Nigerians are fond of expecting others, minus themselves to change, even when the Bible teaches us to change first before changing others. That is why I agree with President Muhammad Buhari and my oga, Lai Mohammed, whose ministry initiated the new national orientation slogan, change begins with me. I only hope it will not end up a mere sloganeering, like the many others before it.
Poor President Buhari. I am not sure his followers are on the same page with him. Otherwise, how could Boko Haram suddenly emerge on the political scene of Edo State to necessitate the postponement of Saturday’s gubernatorial election? Instinct tells me the APC government at both centre and state may actually be this Boko Haram, having seen the looming change of guards that would not favour them. Considering Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s kokoma and acrobatic gyrations during campaigns, one would never have anticipated such morbid fear of losing the elections. It is saddening that security apparatus could be so suspiciously manipulated to arm-twist ‘inconclusive’ INEC to shift the poll by refusing to escort electoral officials to their beats. Change begins when our political leaders change and our security chiefs refuse to be willing tools to subvert the people’s will.
We all pray for a change of status in the volatile Niger Delta region. However, much as it is the duty of government to secure lives and property in the region from activities of bandits, government must also be wary not to throw away the baby and the bath water. The Niger Delta affair is like a stubborn fly, perching dangerously on one’s scrotum; how to drive it away without hurting that power base is a challenge.
I agree that there are criminal elements involved, but there are also genuine agitators. Criminals should not be allowed to continue blackmailing the country; but in the circumstance of our lame duck economy, military option is inelegant. The ongoing Operation Crocodile Smile in the region is a very costly enterprise and may exacerbate, rather than solve the problem.
Crocodiles don’t smile; they are predators ever on a mission to kill or be killed. In whatever case, these crocodiles will lead to economic hara-kiri for the country. For as long as Nigeria’s wobbling economy remains chained to oil, we have little choice but to pacify the smouldering agitations and somehow manage the criminality therein till we are able to harness other sources.
Our problem is dwelling on rhetoric. For long, there has been noise about diversification of the economy but doing anything in that aspect besides expending so much wind without power. Now, we have discovered nickel, and many other far enriching solid minerals; when do we start exploiting them?
We have been shouting from the mountaintop that people should take to farming, but have not made farming attractive; right from the time of ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ and ‘Green Revolution.’ No tools or implements and incentives are provided, yet we want graduates to go to farms. To work their hides thin like their forebears did? It is not mere subsistence agric that will turn around the fortunes of this country.
As a product of an Indian university, I saw firsthand what farming is all about. If an Indian tells you he is a farmer, you bow; unlike here you would be ashamed to introduce yourself as a progenitor of a farmer because of the attendant penury associated with farming in our clime.
How again do we get the groundnut pyramids we were taught in school that existed in Kano? What about the tin in Jos, cocoa in the West and timber too? And coal and palm produce in the East or can’t palm trees grow there anymore?
We need dams all over the country to irrigate the farms and make our earth green all-year; we need to mechanise our farm operations, provide high-yielding seeds and seedlings. We need incentives, including special financial support and enticements (possibly through a specialised Bank of Agriculture) and extension officers. We need silos to ensure storage and preservation of harvest. We need stable power supply and good road and rail network to ensure movement of crops from farms to where they are needed. We must also criminalise diversion of whatever is provided for farmers.
And, of course, we need adequate security. Who would like to risk going to the farms and probably return without his head because one ritualist has fed it to his gods? Who would want to be confronted by Boko Haram because he must farm to make a living? Who would like to waste his time planting crops for unhinged Fulani herdsmen to ravage?
Change begins when godfathers choose not to turn blind eye to the atrocities of rampaging herdsmen and foist ignoble divisive policies upon the people. Change begins when equity comes to bear in the polity. Change begins with looking into aggravated tensions in the land without pandering to the lazy bones opposed to restructuring Nigeria and saving it from imminent collapse. Change begins when we treat governance as a serious business that must not be trivialised. Change is more than mere hyperbolic postulations. Yes, change begins with me, and you, and together we can make Nigeria great.