John Alechenu, Friday Olokor, Femi Atoyebi, Chukwudi Akasike, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Gbenro Adeoye, and Femi Makinde
A cross-section of prominent Nigerians have highlighted the areas they want President Muhammadu Buhari to focus on in 2017 with many others, especially workers describing 2016 as their worst year ever and one in which they became poorer.
Top on the wish list presented to the President are calls for him to find solution to the rising cases of hunger in the land by fixing the economy, tackling corruption successfully and ending insurgency. Others that also made the wish list include calls on the President to restructure the country, ensure equity in governance and improve security of lives and properties generally, especially by putting a stop to attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Muda Yusuf, said it was imperative for the President to address the rising cases of hunger among Nigerians, even if it was by “relaxing government’s policy on importation of food items for a short term to stem hunger.”
Yusuf also urged the President to restore liquidity in the foreign exchange market, review the current trade policy and find a way to stop the country from importing petroleum products.
In the same way, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba group, Yinka Odumakin, asked President Buhari to “constitute an economic team to ensure that the sufferings of Nigerians are ameliorated.”
Odumakin also said after spending about 19 months in office without the conviction of any corrupt politician, Buhari should realise that it is better and cheaper to fight corruption by building strong institutions than chasing after corrupt individuals.
“It has also become clear that the present structure of Nigeria cannot move the country forward, so if I were Buhari, I would accede to the calls by Nigerians to restructure the country,” he added.
The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Ahmed Yakasai, identified the top three things he would like President Buhari to do in 2017 as “providing better quality of lives for Nigerians, including empowering the youth, turning around the economy and securing the lives and properties of Nigerians.”
A former Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, stressed the importance of doing everything possible to revive the economy to the President in his comment, saying Nigerians are suffering.
In addition, Tsav warned Buhari not to relent in his efforts to crush Boko Haram insurgency in the country, fix bad roads and fight corruption.
“So Buhari should fight corruption because where there is corruption; there will be insecurity, dearth of infrastructure and bad roads,” he said.
A renowned professor of Law, Taiwo Osipitan, said fixing the economy should be topmost on Buhari’s list with the recession biting hard.
He said, “He (Buhari) needs to fix the economy, carry out necessary reforms and assemble the right people to be in his team to get the country out of this recession.
“The high rate of unemployment, kidnapping and activities of militants should also be addressed. With more employment opportunities, kidnapping and other social vices would reduce.
“Judiciary should be treated with respect and dignity. So far, the image of the judiciary and the legal profession has been battered under this administration.”
Setting agenda for Buhari, the Ijaw National Congress also explained that reviving the economy should top the President’s agenda, adding that experts in economic matters should be brought in to save the nation’s economy.
INC spokesman, Mr. Miebaka Tamunomiebi, said the President’s ministers and special advisers might be unable to achieve the feat while advising him to look beyond the All Progressives Congress to appoint competent persons.
“There should be peace in the country. The restiveness in the country, including in the Niger Delta, should be brought under control. The activities of cattle rustlers should also be checked,” he said.
The Dr. Junaid Mohammed-led Coalition of Northern Intellectuals, Politicians and Businessmen and the Middle Belt Forum under the leadership of Dr. John Dara, also advised the President to pay greater attention to the nation’s economic problems and ensure the security of lives and properties in 2017.
They spoke in separate telephone interviews with Saturday PUNCH, in Abuja, on Friday.
Mohammed, who is the convener of the coalition, said it was integral for the Buhari-led government to take its constitutionally assigned duty of ensuring the security and well being of the nation’s citizens as paramount.
This, he said, made it mandatory for the current administration to give priority to solving the nation’s economic problems in the year ahead.
He said, “First of all, the President has to tackle the economy, second is the economy and third is the issue of security.
“It should never be forgotten that anytime you have a constellation of economic crisis; inevitably, it would lead to political crisis.”
Similarly, the National Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum, Dara, said the President should effectively deal with the nation’s economic problems and provide incentives that will enable the private sector to grow.
He also urged the President to deal with the problem of attacks by Fulani herdsmen in “a manner that shows that he is committed to Nigeria and not Fulani herdsmen and engage the South-East and the South-South in a more constructive manner.”
In the view of the National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, the President should “intensify war against corruption to properly channel the country’s resources for impactful change.”
Ogunyemi also called on Buhari to free Nigeria from the grip of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to encourage policies that would favour poor citizens.
“President Buhari should also fix the country’s education and follow constitutional provisions and agreements with ASUU,” he added.
