By Remigius Akinbinu
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right” -Ophrah Winfrey.
The year 2015 ended one week ago with its glorious moments, bad moments, thumbs-up,thumbs-downs, goodness and travails, leaving on its trail prospects, fears, anxiety and indeed great expectations in this succeeding year 2016.
While many Nigerians are still thanking God for the relatively hitch free 2015 elections which ushered in a new government at the centre peacefully against all odds and morbid fears of the Nation’s disintegration or the occurrence of a civil warfare, signs of a dwindling economy occasioned by an unprecedented free fall of the Naira and drastic reduction of oil prices has created a new source of fear and deep concern across the nation.
The above has prompted this column to take a look at the issues and matters arising that may determine the shape of things to come in the new year.
PRESIDENT BUHARI’S BUDGET:
When the budget started receiving criticisms, many including myself, first thought it was the usual politically motivated criticism of those in power by the opposition.
But after noticing some humongous provisions that gave the Presidency away as operating on a worse level than it’s predecessors in terms of prudence and frugal management of the nation’s resources, it dawned on me that the criticism might be justified after all.
That the Presidency had to withdraw the budget from the National Assembly is a very bad way to start the year. It was a confirmation of the condemnations of the budget as being largely in bad taste.
I stand to be corrected, but I think such ‘withdrawal’ act by the Presidency is unprecedented in the history of Democracy in the country.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed’s statement to the effect that the budget is only being corrected is absolutely preposterous and a poor way of defending the indefensible.
It is, to me, a confirmation of the fact that the President does not have a sound economic team yet.
Why sending a budget full of errors and obnoxious provisions to the Assembly in the first instance if there is a sound economic team on ground?
Few days ago, when the IMF President, Largarde visited the President, he was said to have been disappointed having not met a solid economic team with which to discuss the Nation’s myriads of economic troubles.
It is also sad to note that about 30% of the budget this year will be devoted to servicing of debts as against the 21% in 2015.
This is as a result of the fact that the government intends to borrow more than its predecessor to finance the budget.
It thus appear hypocritical of the APC led Federal government to now embark on a borrowing spree having been condemning its predecessor in office for same.
ECONOMY OF STATES:
The year 2015 was a year better forgotten when it comes to the economy of Nigerian states. Owing to dwindling allocations from the Federal purse, most states were unable to meet up with their responsibilities of payment of workers’ salaries as and at when due.
It also had serious effects on the execution of developmental projects.
Many Nigerians will be praying that the situation improves in the new year but sadly there appear to be no end in sight with the seemingly free fall of the Naira against the dollar and the drastic drop in international oil prices.
In the light of the above, I believe the states should look for new ways of generating additional income while ensuring painstaking prudence in the management of their scarce resources.
Our over dependence on oil over the years has been cited as the biggest reason for the nation’s predicament now that oil prices are dropping.
More attention should be paid to agriculture especially cocoa production as a great way of improving our exports.
The Ondo state government has been doing well in pointing the way forward in this regard with its cocoa revolution.
For us in Ondo state, the fact that the new year 2016 is another gubernatorial election year has generated additional excitement and is already heating up the polity.
The election this year which is likely to come up in October as the last one was held on October 20,2012 will certainly take a different dimension since the incumbent governor Dr. Olusegun Mimiko will not be eligible to contest.
Moreover, unlike in 2012 when the election was between the ruling but small Labour Party (LP) and two big parties the PDP and the ACN, this year’s election is expected,,baring the emergence of a third force, to be between the two major parties in the country, the ruling party in the state, PDP and the ruling party at the federal level, the APC.
As at this moment, it is not clear who and who the two parties will pick as their candidates for the election but it has become glaring who the likely candidates will be.
From the body language of the APC,it seems obvious that the party’s candidate will come from the Northern senatorial district and it may eventually be narrowed down to the duo of Senator Ajayi Borrofice and Olurotimi Akeredolu as the party may not be willing to concede its ticket to new comers like Olusola Oke and some others.
The PDP on the other hand has not really shown any sign of picking its candidate from any of the three senatorial zones in the state as leading hopefuls are from all three zones.
Names like Sola Ebiseni, Kingsley Kuku (from the South)Gbenga Elegbeleye (from the North) and Eyitayo Jegede (from the Central) have been mentioned as the likely PDP candidate.
But like I mentioned in an earlier article, I will rather we place greater premium on competence, character, charisma, credibility, integrity and track record of aspirants than where they come from.
This was how Ajasin, Adefarati, Agagu and Mimiko emerged governors of the state and it is the reason why Ondo state is riding high today in the comity of states.
I pray for a free, fair and peaceful election in October and may the best candidate win so that Ondo state will continue to shine.