Payment of the new minimum wage, peaceful co-existence, free and fair elections and love for one another are some of the desires of many for 2019.
Today is January 2, 2019. And for many, the beginning of a new year usually comes with enthusiasm and high expectations.
Each year, individuals draw long lists of resolutions of what to embrace and discard. Many others, on New Year eve, throng various religious centres to pray fervently as they cross over to the fresh year. There is usually the renewal of hope by the citizenry and expression of the determination to work harder and smarter to conquer foreseen and unforeseen obstacles ahead.
Nigerians who spoke with Daily Sun said there was the need to change the narrative on Nigeria’s deplorable economy, high rate of unemployment, low gross domestic product (GDP) and epileptic power supply in many parts of the country. Payment of the proposed N30,000 new minimum wage, peaceful co-existence, free and fair elections and love for one another are some of the desires of many for 2019.
Some Nigerians expressed the belief that the country would experience an improvement in some of the critical sectors of the economy, while others claimed that things would remain the same.
A financial analyst in Lagos, Mr. Anayo Ezugwu, believes that this year will be a defining moment for the country, especially as the general election will be taking place in a few weeks’ time.
He urged those in authority to quickly address the poverty in the land. He said the ruling class was capitalising on the people’s abject poverty to manipulate and further impoverish them, particularly during the elections.
“The year 2019 will be a defining moment for Nigeria and Nigerians. The reason is that the economy is not looking good and might worsen after the general election. Billions of naira will be spent unnecessarily for campaigns, lobbying and the rest. Several indices and predictions suggest that the economy might slide into recession in 2019.
“On the political front, it is also not looking good for us as a country. We are faced with two options, and neither of the two can solve the current challenges bedevilling the nation. And we must choose one in February. My problem is that the outcome of the presidential election might not be the true reflection of our votes. Vote-buying may decide the elections at all levels.
“In the area of security, there might be post-election violence in some parts of the country. I think the security agencies must live above board for us to have violence-free elections. Again, the issues of Boko Haram, herdsmen’s attacks and banditry will definitely continue in 2019,” Ezugwu said.
To achieve peaceful co-existence, an Abuja-based motivational speaker, Mr. Desmond Ogudu, canvassed genuine forgiveness for all Nigerians, irrespective of tribal or religious affiliations.
He recalled that, before Nelson Mandela left prison, he dropped his pain, anger and bitterness there. He stated that self-imprisonment was worse than that which is imposed. He said many people had inflicted unnecessary pain on themselves, locking themselves within the walls of anger and bitterness due to lack of forgiveness.
“Holding grudges does not make you strong; it makes you bitter. Forgiveness does not make you weak; it sets you free,” he said.
Quoting Myles Munroe in The Power of Character in Leadership, Ogudu said the most valuable component of leadership is not power, position, influence, notoriety, fame, talent, gifting, dynamic oratory, persuasiveness or intellectual superiority, but character.
The evangelist said everyone striving to make positive difference in leadership positions this year must wear the garment of character and selfless service, noting that every person is born to lead in one capacity or the other.
He said, “Character is the most powerful force a leader can cultivate because it protects leadership. It will enable you to be a success, personally and professionally, as you carry out your purpose, vision and goals in life.”
Comrade Felix Osagie said the ailing economy and ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), among others, deserve special attention in the new year.
On the economy, he said: “Although I am not an economist, it is crystal clear that our economy is ailing. This is as a result of weak performance occasioned by over-dependence on oil, poor planning and inconsistent government economic policies. Hence, in 2019, I expect government to take deliberate steps to truly diversify the economy. It needs to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that will be devoid of politics, create enabling environment for foreign investment to thrive, proper economy planning and execution, and increase government spending on capital projects in order to pull the country out of the current economic conundrum.
“However, the political uncertainty ahead of February’s elections is casting a cloud on the country’s economic policies.
“I expect free, fair and credible elections in 2019. The ruling party and the electoral umpire must guarantee Nigerians and the world that they are committed to having credible elections. President Muhammadu Buhari should demonstrate this by signing the 2018 Electoral Bill into law.
“For peaceful co-existence among Nigerians, we all have a role to play. We have experienced too much ethnic and religious intolerance. It is high time we learned to tolerate ourselves, appreciate our weaknesses and strengths, be our brother’s keeper and co-exist peacefully, irrespective of our ethnic and religious inclinations.
“It is pathetic that some governors are averse to the payment of the proposed minimum wage. There is no state in Nigeria that cannot pay N30,000 as minimum wage. It is sheer callousness for any governor to think he cannot afford it. I call on Buhari to send the proposal to the National Assembly without further ado as organised labour will not hesitate to shut down the country beginning from January 8, 2019 if he fails to do the needful. The federal government should also listen to the voice of reason and look into the plights of ASUU,” he said.
An Islamic scholar, Abdul Kabeer Raji, on his part, said: “I expect a bouncing economy in which both the young and old will have jobs to do. There should be enough food for all, and decent shelter.
