The next few months is certainly going to be tumultuous, the storm has gathered -- an impending famine in the Agric-zone of Nigeria and, economic recession.
Governments, the world over, as a matter of policy and governance prepared a to-do list, which is a policy document that guides and directs her actions in line with fulfilling campaign promises. There could be numerous of such policies, but, fundamentally, education, national and human security, strengthening economy as well as healthcare system comes top of the list.
In Nigeria however, 5years into the APC-led government, citizens are lost on the policy directions it adopted or prioritizes. Because, choosing from a handful of priorities in government is quite difficult, but again it remains the most effective and important aspect of governance.
Undoubtedly, in governance, prioritization of policy is a pre-requisite for meaningful progress and attainment of goals and delivering on campaign promises. During the campaigns, the APC's main focus was on three key areas -- Security, Economy and fighting corruption. Five years into the administration, no end in sight, as terrorism, banditry and corruption spike to an all time high.
In governance, periodic policy reviews is an internal mechanism for a seamless running of government. Nothing is wrong for a review, or an outward cancellation, or adoption of a new policy that suits contemporary realities or challenges.
It is on this premise that, we would wish to see government review its policies, pay attention to education and security which forms the basis for societal development.
The Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, had been on a 9 month strike, which had left both parents and students in a state of uncertainty. The ASUU - FG face-off has been a recurrent yet, necessary evil since the military era, till date. Government over the years seem to deprioritize education, only giving lip service to it's importance. To underscore the significance of education in shaping any society, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, recommends for developing countries a 15-20 percent national budgetary allocation to education. Unfortunately, a meagre 5.6 percent of Nigeria's 2020 budget was allocated to the sector, which findings had shown was the lowest in about 10 years.
There's need for an improved quality of teaching, research and training in the Universities, this cannot be achieved without University recapitalization, which ASUU has been harping on.
Security challenge in the country is exacerbated by unemployment and lack of education, because, an averagely educated individual is less likely to be brain-washed and radicalized. As a matter of priority, government must review its education policy and develop a framework that will revitalize the sector.
A critical area which requires swift and rapid prioritization by government is the unending security situation in the country. At the moment, it seems Nigeria is at war, or in a state of war owing to the endless abductions, banditry and kidnappings, and terrorism especially in northern Nigeria.
Few weeks ago, 9 Assistant Superintendent of Police, ASP were abducted along Zamfara-Sokoto axis and spent weeks in captivity, there were conflicting reports about their rescue, some alluded ransom was paid, while others reported that some repentant bandits secured their release. Whichever version one sticks with, the point is, if some high ranking Police officers could be kidnapped, chances are, an ordinary citizen is unsafe. In the same period, kaduna-Abuja express way was a no-go area as armed kidnappers laid siege, abducting passengers including some ABU Students.
The state of insecurity in the North has a rippling effect on the demographics, and economy of the region. In Zamfara for instance, farmers had to pay their way to cultivating their farm produce. It is instructive to note, sometimes, security operatives are complicit in this scourge. Some pertinent questions need be asked, these bandits are not ghost, therefore not invincible, and, not entirely inaccessible. How do they establish contact with locals, and how do ransom get paid? Why not intelligently mark currency or cash (ransom money) for onward tracking of the cash flow? At least, with the aid of technology, that seem quite plausible.
It is an established fact that, the pattern of such attacks on communities is same, everywhere! Oftentimes, bandits rode on motorcycles into villages and spend hours attacking, killing, looting and setting settlements ablaze, within such period, security operatives could mobilise to the scene in record time and even seek reinforcement, but sadly, they usually turned up when the bandits are long one!
Imperatively, as a matter of policy review, government must reassess the entire security structures and pattern, especially on the knotty issues around the sack of service chiefs and other top security heads.
Prioritizing security should top this administration's agenda, atleast, for now. Because, the situation is devastating and explosive.
Only recently, a UN agency, the Food and Agricultiral Organization FAO, warned of an impending full blown famine in northern Nigeria, this according to the report was partly as a result of rising insecurity which prevents farming. Most farmers are either scared of accessing their farmlands, or presently living in IDP camps because of displacements occasioned by banditry.
Similarly, farming communities in North-central are forced to abandon their farmlands because of constant clashes with herders. Widespread distrust among these communities whom were hitherto living peacefully for centuries also affect farming. National security and, food security are a double-edged sword that could spell doom and obviously, the existential threat to the country.
