three areas; it is important that whoever succeeds as president, focuses on them. One is employment; the unemployment rate is too high, especially among graduates. This is a serious problem for the nation. To deal with that, economic policies should focus on what can create jobs, and that is manufacturing. The government should support manufacturing. In doing that, electricity must be stable. The cost of running a plant is too high. Our biggest problem in this country is that we are importing too many things. We have agriculture which is doing relatively fine but we have a problem with processing; how to preserve food. That again is a function of manufacturing. In terms of monetary policy, the interest rate is still too high. Maybe the Central Bank of Nigeria is afraid that inflation will go up if there is lower interest rate. The reality is that if people are unemployed and there is inflation, the government is not solving human problems. If there is inflation and there is high employment, it is easier to deal with because people are engaged. Right now, the interest rate to private sectors to borrow money to do business is way too high. The CBN should refocus on its fundamental objective which is to stabilise the economy. So, interest rate needs to go down to help investors put money into public investments. Also, the government is borrowing too much. Both domestic and foreign debts are too high. While the debt is too high, what we are using the borrowed money for is a source of concern. If we are using the debt to build capital projects that can produce taxable revenue that we can use to repay the debt, it is okay. But most of the debts are used for recurrent expenses, which can never generate revenue to repay them. In fact, what we are doing is mortgaging the future of the unborn generations.
I expect Nigeria to move from the cadre of developing countries to a developed one, with a stabilised economy. The forthcoming election should be free and fair with no chaos or bloodshed before and after, no matter the results. The government should make power, infrastructure, housing, portable water, good roads available to Nigerians. There should be a paradigm shift in government, with the people enjoying the dividends of democracy, stability in our economy and good governance, free and fair election and bloodless transition of power, if the party at the center losses.
My expectation from the government of Nigeria for 2019 is to conduct free, fair and credible elections. If the elections are flawed, people are bound to protest and that could lead to violence considering the stakes between the two major political parties. To achieve this, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be given a free hand. Security agencies, especially the police that are primarily responsible for internal security, must be non-partisan because they are paid with taxpayers’ money. If the police are seen to be partisan, as they are now, it will be unfortunate; a reminder of events in 1983. I see a situation whereby the populace would rise against the police. So, the police must be very impartial in handling political issues.The government should also equip the security agencies. The populace is of the view that the military and the police are ill-equipped to deal with the security challenges in the country. Boko Haram attacks are rampant and the reasons are obvious. They are collaborating with the Islamic State in West Africa; Boko Haram has been internationalised. The attacks they carry out isagainst democracy by ensuring that people don’t vote. They have become more daring, more coordinated and more sophisticated in their approach. The government must be up to the challenges. At the same time, we must also be careful, especially the media, so that we don’t escalate the situation through our reportage. The media should put national interest in their reportage though I agree that the situation is gloomy. We should know how to report the issue so that people don’t lose faith in the government. As regards the herdsmen attacks which have arguably claimed more lives than Boko Haram attacks, government seems not to be taking the issue seriously. If the government can deploy the military against a separatist group, I don’t see why they are deploying the police to fight the armed herdsmen instead of the military. The worst aspect of the herdsmen attacks is that it is nationwide. The government should look at what it can do to stop this menace.In my opinion, these attackers are not herdsmen; they are terrorists. They are an extension of Boko Haram that is trying to extend its frontier.
My aspirations for Nigeriain 2019 is that there should be peaceful and credible elections while being hopeful that whoever emerges president already has plans to move the country forward in the midst of recession. My prayer is to see huge improvements in both the health and education sectors. I am expecting our leaders to lead us with utmost integrity devoid of corruption.
My aspiration for 2019 is that the government would focus on infrastructure. There should be continued heavy investment in infrastructure; power and transportation. Another important area is agriculture; the policies being pursued in the last three years have made a big impact. We are beginning to see developmental changes in agriculture. In 2018, N118bn was allocated to agriculture, but this year, about N80bn was budgeted for the sector, which is more than 30 per cent reduction. The effort towards agricultural development should be sustained, especially in terms of providing support to all sections of the agricultural value chain. This is particularly with regard to linking the production sector with the manufacturing sector. When you reduce investment in sectors like agriculture and infrastructure which affect manufacturing and SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises), the impact on employment will be negative. We know that the government is doing some other things to improve employment, particularly through direct government intervention. But it is the private sector, particularly manufacturing, SMEs and agriculture that can make employment much more effective. All the same, the efforts being made through government intervention to improve employment should be sustained. Another area has to do with the monetary issue. So far, the exchange rate is being stabilised and that has helped in the manufacturing sector. We hope that there will be efforts to sustain favourable exchange rate.
Being an election year, my aspiration for 2019 is for us to have free, fair and credible elections. I also expect the government to meet the demands of workers with regards to the N30, 000 minimum wage. Government is a continuous process; whatever agreement that was signed by the previous administration is binding on any government that succeeds it. It is of utmost importance that the demand by workers for improved working conditions and a new minimum wage should be acted upon without further delay. The executive should forward a bill to the National Assembly for quick action which of course would mean that the National Assembly will work on it speedily. The money, N30,000, is not a living wage; but it is a start. I expect Nigerian workers to begin to earn a living wage starting this year. I also expect the government to take concrete steps to reduce the number of out-of-school children. It is not too much to ask the government to declare a state of emergency in the education sector. Poverty has increased, the number of out-of-school children is unacceptable. Statistics released by UNICEF states that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world; this is unacceptable. We must make conscious efforts to reverse this trend this year if we are to grow above our status as a developing country. Education should be given its pride of place in our country this year. All the states in the country should not be left behind when it comes to education.
Like most Nigerians, I expect a remarkable improvement in the standard of living this year. I look forward to the government improving security situation across Nigeria, especially in the North-East where Boko Haram has wreaked havoc and is still causing destruction of lives and property. Our security forces have been doing their best and the government has also been very supportive, but I expect that government at all levels will do more to deal with the problem once and for all. We all know that the issue of terrorism is a global problem and Nigeria, as part of the global community, has had more than its fair share of the atrocities of terrorists. I also expect a peaceful, credible election in February and March. Nigeria needs to move to the next level.
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