“We want free and fair elections, religious tolerance, respect for one another and enduring peace across the land.
“Prophet Muhammad said, ‘none of you is a true believer until you like for others what you like for yourself.’ Let’s live in peace and make our country great again. Nobody will build our country for us except you and I decide to do so,” Raji said.
Lagos-based journalist, Mr. Gabriel Olawale, declared that “There will be no significant improvement as regards the economy, but money will be in circulation. I am sure the election will be free and
fair because of many reasons. The world is watching and interested in the process too. Although there will be little protest and dissatisfaction on the outcome, but Nigerians will move on.
“Our peaceful co-existence is non- negotiable. It is only when it comes to elections and appointments that people begin to play ethnic and religious sentiments. But no buyer asks which state the orange, carrot or palm oil came from before they are purchased in the market.”
Chartered accountant and former chairman, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Lagos Mainland, Mr. Cyprian Nwuya, was particularly interested in the 2019 budget implementation.
He called for the quick release of funds to different ministries and agencies and charged the parastatals to utilise the money effectively: “For long, we have placed so much emphasis on recurrent expenditure. No nation can truly develop with this kind of practice. The narrative must change and the people must feel the impact of true governance.”
A teacher in a Lagos public school, Mrs. Abigail Ugochukwu, said the war against terror in the northern part of the country needed to be fought to the finish.
“Nigeria must be secure because it belongs to all of us. Whatever affects one region directly or indirectly affects other parts of the country. The war is still on in the North East and people, including security men, are being killed. These are our brothers and sisters.
“This is one of the reasons some policemen who were deployed to fight the insurgents absconded. Their action might be wrong and condemnable, but it is a wakeup call to the authorities to better equip the security personnel and improve their welfare, especially those sent to the warfront,” she said.
Mr. Daniel Olugbile called for the return of a more united Nigeria that once existed. He regretted that the country had been polarised and divided along ethnic and religious lines, with people spewing ethnic hate at the slightest provocation.
“I also want Buhari to continue to fight corruption despite what people might be saying. Corruption had over the years done serious harm to all the sectors. But he must fight it genuinely, without being biased. When it is seen as a political witch-hunt, then the people should not be blamed for castigating the President.
“Something should be done about vote-buying. Those promoting it should be exposed and prosecuted because it is very embarrassing. If this is not checked as soon as possible, it might become a monster in Nigeria’s political journey,” Olugbile said.
Ohanwe Emmanuel Ikechukwu, a political analyst and former Students Union president, Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE), Effurun, Delta State, and convener of Rising African Ambassadors Initiative, said all hands must be on deck to ensure that the spill-over of 2018 are conquered in 2019.
He criticised Nigeria’s rising debt profile, saying that it was worrisome to get to that level after the country’s debt was pardoned during the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo. Although he said it was the responsibility of government to service debts, he submitted that it becomes a burden when a nation now borrows to fund budgets, thereby running a huge budget deficit.
“I strongly recommend that we look at the indicators of the GDP such as the public consumption, business investments, government spending and export-import difference and make adjustments that will place us in a two to four per cent healthy growth rate zone as recommended by economists.
“Our ease of doing trade is commendable, but more work has to be done. Our power sector is a major inhibitor. A total of between 4,000 and 7,000 mega watts is not acceptable for a population of about 200 million people.
“There will be major elections in February. We must understand that no man’s interest is worth the blood of any Nigerian as propagated by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari should also, as a matter of urgency, sign the Electoral Act passed by the National Assembly.
“In 2019, we should watch the inflation rate. We have had lots of ghost infrastructural budgets in the past with no remarkable economical shift. Let’s add value to our human capital. Let’s save Africa by saving Nigeria,” he advised.
Former chairman of Inner Wheel District 911, Lagos and Ogun states, Mrs. Nkiruka Ebo, expressed hope that 2019 would be better than 2018.
“The incumbent government means well for Nigerians, though things have not worked out fine as expected. However, with determination, they could do better in the few years ahead. The enormity of the problems they inherited is overwhelming. Nigerians must not forget that this government spent the first four years grappling with these problems.
“We have environmental issues, lack of necessary social amenities, bad roads and poor transportation system, the perennial issue of poor electricity supply, insecurity and many other woes plaguing our country.
“Although, as a developing nation, she has all the potential that should have launched her into the status of developed nation, various leaders in the past, politicians and military men, placed Nigeria in the market place and sold her for a penny without a conscience.
“However, we have hope. The anomaly within the system of things cannot continue indefinitely. There would be a reversal in 2019, by His grace and conscious efforts by those in the helms of affairs.
“We need improvement in the health sector and other areas too. There should be an end to corruption. Something revolutionary should be done to rejuvenate the energy and education sectors, fight poverty and social injustices, and other challenges.
“On security, Nigeria should develop an improved system of community policing so that Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed,” Ebo said.