2015: What Nigerians expect

THE fading away of 2014 with its tragedies and triumphs, its several setbacks and occasional happy strides provides the jump off point for projecting into the New Year. 2014 will be remembered for many things, more than a handful of them depressing. It was the year in which the sleepy backwater village of Chibok in Borno State made a forced entry into the world map following the abduction in April of over 200 schoolgirls who were writing their West African School Certificate Examination. That event and its accompanying reverberations signalled an upswing in the challenge of the insurgents to the territorial integrity of Nigeria.     It was the year in which the price of oil plummeted from a rosy $140 per barrel in June to a bleak $60 per barrel in December.

On a positive note, Nigeria wrestled the dreaded Ebola virus to a standstill and following the re-basing of its Gross Domestic Product graduated into Africa’s largest economy. Largely credible elections were held in Osun and Ekiti states indicating movements in the direction of democratic consolidation. It is against this backdrop that we must inaugurate a conversation around the expectations of Nigeria for 2015. These expectations are spelt out in the context of the recent vicissitudes of the economy which have pushed the country into a straitjacket. Long used to broken promises, Nigerians have come not to expect much from successive governments indicating that the social contract is in distress. That notwithstanding there are minimal obligations that government owes its citizenry no matter how rough the terrain gets.

It is salutatory to consider the assurances of government that the country was ready to absorb the shock of the continuing downslide in oil prices. As the Minister for Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala affirmed recently: “Panic is not a strategy. We are managing the situation to keep the country on a stable sustainable course.” That being the case, Nigerians expect that the common man will not be made to bear the scary brunt of the oil price shock through such ill-considered policies as fuel subsidy removal or the unhelpful wielding of the axe of retrenchment. We say this in the light of the fact that many workers in the public and private sectors were sentenced to the non-payment of salaries at the end of the year, at a time when the prices of good lurched upwards.

In a similar vein and in the interest of the survival of our democracy, Nigerians expect that the 2015 elections will be carefully managed making them as hitch-free and as smooth as possible, devoid of bloodshed. We are cheered in this respect by President Goodluck Jonathan’s Christmas Day speech in which he said, “I seize this opportunity to reassure the nation that our administration will give the Independent National Electoral Commission all necessary support to ensure that it delivers very free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in 2015.” One can only add to this that all stakeholders such as the political class, the electoral umpire, the security agencies and the citizenry play their assigned roles in making Jonathan’s promise a reality.

Needless to say that Nigerians expect improved power supply in 2015 considering the woes of blackouts in 2014. For example, the massive drop in power generation in recent times was attributed at the end of October to a drop by 1000 mega watts in generation. The Minister for Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, attributed the circumstance to the menace of gas pipeline vandalism. Nebo went on to say: “we want to be very sure that this is nipped in the bud with regards to gas supply and we are doing everything possible to minimise the incidences of vandalism.” Nigerians will like to believe that the promise was sincerely made and that the New Year irrespective of who wins the elections will witness a mark up in power generation and supply.

Important too, is the need to improve transportation by completing the second Niger bridge project and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Similarly, the recent improvement in rail transportation should be built upon to the point where the country can boast a modern rail system that can take passengers off overcrowded roads. Perhaps we should add that the achievement of these worthwhile goals is dependent on making progress in the diversification of the economy and the granting of priority to developing the agricultural and solid mineral sectors. It is also necessary to take a hard look at the persistent crisis in the Nigerian Football Federation with a view to tackling it in order to bring back our sporting glory.

Finally, Nigerians will be grateful if these expectations will constitute the bedrock of purposeful policies and actions by government in the New Year.