Opinion: Welcome Home Our Dear Mr President: Matters Arising, By Dr John I Abhuere

Breaking news it was indeed. The return of President Buhari safely home after a medical vacation in Great Britain. The camera zoomed Kaduna into the TV box showing Mr President alerting from a jet plane and walking unaided toward a waiting chopper to fly him to Abuja-the seat of government . I heard his voice as he asked one of the officials the way to the chopper. And I would hear the voice again in Abuja. It was a happy moment in Nigeria.
Seeing him walk unaided and listening to him talk made special meaning to me . At least it was reassuring and helpful in dismissing many speculations and wild rumours about the effect of the President’s illness on him. This included loss of power of speech and ability to walk. So thank God Mr President is back and he can talk, and walk and be able to navigate all the rooms and corners of the presidential palace. Welcome home our dear President. The homecoming has ended the reign of senseless rumours and wild speculation – at least for now.
Some good things come our way unplanned. One of the unintended consequences of Mr President’s medical holiday was the opportunity to test the nation’s constitution for either strength or weakness. It passed the test of strength. The Constitution worked fine. It shows that Nigeria was growing fast on the positive path. Its intellectual, legal and constitutional base had been enhanced considerably. There are some bright spots in the economy. The Naira is gaining some strength. At least looking at the efforts in the agricultural sector, it is reasonable to say that the country would get out of the recession sooner than initially estimated.
Still there are urgent matters for Mr President. On top of the list is the pressing need for a world class hospitals to take care of both the high and the low in the country. President Buhari was not the first Nigerian head of state to seek medical attention abroad. It could easily be recalled that General Babaginda, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua went out for it.. Late General Sani Ahacha was reportedly sick almost through out his tenure and was at the service of some foreign doctors.
In fact, the anxiety and controversy generated by presidenty Yar’Adua’s medical excursion abroad is too fresh to be forgotten so soon. It was enough to have prompted some redemptive action ever since. The truth is that kings like slaves fall sick and die at the appointed time. But the illness and death of kings, the wealthy and powerful only remind us of the commonality of humanity and the frailty of man and the need to be good and to do good things with our lives.
For when we are gone, it is only our deeds that will speak for us. Each time a President falls seriously sick, I am tempted to believe that God our creator was sending and prodding the Nigerian authorities to do the needful in the health sector by building first class- world standards hospitals across the country. If there had been any doubt about it President Buhari ‘s recent medical leave should clear it by now.
Just as the President was returning home came the gloomy statistics on unemployment in Nigeria. According to National Bureau of Statistics about 3.67 million Nigerians became unemployed between October 2015 and September 2016. The total number of unemployed citizens reportedly rose from 7.51 in October 2015 to 11.9 million in September 2016 . There was steady loss of job:. 522 million lost jobs in the 4th quarter of 2015, 1.44 million lost jobs in the first quarter of 2016, 1.16 million lost job in the 2nd quarter, and 0.55 million were gone in the 3rd quarter of 2016.
Of course, the youth were mostly affected. Those between age 15 and 24 years had a rise of unemployment from 17. 8% in October 2015 to 25 % by the end of September 2016. For those in the age bracket of 25 and 34, unemployment rose from about 10.8% in 2015 to 15% by September 2016. The same gloomy story was shared by other groups such as women with 15.9% unemployment rate, men with12% within the same period. Urban unemployment was reported to be 18.3% while rural unemployment stood at 11.3% (NBS report as reported by the Nation’s newspaper March 13 2017 p13)
In spite of the efforts made so far, the unemployment situation has remained as depressing and uninspiring as ever. The situation is frightening and unacceptable. The statistics showed that the cause of unemployment within the period was business failures which might be due to harsh business climate, unfriendly policies and low investment. We know for instance that some companies relocated from Nigeria to other countries because of unfavorable economic conditions .
We also know that the state has not made much investments that could promote employment. Thinking through the problem two policy actions present themselves. First is to initiate business friendly policies and the other is to promote investment. Here both the private and public sectors resources must be mobilized for maximum impact. It is not one way affair but dual efforts.
As the Nation’s newspaper has observed in its editorial of 13 March 2017 ‘reducing joblessness is vital to national stability and economic resuscitation’. But this can not be achieved by going in the wrong direction based on inappropriate philosophy of development. The unemployment situation warrants a revisit to the philosophy, thrust, and content of our development efforts.This is with a view to dismissing some heresy and falsehood in our development efforts that had kept us backward and jobless today.
Nigeria needs an appropriate philosophy of development to move forward than presently obtains. The philosophy of private sector- led economic development is wrong and unfit for Nigeria. Since the mid1980s when the SAP was introduced, the state had been relegated or cowed from playing active role in economic activities in Nigeria. It is a wrong development theory for a developing country such as Nigeria with low capital base and huge population.
