Legendary Highlife and Afrobeat musician, Sonny Okosun, in February 1983, sang a prophetic song with the above title. In the music, the Ozzidi master asked:
Which way Nigeria?
Which way to go?
I love my fatherland
I want to know which way Nigeria is heading to.
Almost thirty-eight years after, the questions asked by Sonny Okosun in that song are still relevant. His questions then were in response to rising inflation, inefficiency at the individual and national levels, insecurity, indiscipline, corruption, and national geopolitical tension. He argued that government alone should not be blamed for Nigeria’s woes as all Nigerians have to share in the blame.
As we enter the year 2021, the question is still “which way Nigeria ooooo?” This year Nigeria is supposed to be celebrating her 61st independence anniversary. Naturally, a man of 61 years old would have had the most active days of his life behind him. If he was a civil servant in Nigeria, he would have retired from active service and likely spend most of his time with his grandchildren. He would either have made it in life or failed in life. This age is not the age of second chances.
In the same vein, a typical 61-year-old woman would have been in menopause for ages. She would likely spend a substantial part of her time visiting her children with newborn babies and spending the nights with her husband reliving the life they have lived. She would not likely embark on new enterprises and ventures. The time of the hustle and bustle would have passed.
If Nigeria were well managed, the country would have been on an auto cruise at 61 years. The dominant discourse would have been how to consolidate her strengths and manage her weaknesses for a better and more prosperous country. It is unfortunate that at 61 , Nigeria still faces the challenges of nation-building. The nation’s foundations are shaky and weak, and there are genuine fears whether the building blocks are strong enough to prevent the building from collapsing. This anomaly is the tragedy of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s problems are complex and multifaceted. It is too simplistic to blame our current leaders. The country’s problems started with a faulty foundation. They were exacerbated by successive leaders and policies that continued to impugn the building’s integrity to this point that it is virtually on life support. The Nigerian project’s cracks grow wide every day, and the country faces an imminent collapse if nothing is done urgently.
We are in a country where the led are in perpetual distrust and antagonistic of the leaders. However, the leaders are not from Mars or outer space. They all come from amongst the led. So, our problem is a societal one. We have diminishing societal values. Without thorough societal reorientation, we can hardly make progress as a country.
The aberration that was 2020 means that the bar is set very low for 2021. Be it as it may, there is no way the government and the people can solve all Nigeria’s problems in the Year 2021. What is needed is some efforts in critical areas of the polity, ensuring that the country is in the path of progress, unity, and prosperity. The vital factors that will influence the year 2021 are Covid 19 and the vaccination, economic recession in Nigeria and globally, price of crude oil in international market because we are still substantially a mono- product economy , fiscal and monetary policy and implementation for growth, geopolitical tension of which zone produces the President in 2023, recurring insecurity across the country but mostly in the North East, and refocusing the economy based on technology and knowledge.
The Covid-19 pandemic, previously thought to have receded in sub-Saharan Africa, seems unrelenting as we enter the Year 2021. As the world is celebrating the Covid-19 vaccine, which appears to be humanity’s only hope of subduing the monstrous pestilence, the coronavirus mutated into a variant that is said to be more contagious. The second wave of the pandemic now grips the world and Nigeria may not be an exception.
As the number of Covid-19 cases rises in Nigeria, the country scrambles for a response. Some stringent measures are reintroduced to rein in the virus, but most Nigerians’ reaction has been lethargy and apathy. People seem to be tired of the coronavirus and all the stories around it .
The vaccines are yet to arrive on our shores, but there are looming challenges that are likely to confront any national vaccination efforts. Some of the approved vaccines like that of Pfizer, stored in freezing temperatures would always encounter difficulties in a country like Nigeria with epileptic power supply. The vaccines also do not come cheap, which means that the Nigerian government would have to dedicate a substantial portion of scarce resources to procure and distribute the vaccine.
