Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) salutes the Yoruba people and all Nigerians in general for surviving another grueling year of anguish, frustration and man-made disasters.

The year 2008 has been a testy one with virtual absence of governance, unending siege by the ever increasing army of criminals in our society, monumentallootings by those entrusted with public funds and the excruciating pains arising from the harsh realities of global financial meltdown.

Another dawn of a new year has seen the rulers of Nigeria churning out all kinds of exhortations, empty platitudes and vain promises all meant to hoodwink the people that they have their interests at heart. It is all another season of
hollow rituals.

As we step into 2009, we do not want to leave our people dejected and in a state of hopelessness but we must also not paint an unreal picture of what to expect in the New Year so that we can be fully prepared for the challenges.

2009 is going to be a tough year as it would be the harvest time for the fiscal rascality and irresponsibility of our government in the last few years.

For over 5 years, we were selling crude oil at a price we never envisaged,
hitting $147 per barrel at a point.

However in a very irresponsible way what our rulers were doing was to fix the benchmark at less than half of that. The rest they threw into a banditry account called excess crude account, which is shared between the three tiers of government and squandered without appropriation.

Now the party is over. Oil is selling for $40 and The Economist has predicted that it could hit a single digit. America and Europe are looking into alternative sources of fuel outside crude.

It would have been expected that our squander leaders would turn a new leaf and take into account the new realities, but a look at budget proposals at the federal and state levels show the continuation of the same ruinous path of over 70% in most cases devoted to recurrent expenditure. It is absurd that one of the areas the federal budget has deemed it fit to cut down is the health sector.

With many ministries not spending a Kobo on capital project in 2008 when we are receiving $147 a barrel, only God knows what will happen in 2009. The realities are quite grim.

The capital market is already in comatose; the banking sector already needs all
the prayers in the world not to enter a major crisis in 2009. Jobs are going off
daily. Manufacturing concerns are leaving Nigeria in droves to places like
Ghana. The prices of virtually every thing that makes for good living are going
out of the reach of the ordinary people.

Yet, Justice Kutigi and his brothers have said we must live with this incompetence and rudderlessness for the next two and half years. It’s a grim prospect of how long a country can run on auto-pilot in the midst of this
crisis.

With a selfish and greedy elite that values its own comfort than the well being of the people, we must brace up for more attacks on the rights and living conditions of the poor in 2009. We should also expect the ruling elites to engage in more stealing of public funds in 2009 since their own definition of security is to stash away public funds in foreign countries.

As it is, only the people of Nigeria can make the difference in 2009 by taking their destiny into their own hands.

The starting point is to begin the reclamation project by galvanizing all forces of change wherever they are scattered across Nigeria to come together and develop an agenda for change. The two years to 2011 is enough to mobilize the people to reject the current rapacious and greedy leadership that has held this nation hostage and is not ready to let go. There are no short cuts and no easy solutions.

If we do not do all that it takes to bring about the CHANGE THAT WE CAN, we may ye to see the worst in the economic and political fortunes of Nigeria.

As we say HAPPY NEW YEAR to fellow citizens of Nigeria, ARG stresses that there is an urgency of now to the tasks that face us if we truly desire prosperity.

‘Yinka Odumakin
National Publicity Secretary
Afenifere Renewal Group
www.afenifererenewal.org

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