When Everything Is Grounded

By Reuben Hopo

Nigerians are presently confronting their misery following six decades of the country's independence bleeding in secrecy with importation of foods and almost everything else possible into the country. The country having depended so much on foreign countries to meet several demands of its citizens' consumptions and services, has not been fortunate to produce a genuinely, curious and patriotic Nigerians amongst the set of leaders ever produced as presidents to think of saving the population from the present mire that has brought almost everybody on their kneels, stems from the belief system exposing the majority of the population to poverty of the mind. This is the fate we are suffering now, and the Federal Government in addressing the plights, has chosen the people to confront it in addressing the future of the country together.

The penury felt across the country by ordinary and average citizens is more pronounced with their purchasing power drastically gone since President Bola Tinubu on the 29th May, 2023 pronounced the infamous regime of oil subsidy a "goner". Although, the Federal Government has put measures in place to ameliorate the suffering and has encouraged the state governments to spend increased allocation to their states on the people. Yet, The ongoing hardship is part of national healing, and the president has assumed the role of a national surgeon defiling anaesthestic complements on the polity, and his singular action has led us to see the national eyesore that is being felt by everyone. This has led people to share different opinions on the state of the economy.

Nigerians are still struggling to speak in unison on the poor economy inherited by the present government. Emerging voices show two extreme opinions rising between those who believe that when everything is grounded to a halt, Nigerians will pick up from there, and those who believe that the country should continue to be the proverbial "alabaru" with penchant for eating beyond her means. These opinions are being circulated on different online platforms to communicate feelings and ill-feelings between the powers and the masses. Perhaps, the turbulence that Nigerians are currently facing should prompt citizens' nostalgia to dissect the President's "Renewed Hope" Agenda to be able to come to term with him, that we are on a journey together to the eldorado.

The country, from time, has not fared well with excessive foreign loans; rising inflation; massive unemployment; incessant collapse of the national grid; a country where over five hundred companies have either folded up or exited the territory to other countries in about three decades ago; Fulani marauders forcefully taken over large farmlands of people, especially in the north thereby making millions of farmers insecure to access their farmlands including some parts of the south; the insurgency in the northeast; a people believing in smuggling, importing fuel and gas from foreign countries due to non-functional refineries; the CBN reduced to a mere commercial banking; the Russia-Ukraine war dealing a full blow to several imported products like wheat, flour and the rest; the ongoing Israeli-Gaza war inclusive; the menace of growing kidnappings, terrorism, arson, gruesome killings and banditry have contributed to the scary outlook of today's economy.

With the country's currency in a free fall, all consumables are no longer affordable. No thanks to the total closure of the country's borders. For example, the costs of rice, beans, yam, fish, meat, egg, garri and cement are presently beyond the reach of the average citizens. The current data of the country's multi-dimensional poverty is frightening. The necessity of our predicaments begs for the fulfilment of the "Renewed Hope" message to liberate the country from the hegemony of a certain class inflicting hardship on the citizens, and to reshape the country into prosperity for all. Nigerians are in a sober moment. Let nobody deceive somebody. A life in abundance will spring up when we learn to adjust to our collective size.

On the part of the Federal Government, this is not the time for political appointees and elected representatives to abdicate their responsibilities on the present, pressing national crises for perks of office. All Nigerians should be equal at this critical time. So, the sanctity of the statement ".. _to draw water from a dry well_ " must be kept at the federal level with delayed gratification for everyone to feel the surgical pains in the same way to unite our voice.

How did we get here? The country had its good, old days, in the annals of history, in the fifties when the British government granted self-autonomy for regional governments led by the former premiers of each of the regions. The era achieved expansive agricultural produces for which the west, mid-west, east, and north measured up by comparative advantage and wholesome competition. Then, the strength of the west was cocoa, coal in the east, groundnuts pyramids in the north, and rubber plantation in the mid-west. These produces amidst others were used to develop several areas equipped with social amenities and massive provision of job opportunities.

The formative stage of Nigeria witnessed concrete developments that coincided in composing a homily _"Ise agbe, n'ise ile e wa..."_ in the western region as the prime value of society, and was infused into the defunct "free education programme" led by the late Sage and First Premier, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (of blessed memory). If Nigeria's occupation had been maintained on the threshold of regional government in the federal system, running the country at large would have been simple to rest squarely on that momentum that can sustain enduring peace, national cohesion and political stability till date. Unfortunately, the quest to rule Nigeria as one indivisible country was the error that the foremost leaders made from the beginning. That unity ought to have been the first shared value to indicate how we live together as a country. The loss was the precipice that invited the military to strike intermittently from 1966 till 1999 when it decided to return to the present democratic era.

At a point in time, during the oil boom, the military declared that money was not our problem, but how to spend money. This exposed a people not ripe "to be governed as one indivisible country" as a pointer to being a preferred nation, and not a country. The weakness at the centre later became the windstorm that blew the entire country hot. The first weakness was when the early nationalists failed to reach a consensus at the two foremost constitutional conferences held in Lagos and London between 1953 and 1956/57.

Their disagreements turned to a battlefield by which early nationalists contested the pre-independence general elections in 1959, 1979 and 1983 with electoral outcomes showing clannishness. The ruin today should be better imagined that in the twilight of their disagreements, no pundit saw the desolation hovering to last on the country as this. The caricature remained the failure of our democracy on a grand scale at the expense of a sound ideology beyond partisanship. The golden loss of the momentum marked the beginning of the challenges collectively confronting the country.

As we are almost packing everything in pieces, it is hell to see a country with great potentials falling victim to a long years of misrule and servitude. As the saying goes, "once beaten, twice shy" is enough for us to have learned a good lesson. We can no longer miss the truth of our consequences. The truth is: *when everything is grounded to a halt, Nigerians will pick up from their scratches*. Let us be hopeful that we would have a country to be proud of.

Reuben Hopo writes from Badagry, Lagos State.