BY PETER OBI AND DATTI BABA-AHMED
Nigeria is a challenged nation. This is very clear. Given the severe reversal in quality of life and development, the current state of our nation is simply no longer sustainable. Leadership is at the heart of the problem. While our country continues to face a handful of natural disasters, it is leadership issues and constraints that have kept Nigeria on its knees.
Moving Nigeria forward and meeting its needs now and in the medium to long term requires a complete paradigm shift that must start with determined and transformative leadership; leadership that can think disruptively, inside and outside the box.
Today, Nigeria is at the bottom rungs of the global development indices. Insecurity is at its highest point. Our economy is in bad shape. The Naira is in free fall. The prices of goods and services are skyrocketing. This is even when family incomes decline and high-paying jobs evaporate. Our country is massively in debt. Capital flight from Nigeria is reported to be 82%. A significant part of our income goes to debt service. The government can barely meet its legal obligations.
Staff unions at academic and medical institutions are embarking on crippling strikes. Currently, 18.5 million children do not attend school. Unemployment is at 35%. National cohesion and resilience are at their lowest point. The electrical power supply remains as epileptic and unreliable as it has been for decades.
Consequently, Nigerians are hungry, angry and fed up with bad leadership. The choice to continue on this trajectory or seek a new direction is no longer up for debate. Nigeria needs an enabling environment where domestic and foreign investors are encouraged and protected. Addressing insecurity should no longer be a cliché. It requires consistency. It calls for a robust and reformed federal and state police. And it is imperative that genuine grievances be addressed without compromising national sovereignty and security. It is time for the state to take crime seriously, both inside and outside of government circles.
There is a clear correlation between a poor and marginalized society and one that relapses into criminality. Therefore, national remediation has become imperative. The parallel track requires an assertive revitalization of the Nigerian economy to ensure people are lifted out of poverty.
Nigeria is also facing a combination of circumstances that undermine its overall governance needs. These challenges are not insurmountable. However, they require selected leadership and governance responses. The prevailing era of deprivation, insecurity, poverty, visceral violence and bloodshed must end. But these challenges will not end if the government remains inactive and resigned to these harsh realities.
It is time to urgently rescue Nigeria from implosion. People can certainly pursue personal, partisan, and group interests. But in times of serious challenge, true patriots must overcome self-interest and sectional considerations to build a resilient society in the national interest. The primary mission as we see it is to secure, unite and make Nigeria productive again. We must invest in developing our human capital to match what we need in today’s technology-driven 21st century economy.
Never in its history has Nigeria been so divided. There is a serious trust deficit between Nigerian leaders and the national public. Furthermore, our current society is terribly, even insidiously, polarized. Therefore, achieving a true nationality for our country should be a matter of priority for all well-meaning Nigerians.
This means that along with the government’s responsibility to protect and ensure the safety of life and property, a united Nigeria must be at the forefront of our national discourse. We find no better way to unite Nigerians than for leaders to engender people’s trust in leadership. Nigerians need leadership they can trust.
Moving Nigeria forward essentially requires a two-track approach. It requires self-sufficiency in food and a better supply of energy. Beyond oil, Nigeria must turn its vast arable land in the north into its new oil. We must get our industries running smoothly again. We must progressively generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity per year over the next decade. When we have achieved these objectives, we will have created employment opportunities that will translate into less crime.
Conventional wisdom suggests that in life, we must make the decision to take a chance, or our lives will never change. Nigerians must make difficult decisions to ensure that, in their nascent democracy, the government is committed to promoting the rule of law without restraint. We must ensure that governance is henceforth inclusive, profitable, transformative and less transactional. We must ensure that domestic investments are transparent and regenerative. It is imperative that we move from consumption to production. This must be the new national mentality.
Securing, uniting and making Nigeria productive requires steady and trustworthy hands. That security is something that all Nigerians desire. In fact, beyond desire, they vehemently demand it. From our vantage point, these demands are now imperative. Nigeria needs a new lease on life. We are ready to deliver it.
Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed are the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, of the Nigerian Labor Party.
Opinions expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not those of TheCable.