Skip links

“Since I Survived That Year, I Shall Survive Anything” – Okonkwo, Things Fall Apart

2023, Most Tragic and Turbulent Year in the life of Nigerians

On behalf of the CHRICED Board and Secretariat, I extend a warm welcome to all of you for this end-of-the-year press briefing. This conference provides us with an invaluable opportunity to reflect upon the crucial issues surrounding democracy, human rights, and accountable governance in the year 2023. Undoubtedly, the past year has been marked by numerous challenges and upheavals like the unforgettable year when Okonkwo faced immense difficulties in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. 

“The year that Okonkwo took eight hundred seed yams from Nwakibie was the worst year in living memory. Nothing happened at its proper time, it seemed as if the world had gone mad. The first rains were late and when they came, lasted only a moment. The drought continued for eight market weeks and the yams were killed…. The year had gone mad. When the rain finally returned, they fell as it had never fallen again before. Trees were uprooted and deep gorges appeared everywhere. That year, the harvest was sad, like a funeral and many farmers wept as they dug up the miserable rotting yams. One man tied his cloth to a tree branch and hanged himself. Okonkwo remembered that tragic year with a cold shiver throughout the rest of his life. It always surprised him when he thought about it later that he did not sink under the weight of despair. He knew he was a fierce fighter, but that year had been enough to break the heart of a lion. “Since i survived that year,” he always said, “I shall survive anything.” An extract from Chapter 3 of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Chinua Achebe, a renowned writer, and skilled storyteller penned the novel Things Fall Apart in 1957 at the age of 27. Presently, his words resonate with profound relevance. His narrative encapsulates the experiences of Nigerians in the year 2023. 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in the spirit of the yuletide, we wish all citizens merry Christmas and a prosperous 2024, though we all know that for many Nigerians, hope, and joy have been in short supply all-round the year. It is the reality that many of our fellow citizens are at their wits end in terms of how to survive the harsh economic realities they face. Our people are at breaking point on account of the pressures imposed by a difficult economy, the disruptions in the polity, and the insecurity, which continues to stalk the land, claimed lives. The political arena has been far from peaceful. Despite urging the people to tighten their belts, the government at all levels continues to spend the country’s finances in a wasteful and insensitive manner. This has only added to the frustrations and sufferings of the citizens.

Cost of Living Crisis as Outcome of Harsh Economic Policies 

The available evidence clearly indicates that the cost-of-living crisis continues to pose a significant existential threat to millions of Nigerians ever since Bola Ahmed Tinubu assumed the Presidency on May 29, 2023. Even though the people have consistently expressed their serious concerns regarding the impact of the government’s policies, no concrete and effective measures have been taken to alleviate their fears. Regardless of the severe hardships faced by the citizens, the government still believes that its twin policies of subsidy removal and the devaluation of the national currency against the United States Dollar, without addressing other crucial concerns, are the best solutions for the economy. Unfortunately, the implementation of these policies has resulted in an astronomical increase in the cost of essential items such as food, transportation, and house rents, making them unaffordable for many Nigerian families. The removal of fuel subsidies has led to a surge in the price of Premium Motor Spirit, which in turn has had a ripple effect on the overall economy. As transportation costs rise, the prices of food and other necessities also soar, further burdening the citizens. It is important to note that Nigeria’s transportation sector heavily relies on petrol, meaning that any increase in fuel prices creates a domino effect that negatively impacts the economy. Nigerians have been enduring the consequences of these escalating costs as they witness their daily expenses skyrocketing. 

According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose to 28.20% in November 2023, and the food inflation rate in November 2023 accelerated to 32.84%. Over 133 million citizens currently live in multi-dimensional poverty in Nigeria. The poorly conceived and implemented government policies, such as the Naira redesign of the previous regime of Buhari and the subsidy removal and currency floating of the Tinubu administration, have pushed many more people into abject poverty in 2023. Inflationary pressures have eroded the purchasing power of an increasing number of Nigerians, and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, which should have been the motor of economic development, have failed. Millions of more Nigerians are no longer making meaningful contributions to economic growth, either because they have lost their businesses, jobs and other livelihood opportunities. 

