By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
As Nigeria braces up for the 2023 general elections, many personalities, mostly of the old order, with a sprinkle of very distinguished and development-focused personalities, have indicated interest to contest for the nation’s number one position- the Presidency.
However, as this angling rages, one thing stands out; with the prevailing security challenge, the harsh economic situation in the country, a state of depression (or is it a recession) that has been designed by yet-to-be-established architects, the countdown to the next general elections appears to be comical, yet laced with trepidation. Many young Nigerians who were not of age in 2015/2019 will get the chance to vote for the first time, while those who voted last time will want to activate their dreams in another call for change; this time for the better.
After seven years of unfulfilled change/next level, the electorate, mostly the youths, should be excused if they enter 2023 with a new dream on their minds, and head to the polls with a different mentality from what they had in 2019. The new orientation would be shaped by recent fiscal, sociological, political and communal happenings in the country; coupled with the pockets of ethnoreligious upheavals and misgivings from one region against another or powerful personalities against each other.
It can, therefore, also be safely deduced that many different strata, sectors, and sections of the country will be looking up to 2023 as a year to settle various scores – both idealistically and holistically.
Recently, the talk has been about making a point and calling for a change to the current dispensation through mild aggression, in the form of protests, rallies, sit-at-home and heated public comments.
Though 2023 will again accord Nigerians the chance to make a change through a legitimate and democratic means, tension is already up and has again heightened by the realization that the nation is still being governed by people who do not feel the pinch the common man is made to endure, or that the leaders have simply chosen to be compassionate by proxy.
Consequently, the political leaders have fractured our nation’s geography into polarised ethnosyncrasies and idiosyncrasies, all of which have led to agitations of different sorts and capacities. These have disjointed the amalgams of the country and made the nation that was once called The Giant of Africa now be referred to by friends and foes as a wobbling tripod.
Also, these developments have made 2023 a year with history in that it’s a year of elections, a year for another session of politicking when elections into various offices from the presidency down to the state Houses of Assembly are billed to hold. Most importantly, 2019 is bound to be a year in which the people’s actions and decisions will shape their political destiny and determine their socioeconomic future.
Obviously, that year will be pregnant with high hopes and has equally necessitated the need for electorates to develop an objectified oneness as well as an action plan that will aid them in taking whole. It’s a year for the masses and youths, in particular, to team up and fight the common enemy called bad leadership and its proponents. If the masses can achieve these, every other thing including restructuring shall be added unto it.
This role is pivotal because the strength of a nation is a direct result of the strength of its leaders. Everything rises and falls on leadership. This remark is visibly evident in the qualities of leaders the nation has unfortunately blessed herself with since May 1999. The result of these political miscalculations led us to rhizomes of excuses, thereby turning the country into a nation of narrative rather than action. The score cards of the present crop of leaders have visibly advertised them as being clueless, lacking in creativity and outright lack of propensity to perform.
To exit this vicious circle of mal-performance, people need reprogramming of their mindset as once the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. To make the reorientation work, early preparation is key as once remarked he that arrives first and takes a position is at ease while he that arrives late labours.
Conventionally, 2023 may be far but viewed from political pragmatism, it is just a stone’s throw. So, this is the time for the citizens to start asking solution-providing questions as well as performing the agenda-setting roles. This is not the time to start waiting for the visitors called politicians whose visits occur once in four years and that are the electioneering period. Also, the masses have in recent elections voted based on vanity without recourse to their consciences.
The worrying side of this narrative is that this is a nation filled with a people that predominantly practice religiosity signposted with symbolism but completely bankrupt in spirituality. This attribute has always given them away without resistance to their nefarious politicians who know how to buy their consciences with paltry sums and in the end, leave them to suffer protracted neglect for four years.
This has played out for over two decades.
To, therefore, arrive at the Nigeria of our dreams, this is time to say no to this illicit incentivizing by these politicians now that the nation prepares for another round of political ultimate search come 2023. Voting based on pecuniary inducement or stomach infrastructure should be discouraged.
