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June 12 Presidential broadcast: Matters arising

On Saturday, June 12, this year, the President and Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the citizens in a nation-wide radio and television broadcast to commemorate Democracy Day. The presidential address touched on a harvest of issues that have been agitating the minds of some Nigerians and which they have been seeking answers to. They include the infrastructural-deficit, disturbing levels of unemployment and poverty, the gale of ravaging insecurity, electoral integrity-gaps as well as the structural-lop-sidedness of the country.

We observed, with pleasure, that the June 12 broadcast would be about the third time in a week that President Buhari would be interacting directly with Nigerians contrary to what used to be his practice of communicating through press statements issued by media aides or the same spokespersons speaking for the nation’s number one citizen even, on sensitive national issues, that would have required the comments of the President or the Vice- President. It was also heart-warming as the country’s leader provided clarifications for the actions and inactions of the Federal Government.

However, the explanations of the number one citizen could not provide the much-needed soothing balm to the frayed nerves of a multitude of profoundly-troubled Nigerians. The remarks by Mr. President that loans and agricultural inputs had been extended to farmers and other agricultural practitioners as well as cash transfers of N10, 000 each to the vulnerable, is true. What has largely remained, in doubt, is the extent of equitable distribution. Has there been a conscious and deliberate plan to distribute the shareable assets, in a manner, devoid of controversies, to all the genuine Nigerian farmers and other agricultural practitioners, in the 774 local government areas? The answer, to all intents and purposes, could be said to be an irrevocable “no”. This is because subjective criteria such as emphasis on electoral support of each geo-political zone to the incumbent, presidential prerogative, limited funds, among other sentimental considerations, have reportedly, turned out to be among the deciding factors.

The use of such emotional determinants has resulted in making persons from the North-Central, North-East and North- West geo-political zones the greatest beneficiaries to the disadvantage of others, especially the South-South and South-East. This is despite the fact that, apart from having a fair dose of the vulnerable, the fertile lands and agricultural practitioners are in abundance in the Southern states. It is also true that the standard gauge rail projects are being executed in some parts of the country. The Federal Government deserves commendation for continuing with the rail modernisation programme.

Though, the Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail project is not the initiative of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Administration, the government should be given thumbs-up for being the brain-child of the rail modernisation programme in Nigeria. It led to the construction of the Abuja- Kaduna standard gauge rail project, which was eventually completed by the current administration. We, however, note with disappointment the failure of President Buhari to acknowledge the creativity and foresight of the Dr. Jonathan Administration in laying the foundations for the rail modernisation programme in Nigeria. We also, note with sadness, the selective handling of the standard rail gauge projects under the present administration.

New Telegraph observes, with dismay, the complete omission of some geopolitical zones such as the South-East and the South-South from benefiting from such critical infrastructure. Funding-constraints might have compelled the Federal Government to limit the scope of the project. Truly, no matter how hard any person, group or country tries, liquidity-scarcity is likely to remain.

After all, a major attribute of money is scarcity. But the extension of the standard gauge rail project to Maradi and other communities in the Niger Republic has eclipsed the alibi that funding-shortfall was responsible for the limited scope of the project. Given the mountain of agitations across the country, New Telegraph feels that the extension of the standard gauge rail project to the South-East and South-South by the Federal Government would have been a more defensible option.

More so, the two geo-political zones have key oil-producing communities, which make significant remittances to the Federation Account, for the sustenance of Nigeria, including the servicing of the country’s huge debt-profile, comprising the loans for the different corridors of the standard gauge rail project.

While the Federal Government should be allowed to continue to derive pleasure from her claim of having lifted millions of Nigerians out of poverty, we caution that the recurring self-congratulations and chest-beatings amount to mere shadow-chasing. Nigeria’s unemployment situation has attained a near-volcanic state and has the expressed capacity to unleash far-reaching consequences on Africa’s most populous country. To prevent the eruption of the looming volcano, the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, move away from scratchy schemes that sometimes get riddled in controversies.

One of them is the distribution of N10, 000 to each vulnerable person in the country, a scheme that is yet to pass the integrity test of some discerning stakeholders. Mr. President should be commended for owning up that he was quite loud in his 2015 campaign promise that, on becoming the occupant of the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja, he would make terrorism and other forms of insecurity in Nigeria, a thing of the past.

But his alibi that the persistence of terrorism and other acts of illegality was due to the infiltration of an army of criminally-minded elements from some foreign countries is untenable. Answers to these posers would have helped provide the supporting premise, which was conspicuously missing, in the nation-wide broadcast. Governance, at any time, is not and cannot be a tea-party. It is because challenges always exist that the citizens of a country constantly look up to their leader, not for excuses, but for result-producing measures, devoid of any nepotistic manipulations. One of them is the immediate end to the lopsided recruitment of persons into the nation’s security agencies. In the same breadth, retirement of officers and men from the security organisations should not be skewed to the disadvantage of those from some geo-political zones.

This will help ensure that all the parts of the country are well-represented in the lawenforcement agencies, so as to have a substantial number of their indigenes participate in the protection of their communities, instead of non-natives, who are ignorant of the cultural nuances of their host communities. Should the Federal Government set aside its ego, she will have the presence of mind to successfully attend to the matters arising from the June 12 Presidential Broadcast. This will help Nigeria overcome her challenges. This is the firm belief of New Telegraph.

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