WORLD AND NIGERIA AFFAIRS
(An Extract from Bishop s Charge of the 1st Session of the 7th Synod delivered by the Rt Revd Dr. Olusola James Odedeji)
WORLD AND NIGERIAN AFFAIRS
In the gospel of St. Mark 13:7-9a, the Bible says “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and Kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. “You must be on your guard”.
When we consider the message above, vis-à-vis the occurrences all over the world today, Christians of all races must indeed be on their guard. One need not be told that the prophesies of wars and rumours of wars are already with us. Many nations are faced with challenges of famine. There were earthquakes, volcanoes, wild fire outbreaks and other hazardous occurrences even in nations where they have the technologies to abate same.
The Church has increasingly been concerned about world events. We thank God that a good number of issues give cause for cheer whilst there are numerous challenges that need to be addressed by world leaders
World Peace and Security: The tension between the West and Russia has escalated with the recent mass expulsion of diplomats by several countries aligned to the United Kingdom and the resultant retaliatory moves by Russia. Without a doubt the world is unsafe if Russia and the United States of America do not cease hostilities. It is pleasing to note that North and South Korean leaders have finally been able to meet and have both assured the world that they are ready to put behind them the hostilities of the past 50 years. There are still threats to world peace by the goings-on in Syria and other places around the globe but it is our prayer that the good Lord we serve would touch the hearts of man and keep the world safe.
Climate Change: The issues of climate change is increasingly becoming a major cause of concern.Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. Sea levels are rising and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.
Climate change poses a fundamental threat to the places, species and people’s livelihoods. Organisations like the World Wildlife Foundation WWF are doing a lot to protect the world. To adequately address this crisis, world leaders must urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming, which we are already experiencing. Concerted effort must:
- advance policies to fight climate change
- engage with businesses to reduce carbon emissions
- help people and nature adapt to a changing climate
Refugees and migrants:According the United Nations statistics the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
People are still fleeing persecution and conflict all over the world and are being granted asylum in foreign lands. The recent upsurge in deaths on the Mediterranean seas brought to fore a problem that the world needs to address. As a Church we are concerned about human suffering and pray that world leaders provide policies that would ensure this human drift and the pains are eliminated.
I Timothy 2:1-2 – “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. This verse is pertinent is commenting on issues that concern Nigeria.
As Christians, we live in a fine balance; standing for that which is true while seeking unity amongst ourselves whenever possible, standing firm in the faith while showing grace to those who do not, holding our leaders accountable while praying for their wisdom and well-being. Simply, our country Nigeria today is at crossroads. We are to learn from the words of Ezekiel 22:30, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” A great challenge that comes our way is that we are to be those who stand in the gap, who lift up our nation Nigeria with all it favors and faults before the throne of God, and pray that He continues to work in our midst. God would not abandon Nigeria even at these times, Amen. In 2nd Chronicle 7:14 we are admonished “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land". God would surely lead this sore land!
The Economy: There are various shades of opinion on the state of the Nigerian economy. No doubt we have been certified recession-free by all known economic authorities but life is still hard for the common-man. We still remain a mono-economy with crude oil still being the highest revue earner despite attempts to diversify the economy. Why is this difficult to lay strategic plans to diversify the Nigerian economy? We hear of The United Arab Emirates(UAE) that found oil later than we did but has since moved on to sustain its economy,away from oil. That’s a serious country that Nigeria has over the ages refused to benchmark and emulate.
Some highlights of our economy
- China, US and the UK remain Nigeria’s main trading partners. Trade is skewed towards these countries as we import more than we export to them.
- Brent oil price crossed the $75 per barrel mark thanks to the Iran/Israel faceoff.
- Nigeria is still producing crude oil at the level of 1.8 million barrels per day.
- Interest rates is hovering at about 13.34% (March 2018).
- Major export commodities are Oil, LNG and Cocoa, while major import commodities are wheat, sugar and rice.
- The foreign exchange regime remains high with parallel market dollar exchange rates hovering among the N360 to N370 to the dollar. But this would be so, for as long as there is the continual focus on being import dependent.
