By Zainab Suleiman Okino
The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, recently took political propaganda to an unenviable and embarrassing level when he promised to buy air tickets for Imo youth after being employed by European Union companies, whatever that means to him. In a viral video, the governor revealed that he was in discussion with European Union and Canadian companies for a partnership that will ensure the employment of Imo youth. “I have gone further to negotiate with European Union and Canadian companies that are sending specific areas of skills, which our youth will also learn and by December this year, 4,000 Imo youth will be employed in Europe. Once the employment letters come, the governor (meaning himself) will pay for your (the youth) air tickets,” the governor said, to which the youth erupted in wild jubilation.
By this, he took campaign promises to unachievable heights and reminded one of how politicians build castles in the air, to exploit the gullibility of the people to their advantage. Over the years, we have witnessed youth restiveness, thuggery, and violent outbursts because of issues of unmet expectations and unkept promises from those who seek to govern. Apart from the mirage called “European Union companies,” which did not mention any country, air ticket to any European country can cost not less than a million Naira. Why did the governor not give the “4,000 youth” a million Naira each and watch how it will transform their lives?
Imo State is blessed with profitable flora including iroko, mahogany, bamboo, rubber tree and oil palm, in addition to white kaolin, coal and clay. These are besides crude oil, natural gas, lead, calcium carbonate, solar and wind power and zinc. These are “goldmines” that can be explored to create wealth and generate employment within the state’s confines. Instead, the governor has promised unattainable lofty life abroad.
Today’s Nigeria is replete with stories of japa (an exodus of Nigerians seeking better lives abroad). However, instead of a state government to encourage and entice those abroad or planning to get them to return or stay back home, Governor Uzodimma claimed a partnership with an “imaginary European Union” that will do his own job of providing leadership and enabling environment for Imo youth to thrive. This is nothing other than abdication of responsibility. Shouldn’t governors in any state of the federation condemn or condone the japa syndrome, over genuine fears of the negative impact of exporting our best brains to go build countries other than theirs?
Dangling japa to Europe to a vulnerable group is more than inferiority complex, neocolonialism and modern-day slavery. It is illiteracy of the mind and power without accountability on the part of a power seeker like Governor Uzodimma. The governor is desperate to win the forthcoming governorship election in the state. That’s perfectly in order and understandable but resorting to cheap blackmail and outlandish recourse to white lies is wrong and the governor should know that his idea is far from tenable. Unfortunately, the people are so ignorant, they could not see through him.
When a president’s speech fails to inspire
A president’s speech may not immediately put food on the table, but it can show concrete plans of action in the offing and can inspire hope in them, but I didn’t see much of that in President Tinubu’s last Independence anniversary speech.
The immediate issues confronting Nigeria today are floating of the Naira leading to its scarcity and fuel subsidy removal; both have led to sky-rocketing cost of everything, massive poverty, hunger, and increased unemployment due to the near death of small-scale industries.
Unfortunately, the so-called palliatives to the people were given to governors who have obnoxious history of mismanagement and diversion of resources. The result of that ill-advised Tinubu hand-out is the viral video of the scandalous sharing of potions of rice not sufficient as a meal for a family.
When President Bola Tinubu addressed the nation on the negative impacts of his earlier policy pronouncements, he merely regurgitated his policy programmes, though one issue stuck out then. He said if the need did arise, his government would intervene on the issue of forex scarcity. At that time, the Naira was heading to 800 to a dollar. By the time of his Independence speech a few days back, the Naira is so down on its knees, one needs over a thousand Naira to buy one dollar while the pound does not fare better. This has compounded our woes and made lives unbearable. On this, the president kept mum in his speech. If he forgot his promise, the suffering people of Nigeria do remember.
Although the threats by the Organised Labour have been partly addressed, the coming days will reveal the government’s sincerity. Again, the informal and private sectors whose emoluments have long been swallowed by inflation and the prohibitive cost of essentials remain in dire straits.
What happens to those that are not covered by Organised Labour?
I still don’t understand the president’s wage increment “for the next six months to the average low-grade worker (who) shall receive an additional 25,000 per month (plus 10,000).”
While we wait for details, the president should understand that “low-grade’ now defines everybody in Nigeria. And why for six months? Mr President, you can do better than this in view of the high expectation people had of your government.
Yes, the president did mention platitudes such as the unity of the country, resilience of its people and nurturing of democratic tenets with his election being the 7th transition. He also talked about reforms and a future Nigeria “where hunger, poverty and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever fading past,” while asking us to “endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.” Hopefully, we will all not be broken before then.
The president’s mention of “deployment of cheaper, safer Compressed natural Gas (CNG)” to reduce fuel cost effect, he said “will start coming in very soon”. So, CNG is coming soon? Why put the cat before the horse, when he should have put in place the CNG policy first? “Very soon” is non-committal and it smacks of deceit to not attach milestones to policy pledges. What is Tinubu’s policy on the revival of the refineries? Are we going to continue to send our crude abroad to refine and import same with the high cost of dollars? Where is the plan for food security? Why abandon energy subsidies which is a requisite for food security and reduced cost of production?
Talking about increasing the number of beneficiaries of the social safety net and conditional cash transfer to 15 million makes you wonder whether Nigeria is cursed. Haven’t we travelled this dead-end road before? How many people was the policy able to lift out of poverty?
Tinubu’s obsession with CBN is nauseating. Granted that the former CBN governor over-reached himself, pandered to some Aso Rock cabal to protect his job, enriched a few and engaged in the politically motivated ill-fated Naira redesign etc, all reasons for his present predicament anyway.
Why the emphasis on it in a speech that should seek the way forward for Nigeria instead of dwelling in the past? Nigerians are groaning and bleeding under his government and want an inspiring solution-based speech at such an auspicious time as Independence anniversary. Tinubu should not allow this policy flip-flop and mass suffering in the land of plenty for him and his cohorts to define his presidency. With total commitment of the Tinubu government, the situation can still be salvaged.
Zainab Suleiman Okino is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached via email@example.com