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Warnings of imminent revolution

Published by Punch on Thu, 15 Dec 2011

With the recent warnings of the imminence of a revolution, it is becoming evidently clear that the social discontent currently rocking the nation is getting through to the government and the elite. In a rare admission of the precarious socio-economic conditions in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan and one of his predecessors, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, admitted, at different fora, that urgent steps needed to be taken to stop the decline in the quality of life. Speaking at a recent Peoples Democratic Party governorship campaign outing at Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, the President warned that the army of jobless youths currently roaming the nations streets might revolt against the government if their desire for jobs is not met in the next four to five years. But Obasanjo suggested at a workshop in Abeokuta, Ogun State, that an Arab Spring-type of revolution that has already toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and is threatening others in Yemen and Syria, could be replicated in Nigeria.Although the warnings by the two leaders tend to bring the conditions in the country into a sharper focus, they have only echoed the thinking of other opinion leaders in Nigeria. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, also had cause to call for a bloody revolution last year. Submitting that the situation in the country was beyond what could be addressed by reforms, the 79-year-old legal practitioner said, "What we need is a surgical operation because this country can only be changed by blood; bloody revolution so that whoever survives would gather the pieces." Retired jurist, Justice Kayode Eso, and Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, a former United Nations bureaucrat, have also not been able to hold back even in the twilight of their years, agreeing that the only way out for the country is a revolution.Unfortunately, the President has set a target of four to five yearsapparently targeting the period of his own exit from officefor the revolution. But he will be missing the point if he thinks there will be a luxury of four to five years before the revolution. In the opinion of many, the revolution has already started; Nigerians are already taking up arms against their country. In almost every nook and cranny, Nigerians are defying the authorities and taking the law unto their own hands. In the North-Eastern part of the country, members of the Boko Haram terrorist group have practically taken over the reins and soldiers have been drafted in to help the containment effort. In the Niger Delta region, the amnesty programme of the Federal Government has only succeeded in temporarily dampening the enthusiasm of the youths for violence, while in the South-West, members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, only last week, openly wielded guns and their weapons on the streets in total defiance of security agents to protest what they termed the "distasteful" state of affairs in the country.Curiously, the unemployment situation that Jonathan has identified as a potential catalyst for the revolution is already a social time bomb. Though the National Bureau of Statistics puts the 2011 unemployment rate at 23.9 per cent, the Ministry of Labour and Productivity said graduate unemployment had reached 41 per cent. Also quoting recent figures, the Statistician-General of the Federation, Dr. Yemi Kale, reportedly put the number of Nigerians out of job at about 32.5 million in absolute figures. With a population of about 167 million, it means one in every five Nigerians is jobless. Also, put in a global context of 212 million jobless people, according to the International Labour Organisations 2009 figure, about one in every seven jobless persons is a Nigerian.Given the grim picture of the unemployment situation in the country and the pervasive level of povertyput at 70 per centthe warnings of a revolution by the two leaders came with a tinge of irony. As a former president, what did Obasanjo do to provide jobs for the teeming unemployed youths' And, as the current President, what is Jonathan doing to stave off the revolution' His declaration is actually an admission that the government has failed to meet the needs of its citizens. Aside from the governments refusal to expand the economy and increase the potential for job creation, there is also a deliberate unwillingness to create an enabling environment for private individuals to contribute meaningfully to the economic development of the country. Much has been said in the past 12 years about the governments plan to provide stable electricity, but after more than $20 billion injected into the sector, the state of power supply has not improved.It is surprising that a government that is lamenting the absence of jobs is encouraging imports of practically everything into the country. It is a no-brainer to state that Nigerias continuous reliance on the importation of refined petroleum products has only succeeded in creating jobs for the exporting countries at the expense of the jobless domestic population. Agriculture, which contributes 43.64 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product and has the capacity for mass employment, has also been neglected while undue emphasis is placed on petroleum whose share of GDP stands at 14.27 per cent. Manufacturing, another sector with the potential for mass employment, is currently contributing just 3.51 per cent to the GDP. Already, corruption and economic mismanagement have helped reduce a country blessed with rich resources to a poverty-stricken nation. A major economic grievancea big, abrupt rise in fuel pricesmay spark a major unrest next year.The inconvenient fact that stares the nation in the face is that the present political arrangement can never deliver development. If Jonathan is actually interested in averting the impending revolution, he should initiate moves to return Nigeria to true federalism. He must immediately intensify efforts in the ongoing privatisation programme of the government, but should ensure that it is transparently done. The oil industry must also be liberalised to the extent that petroleum products are refined in the country so that most of the jobless people can be employed. A suitable environment should be provided for private enterprise to flourish, while stable electricity should be provided so that those who can set out on their own can do so without relying on the government for employment. The warnings of an impending revolution, apart from being a self-indictment, should also be seen as a wake-up call to add quality to governance.
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