LET'S MAKE A NEW BEGINNING
Year 2011 will probably go down in history as one of our worst years since the advent of this democratic dispensation in 1999. It is a year that we under-achieved in virtually all sectors. Performance-wise, the nation was found wanting. From the economy to education, health, agriculture, sports, security, power, works and all others, we did not make any appreciable progress.
The economy did not fair well. The nation's currency, the naira, suffered loss of value to other world currencies, especially the dollar. And since our foreign reserves are denominated in dollar and coupled with the fact that most of our imports are dollar-dependent, the naira crashed due to excessive demand of the dollar.
The stock market, which is the barometre of any nation's economy continue to depress and prices of most equities fell far below all time low that investors have deserted the market.
Every measure taken to shore up the performance has hit the brick wall because investors keep dumping their shares in drones to invest in other thriving sectors of the economy.
Of all the sectors in the equity market, the worst hit are the banks' and insurance equities whose prices have depreciated so much that investors are afraid to put their money there again.
The insurance equities give no hope either as their price depreciation can be regarded as the worst. Only a few equities in the manufacturing sector are still posting positive results. But generally, the stock market was a no-go area in the passing year.
As the economy was import-dependent, Nigerians spent so much of their money purchasing goods at high prices. The inflation rate rose beyond target and budget implementation, as usual, was below 50 percent. Agriculture did not fair well as we depended on imported rice, wheat, sugar and other goods for our survival. Local farmers could not source the needed loans from banks, as all banks were not ready to grant long-term credit. They all went into trading and purchasing dollar and using Mallams to resell them at higher prices thereby encouraging round tripping in the forex market.
2011 was the worst year for education sector. Apart from ASUU strikes, both the quality and quantity of instruction had deteriorated in all levels of our education system. The nation's public primary schools are in their worst shape ever. Only the children of the poor still attend public primary schools. Some rich parents send their children and wards to private primary schools.
The situation is so bad that affluent parents prefer their children to read in private schools from primary to the university due to the stable academic calendar in these schools. Some eminently rich Nigerians send their children abroad for secondary and tertiary education respectively. Those that cannot afford sending their wards to Europe and America manage schools in the neighbouring Ghana and other West African countries. Some others migrate to South Africa and India for their university education despite the fact that the number of universities in the country is fast increasing.
Our health sector is still in coma. Prominent Nigerians still embark on medical tourism. Our leaders still die in foreign health facilities yet we say that Nigerian is the giant of Africa. Our people now troop to South Africa and India for surgeries and other health emergencies despite the fact the we have the National Hospital at Abuja and scores of medical centres of excellence around the country. Government should do something in 2012 to stem the increasing tide of foreign medical trips.
The nation's healthcare delivery system is in total disarray because of poor funding and negligence by our leaders who prefer treatment abroad than in the country. This is also a possible reason for our decaying educational system because our leaders send their children abroad. Some of them that refused to fund government universities while in office went ahead and build their private universities, whose sole aim is to make profit.
Some churches have joined the fray. They use the money collected from the poor to build church universities that excluded the children of the poor due to their exorbitant fees. Some state universities are also not well funded. Most Nigerian universities are certificate mills with little regard to quality of teaching and research. Only very few still retain the old tradition of university education. Regrettably, none of our universities is listed among the best in Africa and the world.
In sports, Nigeria took a downward slide. The Super Eagles could not qualify for next year's Nations Cup taking place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Neither did our Under-23 team qualify for London Olympics. The Super Falcons also suffered the same fate. The security challenge has not abated as Boko Haram intensifies its siege on the nation. The Christmas day bombings in a church in Jos, Plateau State and Madalla, Niger State, which left scores of people dead and several others injured showed that Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the attacks is still vicious.
Also, the Christmas Eve's attacks, in Yobe and Borno states showed that the security challenge facing the nation is getting out of control. By its incessant attacks in Borno and Yobe states, the sect has made living in these areas a hell. It has also grounded the economic and social life of these states that people are leaving the troubled zones. The President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and all the security chiefs must do something urgently to stop the spate of bombings in the country. The situation is like the nation is at war. Let government respond swiftly to the security challenge and stop the wanton destruction of lives and property by agents of destabilization.
The power sector is still epileptic and our roads are in their worst shape. Something must be done to redress these lapses. Revitalizing the power sector and embarking on massive road infrastructure renewal should take centre-stage in 2012. Any palliative on these vital sectors will not do. Let those in charge of these sectors hit the ground running. Let our leaders use the New Year to resolve and solve all these problems plaguing the nation. The country can never be great if we still pay lip service to our development. This is time the country's leaders must renew their faith in the nation and work selflessly to uplift it to greater heights. Our leaders have no reason to fail.
The human and material resources to take the country to great heights are not in short supply. They must eschew corruption and ensure that the dividends of democracy get to all Nigerians. The greatest threat we have now as a nation is the Boko Haram insurgency. Let government tackle the challenge with every sense of seriousness.