Samuel Oluwole Ogundele
NIGERIA, without fear of contradiction, is one of the most troubled segments of our contemporary global village. The country is on the throes of revolutionary change that does not necessarily need a violent method of approach. Nigeria is always in the news, not for working at the cutting edge of science and technology, but ugly developments, capable of taking us back to the Stone Age period. The negative forces staring us in the face include unbridled ethnic chauvinism, religious bigotry, material poverty, authoritarianism, unwarranted arrogance, population pressures, environmental degradation, and labour servitude. President Muhammadu Buhari has to embrace the principles of continuous, transparent communication or dialogue with Nigerians. He needs to show empathy, as a necessary first step towards practical solutions. Thus, for example, closing Nigeria’s international land borders for so long without increased local productivity leads to maximum food shortages. This scenario poses a major security threat to the fabric of our society. Unfortunately, the government does not believe that any world exists beyond its fantasy one, where the ordinary Nigerians are unimportant. Government has to demonstrate some emotional competence in order to achieve an equilibrium in the economy. A self-absorbed leadership cannot promote peace and progress. In other words, any leadership without a social connection, is a failure and an irritant to the led. The legitimacy of any leader derives from the people. Advisers or assistants to the president must not throw caution to the winds. There is an urgent need for a new direction of truth, where a double standard of morality has no place to feature, in the treatment of available evidence of our collective memories and histories.
The Boko Haram group has been terrorizing the Nigerian society since 2002, in an attempt to establish an Islamic State under the Sharia Law. Despite the limited efforts of the government to address this challenge, these insurgents continue to maim and kill innocent Nigerians especially in the north-eastern region. Thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral homeland. They are now living in refugee camps. Farming activities and general social lifeways have been disrupted or crippled. Again, heavy rain has caused floods, thereby destroying farms in many areas of the country. For instance, many rice fields were washed away by floods in Kebbi State. The same thing applies to the Niger Delta Region especially Bayelsa State. This aggravates food scarcity.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), millions of Nigerians especially northerners would experience acute food shortages or crisis between now and 2021. The scenario would lead to poorer community health and more aggravated crimes. The entire country is currently victims of multiple security stresses and strains. A lot of people are also afraid to go to their farms in the south because of banditry. Most of these criminals are masquerading as cattle herders or tricycle riders. Even criminals from Mali and other parts of West Africa are raping, kidnapping and killing innocent people across Yorubaland. This is a cultural colonization agenda. The United Nations should kindly come to our rescue although Nigerians too, need to wake up from their slumber. Nigerian leaders have to worry much more about insecurity and food crisis than the social media regulation bill with all its reactionary complexes.
Although food crisis is a global challenge, the Nigerian case, is too devastating to compare with situations in most parts of the world. Internally-Displaced Persons in the country now depend heavily on food aid from international organisations. Some of them (organisations) are now having donor fatigue. The World Food Programme (WFP) had warned, that Nigeria would soon begin to experience widespread, unprecedented starvation, if the socio-economic situation was not quickly tackled. It is on record, that more than 90 million Nigerians live on less than $2 daily. WFP is now appealing to the global community for an amount of $180 million to mitigate poverty in Nigeria. Some federal lawmakers from the Borno region said recently, that 17 local government areas were still being attacked by the deadly group (Boko Haram). These local government areas include Gwoza, Bama, Konduga, Damboa, and Kukawa. No matter how large the annual military budget is, the recruitment of new members to the Boko Haram group will go on unabated in the face of extreme material poverty. Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister for Finance was recently of the opinion, that the country was about to have another recession except there was a strong third quarter economic performance.
In addition, the financial fallout of Covid-19 pandemic, has worsened our security and food situations. Today, a bag of foreign rice costs at least N34,000. This is more than the minimum wage of N30,000 monthly. Local rice productions are not enough. Some major suppliers of rice particularly India, have temporarily stopped new export agreements. A lot of Nigerians outside the shores of the country have returned home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is ravaging the entirety of the globe. This must have been putting greater pressure on the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria. No jobs for most Nigerians. No opportunities for private investments. The business environment is very poor. Epileptic electricity supply remains a devil to wrestle with. In addition, most of the roads crisscrossing the country are impassable. This is a potentially dangerous situation, given the fact, that Nigeria is already a cybercrime-ridden society. Again, much of the marine environment has been thoroughly degraded in the Niger Delta region, thereby disrupting fishing and farming activities among others. This ugly situation can be explained against the background of modernization theory with its deep roots in a continuation of old colonial values or uncritical Westernisation. This involves the exploration and exploitation of natural resources of a region without being future-sensitive.
Nigeria as a mono-economy, is coming perilously close to disaster. The crude oil price per barrel had fallen from $77 in January to below $20 in April. According to the United Nations reports, additional 13 million job losses are imminent due to Covid-19 and insecurity challenges. The recently crafted “Hate Speech Law” is not a solution. Nigeria is supposed to be a democracy as opposed to primordial monarchy or military dictatorship, ontologically embedded in the blatant disregard for the rule of law. Today, the governed, more than hitherto, are being made to feel disconnected from the immediate world around them. Nigeria’s rising unemployment, untamed insecurity, and acute food shortages among others, are a time bomb for the rulership. The recent protests by youths across the country, were an attempt to strike at the foundations of bad governance or disproportionality of collective wealth. Indeed, the Nigerian leadership has to begin to showcase some of its finest and most disciplined brains for governmental engineering. With a few exceptions, the poorest are currently “leading” the best. Consequently, the country is seriously disabled. Some urgent physiotherapical and psychotherapical attention is needed, as the clock ticks away the minutes.
Professor Ogundele writes from University of Ibadan.
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