THE PRESIDENT SAID IT:'REVOLUTION'! (2)
As we were saying last week, the President, Dr. Ebele Jonathan, quite rightly drew attention to the issue of unemployment of youths in the country today and thought it appropriate to warn us all (very kind of him indeed), that if nothing was done about that problem, it could bring about a revolution within the next five years, which means by the year of our Lord, 2016.
If we pause to reflect on that timeframe given by the President, it will be evident that he appeared to have given himself a very critical assignment, responsibility and challenge: To find a sound solution to the problem by the end of his tenure in 2015.
Depending on where the political pendulum swings on the issue of the on-going proposal to constitutionally enable a president occupy that position only once and for six years maximum (apparently without a second term), it is within the scope of imagination to say that if he fails to achieve the desired results in that area and succeeds in not only seeing the amendment through but also in being the candidate to beat in 2015(if the South-East and Arewa power-hawks allow that), he can again continue with the struggle of trying to check-mate unemployment, post-election time, that year.
What appears most important right now, however, is the fact that the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces has the welfare of the teeming masses of unemployed young men and women (and those not yet ready for their graves as well), very much in mind.
That reality is very comforting indeed, considering the fact that it is truly in tune with the constitution's expectations as expressed under its Chapter Two, on 'Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy' in general, and, specifically, Section 16,sub-section2(d), which prescribes 'that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.'
Although the quoted portion above conveys a somewhat wrong impression about what needs to be done, let us just agree here that the intention was that employment, and not 'unemployment', was what the constitution framers (and endorsers) in 1998 had in mind, as we still desire in the country, today. After all, how can any government or 'State', set about providing 'unemployment' as part of its economic objectives? No way, won't you say? And correctly, too!
Which now leads us to acknowledging the President's correct thinking on the matter: Let us find or create employment opportunities for our youths (and all employable persons, of course), or face the undesirable prospects of a 'revolution.' That is a very charitable and objective way of viewing the President's statement on that subject.
Regardless of who is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (may God let it endure and put Gaddafi to shame, even in his grave), there appears to be an over-riding need to create the best possible conditions for private and public enterprises and industries to thrive within the five-year time limit conjecture by Dr. President, for a possible revolution. As far back as 1986, there has been a declining production in industrial establishments - especially manufacturing organizations in the country. That fact accounts sadly for the withering of the otherwise burgeoning textiles; tyres and commercial establishments, some of which had closed their business houses due to problems and reasons which good governance could have stymied.
Now that the Federal Government has rolled out the drums in propagating the imperatives of removing the subsidy on petrol, including diesel - which one understands only one company is allowed to import at the moment and is badly required in adequate quantities as well as at an affordable price for industrial productivity- a question that inevitably arises is this: When we have removed fuel subsidy, will our industries, which should provide employment opportunities, produce more or less goods and services? And will they also have greater or greatly reduced chances of survival?
Examined from another angle, it stands to reason that if by omission or commission, the fueling costs of our industrial establishments rise automatically, but they manage to overcome the challenge of fuelling up for production purposes, what will the inflation picture be like in the country?
That is not all: If we have to pay the 'unsubsidized price' for our oil, what effects will it have on the waterworks and power – generating undertakings…. will they not spend more money on fuelling their operations? Will they not transfer their extra costs to the public? At what stage in our public life do we really think of the consequences of policy decisions and implementation on the people - before their introduction, or after their implementation? And who suffers in the long run - the 'masses' or the elites, especially those cushioned from the pains of paying for the goods and services by the allowances provided for certain office holders?
And then, why not spare let us spare a thought for those still awaiting the payment of their minimum wages? When the oil subsidy has been torpedoed, what will be the reactions of labour in the country, which may rightly be expected to come up with new demand lists thereafter?
Aaahh… the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB): That one is still facing 'go-slow' at the legislative and executive quarters, unlike what happened in Ecuador, where oil prices have remained stable for years now. When can our refineries be empowered to produce at optimal levels? Were they deliberately designed to produce minimally? How many jobs does the Presidency and its advisers think can be created (blue and white collars alike) if our refineries, petrochemical and gas plants (to stop gas flaring), are allowed to work as standards and expectations demand?
Those of us not in government or the corridors of power are ignorant about a lot of these things, so we must ask questions, so that we can know what next to believe and think about the current realities in our Public Affairs.
There are too many distractions all around us: Boko Haram bombing Kaduna on Wednesday, just as the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) people were rounding off their conference; banks being forced to close their doors to customers in different parts of the country due to unchecked and dare-devil attacks by armed robbers, ostensibly God-worshipping Christians advocating same-sex marriage, and threats being flung in the air by professed democrats contemptuous of our legislative decisions, and more strident alarms over possible 'mass revolts' by even those who had chances to act decisively against 'grinding poverty and allied economic hardship caused by under-employment, job loss and unemployment across the country,' like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and ACF spokesmen, whose leaders and elites had, except for this brief period, ruled Nigeria for almost 7/8th of its independent existence.
The present is truly unfortunate, because everyone (or almost everybody), tends to blame it for the today's problems, but many Nigerians have been crying for attitudinal changes in the management of our national economy and industrial development, as far back as 1974. Some people now want to blame the innocent power incumbents – many of who were in secondary schools then – for the absence of an ideologically – directed economy and polity. Even the gains made in the 1976-1979 years (steel plants; river basin development authorities, and thermal power stations), were unpatriotically left to rot, or have been naively frittered away for 'messes of pottage', to other nationals.
How can we now help the President in averting that 'revolution' within five years? How? (Final part, on Monday).