To make 2023 bear the anticipated political result as proposed, the people need the moral force to activate a shift in paradigm. Part of this needed strategy is the admission of the youths into their political school and calculations. The youths have watched for too long the political drama involving their nation from the political gallery.
It is time for political apprenticeship for our youths. Supporting the constitutional amendment which we hope will open the window of opportunities with the not too young to run bill waiting before our parliament should be considered as the right step in the right direction as their involvement will help soak up the mal-performance flood created by cluelessness. We have to brace up with trends as it unfolds on the world stage.
Again, enthroning upright personalities as our leaders is important as leadership is about vision and is also about creating a climate where the truth is heard and brutal force is confronted. My imagination tells me that all we have been having were not leaders but sets of opportunists that appear from the political moon, fed us with what we want to hear, win the election and that ends the political oratory and relationship till the next election year.
We obviously need to take this step as we have previously seen some of our elected officers become the reality to worry about as they became visibly determined to work across purpose with us while some of them consumed by the vertical pursuit of self-aggrandizement. Allowing this trend and expecting a different result is tantamount to insanity. For us, as a people, to break out from this vicious circle of worries and poverty, the time to cause a real change is now.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374
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By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Acting on the strength of the current political tempo (or is it temperatures) in the country which encourages all to obtain their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), I took a trip to one of the government buildings in Lagos venue of the programme.
The venue was filled to capacity and dotted with all manners of Nigerians of the major ethnic groups. I met with courageous Nigerians and came across Nigerian youths, mostly boys with a sprinkle of girls, who have met resistance from their own government in the past but refused to give up in their quest to build a better Nigeria.
But of all that I heard/observed, the ‘gathering’ acknowledged what has been on the mind of Nigerians, they explained that their decision to actively participate in this electoral process was not taken hastily or rashly but because there is little hope for us until they become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance.
As any nation that produces soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual and socio-economic death at instalment plan, they essentially demonstrated a strong conviction that no discrimination, justice and fairness are the foundations for peace, unity, stability and economic prosperity of any nation.
And further asserted that building a nation where all citizens of the country shall not be discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, birth or other status is possible.
As I listen to these youthful Nigerians paint a gory picture of the situation in the country, I recall how the Justice Development and Peace Centre (JDPC), Catholic Archdiocese Of Lagos, a while ago, during a press briefing gave a similar account about our nation.
On that day, at that time and in that place, the group among other concerns noted that the greatest and immediate danger to the survival of the Nigerian state today is the unwarranted, senseless, premeditated, well organized and orchestrated killings across the country-from Benue to the Plateau, Taraba to Zamfara, Enugu to Ebonyi, Kogi to Edo, Ekiti to Ondo, where Nigerians are cut down at will, babies ripped from their mothers’ wombs, houses destroyed and burnt down, particularly when all the time the killers are never apprehended, even when they make self-implicating statements about such killings.
The country’s economy, the Group added, has shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land (80 per cent of Nigerians are living on less than two dollars per day – according to the African Development Bank (AFDB) 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook). Nigeria is ranked among the poorest countries in the world. Sadly, according to a report from Brookings Institute, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor in early 2018 in the world. At the end of May 2018, Brookings Institute’s trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute.
In Education, 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the highest in the world. Our industries continue to bear the brunt of a negative economic environment. As a result, job losses and unemployment continue to skyrocket, creating a serious case of social dislocation for the vast majority of our people.
The running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution which stipulates forcefully that the commanding heights of the economy must not be concentrated in the hands of a few people. The continuous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programs by politicians and their collaborators are deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
On social issues, let’s listen to the Group; Life in Nigeria, quoting Thomas Hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short. Nigerians have never had it so bad. Indeed, while Nigerians diminish socially and economically, the privileged political class continues to flourish in obscene splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will. This malfeasance at all levels of governance has led to the destruction of social infrastructure relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people. Adequate investment in this area, it has been shown, is clearly not the priority of those in power.
As a result, our hospitals whether state-owned or federal owned have become veritable death centres where people go to die rather than to be healed. The absence of basic items such as hand gloves and masks is indicative of the level of decadence and rot in the country’s health National Budget recommended by the United Nations.
