Special Independence report: Like politics like Economy - Troubled and unstable
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One of the enduring hallmarks of quintessential leaders is the guts to take or make decisions. Regardless of what posterity throws up as aftermath of a road taken or not, a leader fulfils his first obligation to his followers when he has taken that step, around which he galvanizes his people to achieve the set objectives.  Leadership experts pontificate that the discernible feature between a strong leader and an inveterate one lies in the ability to take a stand on an issue or lack of it.

The general elections have come and gone and a new set of leaders have emerged across the country. It is still some time before the campaign anthems begin to peal through again. Until then, there are urgent and quick decisions begging for the attention of the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governors who are in league with him to govern the country for the next four years. The governors’ role comes to focus as far as the national question is concerned, based exclusively on the fact that they are members of the National Economic Council and are also statutorily members of the National Council of State, Nigeria’s highest presidential advisory body.

Election campaign promises apart, every person of cognitive age in the country knows that there are key issues at stake that must be sorted out without delay. By implication, it does not necessarily matter how the Nigerian leader may have emerged, he just has these decisions staring at him. Perhaps, the faster he tackles them, the more leg up he gives his political acceptance from the electorate.

The nagging issue of fuel shortage continues to be the sore that has refused to heal. Nigerians over time have spent more man hours keeping vigil at fuel stations than at offices where they eke a living. Reason? Subsidy…to go or not to go? It has become apparent that someone needs to confront the cartels that run the oil industry. Having started the process of dismantling them from the globally acclaimed most corrupt corporation; the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, we need to get at the other arm of this cabal. Oil and subsidy thieves must be made to cough out what they have stolen from the state. There should be no sacred cows. While it is interesting to note that those who championed the fight to stop the Jonathan-led Federal Government from removing fuel subsidy in 2011 for their own selfish agenda are the ones who are canvassing its removal now that they hold the reins of power, the truth remains that fuel subsidy must be removed if Nigeria must make progress. The oil sector must be completely deregulated. Let market forces determine the price of petroleum products. It won’t be too long before prices will stabilize as it did with the liberalization of the telecoms sector. A fund should be set up to manage all revenues accruing from subsidy removal which should be channeled into providing essential services; transportation( rail network, mass transit), healthcare, education, and more importantly, create jobs.

It must be acknowledged that the reason Nigerians have always insisted on living on fuel subsidy is our collective distrust of our leaders. For decades since independence, we have had the misfortune of having governments and a system that was not accountable to the people, a state where the commonwealth is used to feather the nest of the rich few. If Buhari and all the state governors would provide exemplary leadership across board, make personal sacrifices , cut the cost of governance  and demonstrate a near impeccable level of transparency in managing public resources, public trust would be restored.

A second leg of the probe should go to the power sector. All Nigeria’s investments in the power sector since the return to democratic rule in 1999 till date should be probed and accounted for. Monies not accounted for should be returned into the state coffers by the principal actors in the sector or they should be made to face the full wrath of the law. Breaking the steady power supply jinx holds the key to solving a chunk of the unemployment problem in Nigeria.

Another hard decision is putting structures in place to deal with impunity. Impunity is Nigeria’s major problem after corruption. The laws of the land should be given bite. If a person violates the law, even if it takes 20 or 50 years for enough evidence to nail him or her to be gathered, he should go in for it whether he is a ‘strong’ man or woman. Until we have a system where every citizen is equal before the law, Nigeria will only have cosmetic change.

Nigeria needs to take drastic measures to discourage importation of consumer goods while encouraging local manufacturing. Getting forex to import toothpick, table water and consumables should be stopped. That will help the economy better than defending the falling Naira with our foreign reserve as the CBN is doing at the moment.

Nigeria’s problems are not purely economic as many may suppose. It is all too glaring that the division along ethnic, political and religious lines is compounding the already bad situation. The last general elections divided more than it bonded us.  We need a legally-backed Reconciliation Commission to be manned by some of Nigeria’s most distinguished professionals and their decisions must be binding.

They may not necessarily replace the courts because their function should be exclusively reconciliatory. There are lots of injustices in this country that have gone unaddressed. The true path to justice begins with reconciliation. Direct Federal Government-driven massive infrastructural interventions in the North-East which Boko Haram has plundered and Niger-Delta where oil exploitation has rendered barren is a priority.

When this healing process takes root, there should be another effort to address the battered image of the Nigerian military. The years of locust, signposted by the quest of tenure survival meant that the military was very thoroughly pauperised.

Therefore, rebuilding must begin by ensuring that those victims of the military system get justice. Those who have passed on should be honoured posthumously and their families compensated. There must be a critical probe which will boldly announce that the end of impunity has come. The remains of President Thomas Sankara were recently exhumed in Burkina Faso more than 27 years after he was treacherously killed by his friend and benefactor.  We need the same here.


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