Peace and security should not be wished away by any serious government, especially in the 21st century. Technology makes security more complex, yet simple, for as long as the right approach is adopted. Instead of deploying ill-equipped security personnel to key high risk areas like falgore Forest, Birnin Gwari, and bandits hideout in the hills of Zamfara and Sokoto, aerial drones like Remote Pilot Aircraft, RPA, UAVs and other sophisticated machines could do the job, effortlessly. Footage could be sent to Airforce personnel for bombardments. If government is seriously concerned about securing the country, these actions are urgently needed.
On a weekly basis across North, gory images and reports of rampaging gunmen sacking communities is prevalent. Condolences by government won't halt attacks, mere directives without actions won't either. Government must be proactive and take decisive steps before the region and the country goes up in flame.
Had government channel a fraction of the seriousness attached to politicking on security and governance, certainly, we won't be combating insecurity right now. This goes down to the states, as well. Governors of the 19 northern states, the worst hit by insecurity met in kaduna few weeks back, their most audacious concerns was taming Social Media, than insecurity! This was coming at the time kaduna- Abuja express had gain notoriety as the epicenter of kidnappings. Governments at all levels prioritize politicking and permutations ahead 2023 -- who cross-carpets from one party to another. It smacks of irresponsibility to relegate governance in the face of growing challenge for an obscure 2023!
Amidst growing security concern, Nigeria's economy had officially slid into it's second recession in 5 years. According to the NBS, the country's GDP recorded a negative growth of 3.62 percent in Q3. Many will agree, this does not come as a surprise. Infact, it has been anticipated. The outbreak of Corona virus earlier in the year, and the attendant crash in the price of Crude oil which accounts for about 80 percent of Nigeria's revenue, and 90 percent of her export earnings will certainly takes its toll on the economy which is already weakened. The warnings were there, government obviously deprioritize and downplay the magnitude of the warning.
Agriculture would have been the next cash cow had government took decisive steps in boosting the sector. Interventions by CBN-NIRSAL in the form of loans to farmers wouldn't be enough without the necessary mechanism like providing specialized or technical assistance, and training of beneficiaries. It is a known fact that, 60 percent of beneficiaries are not farmers, but mostly associates and kins of political big-wits across the divide. Regardless, some would have opted for farming had security concerns were addressed, many feared, bandits could abduct them, and demand a ransom far greater than the loan.
It is an established fact, no nation thrives in the face of insecurity and terrorism. Aside Covid-19 pandemic, what contributed largely to the current recession is insecurity. Because, national security defines the pattern of governance, there need to be security to drive home policies. Calls by policy scholars on government to prioritize security has been largely ignored.
Taking Nigeria out of recession is not feasible of insecurity is not addressed. At the moment, agriculture must come to the rescue, especially irrigation system as the farming season is over. Interventions and loans should be provided to serious farmers with proper supervision and training.
Now is the time for government to set to work -- get serious minded, and tech savvy individuals man security positions inorder to tackle and bring to an end insecurity. Such individuals are not hard to come by. The NDA should recommend its finest and best hands into such positions. In the same vein, the Defense Industry Corporation, DICON, should recruit First Class Engineering and Computer Science Graduates into it's fold, that way, they can Kickstart or engage in the process of developing weapons to tackle our immediate concerns. And who knows, we can begin the sale of such weapons to our neighbors in the West African sub region. It is plausible, atleast with the right attitude, determination and resolve. India and Brazil is a model, they achieved it, so we can.
The challenge confronting Nigeria is nothing but a temporal setback which can be mitigated with determination and the political will. If and when authorities take governance seriously, we would have long made great progress as a nation.
With barefaced and multitudes of challenges like, Insecurity, ASUU-Strike, Economic recession, and lot more, governance must be prioritize above partisan politics. If anything, the #EndSARS ought to have taught those in position of authority a great lesson which is -- growing resentment exacerbated by unemployment and hunger, and now, recession.
The next few months is certainly going to be tumultuous, the storm has gathered -- an impending famine in the Agric-zone of Nigeria and, economic recession. Whether the Captain can weather the storm and steer the ship excellently remains to be seen.
But, truth is, Nigeria is at War, but only this time, with itself. Thankfully, since we are a set of religious people, who believe in the potency of prayers, now is the time to pray, and pray to God our leaders get things right, and do what is right at the right time. Because, as it is, time is of the essence.
Abdullahi D Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University-Zaria. He writes from Kano.