As we have successfully scaled through the crossroads of the old and new year, it brings out a sense of nostalgia of the year passed, of both our successes and failures. It also brings hope for the new year, starting new and making positive changes. Though you might expect a lot out of New Year’s Eve, in reality it will be like every other night.
After looking over 2015, it seems the right thing to do is to look ahead to the socioeconomic problems in 2016. A new year often brings renewed hope for individuals, nations, and humanity. Naturally, we all pray and hope for peace and prosperity.
In 2015, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan humiliated at the polls was a goner. The departure of the native son of Otueke aroused near-erotic ecstasy of Nigerians who loathed him with such intensity it's hard to think of a comparison with any democratically elected president in Nigeria.
Candidate Muhammadu Buhari didn't have the fiery oratory. To be sure, he's no Barack Obama. Buhari didn't electrify the way Obama did. But the earnestness is remarkably similar. After soaring through Nigeria's political stratosphere on the promise of killing corruption before corruption kills us, Mr. Buhari was overwhelmingly elected president.
Arguably, Mr. Buhari was the most popular and beloved leader ever elected president in the history of Nigeria. Riding on a populist agenda to fight corruption and sanitize the nation of demons of all sorts, he took office May 29, 2015 with Nigerians weeping with happiness. I can still see it vividly the smiles across the lips of Nigerian masses. It was a time of a lot of eager, nostalgic, and liberal feelings among Nigerians. The acceptance of and respect for Mr. Buhari were tellingly electrifying.
From abroad, Nigeria is now seen as a country with a bright future, piloted by a president with a zero tolerance for corruption. The most formidable problem in 2016 for President Buhari is the outsize expectations of Nigerians. Real change was Mr. Buhari's slogan. His populist agenda of fighting corruption, creating jobs, guarantee of safety and security, extermination of Boko Haram terrorists, and the hope for the realization of common dreams of all Nigerians unite the nation behind Mr. Buhari.
We don't need a fictional George Orwell to tell us that basic infrastructures are non-existent in Nigeria. Like ancient curse, the same old problems continue to haunt Nigerians. The solutions preferred so far to the old problems are laughable: For water, dig borehole. For electricity, by generator. For roads, pothole roads are good enough. For public transportation, hop on okada. For police, call on neighborhood vigilantes. For housing, sleep under Eko Bridge. For jobs, sell re-loadable phone cards. And for healthcare, don't get sick and if you're sick, die quickly!
Political reform, socioeconomic reform, and whatever other reform that have been nagging Nigeria would be the preoccupation of Mr. Buhari's administration. After years of a Jonathan regime characterized by stagnation, corruption, dysfunction, and other manufactured problems, Nigerians would expect to see some changes in 2016 that would move the country forward.
Mr. Buhari' presidency would have to bear the weight of oversize expectations of Nigerians in solving these ancient problems. The list fills pages. The deliberate slowness of Mr. Buhari wasn't for lack of political will. He simply ran into a brick wall of 16 years of corruption of PDP government and more so the Jonathan years.
It would certainly be agreed that the war on corruption should start yielding results with causalities permanently locked up in Kuje or Kirikiri federal maximum prisons. To paraphrase the Biblical parlance, kill corruption first, all other things would be made possible.
It is exciting to anticipate that the judicial and criminal justice apparatus that are being put together by Professor Itse Sagay and team to really fight corruption would finally take off so that we can have a swift and severe justice meted out to the looters of our treasury. Nigerians expect Mr. Buhari to flush out all the corrupt judges who have shown an undisguised affinity for corruption.
We expect Mr. Buhari to have a single unifying vision on economic policy. We expect him to develop the Nigerian economy and tackle unemployment. He should encourage foreign direct investment. The reform plan should be designed in such a way to save a political system, a life style, and to recover national ambition and pride. Buhari administration should introduce flurry of changes. Constraints like corruption and red tape and frustrating intimidating procedures for business registration and business start up should be scraped. Our ports should operate on maximum efficiency. Delays in clearing goods, extortion by staff, and stealing of goods should attract jail time.
To jump-start the economy, we'll need a stimulus package like Obama’s but much bigger in order to have immediate and direct impact on job creation and wages. The stimulus package should be huge in order to create millions of jobs, generate more incomes, and lift more Nigerians out of poverty. Mr. Buhari should bolster domestic industries with subsidies and tariffs. He should generate substantial confidence for domestic business in the pharmaceuticals, tourism, commodities, and tech sectors.
Nigerians expect the Buhari administration to map out a long-term plan on how to provide Nigerians with clean drinking water and improved sanitation. Nigerians are without safe drinking water and without adequate sanitation. There should be a long range plan to make running water available to households within five years. It's a shame that after 55 years of independence, Nigerians spend much of their time fetching water from boreholes, streams, and wells. Sanitation has also been neglected for years. Majority of Nigerians have no access to flush toilets. They still use shared facilities, buckets, or practice open defecation.
For goodness sake, can we expect Lagos-Ibadan expressway to be ready this year? Built in August 1978, the reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan express way has assumed a life of its own. Several contracts with different contractors have turned the reconstruction of the road into cash cow. The previous contractor – Bola Babalakin – of Bi-Courtney Highways Services Limited (BCHSL) was awarded the contract in 2009 for N86.5 billion. After three and half years without any job done, Babalakin simply cashed his check and vamoose. The 127.6-kilometer road (79.3 miles) was re-awarded to Julius Berger and Reynolds Construction Company Limited in July 2013 at a sum of N167 billion equivalent of $838.98620. Similarly, we expect other abandoned road projects in the country to be completed this year.
Nigerians look forward to seeing our education system revamped and restored to its past glory. We would like to see new hospitals built, staffed with qualified personnel and old ones modernized and equipped. Nigerians would welcome improved services in electricity. We believe the centralized police system has outlived its purpose. A decentralized police system – state police and local government police – should be seriously considered in order to fight crimes in our neighborhoods. Public housing and public transportation are two critical areas we expect the government to hit the ground running.
The economic and social landscape of Nigeria illuminates in granular raw detail of decades of neglect by every successive governments – military and civilian. It is expecting the impossible to ask Mr. Buhari to fix all of the problems in 2016.The Buhari administration needs some time to get its bearings right. If you plant fruit trees, it takes some time to bear fruits. However, 2016 should provide the launching pad.
Happy New Year!