As Nigeria’s general elections come to a close and results trickle in, no time is as good as now for both elected officials and the electorates to hone in on the job ahead. Elected officials, be they governors or lawmakers, need to familiarise themselves with reports showcasing what people most desire in the coming years.
This will be part of deepening democracy; and in any event, Nigerians are using various platforms to set agenda for the in-coming government. It is important that these expressions are taken seriously, given that the country is plagued by a myriad of governance deficits.
A recent survey conducted by Political Africa Initiative (POLAF) reveals that the electorate want the government to address issues around rising poverty, the health and education sectors. This is in synergy with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, which state that at least 133 million people are experiencing multidimensional poverty in health, education, living standards and work and shocks.
Beyond these, creeping disillusionment, unemployment, insecurity or rising crime wave as well as very high cost of living are some of the issues begging for urgent attention. Newly elected officials must seize the momentum of their freshness in terms or in government, coupled with the renewed goodwill offered by the people, to hit the ground running in solving these problems.
In 2020, Nigeria recorded an all-time high unemployment rate of 33.3 per cent. Analysts have projected that it may have grown well above 40 per cent. Also, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty seems to be increasing; while poverty and inflation are biting harder in the country. The country’s inflation rate rose in January 2023 to a fresh 17-year high after slowing down in December as it quickened to 21.82 per cent in January from 21.34 per cent in the previous month and 15.60 percent a year earlier.
The rising inflationary pressures also increased the cost of doing business, even as businesses struggle to survive in a tough operating environment, which also impacts job availability.
Insecurity has not abated, especially in the northern part of the country, with data from the Global Terrorism Index showing that Nigeria is the third most terrorised country in the world, after Afghanistan and Iraq, with a record terror-related deaths estimated at 1,245 in 2019 and 1,606 in 2020. These issues have forced many Nigerians, especially youths, to leave the country in search of greener pastures through study and work visas, leading to a surge in brain drain.
For instance, data from the British government shows that the number of Nigerians granted sponsored study visas by the UK increased by 222.8 per cent to 65,929 in June 2022 from 20,427 in the same period of 2021. The number of Nigerians with skilled work visas grew by 109.1 percent to 15,772 during the review period.
Crime reduction requires a preventive strategy, especially reduction of poverty and ensuring school enrolment, retention and completion. Essentially, tackling insecurity is beyond the use of military approach as some expert studies state that countries with higher income inequality suffer from higher levels of violence. Countries with high levels of income inequality have, on average, a homicide rate that was nine times greater than countries where income was more evenly distributed; which could find expression in the increasing rate of suicide in Nigeria.
Nigeria should take action to end poverty; by massively overhauling its current national programmes on social safety nets, to reach people living below the poverty line. In tackling poverty, it should be recognised that poverty goes beyond mere measurement of a household’s expenditure or welfare; and may include inadequate access to government utilities and services, environmental issues, poor infrastructure, illiteracy and ignorance, poor health, insecurity, social and political exclusion.
Other manifestations of poverty, in urban areas include the burden of demand of services which affect school enrolment, access to primary health care, growth of unsanitary urban slums.
Also in rural areas, poverty manifests itself more in the agricultural sector with the use of ‘crude methods of farming’; where people see farming as agriculture, without exploiting the agriculture value chain, which is leading to food insecurity.
Given that poverty is occasioned by bad governance, mindless corruption, high cost of governance, some employers not paying salaries; and recently, inability of workers to access monies deposited in bank due to poor implementation of currency swap which have impoverished citizens.
Therefore, the in-coming governments at all levels should focus on quality education and employment, especially for young people and those at risk of marginalization; and develop a welfare model with the ambition and ability to guarantee all inhabitants access to health care, school and education, housing and employment.
t also needs to provide infrastructure and create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive and create jobs. Nigerians are hardworking people with many innovative entrepreneurs who need an enabling environment to flourish. Newly elected and appointed officials should present a road map that will address the issues and turn around the plight of Nigerians.
In particular, the legislators should visit towns, communities, villages and slums in their constituencies to assess the state of education, health care, roads; level of unemployment, access to land and loans for agriculture; etc. They should also assess the state of the manufacturing sector, textile industry and construction companies among others. To achieve any meaningful economic growth and poverty reduction, there is the need to enhance and improve access to social services, including health and education.
Governments should aim at inclusive growth in order to reduce poverty. Everyone has a chance to thrive in a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable country that will lead to stable and sustained growth in a context of responsible macroeconomic management, economic stability, good governance and sectoral reforms; with the attendant implications for the achievement of the SDGs.
Therefore, as from May 29, 2023, the new government should hit the ground running and avoid ‘blame game’, because they ‘asked for the job’; having canvassed for votes and were voted into various offices to govern the country; bearing in mind that the security and welfare of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government.
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