Maybe it is time to seriously hand over our leaders to God so that they understand that they know of God that “He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.”Job 12:23-25. Could our economic trails simply be our lack of focus on God’s intended purpose for Nigeria? The politics of 2019 should be dominated by issues such as unemployment, inflation and GDP growth. God would heal our land and make it prosperous once more. Amen.
We must appraise all sectors of our economy to determine the state we are in. Indicators such as Economy, Education, Agriculture, Foreign Policy, Finance, Foreign Reserve, Security, Corruption, Executive, Legislative,Judiciary, the Private Sector, the Civil service etc. all need be holistically appraised to determine the state of our nation, Nigeria.
Education:The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has continued to criticize the educational sector of our nation, Nigeria. Whereas in other climes, Education is given the highest priority aside defense, but in Nigeria only the rich and the affluent ones get the best quality of education for their children, while the brilliant but indigent ones are denied quality education. The trend of events in Nigeria is becoming more worrisome by the day, more so, that the percentage of those that are out of school are more than those in school. The ‘so called’ educated ones are out on the streets, because education to them is only a tool to look for white collar jobs. How many of our institutions have an entrepreneurial training as part of their curriculum?
In another part of our dear country, only the girl child is enrolled in school by the majority, while the boys are thrown out of their respective houses to fend for themselves. Even among the girls in school, only 30% are making it to tertiary institutions while about 70% are married off at their tender ages. We suggest that the right bills be sent to the National Assembly to enact laws that will address our educational deficiencies.
Agriculture: As earlier expressed, the Government of the day has concentrated on Agriculture as a shift from over-dependence on crude oil. Not only that the fiscal policy of the Government has favoured agriculture, the monetary policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria has aided a boom in the sector, through its ‘Anchor Borrowers Scheme’. Many states of the country now produce their own rice, with the Government of Kebbi State leading. Thanks to their easy access to bank loans with reasonable interest rates, and ready markets for farmers’ products.
Security: The truth must be told that our Government is not doing enough toensure security of lives and property which our leaders swore to protect. Alot of fund is being yearly appropriated on defense, yet, security issues continue unabated. Let us consider the following to buttress our submission:
(a) Boko Haram Menace - The Federal Government spokesman continues to assuret he nation that the Boko Haram insurgents had been decimated, however, recent events are proving to the contrary. The members of the sect, not only engage on soft target bombing, but also invade villages, killing and maiming people and destroying their properties.
(b) Chibok Abduction - The abduction of school girls in Chibok four years ago is yet unresolved, with many of them still being held captive as at the moment. As much as we appreciate the effort of the Government to secure the release of some of them through negotiation with the insurgents, we believe more needs be done to secure those still under captivity.
(c) Dapchi School Girls Abduction - As if it was not enough, an injury to have some Chibok girls still under captivity, the insurgents came again to town to abduct another set of 110 school girls from yet another school, this time in Dapchi, Yobe State. Not minding the circumstances that led to the abduction, the Government acted promptly to enter into negotiation that led to the release of about 104 girls our of 110 with the sad news of the death of 5, and retention of 1 girl in the captivity of the Boko Haram insurgents. However, we need to pray for the release of the only Christian girl still in the captivity. We were told that she was held back because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. May the Lord deliver her miraculously, in Jesus name. Amen.
(d) Herdsmen/Farmers Clash - When we were growing up, the Bororo Fulanis were known only to follow their cattles with sticks, bows and arrows. Things have started changing with the same herders, carrying sophisticated weapons such as AK47 assault rifles to kill, maim and even destroy people’s properties. From the time the new trend emerged, over a thousand lives have been lost, and many more innocent citizens are still being killed on daily basis. What however remains amazing is the presence of our military and police men in the areas where these people continue to perpetrate their nefarious activities. The states that are worst hit are Benue, Taraba, Plateau, parts of Adamawa and Kogi States.
