2024 is here!

NLNG, Professor Amadi and neonatal death in Nigeria
Kazeem Akintunde


Finally, the New Year is here. Congratulations to all my readers. We eventually made it to year 2024. I pray that the new year will favour us all. I also hope we have all made appraisal of 2023 to effectively plan for 2024. Today, we are looking back at how Nigeria, our dear country, fared in the outgone year, so that we can project how the New Year would treat us.

The year 2023 will go down in the history of the country as one of the toughest for most Nigerians. This is due directly to the action that took place on February 25, 2023. On that day, a little over 25 million Nigerians went to the poll to cast their ballot to elect a new President. At the end of the exercise, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Governor of Lagos State and the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, was declared the winner of the poll. According to INEC, he secured a total of 8,794,726 votes, representing 37 per cent of total votes cast to beat Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, who got 6,984,520 votes or 29 per cent of votes cast, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who garnered 6,101,533 or 25 per cent of votes cast, to second and third place finish respectively.

Majority of these ‘men of God’ are ‘called’ by their bellies, and not God. They are also trying to survive Nigeria’s hard realities as the next man on the streets.

In the build up to the Presidential poll, there were fears that it could plunge the country into crisis as the three leading contenders were from the three major ethnic stocks in the country. Ethnic and religious politics were fully deployed. Many thought that we were on the road to another civil war. But we overcame the differences as the winner showed magnanimity in victory while the losers did the right thing by heading for the courts.

However, on May 29, 2023, in spite of the fact that all the cases against his election were still ongoing at the Supreme Court, Tinubu was sworn in as our 16th president. After his oath taking, he declared at the inauguration ground that ‘fuel subsidy is gone for good’. That phrase changed the life and trajectory for many Nigerians. Within the twinkle of an eye, the price of fuel rose by over 300 per cent and the ripple effects have affected all facets of life in the country.

Few days later, Mr. President also announced the unification of the dual exchange rate of the naira which he inherited from the previous government. Again, Naira that was exchanging at N770 to a dollar then is now above N1,200. The unification that his government claims has not been achieved as the Naira goes for N896.60 at the Investments and Exporters FX window.

The two policies of the new government overnight turned many Nigerians to paupers. Life became miserable for the larger population of Nigerians. To feed is now a herculean task for many families. Nigerians are now picking food from the garbage. The era Umaru Dikko envisaged in the 1980s, when he said that Nigerians are not picking food from the dustbins, is unfortunately here. Then, Nigerians complained that there was hunger in the land. But the then President Shehu Shagari’s all powerful Special Adviser and Minister of Transportation, Umaru Dikko, declared that there was nothing of such as he had not seen any Nigerian picking food from the garbage. Although he is late now, I don’t know how Dikko would react to seeing his fellow countrymen not only picking food from the garbage, but actually living on top of refuse dumps.

Now, poor families are deliberately sending their children into modern-day slavery all in a bid to survive the hard times. Some are turned to domestic helps, while others are lured into prostitution both at home and in foreign lands. The World Bank said that there are over 133 million Nigerians suffering from what it called multi-dimensional poverty. The Nation has never had it so bad!

Those that are working are finding it difficult to cope due to the high cost of most essentials. Worse, millions are unemployed. Prices of foodstuff and other household essentials are always on the increase on an hourly basis. That you buy a paint bucket of garri at N800 in the morning does not mean that you will get it at the same amount by nightfall. Most foodstuffs are now priced with the value of the Naira against the Dollar. Market men and women now monitor the exchange rates which they now use to determine the prices of staples such as garri and rice in Nigeria. The high cost of transportation is another factor responsible for the high cost of foodstuffs.

But President Tinubu has repeatedly told Nigerians not to worry. He said that he is aware of the difficult times many Nigerians are passing through, and that it would be temporary. This is where Nigerians should start looking towards 2024 with hope. Those promises that life would be rosy again should start manifesting this new year, even though most economists are wondering how he intends to turn the economy around so quickly that Nigerians would start feeling the impact of his government on their living conditions. I guess this is left for him and his economic team.

On that score, the economy should be the primary focus of Tinubu’s government in 2024. Measures that would reduce the cost of household essentials should be vigorously tackled. One way of going about that is to ensure that farmers can return safely to the farms. With adequate security, farmers won’t keep looking over their shoulders while on their farmlands.

