President Muhammadu Buhari said that Nigeria must remain a strong and united country despite the current challenges.
In a nationwide broadcast to mark the 61st independence anniversary, the President said the country’s unity is not negotiable.
“Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable,” he said “And its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation.”
The president said the federal government would arrest and prosecute persons inciting violence in the country and, unequivocally points out that the government would take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten national security.
He said the recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind them.
He said government was vigorously pursuing financiers of secessionist agitators including one identified as a serving member of the National Assembly.
“As a government, we are ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action,” he said. “Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering. That said, our hope is not to fight for peace. We can always settle our grievances peacefully without spilling any blood.”
The President called on Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue regardless of their grievances, saying: “The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and destruction of properties.”
With that passionate call made by the president on Nigerians to eschew divisions, sentiments and violence and come together to build a prosperous nation, it is left for us, Nigerians, to act.
However, Nigeria will only move forward as a nation, forged in unity, by getting the government to optimise every single public resource and make the health, safety and the prosperity of its people an urgent concern.
There are no shortcuts, fixing Nigeria requires a consistent long-term approach which, fortunately, the Buhari-led administration is now trying to entrench.
We need a united nation, forged in common belief with strong assurances from the leader. Some present and previous Nigeria’s political leaders try hard to sell sectionalism and, in end, we have not been able to organise ourselves around a national vision.
Now, we can decide to take the higher route, speak in a Pan-Nigerian sense, the kind of virtue buhari, despite his shortcomings, had in immense proportion.
Of course, it is regrettable to see Nigerians killed, not exactly by infections or diseases, but by a comatose health care system. Nigeria’s health care system is sick, it needs to be cured. How can a sickly system cure the sick? One of the biggest components of Federal government budget is the allocation to the health but that data masks a reality that health infrastructure spending is less than 1% of the budget.
We need all Nigerians to have access to quality healthcare. We can do this as a nation that cares. We need a health insurance plan, a sense of dedication and proper remuneration for our medical workforce with huge investment in health.
Fixing our health system is part of the reason why we should just do few things well. Nigerians should not die because of lack of access to basic health care.
Nigeria needs to diversify from oil. That is a time-worn narrative but we need to see it happen under President Buhari. We need to diversify because this is our biggest vehicle to raise national income, distribute wealth and also strengthen tax payments to the states.
This is where Nigeria needs to do a competitive profiling of our resources and ensure we are taking our best rent from them. Why Nigeria a multi-billion cement country, yet government royalties from limestone is less than N500 million according to Nigerian Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
What do states whose granite is being mined to fill Eko Atlantic earn from such mining? Nasarawa has a name plate of “Home of Solid Minerals,” why can’t it pay its workers’ salaries without getting money from Abuja? Nigeria, currently, is not pricing its solid minerals rightly and needs to overhaul it by taking it beyond the primary levels.
New growth poles in agriculture, ICT, business outsourcing and services must be made to be implemented as a deliberate government policy.
What is Nigeria’s plan to diversify its energy mix since it seems Niger Delta militants are taking gas plants hostage? Where are our port reforms and how do we expand this across the country? Do we think any nation progresses with loans offered at 22%? What are we doing to repatriate our intellectual capital from the diaspora to advance our weak state of education?
Do we think we can scale through this knowledge economy when our capital spend for each university is less than N1bn? Revamping our education system is not just a way to protect our future, it is a key competitive lever. Societies have been recently shown to advance when they put priority on knowledge.
The Abuja-Kaduna standard railway gauge technology that we borrowed $500 million from China is powered with technology built in 1850s. Did the Chinese know how to build this railway 30 years ago?
It’s hugely doubtful. Thus, we need to understand that knowledge is a critical competitive lever in human civilisation.
Going forward, in our bid to industrialise, Nigeria needs to choose specific industries that we want to be competitive in, focus on them and support them for the next few years. What is the sense in having timber and importing paper? Or being blessed with good soil and importing toothpicks?
Agreed, Nigeria has a revenue challenge. Still, waste is evident at all levels of government but it does not resolve the fact that our tax-to-GDP is less than 6%, worse than even some war-torn states. For every N100 we have, Nigeria spends about N40 to service debt.
Therefore, the Buhari-led administration needs to find the money to run this country, especially with oil price fluctuating. This situation, hence, makes it obvious that the solution actually lies is in taxation. The government has to strive to expand Nigeria’s formal market, develop an accurate profiling of Nigerians and their businesses and see how to build taxes in our consumption.
Why do we leave nearly our entire agricultural chain, the largest component of our GDP, untaxed? Why don’t we explore direct taxes on basic consumption such as fuel, phone calls and items sold in organised markets?
The huge grey area for Nigeria is the lack of data and inability to tax businesses in informal market. This is why we have few Nigerians in tax net. Thus, the need to formalise these businesses and take rents from them cannot be overemphasised.
When the unemployment figures in this country are stated, they are hard to believe knowing the riches of our country. However, a look at how universities and institutions of learning churn out graduates yearly the fact that there is gross unemployment in the country becomes visible.
With the kind of unemployment situation we have in place, no one needs be told that it is impossible to build the kind of Nigeria envisioned by Buhari that is united, peaceful and progressive.
Our infrastructure gap is our biggest opportunity to put people to work. For argument’s sake, rather than doling out N5,000 to citizens or any of those social schemes, why not tar every single road in this country, unleashing a massive public works programme funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria as a fiscal intervention support?
In the time of Great Depression, the US expanded liquidity through this approach. The resources — cement, sand, bitumen, men and equipment — to build great roads are not lacking. Why wait to monetise the sale of a barrel of oil or borrow from China before we can put a road down? Why are we not expanding our sports programmes, Nollywood industry and other employment drivers? Why is not in haste to develop?
Without saying so, Nigeria needs to tackle the menace of corruption to develop and, thankfully, the Buhari-led administration is doing that. With corruption prevalent, especially in high places, we will keep coming short with our resources if we don’t institutionalise transparency and accountability in governance.
No amount of money or ideas will work in Nigeria with short-termism and wasteful expenditures by the Nigerian ruling class. We need selfless leaders who are ready to take bold ideas and understand where we need to go. As long as we have leaders with big egos interested in erecting big houses around the world and travelling with large convoys, we are not going anywhere.