However, from the look of things, some powerful people must be behind the herdsmen’s attacks, and there hangs the possibility of strange collaboration between the herdsmen and the security agents deployed to maintain law and order. Government must consider an immediate overhaul of the current security architecture, to inject new Officers into the headship of the Military and Police leadership.
(e) Kidnapping/Armed Robbery Cases - The businesses of kidnapping and armed robbery have become more sophisticated nowadays. New people are being recruited into their gangs on daily basis, with training and retraining on how to outsmart the security agents. The latest armed robbery incidence at Offa town, in Kwara State was a great shock to all, even more shocking was the robber’s first point of call - the Police formation in the town. During the incident, Policemen were killed and all the banks in the town were robbed, with millions of Naira and other currenciescarted away! We were told that the attack on the town lasted for more than one hour, and yet none of them was arrested on the day of the attack. The use of Improvised Explosive Devises (IED) was visible to blow off all the barriers at the entrances of the banks attacked.
We therefore lend our voice to those that had been calling for State Police, to enhance intelligence gathering and proper policing of Communities. Also, worthy of mention is that the case of that notorious kidnapper, Evans, is still pending in courts. May the Lord have mercy!
The Three Arms of Government - There can be no meaningful development in any nation without the necessary synergy between the three arms of government - The Executive, The Legislative and The Judiciary. However, it does not require the knowledge of a Political Scientist to know that all is not well with these arms. Although there is the law of separation of powers between them, an understanding and cooperation among the three arms is the only panacea to experience good governance and enhance improved economy.
However, these arms of government are usually at dagger drawn with each other, and the result has grossly been unpalatable for the growth in our nation’s economy and all other areas of governance. There are always issues around the nation’s budget and fund appropriation between the Executive and the Legislative, while interpretation of various laws passed are at the mercy of our Judiciary and often times, justice becomes a scarce commodity.
Judges of old were seen as Saints, who would not get involved in corrupt practices or soil their hands, in the course of their presiding on cases in their courts. Things are changing nowadays. Judges are now being found guilty of corrupt practices and even being prosecuted before their colleagues on the bench.
We want to appeal to all our politicians to always put the welfare of the people who voted for them in mind, rather than engaging in an unnecessary power play to the detriment of the development of our nation. Our law Officers both at the bar and the bench should know, that integrity is costlier than wealth.
Financial Sector - Despite the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA) by this government at its inception, a lot still has to be done to guarantee prudence in government spending. There are still sacred cows in the corridorsof power, who will allow misappropriation to occur and yet will go unpunished. A Senator of the Federal Republic once said that when corruption was found within the ruling party’s loyalists, government only uses deodorant, and whereas, if it were to be from the opposition camp, then insecticide would be applied. For instance, the sack and re-instatement of the Director General of Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is still much shrouded in mystery. Also monies are being spent without proper appropriation approval by the National Assembly. The issue of purchase of the Military Helicopters to the tune of Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($450,000) is still generating issues between the Executive on one hand, and the National Assembly, on the other. We need to also consider the percentage of fund released as against fund appropriated on yearly basis. If this is not done, the slow pace of development will continue, especially in the provision of various infrastructures such as road, electricity, housing and other welfare programmes. We want to advise that the Ministry of Finance should do more to address these perceived lapses.
Nigerian Foreign Policy - With all modesty, we want to submit that the image of Nigeria as a nation has been boosted under the present administration. The integrity of Mr. President continues to open doors for Nigeria among the Comity of Nations. World Organisations, such as the United Nations, UNICEF, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, The African Union (AU) Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Development Bank (AfDB) etc, have all changed their perception of Nigeria from that of a very corrupt nation, courtesy the anti-corruption drive of the government of the day. Foreign Investors are now considering investing in Nigeria economy, more so, with her market potentials. Recently, the Republic of Switzerland, where Nigerian money had been starched away since the regime of late General Sanni Abacha, not only agreed to return the looted fund, but has begun to make real their agreement with the return of about $320,000,000 (Three Hundred and Twenty Million Dollars). The receipt of the sum was confirmed recently by Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. We still believe more could still be done to further boost our image.
