2018 is a year to forget for many Nigerians. The year began with punishing fuel queues and gruesome killings by herdsmen and cult gangs that are yet to be identified and brought to justice. If Nigerians thought the authorities will act to stop the killings, they were wrong. One senior member of the government after another weighed in on the side of the killer herdsmen with one advising those being killed that it was better for them to surrender their lands to the killers rather than be killed. Sadly, the year is ending with a resurgence of the Boko Haram and ISIS attacks in Borno state putting a lie to the often repeated claim by the government that the Boko Haram insurgency has been technically defeated. Many brave Nigerian soldiers in their thousands have lost their lives in recent months to bold attacks of the insurgents. Rather than concentrating their attacks on soft targets, the insurgents have taken the initiative and are on a major offensive against Nigerian troops across the various areas of operations. That is not the tactics of a defeated or even weakened enemy. It is the tactics of a reinvigorated and determined foe singularly committed to winning the war.
Sadly, the Nigerian government and military authorities took so much delight in the early successes against the insurgent groups and thought all was over and returned to business as usual. Although billions of dollars were allocated to security both in the budget and via special request by the presidency, stories from the fronts show a dispirited, confused, badly equipped and under-fed army taking a beating from a determined, highly equipped and mobile insurgent group(s).
As we suspected, a Defence and Foreign Affairs report published by the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) – a Washington-based non government organization – have identified massive corruption among the military chiefs as one of the reasons Nigeria is losing the war against the insurgent group(s). The ISSA report was categorical that the government has lost control of the engagement with Boko Haram and could show no instance when the government presently had tactical, theatre, strategic, or information dominance of any aspect of the conflict. According to its assessment, while the insurgent groups grow stronger, the Nigerian military grows weaker and beset by morale collapse.
Like we all suspect, the report avers that the top brass of the military is more interested in stopping the leakage of information about massive corruption in the military in the name of fighting Boko Haram than actually fighting the insurgent group.
On the economy, nothing has really changed. Although the economy exited recession, it is still growing far below population growth meaning Nigerians are still getting poorer by the day. It is no wonder the World Poverty Clock ranks Nigeria as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty in the world; and that the figure will continue to rise as 8, 000 people slide into the extreme poverty hole in a day.
No doubt, the policies of the administration are largely to blame. Haven inherited an economy in danger due to falling oil prices, the administration wrongly decided on a raft of policies meant to shrink the private sector and restore the primacy of the state in the economy. This had the effect of crowding out the private sector, resulting in huge job loses and de-industrialisation in such massive scale that Nigeria is now grappling with unemployment in such a scale that the number of its unemployed and hopeless citizens is more than the populations of many countries on the African continent. This is a waiting and ticking time bomb the government has no clue as to how to handle.
On the final piece of policy so dear to the heart of the president – fighting corruption, we have seen how the whole concept has been turned into a joke and the anti-corruption agencies, especially the EFCC being turned into an agency of the All Progressives Party (APC) harassing and persecuting only opposition politicians while APC stalwarts credibly accused of corruption with ample evidences continue to exercise untrammelled powers and bestrides the polity as great political colossus. The names of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, Kano state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje readily comes to mind.
We hope this year, the governance of the country will experience a rebirth and whoever wins the forthcoming elections will put machinery in motion to rebuild trust and begin to tackle the myriad problems bedevilling the country. We wish you all a happy new year!