The next level is the promised land of all the APC campaigns in the 2019 elections, especially at the presidential level. This is premised on a pledge and commitment to improve on the gains from 2015 to date by the APC led government which had pivoted its campaign mainly on fighting corruption and insecurity. We have seen other positives including the growth of our foreign reserves from a meagre $24 billion in 2015, to over $40 billion in 2019. Nigeria has also become Africa’s largest economy and the continent’s biggest producer of rice. Some argue that we overtook Egypt because they are conserving water, which we have in abundance, so we are still the better, aren’t we? Our agricultural products export value has also risen from $170 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to over $300 billion in the same quarter of 2018. Just recently, Nigeria received foreign investments to the tune of N1.4 trillion, effectively raising our foreign reserves by over $4 billion, amounting to a total of over $44 billion. The fight against corruption is also going to another level as N22 billion was retrieved from a pension fund felon who has, accordingly, been sent to prison. It is also on record that over N1 billion and another $8 million was forfeited by a former first lady and the recovered ill-gotten funds have been placed in the nation’s TSA (Treasury Single Account). The manner in which elections were conducted peacefully in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, which were most hit by the insurgency, proves that a significant amount of success has indeed been recorded from that war front.
The presidential campaigns have come and gone and the contributions of many that made it possible might go unnoticed and uncelebrated. Most of the images of Mr. President that we see from his campaigns were brought to us, courtesy of a photojournalist and documentary photographer, Mr. Bayo Omoboriowo. Bayo hails from Lagos and has a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry but that wasn’t to be his calling eventually. His calling was in the arts and he would rise to become Mr. President’s official photographer. He has been celebrated before working for the president, winning the award for the best prize in the NACCP climate change photo award in 2012, and twice becoming runner up in the AAF – Etisalat best amateur photography competition in 2011. The images we see of Mr President from this talented individual not only showcase how good he is, but also endears the president to us, waving his ‘magical broom’, adorning different attires as he tries to reflect our ethnic diversity. I would see Bayo standing on the roof top of a moving SUV (Jeep), and just zooming his camera to capture the best shots he can to cover the campaigns. I would always wonder how he balances himself in the midst of all the chaos and rancour and marvel at how he is not in the slightest discombobulated.
Bayo’s photos, of course, aren’t the only thing that caught my attention. His recent post about a ‘Baba’ he had captured in one of his photos in the 2015 campaigns, whom he again captured in the 2019 elections, is what directed my attention to him. He shot Baba again, this time, Baba was looking even more frail and emaciated. Baba had ‘changed’ for the worse from 2015 and didn’t look like he was going to the next level, despite the fact that he was clutching to his old transistor radio, with all intent of reaching the next level.
Long after the campaigns, Bayo looked for this old man from the pictures he had of him and went to greet him. He bought and sewed new clothes and caps for Baba Haruna Sawaba and gave some money for the up keep of himself and his family. Bayo also got Aisha Buhari’s attention and she promised to also send up keep regularly. Bayo was not only focused on his job, he was also compassionately paying attention to the condition of the people he was seeing while he was on camera duty.
The poverty level in the country is almost at its most high, and with this, the next level might be a mirage. The next level can hardly be achieved without adequate and dedicated attention towards emancipating the masses from poverty, especially in the northern part of the country. Tradermoni must be widened and funded massively. The much talked about government owned micro-finance bank that will lend money to the masses must be brought to fruition expediently. It must also be policed rigorously along with the Tradermoni to stamp out corruption, as certain individuals have been manipulating the Tradermoni system. The next level with a largely illiterate north, where 24 students in Zamfara state are sitting for the common entrance exams while Rivers state has over 4000, leaves much concern. Basic education needs a state of emergency-declaration as opposed to the concentration on tertiary education. The ‘materials’ fed into the higher institutions are ‘uncooked’ and ‘half baked’, hence there is little the tertiary institutions can do to better the grade of the education of its students.
The next level needs philantrophy and compassion, in the like exhibited by Bayo. Pausing for a moment to think of other less privileged Nigerians and doing something to better their lives should abound in the next level. It can be in the form of food or clothing, or in the form of boreholes and even classrooms and school uniforms. Politicians and political appointees, especially at the state and local levels, need to pay attention to what they see as they go round campaigning. They must have a glossary of what the deficiencies of their communities are and how best to tackle them. Most of what we term as poverty is found back in the localities and this is where a lot of money is domiciled, with the state and local governments. The struggles of the APC in the six states with inconclusive elections are in states termed as the poorest states e.g. Zamfara, Adamawa, and Bauchi. Even Kano has some of the poorest localities one can think of. These struggles are a result of the lack of attention to this cankerworm of poverty in the North. The next level should not be an Abuja phenomenon alone. It must carry all the states along, even if it means having directorates at the states, to properly implement the next level agenda.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.