Nigeria’s former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), has warned that the soaring hardship in the country might result into another nationwide conflagration, worse than the 2020 #EndSARS protests against police brutality.
He cautioned the Federal Government against increasing pump price of fuel, saying a rise in petrol price now will push more Nigerians deeper into poverty.
Abdusalami, who ruled Nigeria between 1998 and 1999, said this, yesterday, at the 19th Daily Trust Dialogue with the theme: ‘2023: The Politics, Economy and Security.’
While noting that the past three months had seen an improvement in economic growth rates and inflation, Abdulsalami, however, said the impact of these numbers on the lives and wellbeing of the ordinary Nigerian is suspect.
He said unemployment and underemployment remain at record levels, adding that over 80 million Nigerians are still caught up in needless poverty.
He said: “All of these tend to have negative effects on security. In fact, Nigeria now faces a food security crisis that is compounded by COVID-19 pandemic and banditry in many states in northern Nigeria.
These have disrupted the fragile value chains across the country and negatively impacted the ability of Nigerians to produce, process and distribute food. The result is a continuing rise in prices of food items beyond the reach of many families.
On top of all these, fuel prices are expected to rise significantly in the coming months as announced last November. When this happens, as the government has planned, it will push many millions deeper into poverty.
“Young people and women are the demographic groups most affected by the country’s dire economic outlook. For example, estimates by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that while the national unemployment rate stood at 33 per cent by the end of 2020, unemployment for young people between ages 15 and 34 years was 10 per cent higher at 42.5 per cent.
“If not carefully managed, the frustrations of these groups could easily boil over into a national conflagration worse than what we saw months ago during the #EndSARS protests. However, these are not doomsday predictions, but a warning to which all stakeholders must pay heed.”
On insecurity, Abdulsalami, who is also the Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), stated that the situation has overstretched the country’s security forces and has led to the death of thousands.
He noted that major cause of insecurity is the proliferation of all calibre of weapons in Nigeria in particular, and in the West Africa sub-region generally.
Quoting the Global Conflict Tracker report compiled by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Abdulsalami said some 350,000 persons have been killed and three million displaced directly or indirectly in the conflict in the Northeast since 2009.
He said: “I have not seen this country in serious challenges of its existence as seen at this time. I have witnessed the Nigerian Civil War and not even that was so much a threat to our existence like we are witnessing today.
“And of course all attention is focused on the political class. The solutions to all the problems that have been highlighted particularly security and economy are problems the politicians are expected to solve.”
FORMER Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said the country needs a capable leader who will address the problems facing the nation.
Also speaking at the Daily Trust dialogue, he said: “What is important now is to identify a competent leader that can get us out of these crises.
“We have the capacity to pull this country out of her present predicament. We must do the needful and most importantly, I believe a leadership that will prioritise education is desirable.”
IN his remarks, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged Nigerians to be part of politics and governance, as the institutions are too important to be left for politicians alone.
“We learnt in military training that war is too important to be left to the soldiers alone. Therefore, national development is too important to be left to the politicians alone,” he said.
Abubakar, who is also President of the Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), stressed that dialogue remains the best option to resolve issues.
He said: “What wars cannot resolve, dialogue can resolve it. I am an advocate of dialogue and I cannot be tired of dialogue. Without security, you can’t develop, you can’t even worship God. We cannot get tired and we must not get tired of talking peace.”
Speaking, spokesman of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said the situation in the country has shown Nigerians that the country does not need an ethnic president in 2023.
While expressing concerns over the tension in the polity in the buildup to the general elections, Baba-Ahmed said 90 per cent of Nigerian governors have no business being anywhere near power.
According to him, most of the governors don’t have the preparation, background, and competencies to govern.
“One of the worst things you can do is to create huge additional anger around the cost of living, the cost of fuel, cost of prices, pushing the citizen into more depression and you want to have elections just a few months after”, he stated.
While calling for restructuring of the country, he added: “What we really need to do is put the federal system on the table and ask what is wrong.
“What is it that makes it impossible to reduce the powers or to regulate the powers of governance, restructure the country but this is a word that is anathema to a lot of people in power today.”
For Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Nigerians must look into the possibility of selecting good leaders rather than the elections itself