BEYOND the imperatives of calendaring, 2022 was very eventful, with some issues being recurrent in nature while others were peculiar. The two dimensions were either pleasant or otherwise. As 2022 has slipped by, delivering to us a brand-new year, 2023, there is the need to retrospect, and set agenda for the New Year, conscious of the great impact the past could have on the present and future.
One of the remarkable events that shaped year 2022 in Nigeria was insecurity, with the expansion and escalation in the vicious attacks of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) to areas outside the stronghold of the Boko Haram insurgents. Even though insecurity waned towards the end of the year, due largely to the offensive by military personnel on the enclaves of terrorists in the North East, and following the attack on Kuje Correctional Service by Boko Haram elements, as well as security alerts given by the United States of America and the United Kingdom, the activities of Ansaru in the North West were worrisome before the respite. Other specific fatal security breaches in the country the past year were:the ISWAP attacks on Catholic Church in Mutum Biyu in January, 2022, Nigeria Military forces in Jalingo, and the deadly one on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, in June 5, over 40 fatalities, among others.
APART from the foregoing, political violence was also perpetrated by ethnic militias, with the South East particularly under attacks by bandits that were believed to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who sustained the struggles for the release of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Militiamen in Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Zamfara similarly maimed and killed innocent citizens in various raids. The attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, leading to the killing of eight passengers, and kidnapping of 65 people who were held hostage for months, was a disheartening commentary on the almost pariah country Nigeria was then.
ATTACKS on INEC facilities and personnel were also very pervasive in the region, with Ogun and Osun States witnessing two of such attacks towards the end of the year. While the INEC Chairman fingered unscrupulous politicians as sponsors of such attacks on the commission’s facilities, political watchers argued that the arsons were calculated at aborting the 2023 elections. In the build-up to the general elections, and with the commencement of campaigns, political violence escalated across the country, with the National Security Adviser (NSA) decrying the unfortunate development, laced with threats to the culprits and assurances to law-abiding citizens.
THE Nigeria educational system in 2022 was hugely challenged by the 8-month-old strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), due to welfare and funding matters, which led to shutting out students in most of the public universities. The resolution of the protracted strike was incomplete, as salaries due to the striking lecturers were withheld by the federal government as a result of the implementation of the government’s ‘no work no pay’ policy. The Hope is worried that this unresolved aspect of the strike, and the non-implementation of the agreement the federal government reached with the union, could degenerate into a new round of dispute, as the union members remained belligerent.
NIGERIA economy in 2022 had a good outlook in quarter one, but the realistic economic conditions portended increased inflation and interest rates, as the naira depreciated tremendously against the dollar. The redesign of some naira notes could not add any value, even as fuel distribution remains epileptic, with varied pricing, as crude oil thefts denied the country needed revenues for so long.
IN a concrete notation, the NBS’s report that indicated that 133 million Nigerians were multidimensionally poor was somewhat an assessment negative verdict that the various social intervention programmes by the federal government meant to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within a period did not achieve the target. We also countenanced the fact that the new wave of massive emigration of young Nigerians to Europe and America was largely due to insecurity and receding economy, with the forced migration negatively impacting Nigeria critical sectors like health, education, banking, ICT, etc.
CHARACTERISTIC of the yearly prophesies given by some clerics, year 2023 has been variously characterised, with marked different positions on specific issues, which is indicative of the fluidity of such. However, beyond the preposterous manner some would want to welcome the New Year, we are of the opinion that the New Year should be spared some of the contentious happenings that made year 2022 a challenging year, as we call for planning for the year at individual, institutional and governmental levels.
THE Hope, therefore, proposes that the government should sustain the commitment to secure the country, and push out non-state actors that seized and governed spaces across the country. All forms of threat and insecurity should be mitigated, particularly to ensure the smooth conduct of the 2023 elections. It must not be lost on us that persistent attacks on INEC facilities would jeopardize the conduct of the elections, with constitutional crisis created in the polity.
WE seriously suggest that urgent steps should be taken to recalibrate the economy and get the naira strengthened against other currencies. The reforms in the oil industry should be transparently driven, with the albatross of the scandalous fuel subsidy that is a huge drain eliminated. Every legal step must be taken to tackle crude oil theft, as the new NNPC Ltd is prevented from receding to another amorphous entity.
AS 2023 is an election and transitional year, we appeal to all stakeholders to avoid creating unnecessary tensions in the polity through reckless statements and divisive utterances. The ongoing weaponisation of poverty by politicians through the buying of voters’ cards should be halted, to ensure credible elections. INEC, as the electoral umpire, should be above board while the judiciary should be bold and fair in handling corruption and political cases, and thereby remain the last hope of the people.
THE electorate are called upon to avoid apathy, but should actively participate in electing good leaders, refusing to be induced to vote against their conscience. Rather than give in to religious escapism in the New Year, The Hope calls on Nigerians to be intentional in doing what is right on all fronts. We are of the view that year 2023 might be a mere calendar year, what we bring to it, personally and collectively, will determine its outcome. It is advisable to always make hay while the sun shines!