This writer is aware of the sad history of public enterprises in Nigeria due to poor management, but it is not enough to throw away the baby with the bath water. I shall therefore never be tired of asking the state to lead the development path, invest much more in infrastructure, do a deliberate policy of urbanization of the rural areas, run viable business based sound leadership, management and business principles and practices. As I explained in my book- the Power of Youth…. Such Keynesian approach is the best way to reduce the huge job deficit facing the country today. Job creation is more a responsibility of the state than the private investor.
Public enterprises failed in Nigeria not because of the lies often told to the effect that the state cannot run businesses successfully but because of corruption, elite’s inability to deal with common nonsenses in the environment such as corruption, poor performance, faulty recruitmentsystem, maladministration, poor consequence management, non-observance of the rules of the game and norms of business such as effective recruitment system, etc.
The current efforts in agriculture is fine but there is need for the establishment of marketing boards to buy farm produce and so guarantee stable prices and building of more silos and maintenance of existing ones to store agricultural produce.
Toward this end, we must correct some falsehood about the role of the state, the appropriate place of the private sector in a developing country. There is often some mix-up at policy level . What ails the economy is not state’s participation in economic activities, but encumbrance put in the way of the investors in Nigeria and poor management of public affairs.We advocate for freedom of all citizens and institutions to participate in the economy according to their ability.
The market should be free to allow all that is fit, able and willing to participate. It should be an all inclusive affairs without official barrier. For me it is a lie to say that the state cannot play an active or lead role in economic activities or that the private sector in Nigeria has the muscle and will to lead growth and development of the country. The private sector has important part to play, but not the lead role- only an important complimentary one.
There is the need to intensify the war against corruption or sustain the tempo. It will remain a huge joke to think that war against corruption would achieve the desired result without effective consequence management system in the country. From all indications Ibrahim Magu would have done a good job as substantive Chairman of EFCC. I wish I could help but those constitutionally charged to screen and confirm him have found him unsuitable .
The Senate based its conclusion on an unfavorable report by the DSS. Perhaps the DSS should not have written a report on him. But if with such an unpleasant report we are still pushing for Magu’s confirmation, then it means that we are not patriotic and sincere with ourselves about the crusade against corruption .Or we conceive of the Senate as a mere rubber- stamp body.
This should not be the case. Perhaps we should have done a better job before sending Magu in for screening. There are tears for him for missing the job but the national interest counts more. As relevant literature shows only the ability to detect and punish the criminal that reduces the incidence of corruption in a society. So as Mr President returns to office, he must intensify efforts here.
There are those who believe that the war against corruption is partisan, partial and vindictive. There may be some truth here but the question to answer is simple: Are those being quizzed having any link with corruption? If yes, then I have no reason to believe that the war against corruption is partial or partisan. This is as long as those being quizzed have some questions to answer about corruption.
This has been my long held view since the accusation was first made against the Obasanjo’s administration. If there is skeleton in the cupboard, let it be shown to the world and the owner be prosecuted and punished appropriately in the national interest.
For instance, if President A catches an enemy that is corrupt and punished, President B does same and on and on, a time will come soon when the colony of corrupt men will be depleted. So let the anti corruption crusade music play on without end till the end of corruption itself. There has been much cacophony in the air with some calling for Mr President’s resignation. I do not support such call. We still need his moral armament to deal with many acts of profanity in Nigeria .
Wait a minute: there was an unusual and unhelpful interest in the President’s ill-health by some writers, who desired to know the full details of his health condition. For what if you are not his doctor? They said it was one of the demands of democracy. Perhaps so. For me it was taking democracy too far to the fringe of violating a man’s right to privacy. It was not a proper thing or genuine concern but one done wrongly in the name of democracy so as to be seen as belonging to the Jones of the Western world.
In other words, for many reasons especially security and stability, we do not advertise the sickness of kings in traditional African society.. Rather attempts are made to mystify the illness and death of some people especially those in position of authority largely for security, stability and and confidence building and sustenance in society. Let us not in the name of Western values violate a person’s human right to privacy. Those who have argued that old men should not be voted on grounds of possible death or falling sick miss the point about life. Death and illness strike both the young and the old and they do not occur in chronological order.

– Dr. Abhuere, FNIM, Oven of Ebelle, Director of Centre for Child Care and Youth Development, Lugbe, Abuja.

Author: News Editor

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