Today, January 1, marks the start of a New Year Day, 2019. From all indications it promises to be a momentous year and it is our wish and prayer that this year will be a positive watershed in the life of our country and our people, as well as the peoples of Africa and the world.
For Nigeria, 2019 is an election year with comes with a lot of excitement but also anxiety and fear of the unknown. The election campaign has been going on for nearly two months now and the truth is that there are markedly fewer incidents of violence in this season than we have witnessed in the past. This is very encouraging and it should be upheld. President Muhammadu Buhari said in his New Year address to the nation this morning that election should not be seen as a do-or-die affair. He also promised that there will be peace in the country during the election.
This is very reassuring. The lives and limbs of our citizens should never be sacrificed due to campaigns and elections. It is therefore incumbent of all the authorities, parties and persons concerned to rise to the occasion and ensure that the upcoming elections are peaceful, credible and transparent. This year also marks 20 years since the return to democratic rule in this country. It is therefore important for us to prove to ourselves and to the world that democracy has indeed matured in this country. It is time to do away with many of the ugly practices that have come to symbolize politics in this country in the last twenty years. One of them is vote buying, and we hope the measures put in place by INEC and security agencies will minimize this dangerous habit.
The second major challenge is on the economic front. The country has just exited from a painful recession in 2018 and is yet to recover fully from its effect. The immediate impact of the recession was to draw back economic growth in respect of which the government launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. With respect to the ERGP the 2019 budget proposals which the President presented recently to the National Assembly has provisions for advancing it. Budget 2019 process is already behind schedule because the president submitted it to the Assembly in December. Our worry is that if the National Assembly handles it the way it did in previous years, coupled with the election campaign that will dominate the first quarter of this year, then we could be in for a serious delay indeed. This will not augur well for accelerated economic recovery.
Another very important area of our national life as we enter the New Year in insecurity. As last year ended, there was a serious resurgence of attacks by Boko Haram elements in northern Borno State. Up to six important population centres were overrun by the insurgents in Kukawa Local Government. We are confident that the military forces in conjunction with the Civilian JTF and other security agencies will soon regain the lost territories. We also expect them to restrategise, reorganize, re-equip and, with the help of our neighbours, end the Boko Haram menace once and for all.
The situation in Zamfara State was also very worrisome as last year ended and we have already called for a state of emergency to be proclaimed in the state. We appreciate that the military and security agencies are overstretched but they owe the nation a duty to quickly restore peace to Zamfara State and to all other troubled parts of the country.
Nigerians see the New Year as an extension of Christmas season merry-making and festivities. This is alright, but we again urge our compatriots to celebrate and rejoice in a responsible manner. We must not bring injury or grief to others in the name of merry making. We wish all Nigerians a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.