The decision by the Federal Government to celebrate Nigeria at 50 may appear to be a welcome development. 50 years is worth celebrating, but not in such an extravagant manner as is currently being planned and Nigerians are reacting.
According to the federal government the N10 billion naira ($66 million USD) budgeted for the nation’s 50th independence anniversary in October this year was done, long before now by the Yar’adua administration and not the responsibility of the Jonathan government. This reaction came from the Spokesperson of the Government, the minister of information and communications, Prof Dora Akunyili who said that the initial budget of N62million ‘represents line items inserted in the budget of three ministries for the normal low key annual independence anniversary celebration’.
This reaction many Nigerians felt amounted to double standard by the Jonathan government. Because it is improper to place responsibility on late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua for the said whopping sum of money which appeared in the supplementary budget sent to the National Assembly for approval, while it made no effort to reduce same if it actually believed the said amount was far beyond reasonable limits.
President Jonathan had earlierslashed the budget earlier sent to the National Assembly by N400billion as at the time he was sending a supplementary budget of N600billion, which included the controversial N10billion meant for the celebrations. This seemingly innocuous action may appear suspicious when juxtaposed against the fact that the 2011 elections are fast approaching. Discerning minds may easily read meanings into this, suspecting that a substantial part of this amount will be stashed away for these elections.
Nigeria, they reasoned is well endowed, with only a few nations on this planet that can stake a better claim. With millions of barrels of crude being pumped out daily, and with the second largest gas reserve in the world, yet poverty had gone up. There is failure of governance at all levels, so much corruption and lack of transparency and accountability which have eroded the credibility of government. Today, Nigeria is seen by many as a collapsing nation. One thing however that is clear is that Nigeria as a state had long relinquished its functions and obligations to its citizens , with individuals and groups that can afford, providing clean water, electricity, education for their children and wards, security for their life and property and many more. Nigerians dare ask, where then are the obligations of the state to its people?
Nigerians including members of the political elite see government action as a clear misplacement of priority, insensitive and irresponsible, with little consideration towards the plight of its citizens who continue to wallow in abject poverty amidst plenty. It has been revealed that only 30 percent of Nigerians live above the poverty line while the remaining 70 percent live under excruciating conditions, yet , the presidency goofed by budgeting such a scandalous amount for merry making.
Many well meaning citizens are calling for a sober reflection as the nation celebrates its golden jubilee, because it is obvious that there is nothing worth celebrating in the manner as is being planned by government. Some are calling for the anniversary budget to be scaled down to reflect the prevailing economic conditions in the country.
Judging by the sentiments thus far expressed by Nigerians, it will benefit President Jonathan more if he should heed the calls for a rethink and be reasonable in appropriating the nation’s much needed resources. Such funds can be well channeled among other priorities into upgrading the nation’s decayed infrastructure, generating employment; resolving issues of the Niger Delta, providing adequate security for life and property, especially with the escalation of the activities of kidnappers in Eastern Nigeria that are currently gradually grinding commercial activities in the region to a halt.