It is important we understand the precarious situation we, as a Nation, have somehow gotten ourselves into; a situation where oil prices have hit a low and where the common man has been told to brace up for hardship despite the fact that he is already in hardship. It is safe to say that Nigeria is presently experiencing a “down” due to the fact that its major source of revenue comes from the sales of crude oil.
However, to be thrown down is one thing and to choose to remain down is another. Determination has taught me not to take any man who gets knocked down for being knocked out. If only he will not choose to remain down, then he cannot be out. Against all odds and with his eyes set on the price, he fights his way through.
I can easily remember a Nation that got her independence from Malaysia in the year 1965. Against all odds and almost from nothing, Lee Kuan Yee succeeded in building up that country everyone know as Singapore today. A Nation other nations still envy. His determination, resilience, tenacity, capacity all paid off.
These days, Nigerians are getting so interested in their governance that people no longer need to be reminded that a lot of promises were made during the months leading to 2015 presidential election. Promises were made by PDP; a party who had ruled Nigeria for the past sixteen years, and APC; a newly formed party with ex-members of PDP who as it turned out successfully convinced Nigerians that leopards could change their spots under the right circumstance.
APC successfully campaigned with “change” mantra that Nigerians became satisfied that indeed the change agents would change the fortune of Nigeria for good. For PDP, it was “transformation.” For APC, it was about “change,” it was about salvaging Nigeria and building the Nigeria that the PDP led federal government had almost brought to ruin. In all of APC’s assertion, if nothing was certain, one thing definitely was. “Nigeria was in ruin and something urgent needed to be done.”
APC had no doubt whatsoever that Nigeria wasn’t doing fine and to them it was due to PDP’s mismanagement. Hence, they thought it wise and impressed it in the heart of Nigerians that change was needed. I searched up for “change” and I saw two definitions: make or become different or to take or use another instead. From these definitions, let it be known that APC promised to be different from PDP.
If you choose to recall, in a bid to show Nigerians their desperation/hunger to rule and change Nigeria, it got to a time that APC promised to run a parallel government if the 2015 elections got rigged. This is the ninth month since APC got into power. This is the ninth month since Nigerians gave “change” a chance. Fellow Nigerians what has changed? You will not tell me that for the first time in three years, Nigeria President presented the budget himself or for the first time, we now have a President who goes to FEC meeting 10minutes before the time, right?
From the very first month this government got into power, it has been blame after blame. A week hardly goes by without this administration pointing the blame finger at the previous administration. It seems APC has so far failed to switch off “opposition mood” and switch on “governance mood.” Till now, they still blame the same administration Nigerians voted out because they (APC) promised “change.” APC will not pass over an opportunity to poke the blame finger at the past Administration even if it negates the “change” that was promised. From Boko Haram, High dollar exchange rate, fuel scarcity, Lassa fever, a policy and direction-starved economy, investors pull-out; all, at one point or another has been attributed as the fault of the previous administration.
Just as a fighter who got knocked down, so is Nigeria presently. But instead of finding its way up to ensure it doesn’t get knocked out in order to provide Nigerians with an improved standard of living, this present administration has so far preferred to stay on the ground ignoring the count-out while it screams “The previous administration caused it. When a barrel of oil was selling high, nothing was done but instead foreign reserve was depleted.” I thought someone promised change. I thought leaders don’t exert their energy complaining but they instead provide beneficial solutions. Did Nigerians vote for transformation or change? How can change come when we are so fixated on the past government? This present government has to understand that the past is in the past and the present is the present. As a Nation, if we have to get up and not stay down while waiting till we get knocked out; then we should understand that what matters is what we choose to do today. The future of Nigeria depends on the (in) actions of this present government.
They say first impression matters a lot because it gives a pointer to what is to come. Therefore, it becomes necessary we take a critical look at the first budget of change. We were told the past administration was corrupt and this present administration was different and a caring one. I can remember my father telling me that things would drastically change for the better under President Mohammed Buhari. But so far, I doubt if anything has changed for the better. I hope it does soon for the sake of Nigeria.
In what people think was a great speech by Mr President, the 2016 budget of “change” finally got presented amidst cheers and applause at the National Assembly! “Unlike the previous administration, Mr President finally presented the budget himself,” his followers echoed. It is worth to note that there is nowhere in the world that experienced “change” because her leader delivered great speeches. It is a pity that Nigerians actually love great speeches more than action.
Notwithstanding, It isn’t okay to applaud Mr President’s great speech and turn a blind eye to the shame of a budget. In a time of Austerity, how Mr President could afford to present a budget that has ₦6.74 billion allocation for the residence of the senate president; ₦1 billion allocation on chairs and tables for the Ministry of Communications Technology; ₦795 million for website update for the Ministry of Solid Minerals; ₦10,000,000 for Perimeter fencing for federal government college, to say the least is disturbing and doesn’t speak of the “change” Nigerians voted for.
It is very un-austerity for Mr President to have presented a budget that has ₦40 million for VIP toilets and ₦3.6 billion for Aso rock clinic. No sane person would see the breakdown of the 2016 budget and keep mute or think all is well. It is not! Trying to make a case for Mr President by telling Nigerians that Mr President was unaware of the content of the budget he presented speaks volume of his nature. When people criticize this shame of a budget that Mr President presented, people who support Nigeria leaders over Nigeria would see them as wailing wailers and people who have found their voices because they feel pained by GEJ’s lost.
While some take pleasure in wailing and criticising the budget, some take pleasure in feigning ignorance of this disaster of a budget because the infallible Mr President that people know must be shielded away from the budget he presented. Take it or leave it, the first budget APC presented indirectly signalled Nigerians on what is to come.
It is therefore safe to ask if this was the “change” that was promised and if we should hope for it to eventually turn up or if we should pray for another. In a time of austerity, how capital projects that were budgeted for in 2015 as on-going projects reappeared in the 2016 budget as new projects has put to rest any doubt that leopards could change their spots under certain circumstance.
It will surely be said that the first budget the government of “change” presented didn’t show transparency neither did it reflect the need of the people but the needs of our leaders. Some Nigerians have genuinely wailed and some, after weeks of silence, finally did to ensure they were not seen as being too partisan and blinded by the benefits that come from being a supporter of this administration.
For the good of Nigeria, irrespective of political affiliations, we all owe it to Nigeria to strongly condemn this budget in one voice because this is not the “change” Nigerians seek.
Tama Peter, a member of the Shadow Cabinet of Nigeria wrote this piece from Warri, Delta state. He is on twitter @ItzGreatPet