However, it is sad for us as a nation that bandits and terrorists are still on the prowl in most parts of the Northern states. Although their activities seem to have reduced, they are still killing and maiming in many states, and farmers are still afraid to engage in farming activities. Where they do, they have to pay ransoms and levies to the bandits to guarantee their safety. In that wise, it is incumbent on the government to tackle the security challenges facing the country squarely. If there is security of lives and properties, farmers can return to farm, guaranteeing bountiful harvest and ultimately, a reduction in the prices of foodstuffs. For Nigerians to pay over N55,000 for a bag of rice when the minimum wage in the land is N30,000 speaks volume of what many are going through.

From now on till the end of January, merchants of fake prophesies would be on the prowl, telling Nigerians what to expect in the new year. Whilst extending a word of caution over false prophecies, I’ll also advise Nigerians not to put themselves at the mercy of these postulations, which have the tendency to play havoc with our mental health. Majority of these ‘men of God’ are ‘called’ by their bellies, and not God. They are also trying to survive Nigeria’s hard realities as the next man on the streets. Last year, many of them predicted victory for the candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi. However, Tinubu’s victory exposed many of the Pentecostal preachers in the land as fakes.

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Another worrying trend to watch out for in 2024 is communal conflicts and organized crime, which now seem to be part and parcel of us as a country, and begging for a lasting solution. Even though these have been with us before the present administration came on board, it would be a big plus to his government if lasting solutions are found. The last few weeks have been a trying period for the people of Taraba and Plateau states in particular, as many of their people were murdered by agents of darkness, to whom human life means nothing, apparently. While the military are trying their best to tackle the menace, they should be more strategic in their actions, and should share intelligence so that defeating the terrorists would be sooner rather than later.

Again, another disturbing issue that should be of concern to the government is how to tackle the over 20 million out-of-school children who are roaming the streets without any form of education. If we don’t, we are deliberately providing ready-made tools for insurgents to make use of. The problem in the Northern parts of the country was due to years of neglect of education, the result of which we are all reaping now. How to get the kids back to school should be of uppermost concern to the Tinubu’s administration. If they are left unattended to, it would amount to an understatement to say that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder.

The Tinubu government should also tackle the rot in the power sector. It is a shame that we still can’t boast of generating and successfully transmitting 10,000 megawatts of electricity to serve over 200 million Nigerians in spite of the huge resources previous governments allocated to the sector. It is embarrassing that the so-called ‘giant of Africa’ is still far from meeting its basic power needs, whereas smaller African countries now boast of 24-hour power supply. Once we are able to get things right in the power sector, industries will pick up pace and many small-scale establishments will spring up.

Thankfully, it was not all gloom for the nation in 2023, as young Nigerians in the sports and entertainment industries continued to put Nigeria on the world map with their outstanding performances. The likes of Tiwa Savage, Davido, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Asake, Tem, Oshoala, Osimhen, and many others continue to make Nigeria proud of their exploits at the world stage. Government needs to shed more light on how to tap the raw golden talents in the creative industry. It is gratifying to note that already, the Tinubu government is thinking in that line through the creation of a new ministry.

Some of our finest moments on record in 2023 were when Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala did the nation proud by winning the African Footballer of the Year awards in both male and female categories. Hilda Baci also created a buzz after breaking the Guinness World Record for the longest marathon in cooking, inspiring others to take up the challenge nationally and internationally.

I pray that the year 2024 will be a prosperous one for all of us. Happy New Year once again, and may we experience greater world peace.

2023 was also the year when the Japa syndrome caught up with most Nigerians.  Thousands left the shores of the country in search of greener pastures elsewhere. Many prominent Nigerians also died last year among who were Rotimi Akeredolu, former Governor of Ondo State, and Ghali Umar Na’abba, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, the political drama series casting the Wike/Fubara war of attrition in Rivers state is expected to continue in 2024 until there is a clear winner.

At the world stage, the war in Gaza and the Russia- Ukraine war is still ongoing. Good people the world over continue to pray that they would come to an end as soon as possible to save lives and properties. All warring factions would still have to meet at the negotiation table to seal permanent peace deals.

I pray that the year 2024 will be a prosperous one for all of us. Happy New Year once again, and may we experience greater world peace.

See you next week.

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