Last week we discussed the issue of the pathetic existential situation of a majority of Nigerians on both the rural and urban areas of Nigeria, and we ended up appealing in this column to president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his team of Economic experts to put in place sustainable and permanent economic measures, policies and programmes to alleviate the untold suffering and deprivations faced by nearly eighty five (85) percent Nigerians.
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If I thought I was going to get fovourable response from both President Umaru Yar’Adua and even the common people, I was dead wrong. Why?
First, as soon as the LEADERSHIP Newspaper of last week Friday (23rd January, 2009) hit the News Stands across the country, a steady stream of reactions flowed freely into my mail box and telephone sets.
Do you know what? Majority of the readers who responded told me emphatically that they no longer repose any hope or trust on President Yar’Adua and his team of Economists to put in place workable economic measures to revive our moribund economy. I will return to the reaction of the people of Nigeria but before then let me state that on the side of president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his core loyalists, they did not care a hoot about the appeal in my column to His Excellency.
You may be wondering how I knew that the presidency is completely non-responsive to our clarion call on the Government to rescue the citizenry that are largely afflicted by poverty. On the day that piece came out, the entire house hold of president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua were engaged in very extensive merry making and celebration because one of the president’s most beautiful and charming daughters- Nafisa was given out in high profile society wedding to the All Nigerian Peoples Party’s Governor of Bauchi State. Key loyalists of president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, his numerous lackeys, bootlickers, sycophants and hangers- on were ferociously engaged in sponsoring numerous colourful Newspaper advertorials – similar to the media merry go- round that has become part of the style of Governance of most states and especially Imo State. Virtually all the state Governors have been transformed to huge civilian dictators in their own right. President Yar’Adua’s favored friends took up elaborate newspaper advertisements to congratulate the first family on the wedding of one of his daughters. So, the question of whether anyone in the presidency will heed to our clarion call for the activation of an effective economic rescue package for the millions of the heavily impoverished Nigerians does not arise since the political elites were engaged in feasting and celebrating the wedding of President Yar’Adua’s daughter to Governor of Bauchi State Alhaji Isa Yuguda. Governors and the president are busy celebrating their daughters’ weddings while the rest of us are wallowing in an unmitigated poverty- stricken situation.
On the side of the ordinary Nigerians who responded to the intervention carried in this column, I will publish just two out of the over one hundred responses I got because they are all basically saying one thing and passing a definite vote of no confidence on the current administration.
Amos Ejimonye who wrote in from Kaduna said: “No, there is nothing Yar’Adua can do in a class to protect the rights of the oppressed. Why? Because the party has vowed to maintain the socio-economic system that supports exploitation and oppression of the people by the class in power, what the oppressed can do is to overthrow and build a new society with no exploiters or exploited”. Shehu Sani, the Civil Rights Activist, also text me his reaction thus; “Umaru can’t rule Nigeria; He is sick, inexperienced, weak, slow, unidirectional, indecisive, unfocussed, uncharismatic, colourlesly, boring and truant.
“This is not the kind of leader our nation needs at this time… a leader that can electrify our conscience with his zeal, agility and sincerity of purpose and spark up our patriotism and energy by his tact, swiftness and visible developmental projects is what we need”. In as much I acknowledge that human beings are prone to varying degrees of illnesses and therefore no one should be cajoled on the ground of his illness but I agree with the submissions substantially made by these respondents and in compliance with section 39 of the 1999 constitution, I think they are wholly and entirely entitled to these opinions.
Section 39 (1) states that; “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
Sadly, just as Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the hard fact that the federal Government is reportedly set to spend a whooping sum of N2 billion naira in the 2009 budget to buy generators to power Government activities even while the rest of us exist in total darkness due to the criminal erratic power supply situation in Nigeria, Vanguard Newspaper of Monday 26th January 2009 came up with a shocking revelation as made by the highly influential Manufacturers Association of Nigeria that 60 million Nigerians are now proud owners of generators.
The Vanguard Newspaper’s story has it that; “an estimated 60 million Nigerians now own power generating sets for their electricity, while the same number of people spend a staggering #1.56 trillion ($13.35 million USD) to fuel them annually”.
The vanguard report attributed the story to the Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Imo, Abia States’ Branch Dr. Frank Jacobs
This sad tale of underdevelopment goes to show that more Nigerians will die this year from the poisonous effects of generator fumes and other carbon monoxide chemicals unless something very urgent is done by all stakeholders to mitigate the environmental damage and hazards that these pollution will unleash on the Nigerian climate.
Can somebody tell the amiable and humble Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, to please help Nigerians before we all die from air pollutions from generators. Nigeria can not run on generators if we ever hope to join the rest of the industrialised World or if we ever hope to realize some of the key Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
At the 17th Session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Industry held in Cairo, Egypt, on June 21st 2006, Africans were told that only industrialisation can rescue Africans from mass poverty.
The fact remains that Nigeria and other African nations will never become industrialised if majority of the economic activities are run on generators.
Xinhua, the official Chinese News Agency reported on January 27 2007 that;
“If Africa is to achieve economic development, industrialisation would have to be at the top of the development agenda, and the continent’s natural resources must also be managed, exploited and processed efficiently, according to a report adopted at the 10th Ordinary Session of African Union’s Executive Council”.
“The report was made at the 17th Session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Industry, which was held in Cairo on June 21, 2006, awaiting the consideration and adoption at the ordinary session ahead of the African Union summit which will fell on January 29 to 30 on the following year”.
‘In the report, the African ministers of industry took stock of the weakness of industrial capacities of the continent, the rather low level of industrial competitiveness, and the state of domestic and direct foreign investment in the sector”.
“They also mentioned the rather weak quality and standard of the local products, the insufficient capacities and capabilities for the participation of the continent in international trade, and the weak synergies between production and trade”.
“The Ministers noted in the report that Africa faces a multitude of other challenges such as migration, the AIDS pandemic, malaria, TB, the deterioration in the utilisation of installed production capacities, worsening poverty, the rural-urban drift, low-skill levels, environmental degradation, sources for youth employment, energy insecurity, food insecurity and as well as conflicts”.
“They reaffirmed the role of political leadership of the African Union in achieving the goals set in the various industrial development programs at the sub-regional and regional levels while being determined to mobilise and make available resources and other required inputs to improve on inadequacies in the physical infrastructure and to eliminate constraints that weigh upon the offer, and to ensure respect for technical standards”.
“the ministers also requested that such technical assistance must ensure careful consideration of the sub-regional priorities and policies as defined by the regional economic communities, and are committed to establishing mechanisms for partnership with the international community, including fostering cooperation with other developing countries to secure additional technical and financial resources, exchange of information and experience for the implementation of programmes”.
“Since agriculture was the mainstay of most African economies, agro-based industrialisation had to be at the core of their development agenda, suggested by the experts”.
These recommendations are germane and must be implemented.
•Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria