2011 started with a bang in Nigeria, Jos was on fire and everyone was on edge. Nothing has changed so far. The country is plagued with constant traumas and general unrest. But with all of these things going on, Nigeria still had important moments of grace. In this column we will attempt to review the good and the bad. We will tell you about those men and women who embodied the Nigerian spirit this year, and those who have made us ashamed.
ONE: Casava – 2011 was the year of cassava. It all began when the president, decided, like Jesus, to feed his disciples or in his case, ministers with this magic bread, made from 40% cassava flour. He so believes in this cassava flour principle that he is giving any bakery able to produce the bread with a 12% tax rebate. Export duties have also been removed from machineries used to make cassava flour. Ekiti State recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the federal government to turn the state into the cassava “breadbasket” of the country. Agriculture is an important strategy to diversify the economy of the country and the cassava policy might result in savings of N215 billion annually and help reduce the perpetually high unemployment rate. Development never smelt so delicious.
TWO: Boko Haram – This year marks the year Boko Haram became a household name in the country to our collective horror. Their consistent terror inducing mayhem in the north, audacious bombing of the UN offices in Abuja, and their Christmas day attack on a catholic church in the city’s capital has superimposed a sense of doom on Nigerian lives. No one is safe anymore and it has aided in showing just how incompetent in the face of terror our present government is. We hope, for all our sakes, that those who willingly chose to protect the integrity of the Nigerian state and keep us all safe, know what they are doing.
THREE: Agbonika – The Nigerian law enforcement agencies and security apparatus have had an unfortunate year. With MEND in the East, Boko Haram in the North and the rag-tag local militants and area boys of the southwest, they have had a busy year. Unfortunately all of these have shown just how incompetent they are. A Nigerian policeman who believes in transparency and accountability of his men is rare indeed. And so we were dazzled when we heard of the Great Mr. Agbonika. He has been working to reform one of the most corrupt organization in the World, the Nigerian Police Force. Agbonika has shown immense bravery this year. He has been hurt and abused for it, even blinded in one eye. He has demanded openness and refuses to bow to pressure. He embodies that Nigerian spirit we all hope to cultivate. We are so proud.
FOUR: Tenure Elongation – 2 months into President Goodluck Jonathan’s term, he declared that the main reason previous and current governments are not able to make Nigeria truly the Giant of Africa, is because there isn’t enough time to do so. He declared that presidential terms should be a single “little more than 4 years” and that the members of the National Assembly should “a little more than 4 years” in perpetuity. He insisted that he would not gain from this policy and that it will only begin at the end of his term. The Nation responded by telling him to focus on his present mandate and not to worry about posterity. We agreed.
FIVE: Social Media – 2011 was the year of the social media in Nigeria. It was a veritable renaissance. From twitter to Facebook and even to the weird collective that is Youtube. The president spoke to his constituents using his facebook page. Many Nigerian artists took to youtube to showcase their talents to our collective delight. However no one used his social media clout to present the quiet unfortunate events of Nigerian lives than the writer, Teju Cole. His small fates were small snapshot into lives that might otherwise go unnoticed. He makes us laugh while we mourn. This is not a small feat. We hope 2012 brings about more conversations on these fascinating mediums.
SIX: FOI Law – A free and informed press is a necessary to building a functioning democracy. They inform us of our Government’s actions and they serve as the platform to get our thoughts and opinions back to our government. One law that has been in the works for many years was finally passed in the beginning of this year and the country is the better for it. The FOI law allows any Nigerian to demand information from the government. It is the disinfectant that our rather dirty democracy has been waiting for. The law has not been used widely, and the effects of it is yet to be felt. But it is a step in the right direction and we are hopeful for its use in the coming years.
SEVEN: Subsidy Removal – The Nigerian government, some months ago, declared that it must remove the subsidy on petroleum products. The government cited the fact that the subsidy does not reach the end user and that it simply does not make the poorest people’s lives better. It is not particularly clear the exact amount of the proposed windfall. As such, Nigerians are not buying it. This government is not known for its fiscal discipline, a true example, is the recent budget where his administration earmarked about N1 billion for food expenses. Such actions do not improve the citizen’s trust in the good judgment of this particular government. President Jonathan has been quiet about the future of fuel subsidy for the country. 2012 has quite a lot of tales to tell.
Eight: YouWin – In a move to reduce the high rates of youth employment rate in Nigeria, the government with partnership with The World Bank, introduced a project to encourage entrepreneurship in the young population of Nigeria. A business plan competition with 1,000 hopeful winners would, if everything goes according to plan, birth 1,000 new businesses. While the beginning of the program was plagued with preventable incompetence, it has morphed into something with tremendous potential. For once, we might all win.
Nine: Excrement – It all began with an arrest, and ended shockingly with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) ordered to pay a famous comedian a sum of N25 million for humiliating him. Babe Suwe was arrested allegedly for trafficking drugs he had kept in his stomach cavity. He was in police custody for many days waiting to excrete the drugs. He never did. He was released and compensated greatly for his time. This led to a conversation about how many innocent Nigerians are still waiting to excrete drugs they never swallowed?
Ten: The Nigerian – This year many of us died without planning to. We have mourned our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. We have collectively gasped at the horrors the various terror groups in our country were willing to inflict on their fellow citizens. We have shook our heads and marveled at the complete incompetence of our government. We have protested and marched. Through all of this, we were and are still hopeful. While not the happiest people on earth any longer, we were and are still willing to strive harder. So this year, the NigeriansTalk person of the year is the Nigerian. For our steadfast love of this loose collection of regions, for enduring all the horrors living in Nigeria brings, and for our faith and hope in a better country for our children.
We, at NigeriansTalk, pray and hope for an easier 2012 for all of us. Thank you for reading our thoughts.
Happy New Year!