Any government that is serious about rebuilding the wealth of the country and the dispensable income of citizens, must think of strategies that would reflate the economy, and bring back lost businesses and jobs, which have been seriously eroded by years of terrible anti-people policies of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC). The Tinubu government is yet to rein in the oil thieves and criminals that made the country lose billions of dollars monthly. The political swindlers that emptied our treasury, who are today recycled as legislators, ministers and governors have consolidated. The government has not even thought of the reason why Nigerians are importing goods through republic of Benin, Niger and Chad due to excessive import duties and tariffs. The traditional rulers are busy awarding chieftaincy titles to notorious corrupt politicians and public thieves. 

Unfortunately, the Tinubu economic management team has not been able to put on its thinking cap to address these issues. In fact, the government has practically adopted the ostrich approach of just waiting in the hope that these problems will simply disappear. Even as Nigerians deal with the challenges, certain international institutions, which claim to know the realities more than Nigerians themselves who are going through the crunch, have been coming up with all manner of bizarre solutions. This was apparent in the recent statement of the World Bank, which gave the projection that fuel prices should go up to N750 to reflect its true cost. As has been made clear in our previous statement, such projections, which invariably aim to heap suffering on the people, stand rejected. The Nigerian people have been dealt enough blows and should not be subjected to further harsh and exploitative measures. 

It is worth noting the government’s lack of willingness to make sacrifices during these difficult times, despite their efforts to extract as much as possible from the people. This is evident through various unnecessary and fraudulent expenses that have come to light during the budget hearings in the National Assembly. These include:

Revised plans by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to spend N15 billion for the construction of the residence of the Vice President, up from the N7billion provided for the project in 2010.

Budgetary provision by the Ministry of Trade and Investment of over N1billion on foreign trip to Geneva.

Around N2.7 billion reportedly spent by the Federal Government to sponsor about 1400 delegates to the Conference of Parties (COP) 28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

57.6 billion budgeted by the National Assembly for the purchase of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), among many others.

Deregistration of businesses in an impossible business environment

CHRICED similarly notes with dismay the threat of the government to deregister businesses, which have not filed their annual returns. While we urged all businesses to be compliant with respect to their annual returns, we do not feel the government has the moral basis to threaten and harass businesses in the manner it is doing. No one goes through the rigorous effort of registering a business only to let it remain inactive. Instead of adopting such harsh measures, the government should prioritize enhancing the business environment to create a favorable atmosphere for businesses to prosper and realize their full potential.

As far as we know, threats of deregistration will not address the fact that businesses, which have managed to survive the daunting challenges of the Nigerian environment have to cough out huge outlays to provide alternative sources of electricity, water, security, and other basics, which should be in place if the government is delivering on its mandate. Only recently, the national electricity grid collapsed for the third time in 2023 with uncounted losses for businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector. Consequently, job opportunities that could have helped address unemployment are also lost. These are the critical issues that the government should prioritize. Even if the government were to deregister all businesses in Nigeria, it would not effectively address the underlying factors that have hindered the health and growth of businesses in the Nigerian environment.

Political Crisis in Rivers: No Benefits for the People

The political landscape in Rivers State is currently marred by a contrived political crisis between former Governor Nyesome Wike and his godson Siminalayi Fubara. However, it is evident that this battle of supremacy holds no real or strategic interest for the people of Rivers State. The fight is not centered around good governance or the well-being of ordinary citizens. Instead, it is fueled by personal vendettas, with both sides utilizing the state’s resources for their own agendas.

The so-called recent “resolution” of the crisis is nothing more than a continuation of garrison politics, which goes against the principles of democracy and good governance. The rule of law has been disregarded and trampled, and the political actors have transformed the state into a political jungle where anything goes. This includes the demolition of government institutions and the invocation of phony impeachment threats, all driven by the egos and self-interests of those involved.