Nigeria Medical Association Chairman, Lagos State chapter, Dr. Odusote Olumuyiwa, called on the President to stabilise the exchange rate, which he said had adversely affected “Nigerians’ purchasing power and other activities like importation of food, drugs, medical equipment and even payment for medical services.”
Olumuyiwa, who expressed support for the President’s anti-corruption war, however, warned that many Nigerians already saw it as being selective.
He, therefore, urged the President to put policies that would create employment opportunities in place and make the fight against corruption total and not selective.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex socio-political association of the Igbo, said its wish was for the President to place more emphasis on equity and justice in 2017.
Ohanaeze also asked the President to respect the principle of ‘federal character’ in all his appointments.
President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Igariwey, said, “We just want to be treated like other Nigerians; we want equity and justice.”
President, National Association of Nigerian Students, Chinonso Obasi, also called on Buhari to improve the economy by ending recession, investing heavily in the education sector, improving infrastructural development and creating an enabling environment for employment generation and entrepreneurial development.
“The military and security agencies should be motivated and equipped in their continuous strive to end insurgency and President Buhari should resolve to fix the power sector once and for all as a way of opening up the economy for unemployed persons,” he added.
Meanwhile, as 2017 fast approaches, some workers including civil servants and artisans shared their experiences of 2016 and their views of the year which they regarded as their worst ever.
For instance, the Secretary, Forum of 2011/2012 Retirees in Osun State, Mr. Sola Olojede, wished to never see a year like 2016 again in which he saw many people die of hunger, adding that he could not “wait to see it end.”
Also, the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Ondo State chapter, Mr. Soladoye Ekundayo, said the only things to remember about 2016 were “economic recession and unpaid salaries.”
A civil servant in the state, Mr. Bayo Ayodele, who described the outgoing year as his worst ever, said, “We struggle to live now and the government does not have solution in sight.”
Similarly, a primary school teacher in Ondo State, Mrs. Rachael Amodu, said she had started contemplating leaving the country because “the situation has been tough on her and her family.”
The Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Bayelsa State, Mr. Tare Dounana, said: “No Nigerian worker can tell you that he was richer in 2016 considering the fact that salaries were not paid as and when due. Even now, many states still owe months’ salaries or more.”
The Ekiti State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Raymond Adesanmi, described 2016 as the worst year experienced by workers, saying, “It is a year that workers will never want to witness again; it is a year when workers are being owed eight months salaries at a go and prices of commodities are beyond workers’ reach.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Jagunmolu of Omuo-Ekiti, Oladiran Adesua, said, “We can’t fail to recognise the hardship faced in the year, unemployment is on the increase, electricity has not improved ditto for infrastructure.”
The Kwara State Chairman of TUC, Mr. Olumoh Kolawole, and the Secretary-General, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, Kwara State branch, Mr. Abayomi Afolabi, described 2016 as a harsh and horrible year for Nigerians.
Kolawole said, “I do not wish for a year like 2016 again”, while Afolabi said, “We are very poor. In fact, throughout 2016, we only received two months’ salaries in all the local government areas in the state.”
The Katsina State Chairman of the National Conscience Party, Mallam Abdulmumini Shehu Sanni, challenged the Federal Government to give Nigerians the type of change that would improve their living conditions and free them from shackles of poverty, saying, “Never in my life will I dream of a year like 2016.”
Chairman, NLC, Oyo State chapter, Waheed Olojede, who also lamented the hardship in the land, however called on political leaders “to take the welfare of Nigerians more seriously.”
A civil servant in Oyo State, Mrs. Olubunmi Ayeyemo, said, “There is nothing exciting about the year because even in its final days, we are still struggling to survive.”
Enugu State TUC Chairman, Chukwuma Igbokwe, said, “While we were crying over government’s inability to pay salaries as and when due, prices of food items went up beyond our reach and some of us had to withdraw our children from school during the year because of our inabilities to pay school fees.”
In the same vein, a civil servant, John Onimo, expressed joy that the year was coming to an end, and hope that 2017 would be better.
Also reminiscing on the outgoing year, a community leader, Ameze Ugwoke, from Uzo-Uwani, in the Nsukka area of Enugu State, described 2016 as “a difficult year that was worsened by herdsmen attacks in my community and hike in the cost of goods and services.”
Chairman, NLC, Niger State chapter, Alhaji Idris Ndako, said he would not wish for a year like 2016 again.
Also, a senior civil servant in the state, Mallam Mohammed Kuta, had one prayer and it was that 2016 should “go with its frustrations and hardship so that we will enjoy better lives in 2017.”
- Additional reports: Success Nwogu, Simon Utebor, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Jesusegun Alagbe, Tunde Ajaja, Peter Dada, Success Nwogu and Enyioha Opara