Nigeria: Not Much Fresh Air After Jonathan’s First Year

How far have Nigerians breathed in the fresh air promised by President Goodluck Jonathan during his presidential campaign? And what does the future hold? Abdul-Rahman Abubakar reviews the journey so far. One year into the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, the economic gains being brandished by government officials has prompted many observers to ask whether it is the actualisation of the fresh air he promised during his campaign.

During his inaugural speech exactly 365 days ago, Jonathan promised to transform the country to unleash a wave of 'fresh air' that will refresh Nigerians after so many years of suffocation from foul-polluted air of poverty, corruption, deprivation and indignation.

The President in his inaugural speech highlighted developmental challenges facing the country and pledged to, within his four year term in office, surmount most, if not all, to put the country on the part of 'sustainable growth and development'. One year after, it is time to take stock and to gauge if the present proverbial Wednesday portends a positive Friday.

In governance, the first and most critical responsibility is to safeguard the lives and properties of the people. This much was acknowledged in the President's campaign promise. At his inauguration, Jonathan vowed to ensure security of lives and properties of Nigerians irrespective of where they may reside in the country.

He said: "Conscious of the negative effect of insecurity on growth and development, my administration will seek collaboration at bilateral and multilateral levels, to improve our capability in combating trans-border crimes. In this regard, we will intensify our advocacy against the illicit trades in small arms and light weapons, which have become the catalyst for conflicts on the African continent. All Nigerian diplomatic missions abroad are to accord this vision of defending the dignity of humanity the highest priority."

Though the administration inherited security challenges posed by the Boko Haram insurgency, the last one year has become unarguably the bloodiest in the history of the country. Contrary to the President's pledge to uphold human dignity, there is presently no respect to sanctity of human life in the country. All manner of criminals now unleash terror on the people with impunity. People are killed on daily basis from incidents of attacks, bombings, armed robberies, assassinations and road accidents.

Insecurity has become the monster likely to frustrate the Jonathan administration's effort at realising its goals. This is evidenced from the huge allocation of about N1 trillion to security. All over the country, military personnel and police have been over-stretched, trying to contain the massive internal security situation. Should this government fail to achieve much in the next three years, the major likely excuse to be put forward would be insecurity, especially the myriads of bomb attacks by suspected Boko Haram insurgents.

Aside security, the other important factor militating against the country's growth is shortage of electricity supply. President Jonathan inherited about 2000 megawatts of electricity with epileptic power supply all over the country. Several industries have relocated to neighbouring countries while small indigenous investors were at the risk of bankruptcy.

An optimistic Jonathan promised to 'fight' to improve power generation and to boost industrialisation. "To drive our overall economic vision, the power sector reform is at the heart of our industrialization strategy. I call on all stakeholders, to cooperate with my administration, to ensure the success of the reforms," the President said at inauguration.

Aside the media hype and numerous controversies in the energy sector, very little has changed in the last year. Power minister, Professor Barth Nnaji, has made several proclamations and promises but until that translates into improved power supply, talk is cheap. Presently, government plans to go ahead with another controversial policy of increasing electricity tariff and stage is set for another showdown with labour unions, civil societies and indeed the ordinary Nigerians.

It is a global consensus that the cancer eating up the country is corruption. Any government worth the name in Nigeria must make anti-graft war its cardinal objective. Expectedly, President Jonathan on assumption of office declared 'total war' on corruption. He 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."

In the last one year, Nigerians perhaps witnessed the most shocking revelations of senseless looting of public funds by officials in various government departments. From the pension probe in the Senate to the House of Representatives petroleum subsidy probe, it was tales of stealing and embezzlement of public funds. In one instance, a government official was said to have stashed N2 billion in his wardrobe.

In contrast, as corrupt officials intensify their resilience, the anti-graft battle seems to be dying down. Aside the high profile arrests of four former state governors, the anti-graft agencies have failed to secure any convictions. Several cases have been struck off due to poor prosecution especially by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The President also sacked former EFCC chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri in a move seen by some observers as political.

