Nigerians celebrated 18 years of uninterrupted democracy and the first two years of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration on Monday. The occasion afforded the people the opportunity to assess their journey so far on Democracy Highway, and to interrogate how well Buhari has been able to actualise the change agenda that brought him into office two years ago.
To say that Buhari’s first two years in office have been a bed of roses for Nigerians will not be right. But then, they could hardly have been, given the rot he inherited from the country’s past lacklustre leaderships. His two years in office have been characterised by pains and gains. While the president and the nation made key gains in the anti-corruption fight by reducing the brazen looting of the national treasury; improved security in the North-East of the country with its degradation of Boko Haram’s capacity to willfully hold the country to ransom; rescued more of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls and brought some orderliness and discipline into government finances with the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), many other problems, especially those relating to the economic wellbeing of the nation, are questioning its ability to improve the lives of the people. Problems such as the crash in the price of crude oil in the international market and the subsequent crash in the exchange rate of the naira to other international currencies are making nonsense of the government’s efforts to positively impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
This is because the people assess the government based on the improvements that they experience in their personal daily lives, and not any high-fallutin claims on the achievements of the government.
This is why, to ordinary Nigerians, the reports on the good policies that are being put in place to change the story of the people for the better cannot make as much an impact as the actual reduction in the prices of bread, gari and cooking oil in the market.
The yardstick by which the people measure the impact of the government includes how easily, and at what prices they are able to access food, education, health services etc. The people also care greatly about the regularity of electricity supply, as this affects how they are about to perform in their individual businesses. They care about the dilapidation of their roads and the cost of transportation to and from their workplaces and their hometowns.
Unfortunately, as much as the government is mindful of these things, it is yet to begin to talk to many Nigerians in the language that they understand. What appears to be going on most of the time, and especially at this time of the president’s half-term, is the tendency of the government to insist that it is making a huge positive impact on the lives of the people, even when some people believe otherwise.
Instead of appeals for understanding on the gargantuan problems of the country and its onerous efforts to address them, what we witness most times is the government and its arrowheads talking down to the people in a way to suggest that they are blind not to see the huge differences in their lives since the coming on board of this administration. But then, do we really need anyone to tell a man that he has eaten and is already beleful, when he can feel the pangs of hunger in his stomach? Things are quiet difficult for many people in the country today. Many can hardly feed and meet their other basic needs. Jobs are few and far between, even though the government is really trying to address these problems with different schemes such as the N-power scheme. Efforts are being made on roads and on electricity supply, but the effects are yet to be widely felt as the efforts are still mostly works in progress.
Certain sectors, such as education and health, are yet to get the necessary attention. Both sectors are still poorly funded while housing delivery is still at the promises stage. The cost of drugs has increased astronomically not only because of the high exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, but also because of certain policies that have increased the duty payable on imported drugs. There are many plans for the railway sector. What all these plans suggest is that there are better days ahead for Nigerians.
But then, the onus rests on the government and its operatives to communicate these plans, their constraints and the plans for overcoming them to the people, and not talk down at them or assume that they are just noisemakers who are out to discredit the government.
This is no time for tough-talking from the Federal Government, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and any of the state governments. It is not time for the government to boast of its many achievements, but to entreat the beleaguered citizens, respectfully telling them its achievements, constraints and the efforts being made to overcome them. The spokesmen of the government and the ruling party will do well to note these points, because many people are truly going through hard times, and can do with some soothing words, and not harsh ones, as is fast becoming the norm now. There should less of back-patting for a job well done. Instead, what is required is a sober engagement with the people on the serious challenges confronting the government and the efforts to tackle them, coupled with a sincere promise of a fresh resolve to overcome them.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo asked Nigerians on Democracy Day to stop the blame game and contribute their quota to national development. That advice will also serve the government well. The time has come for everyone to stop trading blames. This is the time for government to assuage the people, proffer solutions to their problems and put the economy back on an even keel. The Acting President called for sacrifices, which is good. But, coming at a time that many people feel that their waists have virtually disappeared on account of incessant belt-tightening and other sacrifices, that message appears not to be resonating very well with some Nigerians.
But then, as Osinbajo said, sacrifice is something that we all must make to have a better nation. Sacrifice, and a deep love of the country that transcends political, religious and ethnic affiliations. As Nigeria celebrates 18 years of democracy and Buhari’s mid-term, let there be less chest-thumping by the government and less antagonism from the people. Let all hands be on deck to move the country forward so that the country’s 19th Democracy Day on May 29, 2018, can hold out more to cheer for everyone.