Editorial: The Challenges of New Year 2014
Wednesday January 1, 2014 is New Year's Day. It is a day to rejoice and congratulate each other for witnessing another calendar year; and for Nigerians, it is a day to celebrate the hope that survival imposes on the country, even in an atmosphere of grief and widespread lamentation. New Year day is also a day to cast an introspective look into personal, corporate and national affairs in the year just gone by, to take stock and to chart a new course for the year ahead.
This past year, 2013 was strewn with many booby traps, both literally and metaphorically. It was a year punctuated with a continuing stream of bombings, in what has become an orchestrated terrorist campaign that has clearly overwhelmed the country's national security apparatus. The Boko Haram insurgency stands out as the single most deadly and most intractable security challenge. But following closely and high up in the security challenge are the brutal kidnappings, armed robberies, and hired assassinations that have become an everyday occurrence. On the whole, 2013 saw Nigeria developing into a nation in conflict with itself, a nation living in outright contradiction to its declared development objectives.
For the umpteenth time, Nigerians have had, at the turn of each year, the assurances of the political leadership that better times are at hand. For that many number of times, Nigerians have ended up with shattered hopes, broken promises and failed commitments. The present administration has had its own harvest of scandals, with faltering investigations and half-hearted, inconclusive pursuit of high profile culprits of audacious corruption, from previous regimes and now. Whichever way Nigerians turn, they are confronted with the overarching presence of pervasive corruption and societal decay.
With serious economic, infrastructural and security challenges to contend with, the attention of the country's leaders was in the course of the year 2013 often consumed by vaulting ambition, pursued with intricate permutations, manipulations and maneuvering. Although the election year 2015 is nearly 18 months away, the campaign for the nation's top position has been vicious if subtle. And the political landscape is further heated up. In a sign of things to come, President Goodluck Jonathan lost the numbers game after 37 members of the House of Representatives defected from the PDP to the APC; stripping the President's party of its majority and boosting the opposition coalition.
2013 began with a row between Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo; and it ended with a second and bigger row between the two men; the last one being more toxic, causing political chaos and threatening the survival of Jonathan's government. It is widely said in Abuja that Jonathan would lose a credible election if one was held tomorrow, making the latest crisis a critical one for Jonathan and his allies. Whichever way the dice falls, there is a sense of foreboding that peace will go into exile, and prosperity will be long in coming.
No event in 2013 captured the disorganization, disorientation and apparent lack of co-ordination of the Jonathan administration than the strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the failed intervention of the President. The government's ultimate response to ASUU' was a one-week ultimatum to end the strike, or be sacked. This was crude, rude, demeaning, counter-productive and outlandish. In civilized countries, when a crisis reaches the President, the buck stops at the President's desk. That President Jonathan intervened on the ASUU crisis and still could not resolve it is a tell-tale sign of how the President's leadership of the country has been undermined.
Regrettably, this has been the trend in other issues, including the handling of the Boko Haram crisis, the Niger Delta amnesty program, the oil subsidy scandal, the Jos crisis, and Bayelsa State and Rivers State oil bloc dispute. In each of these matters, the President had intervened to no avail. This speaks volume about the quality of President Jonathan's inner circle, raising fundamental questions about the character of the men and women he appoints as advisers and the value of ideas that emanate from his think tank. As a New Year begins again, Nigerian leaders must stop and think just where the country is headed. Does the experience of the last few years aggregate to development or is the country on an inexorable slide to ruination in a land so abundantly blessed but so deeply violated and desecrated? Pathological lust for power and greed for money have rendered purposeful leadership prostrate. It has become more and more apparent that the fortune of this country is torn between those concerned with maintaining and expanding their private economic and political estates, and those consumed by ingrained prejudices, intolerance and bigotry, whether religious or ethnic.
The slogan of 20-2020 remains for many critical minds a huge joke, a wild and idle prediction of the place of Nigeria's economy by year 2020 on the global scale. 2020 is six short years away and it would take a world leader of the millennium to make that dream come close. The country's path to greatness is defined by the choices it makes in 2014. Those who have had the primary responsibility to lead this country to greatness have often paid lip service to a united and developed entity. Nigeria is nowhere near its potential and it is portrayed and shaped as a jungle to be plundered and violated with impunity.
The bigger picture of the Nigerian national mosaic demands the undivided attention of leaders who, of their own choosing, have come forward to govern. That mosaic must encompass the multi-dimensions of nation-building - education, healthcare, the economy, security, social services. These must be pursued simultaneously in an environment of social justice and equity, and it is what democracy is all about. Where any aspect is left unattended, development becomes stunted. We cannot claim to develop when access to jobs is effectively closed to the teeming products of the education system. We cannot develop when leaders go abroad for painkillers and surgery, rather than build functional health facilities here at home.
As Nigerians enter a New Year, they expect of their leaders a change of heart, a resolve to put in hard work in scholarship, consultation and legislation, in planning, execution and oversight, in prudence and accountability. What Nigerians no longer expect is the scandalous and profligate posturing that dominates the country's leadership today.
Without the hope of a better tomorrow, life would be sterile. The experiences of 2013 serve as a reminder that justice as a primary condition of human existence remains a critical undercurrent of the nation's travails. Nigerians need to embrace peace, which can only come in an environment of justice and equity. Until they take some other momentous steps at restructuring, Nigerians have no other country but this one to call their own. If they aspire for peace and development, they must embrace justice. The country's leaders must renew their pledge to diligently assume a leadership anchored on integrity, principles and exemplary self-sacrifice. On this note, we wish all Nigerians and especially our readers and partners a Happy New Year!