• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

The real enemies of Nigeria

Can a fractured nation rise? The challenges and hope for Nigeria

Nigerians went to the polls exactly a year ago to elect leaders to pilot the nation’s affairs. The election was unique. The President, Muhammadu Buhari, and many governors would not return as their tenures under the constitution had elapsed. New lieutenants will emerge, good or bad; that will be decided at the poll. Eight years of surging and record inflation and unemployment, economic growth that averaged less than 2 percent, and bloodshed due to insecurity.

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A record number of Nigerians left Nigeria beyond economic reasons as the nation’s hope looked bleak; Nigerians were eager to take back “their country.” For many Nigerians, the youths to be specific, it was time to make “the most credible, the most popular.” One year later, the gnashing of teeth has worsened. All economic indicators had gone from bad to worse. Another missed opportunity. Just ten months into a new administration, Nigerians and businesses are wailing. Why are we back to the status quo? Who are the real enemies of Nigeria?

Nigerians want change. Perhaps more talk, less action. 93 million Nigerians were registered to vote, according to Nigeria’s election umpire, INEC. On election day, the decision day, only 25 million people voted. Where are the other 68 million? Only a quarter of expected Nigerians had the “ability” to vote, even though everyone was “willing” for a change. This is troubling, especially when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu defeated his closest rival, Alhaji. Atiku Abubakar has 1.9 million votes. Are the 68 million “shadow voters” who refused to vote also complaining about the harsh economic conditions? Perhaps not! If they do, they must hide their faces in shame. They are the first real enemies of Nigeria.

Electioneering campaigns and litigation are over. It is now time to manifest their manifestos. Many are still grappling with the euphoria of power. Ten months is enough to get the ball rolling. It is enough to set Nigeria, at the national and state levels, on the path of inclusive growth and development. In some states like Rivers, the political gladiators are warring among themselves; for some, they are still blaming their predecessors; for a very few, their citizens are witnessing signs of progress. Previous trends in Nigeria have shown that most presidents or governors perform better in their first four years in office. The last four years have been spent fighting political enemies, serial looting, and showing their true identity. Most Nigerians are far from impressed. Real purpose and vision for development are lacking. The political class with ubiquitous but non-performing electoral promises is another real enemy of Nigeria.

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Q: “Nigeria has immense potential, but to truly thrive, we need to address some cultural and behavioural trends that hinder progress.”

Nigeria has immense potential, but to truly thrive, we need to address some cultural and behavioural trends that hinder progress. Surging inflation, corruption, and fraud are complex issues with deep roots.

Many Nigerians, across the public and private sectors, unwittingly contribute to these problems through practices like disobeying traffic laws, engaging in petty scams, or manipulating markets. While these actions might seem insignificant individually, collectively they create a significant obstacle to national development.

The good news is that change is possible. By promoting ethical practices, fostering a sense of national pride, and encouraging support for local businesses, we can build a stronger and more prosperous Nigeria.

This isn’t about assigning blame, but about working together to create a culture of integrity and collaboration. We can all be part of the solution by holding ourselves and others accountable for ethical behaviour and supporting initiatives that promote a better future for Nigeria.

Some members of the international community are culpable. Foreign institutions that continuously grant “damaging” loan requests to leaders with verifiable records of corruption have not been fair to Nigerians. Profit over morality and human face. Disruptive aid, grants, and policies with clearly no integration of the unique challenges have contributed to Nigeria’s shortcomings. Multinationals with foreign direct investment that has no real impact on Nigerians should shoulder some blame, maybe the least. They are the real enemies of Nigeria.

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Nobody can tell the Nigerian story better than Nigerians. Nigerians must show in their actions and inactions that we are ready for growth and development. Nigerians must hold leaders accountable at all levels of governance. We must display attitudes that can accommodate the change we want to see. Leaders must lead with purpose and commit to fulfilling campaign promises. The international community that offers to help must commit to inclusive solutions rather than exacerbating the challenges. The United States of America in the 1850s is similar to Nigeria today. South Korea, Japan, and China witnessed the same challenges in the 1940s and 1950s. Purposeful and innovative leadership made a difference. If they can navigate through their challenges, Nigeria can do so. We must be hopeful that Nigeria can surmount its challenges.

 

Victor Alikor is an Oxford Foundry Fellow, Development Economist and Founder of the Arete Book Club.