The year 2019 filled the nation with dread. The enormous upsurge in violent crimes, the fear of a failed national election and the attendant instability, known and unknown, created enough scare. Somehow, the nation dodged an implosion. The surge of kidnapping, robberies and murder has persisted albeit in reduced numbers. The elections were disputed. Evidence of malpractices abounds, but not enough to nullify the exercise.
Candidates exercised their constitutional rights and freedom to seek redress in the courts of law. Judgments were rendered, some of them controversial, but, generally, the system appeared to have worked as imperfectly as any institution organised and operated by Nigerians tends to be.
Late in the year, the refusal of the Federal Government to release Omoyele Sowore, even when the court had granted him bail renewed, once again, the ever-present fear that President Muhammadu Buhari, who for 20 months between 1983 and 1985 ruled the nation as a military head of state, has been accused of ignoring the rule of law. The Sowore case exhumed the administration’s previous transgressions in the observance of the rule of law.
Indeed civil society organisations reeled out at least 40 instances in which the Buhari administration flouted court orders and by so doing placed democracy in peril. It was a great national relief, therefore, when Sowore and Col. Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser, were eventually released on bail. Nothing, however, was said of other long-standing cases, like those of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife whose continued detention, contrary to court orders, is persisting in spite of numerous public demonstrations by the Shi’ites whom he leads. When these are added to numerous sundry violations of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, the Buhari administration’s record was quite grim.
We, once again, appeal to the Buhari administration to open the New Year with a new policy that would overcome its habitual ambivalence toward the rule of law. It must create less doubt about its obedience to court orders and re-dedicate itself to the fundamental tenets of democracy. The New Year holds a promise of many possibilities and Nigerians, being essentially an optimistic people, have great expectations for the year 2020. They expect their lives to improve in various ways, they hope their poverty rate, which is the highest in the world, would reduce this year. Nigerians hope that fewer Nigerians would make the risky emigration decisions that lead to hundreds of deaths in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea. We also hope the year would bring down the number of Nigerians who make the extreme drive for wealth which in previous years led to many Nigerian deaths by executions in Far Eastern nations which impose the death penalty for drug peddling.
We urge the governments in Nigeria, state and Federal, to create an atmosphere of hope for Nigerians, to foster their faith in government, to enthrone justice and equity, to give all Nigerians a sense of belonging. The lopsidedness of government appointments, the semblance of inequities and excessive nepotism in government must give way to fairness and balance in the allocation of resources nation-wide. Many of the nation’s ills arise from the existence of thousands of jobless Nigerians who drift into temptations because idleness is the devil’s bolster. Giving Nigerians gainful employment must be the primary duty of governments in 2020. The Federal Government must review its existing programmes, boost those that are working and discard those that are not. A good atmosphere for entrepreneurship must be created to enable Nigerians start their own businesses with less red tape and bureaucratic hurdles.
We urge the government to invest in agriculture and rural development, a sector that holds the best opportunity for growth and development. The development of the industrial sector must receive the utmost attention because that sector has stalled for many years primarily due to our inability to provide enough electricity to run our factories and empower our population.
We appreciate the Federal Government’s initiatives in the development of infrastructure. The development of a rail system will go a long way to diversify our transportation which has for decades relied on road transportation. The Federal Government should encourage states to invest in infrastructure development. The extremely poor execution and almost a decade of delay in completing the Lagos light rail project has left Lagos practically motionless for years, with what appears like the worst traffic situation in the world.
The war against Boko Haram has been poorly waged and seems to have turned into an endless war in which Nigeria knows very little about the powers behind Boko Haram, and our intelligence forces, after 10 years, have discovered nothing about the inner workings of the terrorist jihadists. The government is doing poorly in the war in spite of billions of dollars spent on it. The war is crying out for a new strategy.
We think the government must work to create a better electoral system for Nigeria to make our elections free, fair and transparent. Nigerians are hopeful that the year will be kinder than 2019.
We wish our esteemed readers and all Nigerians a Happy New Year.