Buhari And 500 Naira “Congo” Of Rice By Remi Oyeyemi

If the purpose of government is to ease the lives of the people, then it is time for President Muhammadu Buhari to really sit down and find solutions to the growing inflation and the economic difficulties of Nigerians. If the purpose of government is to create an atmosphere that would enable meaningful day-to-day living for the people, then it is time for President Buhari to wake up and gauge his efforts so far. It is time for him to stop, take a step back, look inward, assess himself and his policies and lay out what needs to be down to checkmate the downward spiral of the economy of the country.

Six months ago, President Buhari was just three months in the saddle. He was just settling down. At that point in time, many Nigerians expected that he would be rolling out policies to be pursued by his administration. There were high hopes. There was excitement in the polity. At that point in time, it was also three months since President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) was kicked out of Aso Rock and chased back to Otuoke. At the same point in time, the “congo” of rice was selling for 220 naira only.
Six months ago would be referring specifically to August 2015. At that point in time, a “congo” of Gaàrí was selling for 50 naira only; in October of same year Gaàrí was 80 naira; the “Neat beans” (Èwà) which is the deemed to have the most quality among its genre was 200 naira only, and in October last year it rose to 300 naira; a four–liter gallon of Kerosene was selling 450 in August 2015 and 480 naira only in October 2015; and a small size Eva – water bottle of Òróró was selling for 200 naira only in August 2015. Six months ago, at the same point in time, we had 50 naira bread in the market. Six months ago, it was President Buhari who was in charge.
As I write this piece the following are the market prices of the above-identified products and the percentage of increase:
Item
August 2015
February 2016
Percentage Increase
Rice
220 Naira
500 Naira
128%
Ewa
200 Naira
450 Naira
125%
Gaari
50 Naira
120 Naira
140%
Kerosene
450-480 Naira
600 Naira
25%
Ororo
200 Naira
300 Naira
140%
Smallest Size of Bread
50 Naira
60 Naira
20%
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread” – Mahatma Gandhi
Anyone who is familiar with the feeding routine of Nigerians knows that the above-listed food items and Kerosene as a cooking items are the essentials of our survival as a people. All kinds of delicacies of the ordinary Nigerians are weaved in and around the above-named food items. One deliberately left out yam and plantain because except for those on the farms, and not all of them, though, those items could be very expensive if you live in Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja and other big cities.
Le’s grant that this government is fairly new and is not able to make quick improvements in the lives of Nigerians, but that excuse could only be tenable to a very limited extent. If the Buhari administration could not make an immediate positive impact on the lives of the people, it should, at least, be able to put a stop to backsliding, regressing and degeneration of quality of their lives. The only variable relevant in this equation would be a steady hand on the levers of governance that the President has not been able to provide.
The greatest threat to the existence or survival of a country is food. When the common man or the poor is placed in a position where he could no longer afford the basic food items, especially the ones that are supposed to be the cheapest, then, it is the beginning of the end of such a country and its peoples. All of us know that a hungry man is an angry man. One does not need to preach this aphorism to the Buhari administration and its leading lights. If they have any advice for their boss, this is the time to give it.
The way President Buhari is gallivanting around the world, thus further depleting the scarce resources of the country, does not suggest that he has his priority right. It has not convinced Nigerians that the “Change” they voted for could ever be realized. Mouthing “war on corruption” on the pages of newspapers without any concrete result to be announced to Nigerians would soon lose its luster. It could only work for some time. Nigerians are gradually getting less excited about the hullabaloo about the war on corruption. This is because, at the end of the day, when you are hungry, nothing else matters.
We are all against corruption. We want those who have looted our commonwealth to be brought to book. We want our stolen wealth to be recovered. But it is not the only thing the government could do. This is a government for God’s sake. The government is not a one man entity. It is all encompassing. Its arms are long and could reach anywhere it wants. It could and should be able to multi-task. War on corruption could be undertaken without other spheres of governance being neglected. As analogous to a man, he should be able to walk and chew gum simultaneously. There has to be a fundamental relationship between the war on corruption being prosecuted and the improvement Nigerians are able to realize in their individual lives.
For a government that knows its onions, fighting the war on corruption should not be an excuse for nauseating ineptitude. Fighting the war on corruption should not be an excuse for incompetence. Fighting the war on corruption should not be an excuse for profligacy. Fighting the war on corruption is not an excuse for “gulliverism” (apology to Pius Adesanmi). Fighting a war on corruption is not an excuse for stagnancy in other areas of governance. It is not an excuse for confusion and aridity of ideas. It is not an excuse for purposelessness. Fighting the war on corruption is not an excuse to allow Nigerians go hungry.
Nine months in power, no one has an idea what the economic policy of Buhari’s administration is. No one has an idea what the thrust of his foreign policy is. Nine months on, no one has an idea of the systemic policy rectifications of the war against corruption. No defined guidelines. No basic operational principles that could be applied across the board. The basic tenets of its agricultural policy are unknown. No one could point to the framework of the administration’s trade policy. Nothing from this government is out there for our people to behold about where this country is headed.
The country under this administration is being governed in an ad-hoc style. It is guided by brainwaves. No plan. No policy. No agenda. No guidelines. Even the highly taunted war on corruption is prosecuted with the same sickening fundamentals of inexactitude. What happened today is not a pointer of what would happen tomorrow. There is no steady stream of definite ideas that would give confidence to foreign investors or even local entrepreneurs. Everything, including the obviously doomed war on corruption is in perpetual state of flux. There is confusion everywhere.
“The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”-Albert Einstein
As confusion croons on, starvation is ravaging the land. Poverty is pulverizing our people. Unmitigated want is washing away the dreams and hopes of our people. There seems to be food everywhere, but a majority of our people do not have the ways and means to buy the food and feed themselves as well as their families. Those who have not been able to receive six moth salaries could not begin to speak of a raise in wages in the midst of conflagrating inflation. If it was difficult to buy a “congo” of rice at 220 naira six months ago, how easy would it or could it be to buy it at 500 naira in today’s Nigeria under President Buhari.
Nigerians are suffering. Hunger is all over the place. People are dying gradually. Some are dead already. Children are starving. Those among the children who have something to eat are faced with a specter of malnourishment. The doctors are drained of energy. The nurses are becoming cruel. The lawyers are now more predatory. The lecturers are now more dexterous at exploiting their students. Those students who have graduated are walking the streets, some of them forced into lives of crime. The security of the country is worsening. There is a higher frequency of armed robberies. Everything is going out of sync.
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” – Aristotle
One does not claim to be a professional economist. But one knows a good economy when he sees one. It is not difficult to add up figures and subtract them in simple arithmetic. Governance might be a little more complicated, but it is all about clearly defined goals for the country. It is about administrative acumen. It is about ability. One can decipher when things are not adding up and when they are going bad. When there is economic discombobulation, social stupefaction, religious anesthesia and political mobocracy, then it is not difficult to discern a government that is in disarray and poorly coordinated. Those are symptomatic of a government languishing in aridity of ideas, poverty of policy, inebriating ineptitude, paralyzing incompetence and inexactitude.
The means of measuring the success or failure of a government is how the people, especially the ordinary people fare during its tenure. The war on corruption is good and welcome by all. But it is not putting food on the tables of starving ordinary Nigerians. It is time for President Buhari to wake up to his responsibilities.

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it.”-John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961

Please, follow me on twitter @OyeyemiRemi

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