From PETER OKORE, Umuahia
Nigerians have been reacting to the Independence address and 2021 Budget speech by President Buhari, insisting that the country needs a new leadership strategy and paradigm shift to overcome emerging challenges. According them, the present leadership seems to lack the vision and purpose to move the country forward.
Some Nigerians, including stakeholders, social critics, Civil Liberty and Human Rights Organisations and writers, who reacted to certain portions of the President’s addresses, identified some major obstacles to real nationhood in Nigeria and proffered solutions.
For instance, in his 60th Independence Anniversary address, President Mohammadu Buhari presented a poser to Nigerians that the sixty years of nationhood provides an opportunity to ask ourselves (Nigerians) questions on the extent to which we have sustained the aspirations of our founding fathers. Where did we do the right things? Are we on course? If not where did we stray and how can we remedy and retrace our steps?
Buhari used his Anniversary message to assure Nigerians that he has chosen the path of self-reflection because, as he put it, “at most times, I always feel the need for a collective reflection as I know that the foundation for a solid future which this administration is laying can only be sustainable if there is a collective commitment by Nigerians”.
”To make this country what we desire, we must focus our minds TOGETHER as a people, on ways of resolving the identified critical challenges that underlie our present state”.
President Muhammadu Buhari again, while presenting the 2021 Federal budget to the National Assembly last Thursday (8th October, 2020), also beamed another danger searchlight on the Nigerian economy when he declared that: ”The country was primed for a second recession in four years though the administration has put in-place plans to ensure rapid recovery in 2021”.
This is just as he re-assured of the commitment of his administration to implement programmes that would lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years.
Irked by the developments after 60 years of Nigeria’s self-rule, Senator Dino Melaye, a PDP-member of the 8th Nigerian National Assembly, representing Kogi-West senatorial district said “Nigerians need to reboot Nigeria”. Also former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose said that Nigeria has nothing to celebrate as it marks its 60th anniversary, stressing that Nigeria was currently “in coma and life-support”.
Methodist archbishop, Archdiocese of Umuahia, Rev. Chibuzo Opoko is of the opinion that Nigeria has nothing much to celebrate, except the hope that tomorrow will be better.
Speaking during an interactive session in his court in Umuahia, Bishop Opoko noted that there is no evidence of good governance in the country and lamented over the deplorable conditions of the health and education sectors as well as bad road networks across the nation.
He advised President Buhari to take concrete action on those persons and institutions sabotaging the nation’s economy and the security apparatus, stressing that leaders should not take the citizens of this country for granted. He called on Nigerians to seek the Grace of God to restore the needed peace in the country.
Engineer Nnadozie Uchegbu is the President-General of Igbo Vanguard Group in his contribution noted that Nigeria would have done better before now, if not for the decades of military interventions. He argued that although Nigeria has not reached the promised- land at the age of 60 years, because of the hiccups it passed through, yet there is hope that things will eventually turn around for good in Nigeria. He, therefore appealed to Nigerians to be patient and look unto God, who has special interest in the country.
“The armed forces left the rules of engagement (of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria against any external aggression), to take over power from armless civilians. The genesis of Nigerian problem is traceable to long military rule by coup plotters and the insatiability or self-centredness of present Nigerian politicians.”.
Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Ibeabuchi the Anglican Communion Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, identified the major problems of Nigeria to include poverty, high rate of unemployment, hunger, starvation, nepotism, breakdown of federal character and infrastructural decay, which are adversely militating against the progress of Nigeria in her 60years of existence as a nation.
He advised governments, at all levels, to intensify efforts to diversify the nation’s economy, resist the pressure for external borrowings for consumables and perishables, saying that this would make for rapid economic- growth and reduction in dependence on oil revenue.
At 60, the Anglican Bishop expressed optimism that the future would be bright for the nation, but appealed to the Federal Government to ensure equity, justice and fairness in the distribution of political appointments and employments opportunities as well as the sharing of National resources, in order to promote peace and unity among the different ethnic groups in the country.
”At sixty years of Independence, our country is still in dire need of good governance at federal, state and local government levels. We still have problems on how best to organize free, fair and credible elections in Nigerian by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. I urge all the other relevant Institutions and stakeholders in the country to come- up with robust plans to make the electoral process more transparent, free, fair and credible.
“It is regrettable that after 21 years of uninterrupted democratic practice, Nigerians still express misgivings and displeasures with the process of electing their leaders to avoid the high level of political apathy often witnessed at every election in Nigeria. There should be more transparent Democratic process, devoid of manipulations, intimidation and other election malpractices during elections in Nigeria.
The INEC should focus on developing a template that will ensure free, fair and credible election in the country to reflect the will and mandate of the people ; as enshrined under a true democracy which guarantees franchise, social justice, freedom of expression to all not minding the class differences in the society”.
Bishop Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha the President of Abia state-based privately-owned Radio Station – Vision Africa International and Co-Chair Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace and also Methodist Bishop in Umuahia, said it is a landmark achievement that the country has continued to be one indivisible entity despite multifaceted encumbrances that have constantly and continuously reared ugly heads in the quest to move forward as a nation.
He commended the efforts of founding fathers and the statesmanship exhibited by previous administrations at all levels that handed over the baton of leadership to the present administration,” who appear to be are proving unfit to handle the baton due to selfishness and greed”.
He, however, argued that though Nigeria and her democratic institutions are still ‘a work in progress’, there is need to continue to press- on and achieve the Nigeria our forefathers dreamt and pursued vigorously.
Lending his voice to the establishment of the SWATT (Special Weapons Technical Team) the Bishop stated that Nigeria cannot continue to be a nation where cases of human rights abuses are recorded on daily basis, describing the dissolution of SARS by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu as commendable, saying that SARS had derailed in its responsibilities
In a statement he personally signed and issued in Umuahia, the Co-Chair Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace also appealed to the IGP to ensure that SWATT will be made-up of men and women with good track records as well as people, who will not default in their duties, in terms of Rules of engagement; and above all, be guided by the principles of the rule of law and respect for people’s Fundamental Human Rights.
He also commended the #EndSARS protesters for peacefully conveying their grievances in an orderly manner, urging them to show such comportment in the nearest future while showing their misgivings; as violence has never helped any nation in achieving greatness.