Monday, 9 November 2015

#MustRead: A Letter To President Buhari

President Buhari
by: Ololade Omotoba

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,

You became president five months ago, and Nigeria recently celebrated its 55th birthday. Unlike past administrations, I have hope that you will do good things during your term.

Currently, I am 15 years old, and by the time I’m 50, Nigeria will be very different from what it is right now, especially its population. By 2050, if nothing is done about Nigeria’s population growth, Nigeria is expected to have a population of 397 million, which would put us at 4th place behind the USA, which would have a population of 398 million.

President Muhammadu Buhari, you are in the unique position to build the foundations for a better Nigeria. I have five suggestions for you and your administration on how to tackle the biggest issues facing Nigeria today.

The first one is obviously terrorism. From insurgency in the North East to militancy in the Niger Delta, any form of terrorism in this nation has one ultimate goal: the division of Nigeria. You can’t let that happen, or else you won’t have a job. You must tackle insurgency in any form, because no matter how small they are, they are a threat to the country as a whole. If they manage to carve out a nation for themselves, Nigeria will collapse because of the confidence other ethnic groups would gain. Soon they would declare independence and fight for it as well. Terrorism in Nigeria needs to be destroyed to ensure her survival.

Corruption is also a big problem that Nigeria is currently facing. This is what hinders the development of any specific entity, whether it is a country or a business. You are obviously aware of this, as you said corruption is “the greatest form of human right violation.” Unfortunately for Nigeria, corruption is rampant and has been that way since the discovery of crude oil in the 1970s. According to Transparency International in 2014, out of 175 countries, Nigeria ranked 136th place in the corruption index. This would make Nigeria the 39th most corrupt country in the world, right? Not really. Since many countries that are the worst often get identical rankings, Nigeria is actually the 27th most corrupt country in the world. The year before in 2013, Nigeria was the 25th most corrupt country in the world (ranked 144th out of 177 countries). That is a pitiful improvement.

To prove that you’re a new hope to Nigeria, you need to aggressively reduce corruption in this country. Many people are skeptical about you because you were a former military dictator, but you must prove them wrong. You are Nigeria’s leader. You have the power to make this country better or worse for this term. Please, do not hesitate to fight corruption in the country.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is Nigeria’s petroleum resources. Currently, the country has 37.2 billion barrels of oil, placing it 10th among countries with oil reserves. If Nigeria exports at its current rate, and doesn’t find any more sources of oil, the oil in Nigeria will last for another 45 years. But in reality, oil is the problem. Yes, oil is a blessing to Nigeria, but it is more a curse than a blessing.

Nigeria is one of the many countries that suffered and are still suffering from what is widely known as the ‘resource curse,’ the term used when an abundance of resources or a specific resource negatively affects a country. Because of oil, Nigeria is suffering from Dutch Disease, which happens when the growth of one sector of an economy (mainly from a natural resource) decreases another sector of the economy. In Nigeria, the growth of the oil sector has caused the agricultural sector to rapidly decrease. So, even though 95 per cent of Nigeria’s land is arable, many tons of food, which we can grow ourselves, are imported into the country every year. Thankfully, the agricultural sector of Nigeria is gradually going back to what it once was.

Unfortunately, another effect of the resource curse is armed conflict. The cause of armed conflict is the unequal distribution of resources to that specific area or a conflict for control of these resources. In Nigeria, an example is none other than the Civil War. Biafra wanted to secede, but the other ethnic groups in the country fought Biafra in the hope of reuniting the country.

Oil was discovered in the Niger Delta in 1956, and nearly all of Nigeria’s oil is found in the Niger Delta area. And if Biafra had seceded, it would have laid claim to all of the Niger Delta, and that may have been the end of oil in Nigeria. Also, resource control was the main reason for the rise of militancy in the Niger Delta region. And since the profits of oil revenues have barely reached the Nigerian population, there have been many violent uprisings throughout the history of the nation to secede from the country. Secessionist sentiment is still present because of the lack of equal distribution of resources.

If Nigeria ever wants to improve, then the resource curse must stop. Also, there will come a day when the oil will stop flowing. And if things do not improve in the country, the day the oil stops flowing is the day when Nigeria, as we know it, ceases to exist.

Infrastructure is also an issue. Currently, it is improving, but at a slow, disproportionate pace. While cities such as Abuja and Lagos are gradually improving on its infrastructure, most of rural Nigeria has barely improved at all. For example, while roads are being paved in Abuja and Lagos, the travel time from Abuja to Lagos is longer compared to the distance between the two cities because much of the roads are still in deplorable condition. Also, the education and health sectors are in dire need of improvement. More hospitals need to be built to service the growing population and the quality of care hospitals can give need to improve as well. Because of the poor state of the country’s health sector today, Nigeria’s life expectancy (according to the WHO in 2015) is 54 years. That puts Nigeria as the 11th among countries with the shortest life span on earth. Compare that to Afghanistan, which is at 29th place, and to Yemen, which is at 49th place.

Quality education is also a major issue. Many existing school buildings need renovation, while new schools need to be built to accommodate out-of-school children. Also, many universities and polytechnics in the country are overcrowded and underserved. No wonder there have been several strikes in many of our higher institutions of learning almost every year.

These are just two examples, but they illustrate the fact that there needs to be improvement in the country’s infrastructure. Infrastructure is very important because it directly affects the lives of the future generations of Nigerians. Mr. President, you can greatly improve this situation, and every second is a wasted opportunity.

These four issues I have mentioned are intertwined with each other; if you fix one problem, in effect, you might also improve the other problems that are explained in this letter.

However, I must mention this other pressing issue, as it may be critical in solving the other problems mentioned earlier. It is called population growth. Like I had stated at the beginning of this letter, Nigeria’s population in 2050 is projected to rise to 397 million people. Currently, the country’s population is said to be about 180 million people. In contrast, Nigeria’s population was about 151 million people in 2008; in 2014, the country’s population was estimated to be about 175 million. So, the average Nigerian woman will have five children. Almost half of the country’s population is 14 years old or under. So, in the next 35 years, Nigeria’s population is expected to double. This decade would be a very interesting one for our population growth! The rapid increase of Nigeria’s population over the past decade is alarming.

Mr. President, please think about all of the people that government has to watch over in 2050. And if the nature of government doesn’t change anytime soon, it will be nearly impossible for any federal government to control the whole country. And if there happened to be a national uprising, the government would have to struggle to maintain peace and order in the country. Nigeria, from that point, would forever be on edge.

For many Nigerians, the main reason to have many children is to show off wealth. Many rich Nigerian men get married to many wives and give birth to many children just to show off their wealth. But it is better to have a few children that are well brought up than to have many who would not be taken care of into adulthood. So, there needs to be a societal change towards the view on children. Many Nigerians need to realise that having more children is not always better if they want to help the country. But they cannot do it alone. You need to lead the way, sir. You need to successfully promote family planning if Nigeria’s population growth is to grow at a rate that could be well managed. Sexual education also needs to be more widely taught in our schools to curb Nigeria’s population growth.

In conclusion, terrorism, corruption, oil, infrastructure, and population growth are the five main problems that Nigeria needs to address if the country ever wants to survive in the future. If these problems are not solved by 2050, think about what will happen to Nigeria.

Mr. President, you are at a crossroad. You winning the election in 2015 was indeed a sign of political change in the country. Now, you have the mandate of Nigerians to lead the nation on the path towards success or otherwise. I believe you have the country’s best interests at heart.

God bless you, sir. God bless Nigeria.

- Ololade Omotoba is a 10th Grade student in Abuja.

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