With regards to the criminal justice system, our people, especially the poor and vulnerable continue to suffer unprecedented acts of intimidation and violation of rights at the hands of security agencies across the country. Extra judicial killings, lack of scientific-based investigation of crimes and corruption in the judiciary contribute to acts of injustice against the innocent. Our prisons have become places where prisoners are hardened rather than places of reformation of prisoners for reintegration back into society.
Also, Nigerian workers have faced unprecedented hardship over the years as governments across the nation continue to deprive them of legitimately earned salaries and pensions. It is quite unfortunate that as a Nation we are still debating minimum wage, and not even living wage, especially in a country where every commodity has skyrocketed save the monthly take-home of workers. And we supposedly have “leaders” who claim to have the interest of the masses at heart. Tell me another lie!!!
As to the solution to these challenges, JDPC succulently puts it this way; surely, leadership holds the key to unlocking the transformation question in Nigeria, but to sustain this drive leaders must carry certain genes and attributes that are representative of this order. They expressed the belief that only a sincere and selfless leader and a politically and economically restructured polity brought about by national consensus can unleash the social and economic forces that can ensure the total transformation of the country and propel her to true greatness.
This will help to ensure that there is the provision of adequate social infrastructure such as genuine poverty alleviation programmes and policies, healthcare, education, job provision, massive industrialization, and electricity provision to mention a few. It is critical to jettison this present socio-economic system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation and socially excluded the vast majority of our people. The only way this can be done is to work to build a new social and political order that can mobilize the people around common interests, with visionary leadership to drive this venture. Only then can we truly begin to resolve some of the socio-economic contradictions afflicting the nation. This is the pathway to true, genuine and lasting peace.
For us to achieve this as a nation, this piece holds the opinion that the first step to take is for all Nigerians to cap themselves with Permanent Voters Card!!!!
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via email@example.com/08032725374
We are experiencing tough economic times in Nigeria and around the world. The cost of food and other essential commodities has skyrocketed, meaning that most of us will have to adjust our lifestyles accordingly in order to live somewhat comfortably.
As we hope for things to get better, here are five suggestions on how to save money at home.
Start by listing all your monthly expenses, such as rent, food and groceries, transport, airtime, power, water, personal upkeep, and so on. Analyse each item critically, as this will paint a clearer picture of your spending habits and give you an indication of what you can cut back on and what you can do without entirely.
Memberships and subscriptions are loopholes for spending money unnecessarily because people tend to pay and not utilise these services accordingly. Check how you use your monthly TV subscriptions or gym memberships, and consider cancelling them if they are hardly used or switching to less expensive packages that suit your needs. Upgrade when necessary or over the holidays when you have more time to spare. The same applies to internet services as well.
Take the time to identify multiple service providers and retailers for price comparisons. Doing this will help you settle on cheaper or more affordable alternatives to fit your budget. Another cost-saving tip is to consider bulk buying non-perishable items, which is becoming increasingly popular in Nigeria as more people move towards bulk shopping from wholesalers. If you live alone and are concerned about the quantity of the goods, pair up with someone else and split the items with them.
Don’t shy away from signing up for reward programmes commonly referred to as “points” offered by local supermarkets. They always come in handy when you have stretched your budget, and you can use them to top up the difference. Keep an eye out for daily or weekly bargains on household items frequently advertised by supermarket chains.
Also, start planning your meals on a weekly or monthly basis. A meal plan guides you when grocery shopping, helping reduce food wastage because you only buy what you need for the meals. This is especially true of groceries, which we are all guilty of purchasing in excess from time to time.
Releasing your live-in housekeeper and scheduling a domestic worker from SweepSouth Connect to come in once or twice a week to clean your home is a viable cost-cutting approach if you live alone, have older children, or other adults staying with you. Assign the remaining light responsibilities to the rest of the household.
“Security and safety are important to us, and all our staff go through thorough vetting before enlisting their services,” says Awazi Angbalaga, Country Manager for SweepSouth Connect Nigeria, an on-demand online home cleaning service platform that connects people with trusted domestic professionals. “We understand the need to have someone trustworthy in your home. Once you’ve given instructions, allow them to carry out their tasks with the confidence that the cleaning will be completed to the utmost standards,” says Angbalaga.
