Depending on your position from the prism of retrospect, the year, 2018 for Nigeria has been good year, a bad year or an outright year. For the nation, it was like an auburn which blighted by some security challenges as a result of the continued massacre from Boko Haram terrorists; a religious sect that has been rampaging lives for over 9 years in the northeastern part of the country. It has been that bloody year as clashes between pastoralists and farmers in the north central part lingered.
Just as it happened on one night in 2014 when 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno, it replicated in the just concluded year and over one hundred school girls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped on 19 February, 2018 by the same Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College Dapchi, which is 170 miles away from Chibok. Though these school girls were later released at exactly 30 days after the abduction with exemption to one named Leah, this is a complete opposite of what happened to the unfortunate Chibok girls, some of whom are still in captivity over four years after their abduction.
Like a bloodbath on April 5, in which vampires, in a commando manner, stormed an ancient Yoruba settlement, Offa in Kwara state and spilled the blood of the innocent Nigerians in the time of peace. In the same vein was the Otedola bridge fire accident which occurred on the bridge at the Lagos end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway where a tanker lorry fully loaded with petroleum product fell, leaked and exploded as lives were colossally lost. Undisputedly, all these left indelible marks in the hearts of concerned countrymen. In fact, Amnesty International recorded that 3500 plus Nigerians have been gripped by untimely deaths in 2018 across 17 states as against the 54.5 years life expectancy in Nigeria, the rate which is unfortunately the lowest in all countries of West Africa.
In the same year, series of crises continually rocked the nation, of especial, Kaduna state. For the most part of 2018 was embroiled series communal clashes, bandits attacks, religious violence, etcetera. The violence got to a peak that the Kaduna state government imposed a 24-hour curfew on Kaduna town and environs, with immediate effect. The state governor, Nasir El-Rufai however stated that decision was taken in the best interest of the state though the curfew has since been suspended.
In the light of security challenges, the Prime Minister on tour to four African countries visited Nigeria and after talks with President Muhammadu Buhari in the nation’s capital Abuja, Mrs May announced that the two countries had signed a defence and security partnership which could see the UK train, for the first time, full army units to combat insurgents in the north-east of Nigeria. The UK, which has trained 30,000 Nigerian troops since 2015.
Albeit, the ugly sides of 2018 were not limited to security issues as some comical but sad occurrences played out, of the so much intriguing acts was the mystery snake that was said to have sneaked into the accounts office of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital and carted away N36 million cash; certificate forgery saga of the erstwhile finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun who later resigned after much pressures; the invasion of thugs into the National Assembly during plenary while the mace was carted away but later recovered by the Nigeria Police Force under the flyover before the city gate in Abuja, the nation’s capital where a passerby saw it and alerted the police.
Howbeit, the year has not been all round ugly, gloom and doom. Some sectors in the nation recorded accolades cum success, just as the manufacturing sector started performing well in the year. While year-on-year growth for each of the quarters in 2015-16 was negative, there was only one such instance in 2017; in the third quarter. According to official data, at 9.3 per cent of GDP, the Nigerian manufacturing sector grew by 3.4 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, an improvement from 0.1 per cent y/y in Q4 2017 and -2.9 per cent y/y in Q3 2017.
The last time there was something close to such growth in the period since Q1-2016 was in Q1-2017, when the sector grew by 1.4 per cent y/y. In the same year, it was reported that at about 1.8 billion servings annually, Nigeria is now the 12th world’s largest instant noodles market. In fact, the success in the instant noodles manufacturing sector is believed to be one of the reasons why the Nigerian government has been hesitant to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), though the currency swap deal factored in as the operationalization of the agreement, made it easier for most Nigerian manufacturers, especially, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and cottage industries in manufacturing and export businesses, to import raw materials, spare parts and simple machinery to undertake their businesses by taking advantage of available RMB liquidity from Nigerian banks without being exposed to difficulties of seeking other scarce foreign currencies.
2018 also recorded moments when German chancellor, Angela Merkel came to our country with the German team to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the German-African Business Association and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture. Another agreement was also signed between the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and Petkus Technologie GmbH, a company that specializes on post harvest agricultural value chain.
However, the government of President Buhari unwisely promised Nigerians heaven on earth while it was obvious right from 2012 that oil prices that the nation lean on had become too volatile for Nigeria to continue to rely on as the main source of revenue. With the price fluctuations leading to reductions in foreign exchange inflow against the background of mounting imports and domestic expenditure, it was only a matter of time before the bubble busted and the much expected change by Nigerians seem to be mirage.
Meanwhile, there were no promises in the books that the APC did not make to Nigerians during the campaigns for the 2015 general elections, even though their flag-bearer cumulatively spoke for less than two hours, if you had heard all of what he said at all the campaign stops in one session. But others made lavish promises on his behalf: From instituting state and community policing, to banning government officials from seeking medical care abroad, to the implementation of the National Gender Policy, reserving 35 percent of appointive positions for women, to the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
There were many other promises contained in some glossy publications that Nigerians believed had the authority of Buhari. Nigerians were told that within a period of four years, the Buhari administration would generate, transmit and distribute at least 20,000 MW of electricity while providing employment for no fewer than 740,000 graduates across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Other promises include the establishment of a free-tuition and scholarship scheme for pupils who show exceptional aptitude in science subjects at O/Levels to study ICT-related courses, creating three million jobs per year besides vocational training, entrepreneurial and skills acquisition schemes for graduates as well as establishing a Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme to create at least five million new jobs by 2019.
The Buhari administration, according to his campaign manifesto, was going to provide one free meal (to include fruits) daily, for public primary school pupils; eradicate State of Origin requirement by replacing it with State of Residence; amend the Constitution and the Land Use Act to create freehold/leasehold interests in land along with matching grants for states to create a nationwide electronic land title register on a state by state basis. It was also going to construct 3,000 kilometers of super-highway including service trunks while building up to 4,800 kilometers of modern railway lines, etc.
Now that the 2019 which looked far away then is here for the APC government to seek the favor of the electorates, (interestingly, the elections are even less 40 days), they’d know better than to promise an end to an asymmetric war they seem to know less about that evolves according to the challenges presented to them.
One other good thing witnessed in 2018 was about our 58 year-old growing democracy, by the intensification of the opposition and emerging third force political parties up-to over 90 parties. A stiff and virile checkmate for the government from the oppositions was witnessed and the likes of Atiku Abubakar, Tope Fasua, Kingsley Moghalu, Oby Ezekwesili, Omoyele Sowore, Yusuf Sani and a host of others would be tussling the number one seat of the nation.
To cap it all, 2018 has not been a disastrous year for Nigeria when seen altogether but it would be considered a disaster in retrospect if the sacrifices made by Nigerians, the sufferance, the lethal state and the lethargic state of the economy are not converted to joy for Nigerians by 2019. Well, the ruling All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari have the ball now as 2019 is here, and the polls are right here in a jiffy.