By: Philip Agbese
On the surface, 2016 looks like a year Nigerians would like to zap from their memories. It is the year in which President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration marked one year in office and this was a milestone that used to attract the equivalent of non-stop genuflecting from corridor trekkers. But for this year, like the waves receding at low tide to expose the mess that revelers and picnickers have made on the beach, all the failings and errors of the year past were revealed in all their harsh goriness.
The naira took a great fall. Again, an expected economic recession hit the country harder than was envisaged. Insurrection blossomed in the south and the only comfort and solace we should have found as a people was shattered by the magnitude of perfidy that took place under the administrations past Which failed to protect the country from foreseeable consequences.
Nigerians reacted to these development as only humans could. Not a few took to social media to repent their decision to vote President Buhari to effect that much needed positive change. The cyberspace became inundated with memes that sought to ridicule the concept of change. Others developed hashtags that speak of their frustration like #bringbackourcorruption and #changethechange.
There is a way the negative gets surplus airtime and end up making a vocal minority to be heard above other measured observers and contributors to the national debate. When this happens, we deviate from having a national discourse to having a shouting match and the side that makes the loudest din appears to win such melee.
This explains why the good things we have going for us courtesy of the present administration are barely ever acknowledged, let alone celebrated. Like someone who takes his good health and trouble free life for granted to lament about being broke, we as a nation decided to lament the things we perceive as wrong with the nation while ignoring the slow, painful but appropriate processes of institution and system building that are going on and deepening.
We have this processes to thank for the fact that the international community does not deride us now that we face economic challenges as much as it did when corruption was the largest industry in the land. The two years proceeding the ascent of President Buhari to power, Nigeria was synonymous with corruption such that even if efforts were made to diversify the economy, the international markets were wary of doing business with our nationals for fear of being duped. Today, we talk about diversification and take it for granted that those we will be shipping our goods to have no worries about being defrauded.
President Buhari is instrumental to dismantling this same corruption in the security sector. The evil that allowed the Boko Haram insurgency to grow while persons in positions of trust feathered their own nests met its match under this watchful administration. As some of the memes had it, “one can now leave the goat in the same room with the yam without anything untowards happening”.
An immediate consequence of this development was the turning of the tide against Boko Haram terrorists that were once rumored as being invincible. It became glaring to the insurgents for the very first time that, they are on a self-destructive mission. They have tasted the reality of the power of a nation state and were soon humbled to a point that willingly surrendering to superior force is the only alternative option. With this squarely staring them in the face they commenced the process to discuss the release of school girls they abducted under a less concerned government in Chibok.
If one care to observe, the other terrorists, those that unleash terror on us using the power of their pen and bank transfers have also taken flight. They have become the loudest moaners and sponsors of wailers about how cash flow has dried up because the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the Buhari administration has turned off the tap to corruption from one of its sources. With the better capture of government resources comes a reduction in the willingness of people to flaunt wealth that can only be stolen and ill-gotten. Those forced to live within their means may curse the government but those that are now better served with public resources, who were once the forgotten of the society now know for sure that things can only get better the longer this government remains in office.
A significant achievement for 2016 is the intangible fact that we are being weaned off the things that held us back as a nation. The economy is gradually being diversified. On the surface, the militants destroying oil installations in the Niger Delta portends economic doom especially with the realization that falling crude prices should not be followed with lower production or export capacity. But we have also learnt that the country can run without the full compliment of the revenue from crude oil. The body language of Mr. President in the face of the separatist provocations of the militants is one that has brought calm and cessation of hostilities.
One must however admit that there are things that could have been better in 2016 and must now be inculcated in the approaching year. One of the topmost is the need to attend to national issues with even more dispatch than witnessed this year.
The other is to dispense with political considerations when any of Mr. President’s lieutenants are complicit in any wrongdoing to the point of constituting a distraction to the administration.
Thirdly, the same political will must be extended to when it becomes imperative to administer any bitter medicine to the nation by way of policies that some people must invariably kick against.
The expectation is that once the nation can continue on the current path set by Mr. President, and consolidate of the gains accruing therefrom, Nigeria will proudly step into a 2017 in which most of the seeds planted since May 29 2015 will begin to yield fruits. Meanwhile, the memes can keep coming.
Agbese writes from UK