However, the greatest threat to Covid-19 vaccination is unfounded and malicious speculations. These range from the vaccine being an attempt to introduce microchips into the bodies of the citizenry, which the government would use to monitor the movement of citizens, to the vaccine being an attempt by Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates, and his cohorts to depopulate Africa as part of a satanic plan, to the vaccine being an avenue of injecting people with the Anti-Christ sign of ‘666’ regarding end-time prophecy in the Book of Revelation. As incredible as some of these conjectures sound, it seems to have taken deep root in the populace. The government will have its act cut out to get most Nigerians to accept taking the virus when it becomes available.
The country entered the Year 2021 deep in an economic recession, and the government must work hard for the country to exit the current economic stagnation as soon as possible. For this to happen, support from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for businesses is critical. They can do this by assisting households and businesses that had been severely affected by the pandemic and stimulating economic activity through targeted interventions in critical sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, electricity, health and construction.
Some of CBN’s current efforts and policies should target to spur economic growth. These efforts include cumulative reduction of the monetary policy rates; the one-year extension of the moratorium on principal repayments for CBN intervention facilities; the regulatory forbearance granted banks to restructure loans given to sectors that were severely affected by the pandemic; and reduction of the interest rate on CBN intervention loans from 9 to 5 per cent.
The Central Bank of Nigeria should also strengthen the Loan to Deposit ratio policy, resulting in a significant rise in financial institutions’ loans to banking customers.
CBN should effectively implement the policy of creation of N150 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) for affected households and small and medium enterprises through the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank and disbursement to Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) and Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP).
As uncertainty persists both in Nigeria and globally, the country would likely be affected by slow global economic growth, which will continue to affect crude oil price in the global market. The government must respond by putting measures to lessen the impact on the economy and long-suffering Nigerians. The much-touted diversification of the economy from a mono-product economy that entirely depends on crude oil should receive a fillip so that the fate of tens of millions of Nigerians would no longer be susceptible to the regular shocks in the global crude oil market.
Budget implementation will be critical to Nigeria’s economic success in the Year 2021. The budget for the Year 2021 was signed into law by the President before the end of 2020. This is heart-warming. What remains is the political will to ensure that the budget implementation provides a maximum positive impact on Nigeria and Nigerians. However, whether the budget can address the myriad of economic challenges affecting the country remains to be seen.
On the political scene, alignments and realignments and defections will take centre stage as we gradually move towards the 2023 general elections cycle. The two major political parties will be hold their national conventions . That will have consequential implications for our politics .The governorship election in Anambra State will reveal whether the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) will survive beyond the incumbent term-limited governor’s tenure, Willy Obiano. There will be geopolitical tension over which zone will produce the President in 2023. In these, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would play a significant role by ensuring that elections, such as in Anambra, are used as a test run for a better general election in 2023.
Insecurity would remain the most significant challenge for Nigeria in the Year 2023. The country may not get it right if we continue the same path we have followed. Time has come for a holistic restructuring of Nigeria’s security architecture. There is a need for fresh ideas and policies to manage insurgency and banditry and kidnapping and armed robbery to make the country safer for Nigerians.
The year 2021 should be the year Nigeria will harness the gains of Covid-19 pandemic. Technology must take centre stage. Artificial intelligence and Big data are fuelling the new global economy. New ways of working and innovative ideas to solve most of our country’s many problems should be encouraged. Building a knowledge economy should be the goal of all stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Virtual reality should be harnessed as virtual meetings, church services, and conferences should be the norm rather than the exception.
Productivity is key and should be the watchword. Value creation and efficiency should be the key features in all our value chain. Nigerians should eschew the waste usually incurred in unnecessary travels and flamboyant lifestyles and excessive consumerism as seen in weddings, burials, house warming ceremonies, and other events. Nigerians should focus only on important and necessary things. The way Nigeria goes is in our hands. Let us collectively change the developing narrative of Nigeria as a directionless state heading for absolute failure.
The year 2021 can be a great year. It is good that the optimism of our people is quite high in the faithful hope that 2021 will be a better year . Both the leaders and the led must make this happen . We should intensify the war against insecurity, corruption, and nepotism. Let us use our collective intellectual capital, our enormous human and capital resource to build a Nigeria we will all be proud to bequeath to our progenies.
Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert.