New Year or elongation of old?

MY understanding of new is that it is a departure from the known, a severance from the old, a migration away from the familiar, or a voyage into the uncharted. In a nutshell, new means a change, a difference. But when the ‘new’ is not distinct from the ‘old’ is it really new? Is the ‘new’ really new when it appears as the continuation of the old?

By midnight of Tuesday, we will all be welcoming one another into a New Year but will the New Year bring new experiences for Nigerians or will it be a continuation of the old experiences? The outgoing 2019 has been a year of anguish, pain, sorrow, bloodletting and disappointment, will the ensuing 2020 be different? Will Nigeria have an experience that is different from the old one or will 2020 be a repeat of 2019?

Unemployment rate was high in 2019. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rate stood at 23.1 per cent while about 40million Nigerians are either unemployed or underemployed. Now, should we expect a reduction in the rate of unemployment in the country in the New Year or will 2020 be a continuation of the 2019 experience?

According to the Brookings Institution, with 87million of her population living in extreme poverty, Nigeria has the largest concentration of poor people in the world. President Muhammadu Buhari, at the inauguration for his second term in office, promised to lift 100million people out of poverty in 10 years. Will he live up to his words or was he just trying to be politically right? Will the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty slide in 2020 or will it continue to leap?

Although there seemed to be a lull in the activities of insurgents in 2019, this seemed to have been replaced with bandits whose activities left many people dead, many maimed and many communities devastated. There was also the seemingly unending farmers/herders clash, which, according to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Military Head of State, has resulted in the death of at least 2,500 persons and displacement of a minimum of 62,000 people in Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue states.

Will the situation be different in the New Year?

Another ugly incident that marked the outgoing year is the non-payment of salaries by state governments. With the exception of a few, many of the states in the country owe their workers salaries. The governors owe salaries, yet they pay themselves security votes on a monthly basis. The governors owe salaries, yet they go about with a long retinue of aides and a long convoy of vehicles. The governors owe salaries yet they travel abroad at the drop of a hat.

Will the governors change in 2020? Will the lot of Nigerian workers be different in the ensuing year or will it be same of the same?

The United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) in its report, Corruption in Nigeria: Patterns and Trends, released in December 2019, said 30 per cent of Nigerians either paid or were asked to pay a bribe, adding that in 2019, Nigerian bribe-payers paid an average of six bribes in 12 months, thus estimating that about 117 million bribes are paid in Nigeria on a yearly basis.

So, in Nigeria, corruption has assumed a frightening proportion. Corruption is the main business of the ruling class; it is also the preoccupation of the hoi polloi. The nation’s leaders assume they occupy public office for private gains. They create crevices that facilitate diversion of resources from government coffers to themselves and their cronies.  Almost all activities of those in leadership in the country are geared towards self-enrichment.

The nation’s refineries are not functioning optimally as a result of corruption and the country is forced to depend on imported fuel. It is corruption that killed the railway system and made most of the roads in the country impassable. Corruption supervised the interment of the education system. Corruption is also responsible for the lackluster health services in the country.

To have a different experience in the New Year, our leaders have to travel in a new direction. If they keep behaving as they have always done, nothing will change. If the leaders do what is right, the nation will turn in the right direction.

Who will scale down unemployment rate? It is the leaders by introducing the right policies.

Who will reduce the nation’s high poverty rate? It is the leaders through their prudent and creative management of human and material resources.

Who will checkmate insurgents, bandits and rampaging herdsmen? It is the leaders by taking the right steps.

Who will solve the problem of non-payment of salaries? It is the leaders by rendering selfless service and prioritizing their activities.

Who will get rid of the demon of corruption? It is the leaders by living right and enforcing the law.

Rot in a fish starts from the head and so is soundness. If the leaders will do what is right, the New Year will be the country’s new dawn.

Wishing you and yours a happy New Year in advance.

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