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ASO ROCK WATCH: Year-long party for Nigeria @60, whose idea? Two other talking points

ASO ROCK WATCH: Do calls for Buhari to address Nigerians over COVID-19 amount to cheap politics? 2 other talking points

Partying @60

On September 16, President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled Nigeria’s 60th anniversary logo.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, during his opening remark at the ceremony, however, fed Nigerians with a hard-to-swallow pill. He said that the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the anniversary, chaired by him, had reached an agreement to deviate from the long-held tradition of ending such landmark events on the conclusion day.

“Thus it was agreed that to make the diamond anniversary very inclusive and create opportunities for internalisation and buy-in by all sectors of Nigerian people, a year-long celebration will be pursued, starting from the date of launching a web portal, to September 30th, 2021,” he stated.

Attaining 60 is, no doubt, a significant landmark for any developing society. Rolling out the drums for a year-long party is, however, what has got many critics ranting. Starting off on a wrong footing even complicates the early steps at a grand party.

For starters, how did Nigeria end up with a supposedly plagiarized logo, as some have alleged? While at that, did anyone border to appraise the objective conditions dogging the country? And, any thoughts on how this project could amount to a frittering away of resources at a time the country is losing about 65 percent of its revenue and borrowing to fund infrastructure?

So, should the country not be enveloped by a subdued dialogue, rather than the temptation to invite challenged citizens to a year-long merriment that would have most of them observing from afar?

Indeed, shouldn’t those currently piloting the affairs of the country refocus on strategic plans and timelines for lifting the citizens from their low level of abject poverty and insecurity?

And, more importantly, are we to bury our heads in the sands and pretend that the unity of Nigeria is long settled even as agitations for self-determination have become a common feature of our political life?

As these rage on, the Buhari-led administration will have to do more to convince critics that:
1. The planned celebrations are not a subtle way of diverting the attention of concerned Nigerians from the challenges bedevilling the nation?
2. The proposed year-long event would not trigger a scramble for the now endangered public purse.

Two other stories

In defense of borrowing

President Buhari on September 15 justified the country’s resort to borrowings.

While speaking at a virtual meeting with members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) in Abuja, he noted that his government was borrowing to finance infrastructural development in the country.

The President said: “We have so many challenges with infrastructure. We just have to take loans to do roads, rail and power, so that investors will find us attractive and come here to put their money.”

Experts agree that borrowing is intrinsically not a bad move, and that countries should borrow wisely. How well the Buhari-led administration has bought into these arguments remain a subject of debate. What has dominated most part of the engagements is the seeming lack of transparency and poor handling of communications regarding the borrowings. A ready example are the China loans.

Perhaps, the presidency needs to rejig its communication strategies to convince citizens that the country’s current N30 trillion debt has not been designed to mortgage the future of unborn Nigerians, as viable repayment plans are not in public view.

President Buhari may do well to share his elaborate cost-saving measures that could help cancel out the dwindling revenues and shore up hope in the future.

Defending democracy

On September 17, President Buhari, while playing host to President Roch March Christian Kabore of Buarkina Faso in Abuja, stated that Nigeria would do her best to support the consolidation of democracy in West African countries.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President was quoted as saying: “We are keeping the countries that have elections ahead. We know the countries that are calm and the ones where there have been unfortunate casualties. We will always support those who have elections ahead, so that things can go smoothly.”

As President of the largest democracy in Africa, and a respected leader in West Africa, Buhari is right to rally the region in defence of democracy. In fact, his admonitions could not have come at a better time as some countries in the region face political crisis tied to nation-building and electoral processes.

The political crisis in Mali which has defied several initiatives is an example that comes to mind. It is hoped that as Buhari pushes to consolidate democratic values in the region, he will extend the same energy to Nigeria.

By John Chukwu…

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