Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year Expectations

Today is New Year Day. People woke up into a stream of New Year messages from prominent people around the world, mostly religious leaders and politicians. The religious leaders pray for peace and love. The same theme is repeated in places of worship, where people throng, on this day, for divine support and assurance.
From the politicians also come wishes of peace, but they get heavy on promises. Promises of all the things people lacked during the previous year and assurance of better life.
This is also the day people flag off already prepared New Year resolutions of new habits and efforts to achieve newly-set targets and dreams.
In the flurry of messages, resolutions and dreams, there is a common thread: The welfare of people; and that is our primary concern. In 2009, we are concerned about the restoration of an enabling environment that would make individual dreams realisable. The famous American dream is only possible because, at least until the financial crisis, the US provided ample opportunities for its citizens and even foreigners to realise their dreams.
Nigeria may be a developing country, but it is richly endowed to make its citizens live their dreams. With so much widespread poverty, the dream of some Nigerians for now is even not much – three square meals a day. The past few years have been very tough for Nigerians, with over 50 per cent of them falling below the poverty line. For many people, basic needs taken for granted in even poorer countries, have became luxuries items or services out of their reach.
Nigerians want their infrastructure, such as roads and electricity supply to be functional. The teeming unemployed people want jobs, and they and those in employment want inflation to be low and the local currency strong against other currencies to enhance their purchasing power.
Unlike in 2008, when robbers took siege of many towns and cities, Nigerians want life and property secured in 2009. They want democracy take root, and all political institutions strengthened
Like individuals, companies dream of an enabling environment and stable laws.
Inspite of their dreams, many individuals and companies are starting the year with the fear that the odds are stashed against them. Top on the list of issues commonly discussed these days is that this year would be a tough year. Since September last year when the global financial crisis broke, even the advanced economies have not found their feet. They have slipped further into recession, and as a direct impact, the price of oil, Nigeria’s main foreign exchange earner, has fallen below the 2009 budget benchmark price. There are fears that barring a major development to upturn the trend, oil prices will continue to fall, making it difficult for government to fulfil its obligations.
Perhaps it was in anticipation of all these challenges and fears that President Yar’ Adua devoted so much time in reassuring Nigerians that all would be well. He said: ‘Our inflexible tenacity, our incredible passion for excellence, and our resilient search for a better future mark us out as a people. They are part of our national heritage.
‘In the New Year, this administration shall match this national character and strive harder to meet the national aspiration for greatness. Long deferred, the promise of Nigeria shall not continue to remain just a potential. It will soon be redeemed. Our season of renewal has dawned.
‘We remain fully committed to delivering on our promise of a better standard of living for all Nigerians through our Seven-Point Agenda. The recent revitalization of the executive arm of government is meant to give greater effect to this commitment. With the systematic planning process that we have put in place and our renewed team, we will forge ahead with our agenda for rapid improvements in critical areas with greater vigour and total dedication, even as we face the challenge of attuning ourselves to the pressures of global economic recession and plunging oil prices.’
That is a political message in the mood of the season, but we believe that with a strong political will and proper execution, he can do it. We urge him to give that challenges all he has, to give Nigerians better living standards.