It is obvious that things are getting out of hand. The country is sick. Even the government has stopped feigning ignorance of the country’s sickness. It is just too obvious. There may be disagreements and different explanations about what ails the country and how to go about its cure. What is not in dispute is that it is sick. But is Nigeria terminally ill in which case we have to look on as we are all herded to the graveyards? I don’t think it is terminally ill. If the rulers rule to cure the ailing country, things can be better and vice versa. Similarly, if the citizens say NO emphatically to rulers’ misrule and dictatorship, there could be some cures for what ails us as a country.
It is true that Nigeria has the largest market in Africa. Going by our population, we are unrivalled. But our markets are like graveyards. You go into them in grief and when you come out of them, you are either a mourner or you are mourned by someone. It could be both. Prices of commodities literally subject one to a permanent state of melancholy. Before you enter Nigerian markets these days, you try by all means to be the best rational economist. By the time you get into these markets, you will realize that you are in a serious trouble. Nigeria, with the recent hike in prices of food items, is at war with its masses. By implication, Nigeria is at war with itself. I hope those ruling the country have listening ears to hear the cry of the masses. I also hope they have functioning eyes to see the masses as we wallow in pains. The pains of deliberately stifling economic policies.
“These days going to the market and coming back from the market is like going to a funeral and coming back from a funeral,” said Shehu Sani, the human rights activist. I cannot paint the grotesque picture better. That is why it is ethically “wrong” to smile while coming out of Nigerian market even when there is a reason to smile. It is like smiling while coming out of a graveyard. Many, of course, would think one needs attention.
It is true that President Tinubu campaigned in “Bulabu” and “Bulaba”, but this is the time to govern and alleviate sufferings. Politicians promise to govern during campaign only to end up ruling instead of governing. Even at that, one can still be a good and benevolent ruler. Must President Tinubu rule by “Bulabu” and “Bulaba”—the manner he campaigned? These pains inflicted on us are becoming unbearable. When the masses are pushed to the wall, they may gain the necessary momentum needed to look into the eyes of their tormentors. When that happens, the escape routes, if any, might be too narrow for the rulers. “A stitch in time”, as they say, “saves nine.”
Come to think of it, where are the moneys saved from the so-called subsidy removal? It should have, as expected, ameliorated these grinding sufferings. Where is the salary award which would have calmed down the nerves, the hunger, and the anger of civil servants? They are made to stop thinking about a fictitious salary award and even made to cry for their actual salaries. Our rulers should be reminded that today (Friday) is 33rd of January 2024, yet salaries are not paid and there is no hope it will be paid soon. Also, yesterday (Thursday), i.e. the 62nd of December 2023, staff of some tertiary institutions just got their December salaries. These dates only exist in Nigerian calendar to the best of my knowledge.
This sad reality is why some ended their lives in agony. What is the essence of working, earning, but still cannot survive? Or what is the essence of working, earning, but still begging to survive? Many have been surviving on loan but are no longer credit worthy. When debts are mountainous, as is the case of many Nigerians, suicide, as bad as it is, is resorted to. A man committed suicide due to his mounting debts this week in Ogun State. Last week, it was a man in Kano State who was fortunately stopped from committing suicide by some men of the Kano State Fire Service—also due to debt. A month ago, it was in Iseyin in Oyo State. A man committed suicide over debt. There are many unreported cases. Hunger, hardships, and debts are making erstwhile responsible parents look irresponsible before their children. Erstwhile obedient children are growing wild as poverty continues to push back the frontiers of hardship.
Dear Nigerian rulers, as I write, many food items are now “haram” in many households. Not haram in the religious sense but “haram” in the situational sense. Egg, meat, fish, milk, sugar are absolutely forbidden in many homes. It is even stupid to think of them. Fruits? One will be committing crime to think of fruits. Of course, it is common sense that fruit is unthinkable for one who has no sufficient means to feed himself and his family. Yam, spaghetti, bread, semovita are no go area for any pauperized salary earner who wants to maintain their sanity. Rice, and perhaps I should add grains, seems to be the only manageably approachable food item until recently. Its price, I mean that of rice, has travelled to the direction of the sky at unfathomable speed. Nothing is more scaring to a breadwinner than visiting Nigerian markets. As many are reluctant to visit graveyards, so are they reluctant to visit markets. Children! It is high time you prayed for your parents not to have heart attack as they go to market.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and Tinubu’s main opponent in last year’s election, recently advised President Tinubu to step aside if the Presidency Shoe becomes too big for him. However, I don’t think the “Emilokan Shoe” is too big for President Tinubu if he is serious about governance. The magic—solution—to Nigerian myriad problems are first and foremost transparency and accountability. For instance, what happened to the money saved from subsidy removal should be in the open. Secondly, pre-eminence of the rule of law. This will lead to the desecration of some untouchable Nigerian sacred cows who seem to be gods. Thirdly, competency and track records in appointments. One will imagine why some ministers are ministers.
Fourthly, commitment to discharge responsibilities. Malam Umar Namadi, the Jigawa State Governor seems to be committed to governing Jigawa. I hope he will be a governor; not a ruler. He made political appointees sign performance bond which he reportedly presided over by himself. By this, officials are committed to be dedicated to their jobs for which they will be assessed on quarterly and yearly basis. We have had a president in Nigeria who once he gives appointments, that is all! Your performance or lack of performance isn’t his headache. His headache is to renew your tenure if it is renewable. You do not need to do anything to merit renewal. If at all anything is expected of you, it is to be as worst as you can in office. May we not witness this kind of leadership again in our life time.
Finally, leadership by example. President Tinubu and his subordinate rulers in Nigeria should lead by example. For example, travelling abroad for medical tourism with taxpayers’ money is a display of unconscionable disdain to Nigerians who are left at the mercy of public hospitals that are undistinguished from graveyards. Our rulers should make “haram” for themselves the food items I mentioned above; to feel the pain of the masses. Thus, living by example. I know, on this last point, that I am talking nonsense. But that is how good leaders could best live by example.
These proffered solutions shall hopefully, if applied meticulously, work like magic to bring to the barest minimum, if not to an end, the general problems of insecurity, skyrocketed prices of commodities which make our markets scaring, falling value of our currency, and the big elephant (corruption).