Journalism in the service of society

Where do we go from here?

WITH the general elections around the corner, it appears that Nigerians would have to endure unnecessary hardships for a long time to come. Why are we constantly in this situation? Is it because Nigerians are resilient people? Are we born to suffer or is it that we don’t like ourselves? 

We have been putting up with petrol scarcity that will not go away since last year after all the promises that government officials made. They turned out to be empty promises – except we are able to establish a case of sabotage. President Muhammadu Buhari was forced to set up a committee to solve the problem. How bad can things get?

What of epileptic electricity supply? Some people stay for upwards of one week without light while many live in darkness permanently. If you have tried getting the new Naira notes, I’m sure you have a story to tell because the new notes are not just available or they are being rationed. After January 31, the old notes will cease to be legal tenders. There you have it.

But the same Naira notes that are scarce are being sprayed at parties – a situation that is stranger than fiction. Overall, the quality of life in Nigeria has deteriorated badly and it is precisely what Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade, who relocated to the United States two years ago, complained about in her Instagram post recently.

As far as Omotola is concerned, Nigerians do not deserve to suffer because we are intelligent and hardworking people. If you’re reading her mind correctly, what the Nollywood actress is saying in plain language is that the basic things of life – light, roads, water, petrol, schools, hospitals and security – should be available without any hassles.

I’m sure Omotola is not worrying about constant electricity supply and water to brush her teeth every morning wherever she is in the US. In a nutshell, Omotola, obviously pained and disappointed, noted that Nigerians are suffering because of egregious mismanagement of our resources.

We need petrol for our cars, buses, motor cycles, tricycles and generators. Without electricity, we cannot power our boreholes for water. It is difficult to live without water because “water is life.”

We import petrol and diesel because our refineries that gulp billions of Naira yearly are dead. Unfortunately, President Buhari did not keep his promise to remove petrol subsidy that is not sustainable. 

With a 2023 deficit budget of over N10 trillion, the Buhari administration also did not reduce the cost of governance. We are not exactly sure what volume of PMS we consume daily because we do not have reliable data.

Petrol is not free; it is a cash and carry business but it is now evident that there are saboteurs in our midst. If there is prolonged petrol scarcity, it is because some “vested interests” want it to be so.

When Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), raised the alarm recently, it did not look like a speculation or guess work; he was only telling the rest of us what we probably did not know. The saboteurs, Tinubu alleged, want to make the Buhari administration look bad – with a few weeks to the general elections.

If the APC government is unable to fix the fuel supply problem since last year with far reaching implications, why should “suffering” Nigerians vote for the same APC? This became the popular narrative that the opposition seized and promoted out of context.

Electricity supply has been at best epileptic with higher tariffs to boot! Why are the new Naira notes scarce? From the evidence before us, it is difficult to wish away Asiwaju Tinubu’s recent “Abeokuta Declaration”

It will be the second time the APC presidential candidate is speaking “truth to power” from Abeokuta, where former President Olusegun Obasanjo (Baba Iyabo) holds sway. 

When Asiwaju Tinubu felt strongly that some forces were working against his political interest last year before the presidential primaries, he launched the famous “Emi lo kan” offensive in Abeokuta. At that point, he had his back against the wall.

It is still unclear why these “vested interests” are still determined to stop Tinubu but what is now obvious is that he will not go down without a fight. The fact that Tinubu is bold and fearless is giving some power brokers sleepless nights.

Abeokuta is not exactly Tinubu’s bully pulpit but the more he tries to overcome the elite conspiracy against him, the more he is disparaged but he is gaining a lot of media exposure (top-of-mind awareness), which is actually an advantage – in spite of the mixed messages.

If we look at the presidential field of 18 candidates, there are three top contenders but only one of them will win. If Asiwaju Tinubu did not have a thick skin, he may well have dropped out of the race by now. In the history of presidential politics, I have never seen a candidate so vilified.

In his hey days, Segun Odegbami was an outstanding right winger when he played football for Nigeria. He is also an incisive and popular syndicated columnist. Just like Omotola, Segun expressed his frustration when it became obvious that he couldn’t write his weekly column due to circumstances beyond his control. 

“I’m in ‘high’ spirit this morning,” Segun wrote in a message to me last Friday, “but there’s no electricity in Abeokuta. I have been spending N30,000 on diesel every day in the past one month.”

Mind you, petrol is scarce and expensive while diesel is priced at over N830 per litre.

“There’s no fuel for the car and generator,” continued Segun who is the owner of Eagle7 Sports Radio, 103.7 FM based in Abeokuta. It looked like a bad day for Segun as the Wi-Fi in his house also refused to work.

“The ATMs are not working. I cannot make any fund transfers because the mobile banking application is not working for some reasons. 

“I cannot think of what to write about now. So I’m taking a break from my mental exercise. I gladly, but regretfully, rest my column for today – Big Seg.”

Segun’s syndicated column is published in Naija Times every Saturday but from his story, he was pained that he could not meet up with his weekly obligation as a writer and columnist.

This is the story of most Nigerians, most of whom do not have anything near the privileged access that Segun has with his wide network.

The ATMs are empty because there are no new Naira notes to dispense. I still do not understand why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been unable to solve this riddle. It is baffling except, of course, fifth columnists are at work. We should not rule out the possibility.

Where do we go from here? Nigerians want a strong leader that will point the way forward for peace, prosperity and progress so that we can end the “motion without movement” crisis forever. 

The time has come for Nigeria to reclaim its lost glory after 62 years of nationhood. It is not too late.

To make Nigeria work for everyone is not rocket science; transformational leadership for good governance is the answer. Nigerians must therefore vote wisely on February 25 because it is the chance we have to re-set our development agenda – especially in agriculture and industrialisation.

Let me repeat one of my favourite theories to encourage us in moments of despair: we cannot give up on Nigeria because we do not have any other country to call our own. 

Every Nigerian has a role to play in the task of nation building; no one should sit on the fence.

Nigeria will rise again!

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://ntm.ng)

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