By Olusina Thorpe
Late Dr. Tai Solarin (1922-1994) was one of Nigeria’s foremost, courageous and steadfast social activists.
He was also a compelling writer with radical messages. In one of his famous write ups, titled: “May Your Road Be Rough”, which he penned on January 1st, 1964, Solarin wrote: “I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I, therefore, repeat, May you have a hard time this year, May there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, ‘Same to you’? I ask for no more”.
Though many people misinterpreted Solarin’s prayer as a curse, the main intent was to bring to fore the intricate relationship between the bumpy roads of life and success. The bottom line is that success is not achieved on a platter of gold. It comes through continuous struggles and battles on the turbulent waters of life. In Solarin’s words, life, if it is going to be abundant, must have plenty of hills and vales. It must have plenty of sunshine and rough weather. It must be rich in obfuscation and perspicacity. It must be packed with days of danger and of apprehension.
However, as much as one finds Solarin’s postulation somewhat engaging, as we move into the New Year, I wish to take a radical departure from his position. Being a staunch believer in the word of God, I fully understand the power in the spoken word.
In Numbers 14:28, the Almighty God said: “…As truly as I live…..as ye have spoken in my ears, so will I do to you”. This implies that whatever we say is what we get. Therefore, based on my profound respect for the integrity of God’s word, I won’t be joining Solarin to wish or pray for a rough road in 2021. No!
Besides the grievous spiritual implication of wishing oneself or others a rough road, in view of our tough experience in 2020, it would be foolhardy to wish for a rough road in the New Year. We had enough hurly-burly in 2020.
2020 was a year that many would not want to remember in a long time. It was a most trying year, full of heartaches and pains. It was a year when dreams and hopes were shattered. It was a year of losses and sorrow for many. The COVID-19 pandemic obviously complicated 2020. Take it or leave it, in 2020, COVID-19 caused the entire world anxious moments, as no terrorist organization has ever done.
As at Friday, January, 2020, the number of people who have died as a result of the pandemic globally has exceeded 1, 820,000 (one million eight hundred and twenty thousand). This shows the massive impact the virus had on the world. Thousands of flights were cancelled, music and sporting activities postponed and in some cases entirely cancelled. Some nations were on lock down for weeks, thus leading to colossal economic losses.
Being the nation’s commercial and industrial never-centre, Lagos was understandably the epicenter of the pandemic in the country. Without a doubt, COVID-19 stretched Lagos’ resilience, but the government valiantly rose to the occasion, receiving accolades from far and near.
Sadly, as the State was steadily getting out of the debacle, the EndSARS violence reared its ugly head. The sheer magnitude of the destruction occasioned by the violence would make even a heart of steel cringe. By the time the mindless orgy of viciousness was over, many public and private assets in Lagos were left in absolute ruins.
Aside from the two major decisive events with far-reaching consequences, the State equally experienced scores of ugly occurrences such as fire outbreaks and building collapse among others.
It is, thus, in view of this that I am wishing Lagosians a smoother 2021. Unlike Solarin’s curious entreaty, my prayer is that 2021 would be a better year for us all. I pray it would be a year of lesser turbulence and heartaches. I pray it would be a year of total recovery from the losses of the preceding year. We had enough of a bumpy road in 2020. So, in 2021, all we hope and wish for is that the road would be smoother and pleasant.
However, this would not just happen via mere prayer and wishes. We must all come together, both the people and the government, in order to be on the same page. The people must shun vices such as spreading fake news (which caused grievous havocs in 2020), indiscriminate dumping of refuse, and flagrant disobedience of traffic rules, cultism and other such untoward tendencies.
On its part, the State government, in its usual style, is poised to take the State to greater heights in 2021. The 2021 budget, christened, ‘Budget of Rekindled Hope’, was carefully designed to meet the aspirations of our teeming youth and the people by focusing on sectors with job creating potential such as agriculture, construction, technology and security.
The goal is to improve the economic conditions and social safety needed for the youth and all hardworking Lagosians to flourish. Resources will be committed to sectors that need to grow for the residents to become more self-reliant and economically empowered.
A pivotal crux of the 2021 budget will be the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture among Lagosians. In light of this, micro, small and medium enterprises will be strengthened because their activities help to facilitate socio-economic advancement. The current administration has done a lot to support the entrepreneurs in the State through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, LSETF, and it is set to do more by providing technical and financial support so that they can in turn generate employment that will stimulate equitable economic prosperity.
The government is set to consolidate its gains in the technology sector for accelerated economic growth and job creation. In order to achieve this, it will collaborate with major players in that space like Oracle, Microsoft and Google to prepare our youths for the IT job market. As it focuses on job and wealth creation, it will also prioritize the security of lives and property as well as local intelligence gathering in the communities by increasing significantly the number of Neighbourhood Watch Officers over the next two years.
All these will be achieved through the State’s human development MDAs comprising the Ministries of Education, Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Wealth Creation, (including LSETF) and SDGI. Consequently, the cumulative budgetary provision towards Human capital development effort from these MDAs total’s N148.57billion. No doubt, for Lagos, the 2021 outlook looks promising.
On a final note, in 1986, P.A. Elton wrote the following concerning Nigeria: “Nigeria and Nigerians will be known for corruption worldwide, but the tide will turn and Nigeria will also be known to righteousness worldwide. Many shall take hold of a Nigerian saying, ‘we will go with you for we have heard that God is with you’. I pray this prophecy shall be fulfilled right in our own generation and beyond.
As I welcome everyone on board the New Year, I pray that our journey through the year would be smoother, more enriching and safer.
Happy New Year and best wishes!
-Thorpe is Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.