It is crucial for the citizens of Rivers State to realize that their interests hold no place in this fight. The sooner they understand this, the better it will be for them.

Judicial Manipulation and rash of judgements

Similarly, as the remaining election disputes get adjudicated by the courts, it is important for the judiciary not to descend further into the abyss of infamy. CHRICED has carefully analyzed recent statements from the highest echelons of the judiciary, which have tried to dodge the scrutiny of citizens over inconsistent and bizarre judgements, which made no sense when juxtaposed with the provisions of the law and the principles of natural justice. Merely urging justices not to yield to the pressure of the “mob” during the dispensation of justice fails to address the fundamental question of how the Nigerian judicial system has strayed from its moral compass and its commitment to delivering justice in several cases it has adjudicated. CHRICED emphasizes that recent developments within the judicial branch necessitate deep introspection and soul-searching. As far as CHRICED is concerned, the groundswell of voices described by the highly placed judicial officer as mobs, are citizens of Nigeria who are confused about some rash decisions and shocking developments emanating from the Nigerian court system. This reality has become so disturbing that the judiciary, which used to be described by citizens as the “last hope of the common man,” is now being derisively referred to as the “lost hope of the common man.” 

This level of loss of confidence is no doubt connected to recent grotesque and unusual decisions from the court, which have basically stood logic and the law on its head. Although, the loss of confidence in the judiciary did not begin today, the recent situation has further dampened confidence, and there are fears in the polity that the judicial arm of the state has been completely captured by highly heeled political operatives bent on grabbing political power by any means possible. CHRICED wonders, for example, how the judiciary intends to remedy the ugly situation created by the Court of Appeal in Kano State, where the Court read a judgment in open court, which turned out to be substantially different from what was contained in the Certified True Copy of the judgment handed to the legal teams in the matter. Such a massive embarrassment, which has made the Nigerian judiciary, the butt of social media jokes and a laughingstock in the international arena, is one of the urgent issues, which should preoccupy the attention of those saddled with the task of ensuring the integrity of the system. What they should be doing now is to lead an inquest to determine the immediate and remote causes of the appellate court’s faux pas. In a more rational society that upholds the rule of law, those justices would be flushed out from the judicial system as they have become liabilities rather than assets. Regrettably, CHRICED has observed that one of the justices responsible for the embarrassing situation in Kano is now being considered for promotion to the Supreme Court.

Similarly disturbing and disconcerting is the trend in recent election disputes where the ruling party appears to be using the judiciary to engage in election mandate grabbing, even in states where it clearly did not win the contested polls. CHRICED firmly believes that there is more to this situation than meets the eye, as the ruling party repeatedly snatches mandates from the opposition, thereby gaining control of states that were originally won by the opposition and pushing the country towards a one-party state. The use of the courts to take over states, which were undeniably won by the opposition, poses a significant threat to democracy in Nigeria and requires immediate attention. A prime example of this can be seen in Kano State, where the controversial ruling of the Court of Appeal made judgments regarding the opposition candidate’s party membership, disregarding the precedent set in another case and the provisions of the Electoral Act, which clearly state that political party membership is solely the concern of the party itself.

CHRICED recalls that right from the infamous case of Ahmed Lawan and Machina, wherein the Supreme Court used the technicality around originating summons to facilitate Ahmed Lawan’s emergence as the candidate for Yobe North Senatorial district, despite his participation in the APC presidential primaries, it has become evident that there are significant flaws within the Nigerian court system. Justice Ariwoola and his fellow judges must take decisive actions to rectify the perception that the law is no longer being interpreted based on facts, logic, and precedents. CHRICED is aware of the prevailing concerns in the Nigerian political landscape that the judicial branch of the government is gradually being captured by the ruling party’s interests, which are determined to gain control over more states at any cost. The cases in Zamfara, Plateau, Nasarawa, and numerous others highlight the extent of these concerns. The judiciary, under the leadership of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, urgently requires a reset. To initiate this process, CHRICED believes that comprehensive internal procedures should be implemented. 

