2016: A year of outsized expectations for Nigerians



Uba Group

As we have successfully scaled through the crossroads of the old and new years, it brings out a sense of nostalgia of the year passed, of both our successes and failures. It also brings hope for the new year, starting new and making positive changes. Though you may expect a lot out of the new year, in reality it will be like every other night.

In 2015, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, humiliated at the polls, was a goner. The departure of the native son of Otueke aroused near-erotic ecstasy of Nigerians who loathed him with such intensity that may be hard to compare with their perception of any democratically elected president in Nigeria.

Candidate Muhammadu Buhari didn’t have the fiery oratory. To be sure, he’s no Barack Obama. Buhari didn’t electrify the way Obama did. But the earnestness is remarkably similar. After soaring through Nigeria’s political stratosphere on the promise of killing corruption before corruption kills us, Mr. Buhari was overwhelmingly elected president.

Riding on a populist agenda to fight corruption and sanitise the nation of demons of all sorts, he took office May 29, 2015 with Nigerians weeping with happiness. I can still recall the smiles on the faces of Nigerian masses. It was a time of eager, nostalgic and liberal feelings among Nigerians. The acceptance of and respect for Buhari were tellingly electrifying.

From abroad, Nigeria is now seen as a country with a bright future piloted by a president with a zero tolerance for corruption. The most formidable problem in 2016 for President Buhari is the outsized expectations of Nigerians. Real change was Buhari’s slogan. His populist agenda of fighting corruption, creating jobs, ensuring safety and security, extermination of Boko Haram terrorists, hope for the realisation of common dreams of all Nigerians unite the nation behind Buhari.

We don’t need a fictional George Orwell to tell us that basic infrastructures are non-existent in Nigeria. Like an ancient curse, the same old problems continue to haunt Nigerians. The solutions proferred so far to the old problems are laughable: For water, dig borehole. For electricity, buy a generator. For roads, potholed roads are good enough. For public transportation, hop on okada. For police, call on neighbourhood vigilantes. For housing, sleep under Eko Bridge. For jobs, sell re-loadable phone cards. And for healthcare, don’t get sick and if you’re sick, die quickly!

It would certainly be agreed that the war against corruption should start yielding results with causalities permanently locked up in the Kuje or Kirikiri federal maximum prisons. To paraphrase the Biblical parlance, kill corruption first, all other things would be made possible.

It is exciting to anticipate that the judicial and criminal justice apparatus that are being put together by Prof. Itse Sagay and team to really fight corruption would finally take off so that we can have swift and severe justice meted out to the looters of our treasury.

Nigerians expect Buhari to flush out all the corrupt judges who have shown undisguised affinity for corruption.

We expect Buhari to have a single unifying vision on economic policy. We expect him to develop the Nigerian economy and tackle unemployment. He should encourage foreign direct investment. The reform plan should be designed in such a way as to save a political system, a life style, and to recover national ambition and pride. Constraints like corruption and frustrating intimidating procedures for business registration and business start up should be scraped. Our ports should operate on maximum efficiency. Delays in clearing goods, extortion by staff and stealing of goods should attract jail terms.

To jump-start the economy, we’ll need a stimulus package like Obama’s but much bigger in order to have immediate and direct impact on job creation and wages. The stimulus package should be huge for it to create millions of jobs, generate more incomes and lift more Nigerians out of poverty. Buhari should bolster domestic industries with subsidies and tariffs. He should generate substantial confidence for domestic business in the pharmaceuticals, tourism, commodities and technology sectors.

Nigerians expect the Buhari administration to map out a long-term plan on how to provide Nigerians with clean drinking water and improved sanitation. Nigerians are without safe drinking water and without adequate sanitation. There should be a long-range plan to make running water available to households within five years. It’s a shame that after 55 years of independence, Nigerians spend much of their time fetching water from boreholes, streams and wells. Sanitation has also been neglected for years. Majority of Nigerians have no access to flush toilets. They still use shared facilities, buckets or practice open defecation.

*Oluwasanmi is a Nigerian social critic based in the US.