By Hassan Gimba
I believe the yet-to-be-found Chibok girls and all their loved ones can say the above words about their fatherland. All Nigerian children and their loved ones kidnapped or killed by Boko Haram in the North-East or its other arm, the bandits in the North West and North Central, can borrow these words. All Nigerians who believe more could have been done will be at home with these words. Do you think those appalled at how Boko Haram terrorists who were “rehabilitated” and released into society disappear will not see these words as apt?
The policymakers believe such stringent monetary options would rein in corruption, dissuade kidnappers, destabilise vote buyers and land us in the land of utopia. But will they?
What will rein in corruption is accountability. Ask the boastful minister who said he cannot be defeated in an election because he has amassed money for how he made the “fortune” he brags about. Ask all those ministers who threw away ₦100 million in buying presidential forms why they have no headache over such a colossal loss.
In 2019, Justice Hadiza Ali-Jos, chairman of the Katsina Governorship Election Tribunal returned to the Department of State Services (DSS) her share of the bribe – $193,700 – given to her to favour one of the contestants and a receipt issued to her. Yes, you heard me right: DSS issued her a receipt for turning in bribe money! To this day, we have not been told who gave it to her and how they have been punished for the crime. We have to look at these and others to rein in corruption; not these CBN measures that would push more people into the grave.
We are bedevilled by a lot of security challenges. We have tried more kinetic approaches while we pay mere lip service to the all-important non-kinetic approaches. Making people desperate to survive will surely not augur well for this country. Daily, more people are falling into the abyss of want while the managers of the nation are getting chubbier and rosy-cheeked.
We always impose policies without seeing through them and making provisions that would make them soft on the less privileged. For instance, there was a time not long ago in Abuja when cars were impounded for parking, whereas the government or outfits impounding the vehicles had not provided parking lots.
Now people are being herded into a system that is not everywhere within their reach. How many towns in Nigeria can boast of banks, even with their unfriendly charges?
While it is agreed that a cashless economy is swell, we lack the infrastructure and technology to adopt such a policy overnight. In all the developed economies across Europe, America and Asia that we want to imitate, customers are well protected by the banks who refund monies stolen in case of loss or theft via debit cards.
Again, how many small businessmen and women who eke out a living daily have smartphones or access to internet services? In most cashless societies, internet data is everywhere and free. We do not have the technological advancement of free internet everywhere that those countries we want to ape have.
The government would do well to look at ways to ameliorate poverty. That is the only way out of crime. With a galloping and youthful population that must survive, legitimate ways of earning a living have to be enabled; otherwise, people would seek to survive however they can, fair or foul. And this is why our educational system must be changed with this in mind. Any person who goes through it must be able to learn some economic skills right from primary school.
People talk of systems they know when offering solutions and so I am suggesting the system being used by the governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.
He has rolled out projects aimed at eradicating poverty. Even though statistics are not readily at hand, as of January last year, Yobe State was among the final three in the country with a poverty level of 83 per cent. But it came down to 72.34 per cent in September of the same year, according to Statista, a global business data platform. Yobe also had the second most undeveloped infrastructure among the states of the federation. Not anymore.
The governor has so far restored no fewer than 15 hitherto dormant industries spread across the state, which in turn has given direct and indirect employment to thousands of people. His policy of ‘Yobe First’ has seen more and more indigenous contractors getting jobs that used to go to ‘foreign’ contractors. This deliberate process has dramatically reduced capital flight. Coupled with these, the state government has also built thousands of houses sold at cheap rates and flexible modes of payment by beneficiaries.
Another deliberate policy is how the state governor consciously empowers individuals, artisans, petty traders, etc., with start-up capital. There is also an aggressive drive to impart various types of trade skills to youths and provide them with working materials after their training.
The way the innocent child sees their father as a superhero who will give him protection is the way the innocent citizen considers his country. We need to look deeper to understand the situation, and perhaps our nation would see the need to rise and have every citizen’s back. Those who had encounters with bandits and Boko Haram might have lost respect for the father who cannot be there for them. We should not extend this number by failing to economically be with the majority of the unprivileged. Enough must be enough.
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.