Grave Insecurity of Lives and Property

Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) declares that the primary purpose of government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. Nigeria, being a nation built on the principles of the rule of law, requires an effective executive government that can uphold law and order at all times. Unfortunately, the current civilian-based governance regime has failed to protect innocent citizens, resulting in daily incidents of killings, maiming, robbery, rape, and kidnapping. The security agencies have proven ineffective in their efforts to combat the criminal activities carried out by terrorist groups, armed robbers, kidnappers, militants, assassins, bandits, and the recent unidentified gunmen. Consequently, a pervasive sense of fear has gripped the nation. Regardless of one’s direction, the prevailing atmosphere is one of anguish, sorrow, and bloodshed, leaving citizens in a state of despair.

Various Nigerian governments have resorted to pleading with armed groups and individuals who have violated the sanctity of life to embrace amnesty. The right to life, guaranteed in Section 33 of the Nigerian constitution, imposes a duty on the government to preserve life. However, successive governments in Nigeria have woefully failed in this regard, despite allocating substantial budgets for defense year after year.

Numerous reports have revealed that some armed groups in Nigeria were created and nurtured by politicians for the purpose of intimidating their political opponents. Many state governments in Nigeria employ and maintain private armed individuals on their payroll, who are then used to manipulate election outcomes. Once the elections are over, these arms are turned against ordinary Nigerians. 

Conclusion and Recommendations

CHRICED recognizes certain ambitious declarations such as the additional increase of N35,000 for workers, conditional cash transfers to the poorest of the poor, student loans, and the revitalization of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. However, it is insufficient to merely announce these grand interventions without presenting a compelling argument that emphasizes crucial aspects of sustainability, transparency, and accountability. Based on the current tone of the proposed intervention by the Federal Government, there is a possibility that it may become another avenue for wastage, depleting scarce public resources without achieving the desired impact on ordinary citizens. The Federal Government should learn valuable lessons from programs like N-Power and other public employment schemes, which have often been plagued by corruption, absenteeism, and impersonation.

Our position is that any intervention on this scale, given the quantum of resources, and the fact that a lot of public debt is being incurred in these kinds of spending, should be driven by real value addition on the ground. This is why CHRICED has over the years calls for the 774 Local Government Areas to be used as the basis and template for well-thought-out economic policies, to evenly spread impactful and sustainable development across the country. As a matter of fact, CHRICED has severally suggested some clear-headed policies, which we believe if adopted, will return our teeming population of unemployed to work, and serve as a basis for the rapid industrial development of our country. One of such recommended approaches is for the government to:

Declare state of emergency on unemployment in Nigeria by devoting One Billion Naira to create jobs in each of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) based on the unique characteristics of each LGA, using some key sectors of the economy, specifically the manufacturing, agricultural, and industrial sectors, as well as ICT, as the foundation for achieving inclusive growth in Nigeria, especially with the rising rate of youth unemployment and crime in the country. 

In addition to generating new employment templates, there must be a strong political commitment to enhancing the fairness, transparency, and openness of existing government-run employment and economic empowerment programs that are being implemented nationwide.

Revamp and reform our security architecture, ensuring that every Naira allocated for defense is meticulously accounted for. 

Conduct a thorough investigation into the surge of electoral tribunal court judgments, resulting in judicial embarrassment, and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

Finally, despite the prevailing lack of hope, we extend our warm wishes for a merry Christmas and a prosperous 2024. May we fervently pray and remain hopeful that, akin to Okonkwo’s resilience during that fateful year, we will persistently endure the challenging years of misgovernance by the locust politicians in Nigeria, just as we continue to speak truth to power.


Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

Leave a comment