■ Give us new lease of life ■ Resolve N’Delta issue
By Enyeribe Ejiogu, Omoniyi Salaudeen, Onyedika Agbedo and Olakunle Olafioye
Filled with the euphoria of the New Year, notable Nigerians have presented a long list of what they expect the Federal Government to focus its attention on to get the country out of the woods. Prominent among those who spoke with Sunday Sun are elder statesman and respected leader of thought in the North, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, Senator Femi Okurounmu, a former minister of transport , Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Col Gabriel Adetunji Ajayi, Niger Delta Activist, Annkio Briggs, National Chairman, United Progressives Party (UPP) and former presidential candidate, Chief Chekwas Okorie, and Prof Abiola Awosika-Fapetu. Below are their wishes:
I will like the government to embark on long term programmes that will address the issues of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment that are bedeviling the country. I think we can start by modernizing agriculture and intensifying irrigation programme. We have River Basin Authorities all over the country, and we are not using them effectively. I will like to see the government embark on development of irrigation programme because it has multiple advantages. If you rely on rain waters, you can only grow one crop in one year. But if you engage in irrigation, you have the opportunity of producing three rounds of crop in a year. That will enable you to triple your income to meet your needs.
On the issue of corruption, government should come up with a meaningful and holistic anti-corruption programme that will tackle the issue of stealing public money. We have to look at the causes of corruption in Nigeria and how the leakages can be blocked so that we can make it impossible for corruption to thrive in the country. This 2017 should a starting point for these three importance issues.
For security concern, I congratulate the government and the military for their achievement on security matter, especially the Boko Haram issue in Borno State. Although they claimed they had captured the Sambisa forest, we are yet to see the Chibok girls. About 200 of them are still missing. We are yet to see Abubakar Shekau captured. If you kill a snake what you need to do immediately is to cut off the neck. If you have not cut off the head of a snake, don’t beat your chest that you have killed the snake. Government should intensify effort to get hold of Shekau and discover whereabouts of the Chibok girls.
Tackle the economic recession –Senator Femi Okurounmu
I will like the government to be more focused and address itself to the problems of the ordinary Nigerians. They should tackle corruption more seriously; they should tackle the problem of unemployment of youths, tackle the problem of industries and see that they create jobs. The problems of the economy are so serious that they require government’s attention. They have to focus on how we can tackle the problem of recession and get the industries working and also improve infrastructure. We have to get our young men from the streets back to the factories. These should be the priority.
Talking in terms of security, I give very little credibility to the government’s statements and pronouncements. It is only the naïve that will continue to believe in what the government says because in 90 percent of cases what they say is different from the reality. If it is true that they have taken over the control of Sambisa forest, where are the remaining Chibok girls hiding? Why haven’t they got the remaining girls? That is one test of the veracity of what they are saying. The Boko Haram issue as well as Niger Delta insurgency is the product of the government’s inability to solve the problems of the nation.
Give us new lease of life –Ebenezer Babatope
I want government to kindly see what they can do to arrest the growing poverty and hunger in the land. Recession is causing a lot of heartache to many people. Tenants are unable to pay their rents, you want to sell your house, you cannot get the house to sell. The whole country is crushing under the weight of the recession. So, I want to appeal to government that in this New Year they should kindly in the name of Allah, the most merciful, see what they can do to ensure that they deal with all the problems of this nation and allow Nigerians to live their normal life. It is getting chaotic.
Resolve Niger Delta issue –Annkio Briggs
Neither this government nor any other government has ever succeeded in addressing the Niger Delta question. In my opinion as a stakeholder, this government has not demonstrated any genuine interest of resolving the Niger Delta issue. Unfortunately for this government, the desire and aspiration of the Niger Delta people today is not the same as the desire and aspiration of Niger Delta people of yesterday. Yesterday, we were talking about resource control; we were talking about 25 percent. But I can assure you that today we are talking about a 100 percent ownership and control. Today, we are talking about paying tax to federal government. Today, we are talking about restructuring Nigeria as a country. Let everybody keep what they have; develop yourselves with what you have. Any other approach will not be accepted by some sections in the Niger Delta. Therefore, the fact that the Niger Delta issue will be resolved seems very far off as far as I am concerned.
