April 20, 2024


Serving the university community

Op-Ed: A problematic Nigeria at 63

By Ameerah Junaid

From a lot of people’s perspective, President Bola Tinubu truly deserves commendation and homage, because he has already spent about 127 days in office, and has tried to take away most of Nigeria’s problems including the removal of fuel subsidy.

While these are commendable, one of the things he has failed to adequately resolve is the plight of poor workers, peasants and the general masses in both urban and rural areas.

This is the very class of people who legitimised the power of the President through the ballot box. On election day, they were there. They queued up with dried throats under the baking sun to cast their votes. Now what has their votes done for them?

The general elections ended more than four months ago but they are still being litigated in the courts, they are being discussed in offices and pubs, they are being assessed by the poor even on the farms and at the market places, they are also the major subject of discussion in the social media.

But again, most poor Nigerians have preferred to moan discontent or whisper misgivings about the general elections in the sanctuary of their hearts or homes. Others have sought solace in the churches or mosques, in their workplaces or in their drinking places. The poor are looking up to the courts to tell them sincerely and realistically the outcome of the general elections.

It has been four months now since the removal of fuel subsidies. What about the lives of the poor? Turn to every nook and cranny of the country, we have people who are struggling to get the necessities of life. They can hear and speak the language of suffering fluently. Most of them are government workers, but some are fishermen, others are farmers, others are artisans and labourers.

From Sokoto to Port Harcourt, they are hungry, they are thirsty and they are in rags. Many of them are homeless or shelters made out of thatch, cardboard, scrap and metal plastic are home to hundreds of Nigerian children and adults.

Some are beggars on the streets and from the looks on their faces you will be convinced that they would prefer to be in prison where they can be sure of a bed and three full meals in a day. In the villages, most farmers cannot assess their farmlands for fear of attacks by unknown gunmen. Those who have planted food crops cannot afford fertilizer because it is simply unaffordable.

In the cities, the shacks of the poor stand side by side with mansions of tile, stone, glass and concrete owned by Honourable members (senators, members of the House of Reps).

It is that time of the year when children are expected to return to school for a new session. But what is the state of education in Nigeria and what does the government intend to do with it?

Flashback to the period of the first republic that could be conveniently regarded today as the golden age of Nigeria. Leaders like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa were able to manage and govern the country with meagre resources derived basically from taxes, cocoa, groundnuts and other agricultural products.

Public school administrators are, therefore, left with no choice than to introduce tuition fees in public primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

The obvious implication of this policy is that the children of the rich and powerful will be educated in expensive private schools and universities at home and abroad while children of the poor will have to accept their lot as hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Nigeria is now a country of “only the rich can survive”. We’ve been hoping for change since 1960, we are in 2023 and it has barely changed.

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