With attention focused on deteriorating security situation, infrastructural development has been at snail speed. Contracts awarded on weekly by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) with none yet commissioned.

One year may be too small for visible infrastructural strides to be noticed. The President in campaign promise said: "Over the next four years, attention will be focused on rebuilding our infrastructure." But infrastructures remain scarce with dilapidated roads all across the country. For instance the Lokoja-Abuja dual carriage way awarded over five years ago remains a death trap to motorists.

The story is not different in other major highways in the country. In all, the economy kept growing on charts and slides, while indices by statisticians reveal rising poverty rate. In January 2012, President Jonathan removed subsidy on petroleum products which hiked the price of petrol from N65 to N141 per litre. This may have contradicted the President's inauguration promise- "Fellow citizens, in every decision, I shall always place the common good before all else." As revealed recently by the President himself, the move to remove fuel subsidy was the interest of government pushed by state governors and not those of majority of the people.

The nationwide protests that greeted the president's decision to remove fuel subsidy was the single major event within the last one year. Jonathan's popularity rating dipped scandalously while overwhelming majority of the people dared the resolve of Mr. President. In the end, Jonathan was forced to rescind his earlier hard stand on outright removal of fuel subsidy.

It is however not a complete tale of a gloomy situation. The administration's focus on revamping the agriculture sector seems poised to yield fruits. Agric minister, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina has come up with policies on fertilizer distribution, value addition and agric loan scheme capable of turning around the sector. Problem as usual is implementation.

Farmers at the grassroots have not been adequately enlightened on means of taking advantage of the various agric programmes such as the Electronic Wallet scheme through which rural farmers are to enjoy 50% subsidy on seed and fertilizer purchased using their mobile telephone handsets. The initiative is to cost N27 billion in collaboration with the private sector. Government is not to spend a dime on the scheme as it is completely a private sector driven initiative.

Dr. Adeshina said: "That is the first time that has happened in this country. Before now I would have had to sit down and sign N30billion contract, but we didn't. It just tells you this government is working differently in a way that we are actually accountable in using money well."

The Jonathan administration has also strived to ensure the sustenance of democratic process in the West African Sub-region. As he promised, "We fought for decolonization. We will now fight for democratization. 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." In this regard, President Jonathan could be scored high.

The President played a major role in frustrating the coup in Mali and is presently working hard to oust coup plotters that have hijacked power in Guinea Bissau. Though Mali remains unstable, the EOWAS regional body has not completely failed in its efforts to ensure that democracy prevails in that country.

In their various assessments, politicians score the administration high or low, depending on party affiliations.

Commenting on the performance of the administration, Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Mike Omeri said the President has achieved a lot in his resolve to gradually transform the country.

Omeri said "you know the road to transformation is usually wrought with challenges but in spite of that, the present administration has succeeded in the short and medium term to change the way things were done in the past.

"President Jonathan is a listening president especially to those who disagree with him. The president has courageously addressed issues that were not attended to in the past and he is gradually changing the way government operate in the past."

On the contrary, National Publicity Secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Mr. Osita Okechukwu said the government has achieved nothing in the past one year.

He said: "it has become the tradition of the PDP to wait for the private sector to build roads, provide electricity, build schools and railways while their philosophy is to share the money.

The Yar'adua/ Goodluck administration inherited $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account; today there is less than $3 billion in that account. Their only business is to share the money while they wait for so called captains of industries that have no industries to provide infrastructures for the people."

The Jonathan administration has three years to run and its success will depend on how much it is able to carry the people along in its programmes and policies. A government that fails to galvanise the support and goodwill of the people is a government set to fail.

In the past one year, majority of Nigerians say they have been left in the dark as to the policy thrust of government and the transformation agenda.



Daily Trust

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan scored low by his people after one year in office.

Majority of Nigerians say they have been left in the dark as to the policy thrust of government and the transformation agenda.