“Getting in a cleaner to help you with time-intensive chores like windows, cleaning kitchen cabinets, the fridge and oven, so that your house looks sparkly clean, frees you up to be able to spend time on other responsibilities you may have,” she adds.
For homes with two housekeepers, consider letting one go if you can no longer afford both and hire help as and when the need arises.
Electricity is one of the most costly but necessary household expenses. Switch from the ‘normal’ light bulbs known as incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs as they are more energy-efficient and last longer. Carefully select and use the most energy-efficient settings on your washing machine and run it only once or twice during the week. If you have a dryer, rather hang your clothes outside to dry. Layer up, whether inside or outside the house, to keep warm so that you won’t have to use heaters unnecessarily.
Other small tips, like ensuring the lights are off when not needed, and taking shorter showers go a long way. Cooking in bulk and freezing the food saves gas and time. It also comes in handy on days when you can’t cook for one reason or another, and then you have ready-to-go meals.
We all like to enjoy the little joys and comforts that life offers. However, when tough times call, we should be ready to scale down on these luxuries.
Reduce the number of times you eat out or buy take-outs in a month. It will save you more money and is also a healthier option for you in the long run. Carpool to work or other engagements with a friend or relative who lives in or around your neighbourhood. Share the cost of fuel or alternate cars every week. Examine how much you spend on grooming each month, and do what you can at home.
There are many ways one can cut costs on the home front. However, for this exercise to be successful, honesty with oneself is required to make an informed judgement when making the necessary changes. If you struggle to be honest with yourself or you need assistance, consider engaging a financial planner to help you shift your focus to the right things, put your money into perspective, and give you sound advice.
By Michael Owhoko, PhD
In the absence of an 11th-hour miracle, when an assessment of the performance of the executive arm of government will be carried out on May 29 next year, using the economy, security and corruption as indices, President Muhammadu Buhari may likely go down as a failed President.
If this happened, the legislative organ of government should largely be blamed. Firstly, for failing to invoke the doctrine of checks and balances to ensure the President discharges his statutory obligations in line with national interest and aspirations; secondly, for failing to halt breach of federal character principle by the President; and thirdly, for failing to interrogate the executive for sliding economic indices, worsening corruption, rising insecurity, capital flight, mounting loans, multiple tax burden, unemployment, and decaying infrastructure, including poor electricity and education.
For these flops, the 9th National Assembly is an accessory to the current woes of the country and cannot be absolved. The legislature is the second organ of government, free and independent from the control of the executive, yet, the lawmakers have made it an extension and apron string of the President.
Signs that the 9th National Assembly will be a weakling and lacking a mind of its own emerged when the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said “any request that comes from Mr President is a request that will make Nigeria a better place” and would, therefore, expeditiously ensure passage of legislation therefrom.
I am almost certain that even the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), whom Lawan was receiving at the time he made this remark, might be shocked at the statement.
With this declaration by the Senate President and head of the parliament, the legislature has violated the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances as enunciated by French philosopher, Charles Baron Montesquieu, in his book, The Spirit of Law.
The intention of Montesquieu was the need to separate the three organs of government, namely, the executive, legislature and judiciary, to enable each arm to serve as a check on the other to ensure equilibrium.
It is aimed at protecting their respective liberty and preventing any organ of government from becoming too powerful as to transmute into tyranny and authoritarianism. The doctrine has become a template for good governance and a global reference for the protection and advancement of egalitarianism. It forms part of the constitution in countries where democracy is practised.
For undermining this doctrine, Lawan has not only sacrificed the trust of the people on the altar of self-aggrandizement but projected President Buhari as an all-knowing and omniscient President who can do no wrong and whose intellectual capacity is beyond the competence of the Senate and House of Representatives combined.
Besides, the National Assembly has encouraged the creation and emergence of an all-powerful President with uninhibited liberty to go off course at will even on matters of national interest.