Don’t allow insurgency to spread to other parts –Col Gabriel Adetunji Ajayi
Nigerians don’t understand what is going on in other parts of the world. An insurgency war like the one being waged by Boko Haram has been going on in some countries for over 30 years. The only solution is to prevent this type of thing to start in the first place. Once it starts, it will only take the grace of God to put an end to it. We must make Nigeria attractive to Nigerians so that there will be no reason for anybody to pick arms against the country. It is not a conventional battle like the Biafra war where Biafran leaders came to Lagos to surrender and then we held victory parade to signal the end of the war. This is insurgency; some people want certain things to take place in the country and so many people are tacitly supporting them.
From my personal experience as a soldier, I operated in Southern Lebanon in 1979. The two largest refugee camps in the world are located in Southern Lebanon and from 1948 the victims in these camps were victims of terrorism. Throughout the world today, those are the greatest recruiting centres for terrorists. Those who were victims of terrorism are becoming combatants in terrorism. The best thing is not to allow this kind of crisis to start. Once it starts, it will be very difficult to end. The insurgents have something they believe in; they do not attach value to human lives. That is why they are ready to blow themselves up. We made a mistake to have allowed the war to start in the first place. The federal government should ensure that nothing like this happens in other part of the country. The military should be commended for their ability to restrict them to north east.
Give Nigerians three square meals –Chief Charles Udeogaranya
My expectation is that the leadership must make a serious effort to change the course of politics and economy and some social interactions of the country. What we witnessed in the last one year or thereabout is a leadership that seems to be naïve about the people they govern. The positive change Nigerians expect must come from the leadership. The government should dialogue where they need to dialogue and negotiate where they need to negotiate. They must ensure that Nigerians are able to eat three square meals per day. When that happens, you have solved their major problem. If they ultimately fail, Nigerians will likely opt for a new government in 2019. And that is what we intend to provide for them.
Dialogue with Niger Delta –Chekwas Okorie
I am looking forward to the year with certain level of optimism. I feel that internal security will improve with the eventual decimation of Boko Haram. Also, the activists in the Reverine areas have laid out what I may call very reasonable conditions for peace to return. I believe that the President who had come out in very few occasions to call for dialogue will take advantage of that offer so that peace and development can return to the Niger Delta.
On the agitation for Biafra which is being championed by MASSOB and IPOB, the agitation will continue. But because it is non-violet, it is not going to disrupt the economic life of our people. But it is going to define the politics of 2017 and beyond.
Work on the value of naira –Prof Abiola Awosika-Fapetu
I learnt that the foreign reserve has been going up of late; this is what should be happening. So, boosting our foreign reserve is the only thing that will bring down the dollar. When we export more, when we manufacture locally and don’t spend our had currency outside the country and thereby moving jobs to those countries where we import good from, that is when the economy will start gaining stamina.
So, the recession will only go away when we change our spending habit; when we spend money on locally made products than we do on imported products. The strength of the currency of any nation depends on several factors. It depends on the strength of the economy, inflation, interest rate regime and so on. We must make sure that we get a balance. I think what has happened, which is good, is that we have allowed the exchange rate to hit the bottom so that we know exactly how strong the economy is. So, this is our reality and this is the only time we can begin to climb back up.
Cut down unnecessary spending –Bishop Humphrey Erumaka
I don’t expect dramatic changes or a whole lot of things becoming positive overnight. However, God will see us through. Buhari should cut down huge amount of money spent on food and food-related supplies to reflect the mood of the country in economic recession. I have heard that the government set aside about N100 million for the purchase of new kitchen utensils (plates, cutlery and the like) and another N25 million for the supply of cooking gas for the State House. Are they telling us that they will throw away all the plates, gas cookers, refrigerators, freezers, etc, in the State House and buy complete new set of everything? This is absolutely wrong; it should not be done. It is saddening, and clearly spiteful of suffering Nigerians. The Presidential Villa should borrow a leaf from Peter Obi and what he did in Anambra State. Peter Obi knew what was being done in the kitchen of the Government House and moved to stop the excesses. Nothing stops the president from taking a lighthearted peek in the kitchen to ensure that the people working there are not hiding under his name to perpetrate financial atrocities right under his nose.