The Health Sector - Recently, a foremost Consultant Oncologist and Radiotherapist at the University of Nigeria College of Medicine, (UNCM) and Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, Prof. Ifeoma Okoye, made a shocking declaration about Nigeria. According to her, Nigeria has the worst cancer mortality rate in Africa, as four out of every five patients die from the ailment. The woman, who is also a member of the team of medical experts that packaged the National Cancer Control Plan 2018 – 2022, gave the following reasons:
(a) Low level of awareness
(b) Late presentation at hospitals and
(c) High cost of screening and treatment.
With this declaration therefore, we all know that we are nowhere when it comes to provision of adequate health care to the people of this nation. Within the last one year, our own President travelled abroad for medical attention about three times and spent about 150 days. If we have the required facilities in our hospitals, the President would have stayed back and be attended to in Nigeria. As if that is not enough, the President’s son, Yusuf, rode a power bike and fell off, thereby having some health complications. He was first attended to at the National Hospital in Abuja, with Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Health Minister, leading the team of Doctors. At the end of it all, he was flown abroad for further treatment. The question now is “How many Nigerians can afford the luxury of seeking treatment abroad”? Why can’t we equip our health facilities in Nigeria rightly, to save us of what we go abroad to spend? Socking too is the “The State House Hospital” located in Aso Villa, the seat of Government, that can’t boast of quality drugs and other equipment. This prompted the first Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, to protest openly. We therefore believe it is high time Nigerians began to ask their leaders pertinent questions, whenever they come round soliciting for our votes. A stitch in time saves nine.
Public Private Partnership – No nation’s economy survives only on Government efforts. Most developed countries see the private sector as partners in progress. There are lots of Governments projects that ought to have been left in the hands of the private investors. For instance, Government has no business in buildingand maintenance of refineries. Generation and distribution of electricity shouldbe shouldered by the private sector. Competition should be encouraged to allow for a free market operation. Some years back, telecommunication was handled by the Government. But now, we have different service providers, and the competition that attended the privatization has made their products affordable even to Primary School pupils, most of who now carry mobile telephones. A lot of funds being expended on public utilities could better be made available to provide necessary infrastructures, such as road, rural developments, housing etc. We make bold to say that our Government has not done enough to encourage the private sector. There could still be more collaboration.
2019 Election - There is no gainsaying the fact that politicians all over Nigeria are on the march again. In recent times, they have started forming themselves into groups and parties. We have started hearing about third and even fourth forces. All the parties are strategizing on how to outsmart each other, and warm themselves into the hearts of the electorates. The atmosphere has even become a bit more tense, with the declaration of Mr. President to go for a second term. We must not forget that the President had kept sealed lips on the issue of whether or not he was going for a second term, since agitation became strive from left, right and centre, for him to speak on his interest. But in the true characteristics of the incumbent, he has allowed his loyalists and party members to continue to speak about it, to paint the picture that he declared for a second term, due to pressure from ‘Nigerians’. However, 2019 election may not be business as usual, as keen competition awaits the ruling party. Nigerians are ready to ask their leaders some pertinent questions bordering on economy, security, unemployment, to mention just a few. The era of sacrificing their future and the future of theirchildren for peanuts may be fading away faster than imagined. Our politicians may be asked to give account of their stewardship on the previous mandate, given to them freely. The coming election may therefore be very interesting. However, all eyes are on the electoral umpire – INEC, to ensure every vote counts.
Works, Power & Housing - We must commend this government in the area of provision of network of roads, and the rehabilitation of those ones that had been abandoned for many years. All the six geo-political zones of Nigeria can boast of ongoing road construction work in their zones. More than ever before, capital projects are being given special attention while electricity generation rose to 7000 MW for the first time in the last ten years. A lot more abandoned hydroelectric dams are being rehabilitated to enhance generation of additional power.
The housing sector is indeed receiving a boost as more attention is being given to the sector, with the provision of low, medium and high income housing units in all the States of the Federation. However, more could still be done to compensate for the infrastructural deficiency of the past.