Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Emperor's New Clothes

opinion

"We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights."-Kofi Annan.

So the President has urged Nigerians not to lose faith in Nigeria? Well, that is good coming from him except that he did not deliver the message himself. He instead sent his Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku. Nonetheless, he informs the populace that his government is working so hard to tackle the numerous challenges facing our country.

Someone, please tell the President that the boat has long sailed on that mirage. The fact is, he has not tried at all talk less of his level best to imbue faith in his people and to think that he believes he is seeking credit for doing such a woeful job. What is clear is that the President has not endeared himself to the people; he ignores the fact since he took office, majority of the people are worse off and corruption is rife and blatant. People are more insecure, hopeless, helpless of the future than ever before.

So, where is the faith coming from? The number of politicians living a billionaire lifestyle at the expense of the people or is it the fact that the President at fleet of jets and the lifestyles at the expense of the majority poor. Nothing on the ground shows this man has in his grasp the best interest of Nigeria at hearts.

Over 60% of its people are in poverty, yet there are now more billionaires in Nigeria especially in politics and in oil. When Obasanjo left office in 2007, he left $27 billion in excess crude account. That money could have been used to give us essential infrastructure.

That alone would have improved and lifted millions out of poverty and place them in gainful and sustainable employment. If the money had been put to good use, it could have invested in people and educated over 10 million people and imagine how much that would have trickled down to improve the lives of many. When does he think he would steer the country from a cataclysmic implosion.

So unless the President decides to conjure a trick to hypnotise the whole nation, he needs to man up and come clean. He has squandered the chance to improve Nigeria. As the President he has failed to live up to expectations; he has failed to lead by example. Instead he wants Nigerians to stop complaining and pray harder. Pardon me, what else can people do short of voting with their conscience come next election?

It proves that he is not listening or does not want to listen; that people are tired of feeling tired. People do not have faith in a failing government because nothing has changed. In fact, things are worse for majority of the people. The facts are there for all to see; Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer but the whole top to bottom has been tarred by the staggering level of corruption.

Oil accounts for some 80% of Nigeria's state revenues but it has hardly any capacity to refine crude oil into fuel, which has to be imported. This is staggering wanton waste of money. In fact we are burning money every second people can only afford the bare essentials.

Poverty has risen in Nigeria, with almost 100 million people living on less than a $1, £0.63 a day. Despite economic growth, the Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics have shown that 60.9% of Nigerians in 2010 were living in "absolute poverty" and this has risen from 54.7% in 2004. Nigerians living in poverty rise to nearly 61%. Absolute poverty is measured by those who can afford only the bare essentials.

In 1980, 17.1 million lived in poverty by 2010: 112.47 million. The NBS said that relative poverty was most apparent in the north of the country, with Sokoto State's poverty rating the highest at 86.4%.

In the North-West and North-East of the country poverty rates were recorded at 77.7% and 76.3% respectively, compared to the South-West at 59.1%.

The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), a government agency, said there was a paradox at the heart of Nigeria as the economy was going from strength to strength, mainly because of oil production - yet Nigerians were getting poorer.

How in a country so rich in mineral wealth and manpower that its people have not had it so bad. I feel the president is peering through his rose tinted glasses and about time he came off his ivory tower and admit that the country is buckling under the mess his government has created.

The projected Federal Government budget for 2013 comes to about $180 per Nigerian. There is a whole lot that government can and should do to break the poverty trap. Not for aggrandisement and their tasteless edifice of buildings and banqueting halls.

But there is a lot more that the society must do, we have to call our elected officials to order. We will not sell our votes nor should people sell our conscience; it is costly in the long run. We have to walk the road together, and not leave anyone behind.

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