For example, the federal character principle as contained in the 1999 Constitution is breached with impunity by President Buhari and despite criticisms, has shown no remorse.
Section 14, Sub-section 3 of the 1999 Constitution says that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
The Buhari administration has done exactly the opposite. All key national appointments contravene Section 14, Sub-section 3 as evidently reflected in the dominance of people from the north, particularly, from the Fulani ethnic group. Yet, the Senate sees nothing wrong with this imbalance as long as it originates from the President. By this, the President has promoted what the constitution intended to avoid – disunity and national disloyalty.
All key and juicy ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs), including security agencies, are headed and firmly in the hands of northerners just as all three organs of government were headed by northerners up till a few weeks ago when Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad resigned as Chief Justice of Nigeria, paving the way for the most senior justice, Olukayode Ariwoola, a southerner, in an acting capacity.
It is a small wonder, therefore, that Nigeria is currently plagued by disunity, disloyalty and suspicion induced by disenchantment arising from the dominance of the Northern region over other sections. This is an aberration for a country that is made up of different ethnic nationalities, which have agreed to come together under a federation of equal partners, anchored on sincerity, equity and justice, particularly in matters pertaining to appointments and distribution of resources.
In advanced democracies, the Senate would have compelled the President to reverse such appointments to reflect the federal character or face impeachment. But the National Assembly lacks the courage to reject Buhari’s nominees or even initiate an impeachment threat, obviously, for fear of Executive intimidation.
Put differently, despite the dangers posed to the unity of the country by this constitutional contravention, the Senate has seen no reason to veto the President’s nominees despite backlash concerns and fear of disunity and national disloyalty as envisaged by the Constitution.
When a country deliberately closes its doors against other sections and ethnic groups just to achieve ethnic dominance, unwittingly, misses the contributions of intelligent and bright minds from the neglected areas to national development. That the country has been on a downward swing in the last seven years is the price of nepotism.
Ironically, those who have been favoured by this structural abnormality do not see anything wrong with it, even within the context of the constitution. They keep blind eyes, reminding others that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. This is an illusion. Attaining peace in the face of obvious mismanagement of diversities and dishonest policies is a tall order.
From the demeanour of NASS, the lawmakers are overwhelmed by subservient corporatism and loss of liberty. This has eroded its influence and degraded the premium placed on it by the executive. This is evident during NASS committee meetings where some ministers, including senior officials of the executive flagrantly snub summons, particularly during budget review sessions by the Committee on Finance and Appropriation.
Yet, these same ministers and senior officials are the first to raise grounds for further amendments after budgets have been transmitted to the President, leading in some cases, to delay in the passage of the country’s national budget.
Unfortunately, the judiciary is also unable to invoke the doctrine of checks and balances as it appears not to have recovered from the intimidation it suffered at the hands of the executive when operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) in 2016 raided the homes of some federal judges, including serving Supreme Court justices.
Perhaps, if the lawmakers were courageous enough and the judiciary lives up to its billings to restrain the President appropriately, the executive would have been shaped up.
Calls for federalism, and the emergence of separatist movements in Nigeria are symptoms of national discontent. When the majority of people are not happy owing to the domination of one ethnic group or section over others, coupled with rising insecurity and a worsening economy, implies that the government is inefficient.
An efficient government is one that is able to provide “the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people”. This is a measurement performance tool developed by English philosopher and jurist, Jeremy Bentham, which world researchers and political scientists deploy to assess governments globally.
Since NASS has abdicated its autonomy and authority, who then can challenge the executive over breaches of federal character principle and other statutory obligations, including economy and security management? If Chief Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory were alive, no doubt would have instituted litigation.
NASS appears not to understand the essence of Montesquieu’s theory. Therefore, it will do the country well for lawmakers to take basic courses in Political Science during their training at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies.
As it stands, what legacy will the 9th National Assembly under the chairmanship of Ahmad Lawal be leaving as the lawmakers vacate office less than a year from now? Certainly, they cannot be divorced from the performance of the Buhari administration when the scorecard is evaluated on May 29, 2023.
Dr Mike Owhoko, a Lagos-based journalist and author, can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com.
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