The fast-approaching new year is when the government must strive to give Nigerians hope about their country. Hope, if it exists at all, is currently at an all-time low, and many Nigerians would embrace any opportunity to escape.
There is no doubt that nearly every country is in some economic turmoil. Nigeria is no exception, and as President Bola Tinubu has said several times, revamping the nation’s economy cannot be a dash. However, it is possible to shine the light of hope even amid all the darkness.
Here, there is the tendency for the government to say it currently does a lot to reassure the people. That is true. The President hints at hope at every opportunity, including his recent Christmas message. In fact, his government has tagged its plan for the revival of the soul and spirit of Nigeria as “Renewed Hope.” That is good, but we must go beyond the rhetoric and take concrete actions that inspire confidence and give people the courage to hope, which former American First Lady Michelle Obama once said, “can take a life of its own.”
One of the ways to do this is to think and act about the country’s future while dealing with the existential economic issues that currently take nearly all the attention of the government.
Fortunately, Tinubu recognised at least one of the issues when he met with state governors on Tuesday. While welcoming them, he noted that collaboration between both layers of government is critical. He told his audience, which visited as members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, that: “We must regard development as a joint responsibility.”
The President is spot on. Although Nigeria runs a federal constitution, which recognises the independence of the state government, there can only be proper development in the country if every sub-national component makes significant progress. Ultimately, Tinubu’s performance indicators depend on good governance in the 36 states. It is, therefore, a no-brainer that the Federal Government must collaborate with the governors to make an effective impression on the country.
Now, we are not talking about collaborations precipitated by distributions from the Federal Account Allocation Committee or even the occasional temperamental disbursement of grants to the state as palliatives. We are discussing a systematic and deliberate initiative to leave no part of Nigeria behind in the developmental train. We must recognise that Nigeria is currently in an emergency that requires collaborative actions to improve people’s quality of life and solidify their trust in and loyalty to their country.
One of the expedient areas for such collaborations is curbing insecurity. The default strategy for most of Nigeria’s security problems is deploying state force, but little progress has been made through this reaction. Over the years, more sections of the country have fallen into this web of insecurity.
In addition to the persistence of our assorted security challenges, there has been significant collateral damage, which should prompt a reconsideration of strategies. To deal with insurgencies, nationalist agitations, banditry, kidnappings, and all sorts of crimes that unsettle national cohesion and disrupt the peoples’ lives, the federal and state governments should come together to find non-combative ways of making Nigeria safer. We must seek genuine conversations and consensus building to find sustainable peace in our communities.
Another critical point that Tinubu mentioned is the situation of the Nigerian child. Addressing the governors, the President said: “Let us prioritise our children. The school feeding programme must return quickly, from the local government to the state and federal governments.” This point is one of the most critical limitations to the present and future of Nigeria. The President narrowed it down to the school feeding programme, probably because he sees that as an incentive to increase the enrolment of children in schools. Such uptake should reduce the country’s out-of-school children burden currently put at about 20 million by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisatio. But the problem with educating the Nigerian children is not just about enrolment; there is also a problem with completion and learning. In 2022, The United Nations Children’s Fund said that 70 per cent of children in school are not learning! In looking at the Nigerian child’s situation, the federal and state governments must ruminate and take concrete steps towards improving the quality of teacher training and delivery in classrooms.
There can be no future for any society that does not train its children. The Yoruba say that untrained children will violate and destroy infrastructure built, and Nigeria already has evidence of this with the vandalisation of installations across the country as well as the increase in internet fraud and the like.
The country must ensure the basic education of all its children to avoid the dangers of a deprived and depraved populace. In addition, we must be deliberate about providing education to all children, including those less disposed to academics. The Federal Government must collaborate with the states to get the crowd of agile, restless but jobless and angry young people on our hands off the streets by providing education and employment opportunities for them.
The country must reorientate its children and youths as part of its educational reform. We must discourage the get-quick-rich-by-all-means mentality that has gripped the nation’s soul. We should explore opportunities for our children in agriculture, entertainment, and sports. We must be deliberate about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and prepare the children to take on the future.
The Federal Government and states must also collaborate on the healthcare delivery front. Things are so bad in Nigeria these days that people die because they cannot afford to register in hospitals. The two tiers of government must work on implementing the National Health Act and the opportunities it presents for improving access to healthcare, the quality of healthcare delivery, and the conditions of service for personnel.
In 2007, the then outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration approved the construction of Primary Health Care Centres in the 774 local governments in the country by deducting the money from the council accounts from the source. Although the succeeding Yar’Adua administration vitiated this decision, citing its ultra-vires nature, drastic measures like this are what the new relationship between Nigeria’s federal and state governments should consider giving hope to Nigerians and assure them about the future.
The renewed hope kitchen requires multiple microwave ovens to speed up the preparation of food to satiate the hunger for hope in the land. Citizens’ restiveness and the dimming prospects for the upcoming could be assuaged in 2024 if only all leaders work together and present a common front as a compassionate and forwarding thinking group that cares about the people’s today and future.
Finally, the NGF must start to act more than a Billionaire’s Boys Club. The American equivalent of this group describes itself as the “voice of the nation’s governors and a leading forum for bi-partisan policy solutions.” It also desires “governors to work together across party lines to confront common challenges and shape federal policy…”
At this time, NGF members must reconsider a peer review mechanism that ensures even development in all states. Even though the people in each of Nigeria’s states are different, identical issues plague them. Governors should compare notes more and adopt and adapt what works in certain states in their states after establishing best practices. They should work together to protect democracy and the people’s interests.
Even though we are disparate states, the destiny of this country is tied together such that one part’s trouble is the trouble of the entire body. When agitations in the South-South looked like an exclusive problem, as the years went by, the insurgency in the North-East started, and now, everyone has something to deal with!
Governors and their forum stand in a unique position to ensure universal development in the country. They should be deliberate about working together to make Nigerians happier people starting in 2024.
May 2024 bring peace and prosperity to Nigerians.