Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Peep into Jonathan’s Presidency

The time for lamentation is over. This is the era of transformation – President Goodluck Jonathan at inauguration on May 29, 2011 
Hearty congratulations to all the elected and appointed political office holders as they mark one year in office. In the past couple of weeks, Nigerian ministers have been giving account of their stewardship in office. Many state governors and their commissioners have been doing same. Public lectures, advertisements, town hall meetings and other sundry strategies have been explored by our political office holders to educate and inform the public on what their respective governments have been up to in the last one year. In this article, I have decided to review what President Jonathan told his compatriots and indeed the world he would do during his four year administration. Indeed a thorough analysis of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration should start from May 6, 2010 when he was first sworn in as the president of Nigeria after the unfortunate demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010.
President Jonathan at inauguration after the 2011 General Elections gave a 41 paragraph speech at the Eagle Square, venue of the swearing in. His speech was non-committal to any definite milestones. He played smart on us by not benchmarking his promises like his predecessor; Yar’Adua did with his 7 Point Agenda. Even his campaign promises tagged the transformation agenda lacked any definite benchmark. Has he kept faith with Nigerians on his electoral promises? 
The president in paragraph 17 and 18 of his inaugural said “In the days ahead, those of us that you have elected to serve must show that we are men and women with the patriotism and passion, to match the hopes and aspirations of you, the great people of this country.  We must demonstrate the leadership, statesmanship, vision, capacity, and sacrifice, to transform our nation…..It is the supreme task of this generation to give hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak and protection to the defenceless.” I dare say there is still leadership deficit in Nigeria one year after these lofty promises were made. Actions and activities of our political elite have been anything but ‘statesmanlike’.  What sacrifices can we say our leaders have made in the last one year?  How much hope, strength and protection have they offered the hopeless, the weak and the defenceless? The state of insecurity is still very alarming with no sign of abating while the promise of N18,000 minimum wage is yet to be fully resolved despite being one of the electoral promises.
In paragraph 20 of his speech, the president said: “We must grow the economy, create jobs, and generate enduring happiness for our people. I have great confidence in the ability of Nigerians to transform this country.  The urgent task of my administration is to provide a suitable environment, for productive activities to flourish.” President Goodluck Jonathan did earmark N50 billion for job creation in the 2011 budget, however, am yet to read or hear of how many people have benefited under this National Job Creation Scheme. I do however know that his administration’s Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN!) was launched in Abuja on 11 October 2011 with first batch of 1200 beneficiaries awarded their cheques of N500,000 at a well advertised ceremony in Abuja on 12 April 2012. This initiative is like a drop in the ocean considering the army of skilful but unemployed youths. And talking of suitable environment for productive activities to flourish; how much of that has the president succeeded in creating given the persistent high level of insecurity as well as worsening electricity supply which has made Nigeria entrepreneurs to run their businesses on generators?
 In paragraphs 27 and 28 of the inaugural speech, the president said: “Over the next four years, attention will be focused on rebuilding our infrastructure. We will create greater access to quality education and improved health care delivery.  We will pay special attention to the agricultural sector, to enable it play its role of ensuring food security and massive job creation for our people. The creation of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority will immensely contribute to strengthening our fiscal framework, by institutionalizing savings of our commodity-related revenues. With this mechanism in place, we will avoid the boom and bust cycles, and mitigate our exposure to oil price volatility.” In the last one year, beyond the noise of building ‘Almajiri’ schools, if the performance of secondary school students in their external exams such as those organized by West African Examination Council and National Examination Council is anything to go by, the situation is still very deplorable as mass failures are recorded in those exams. Even in the Unified  Tertiary Matriculation  Examination (UTME) conducted by Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, mass failure are still being recorded necessitating the lowering of the cut-off mark for 2012 admission for Universities to 180 and polytechnics and Colleges of Education to 160 over 400 marks. 
I agree that there have been some positive steps in the management of our ministry of agriculture but much is yet to be seen beyond the promotion of cassava bread and breaking of the fertilizer cabal.  Access to loan is still a major headache to our farmers while food insecurity looms large in the country due to the pervasive act of terrorism in northern part of Nigeria which is regarded as the food basket of the nation. Health wise, Nigerians lack access to basic standard and affordable healthcare delivery. We are yet to successfully roll back malaria while Nigerians still die needlessly of lassa fever, diahorrea, cholera, pneumonia and other treatable diseases. Though the sovereign wealth fund has been established with an initial start off capital of $1 billon yet the governors has been kicking against its establishment.  
In paragraph 30 of the speech, the president said “The bane of corruption shall be met by the overwhelming force of our collective determination, to rid our nation of this scourge. The fight against corruption is a war in which we must all enlist, so that the limited resources of this nation will be used for the growth of our commonwealth.” Really! To my own mind, after security this is another area the president and his cabinet are yet to make appreciable impact. Several legislative probes into Pension Scheme, Privatisation Scheme, and Fuel Subsidy Scheme have unearthed trillions of naira in fraud and mismanagement. What has happened after those jaw-dropping and eye-popping revelations? How many politically exposed persons have our anti-corruption agencies able to successfully prosecute in the last five years?
Just over the last few days, another revelation has come to the fore that “Nigeria’s current crude oil loss as a result of illegal activities that include bunkering and pipeline tapping on major oil facilities in the Niger Delta has risen from 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) as revealed in February this year by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to over 180,000bpd within four months” according to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Given that Nigeria’s sweet crude goes for $91 per barrel at the spot market, 180,000 barrels of the same product translates to $16.3 million or N2.47 billion daily. Isn’t this development interesting? Ghana’s total OPEC quota is said to be 120,000 bpd, big brother Nigeria loses close to 200,000 bpd to oil theft and goes a borrowing to meet its financial obligations; can you beat that? United States recently said that despite the fact that the nation’s law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, government does not implement it effectively, “and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity”. US in the new report titled: "Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011" observed further that: “though the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the Nigerian judiciary "remained susceptible to pressure from the executive and the legislative branches, and the business sector".
On the foreign scene the president pledged that “Nigeria, in partnership with the African Union, will lead the process for democracy and development in Africa. In particular, we will support the consolidation of democracy, good governance and human rights in the continent.” On this count, President Jonathan has discharged himself creditably. Nigeria has been unflinching in supporting democratic struggles in Libya, Senegal, Mali, Guinea Bissau and several others. When South-Africa in March 2012 repatriated 125 Nigerians over issue of non-possession of genuine Yellow Fever vaccine certificate, Nigeria responded in equal measures by repatriating some South-Africans and the latter had to eventually apologize. Going by the current state of the nation, it is still a long walk to freedom for Nigeria and I could not but wish the president and his team, good luck!