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?
The new year, 2022, started yesterday but the question is will the new year bring new experiences for Nigerians or will it be a continuation of the old experiences? The just expired year, 2021, was a year of anguish, pain, sorrow, bloodletting and disappointment, will the new year, 2022, be different? Will Nigeria have an experience that is different from the old one or will 2022 be a repeat of 2021?
Unemployment rate was high in 2021. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rate stood at 33.3 per cent while over 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 2022 be a continuation of the 2021 experience?
According to the Brookings Institution, with over 100million of her citizens living in extreme poverty, Nigeria has the largest concentration of poor people in the world. President MuhammaduBuhari, during his Independence Day broadcast on October 1, 2021, reiterated his commitment to the promise he made at his inauguration for second term in office, which is that the government would lift 100million people out of poverty in 10 years. The president, however, failed to bring the nation to speed on the number of people his administration had lifted out of poverty since the promise was initially made in 2019. So, will he live up to his words this year? Will the number of the poor in Nigeria reduce in 2022 or will it continue to leap?
There was an attempt to turn Nigeria into a killing field in 2021 with rampaging bandits, insurgents and killer herders in the North coupled with the unrelenting arsonists, kidnappers and armed robbers in the South. All of these left tens of thousands of Nigerians in different parts of the country killed. Will the trend stop or continue in 2022.
At the decoration of newly promoted Air Force and Naval officers last Thursday, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who acknowledged that 2021 was challenging, called on the military to brace up to the task of securing the country because 2022 would be more challenging.
Will the military take up the challenge and ensure a return of tranquility to Nigeria or will the military continue to close the door after the horse has bolted? Will Nigerians be safe in their fatherland in 2022?
Another ugly incident that marked the expended year is industrial dispute which resulted in strikes. In 2021, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike and so was the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) and so were a number of other labour associations. According to the Trade Union Services and Industrial Relations (TUSIR) department of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, over 103 labour complaints were received in 2021 out of which 14 resulted in strike actions. What is clear about these strikes is that many of them could have been averted had the government officials in charge of managing labour-government relations been more proactive rather reactive.
So, will strike actions continue in 2022 or will Nigerians be spared the pains and anguish of going through series of strikes in the New Year?
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 offices 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 has 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 arsonists? It is the leaders by taking the right steps.
Who will solve the problem of strikes? It is the leaders by taking their responsibilities to all segments of the society more seriously.
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.
I wish you and yours a happy new year.
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