Friday 10 February 2012

Nigeria: We're Tired of the Lamentations of Jonathan

Two years of hopelessness
Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the ascension of Goodluck Jonathan to the position of the Executive President of Nigeria. Whilst it was only in the acting capacity until Umaru Yar’Adua died in May of 2010, he was effectively in control and evidently his boss was probably comatose and thereby too incapacitated to have a voice in government.
In the first few months, the man appeared to have promise and ability, if not the resolve to bring the change necessary to take Nigeria forward, however, since he received a mandate of his own from the people regardless of the documented irregularities, he has become a glaring disappointment leading Nigeria into even more perilous times.
There are times when many would prefer the President was struck dumb than to be found uttering words that belie a sense resignation and possibly cluelessness as to why he is in office.
We are tired indeed
In a speech given [1] at the commissioning of a cement plant belonging to Nigeria’s foremost billionaire, he once again made some statements that should leave many worried about the rudderless heading of the Nigerian ship of state.
Story about commissioning is what Nigerians want to hear; Nigerians are tired of hearing that there is bomb explosion in Maiduguri or Kano or Bayelsa states. Yes, we have security challenges in the country. We have challenges in terms of infrastructure but we are totally committed individually and collectively to getting the country out of this situation. Our children want a better Nigeria than this.
Our greatest problem as a country is the rate of unemployment. If anybody can come up with policy and programmes that will create jobs, definitely, government will embrace that person and will continue to encourage that person.
Indeed, the stories we want to hear are of great strides in industrial progress but we cannot just wish away the serious security issues that have engulfed the country over the last 18 months.
An enabling environment
We need to have confidence in the fact that the government is up to the task of providing not just security but an enabling environment for growth and development to deal with the as it were greatest problem that the President has identified.
In terms of the enabling environment for business, it would appear security has raced up to the top of the list with reports of Boko Haram attacks hurting business [2] and the business environment. This has to become a priority such that we cannot afford to have terrorist kingpins escaping police custody for weeks.
Down in the South after the manifestly atrocious amnesty programme that appeared to appease terrorism and militancy presaging a failed state and communities of anarchy, MEND returned to their skilled expertise of attacking oil infrastructure – for a President who is primarily from that area, it is shame that this menace has resurrected to wreak havoc again.
We also are fed up of government boasts of annihilating the terrorist threat or the extra-judicial process of killing suspects long before it has been proven that they are terrorists or where we have not begun to tackle the fundamental issues feeding the terrorist escalation.
Infrastructure issues
Beyond security, the government has to address the matters of basic infrastructure starting with electrical power which for business is a great recurrent expenditure because each business has to generate their own electricity and most depend on fuel. The power generation issue has consumed billions of dollars with nothing to show for it but more promises.
The national grid to support power generation needs to be ungraded and we need to exploit power generation sources beyond water and oil to gas, wind and solar options – w do not have enough food security to go the way of biofuels yet.
Then road and rail transport need to be developed, the gathering yesterday was intimated of the need to work on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Sagamu-Benin-Ore Expressway, beyond that, the North is still the bread basket for Nigerian perishable foods – the links with those centres of agriculture need to be improved upon.
Local government
Next is the matter of education, health and local government development, most of the deprived areas in Nigeria are more the evidence of failings at state and local government levels of representation, things need to change.
There are many people with policies, programmes and ideas for job creation in Nigeria, in fact, the country is awash with talent and ability but lacking in opportunity.
Endemic corruption
The things that stifle opportunity in Nigeria are corruption and the lack of ease of doing business in Nigeria. Only today we learnt that the fuel subsidy issue might well be the fence for a massive fraud [3] coming to $12.6 billion in 2011 and this more by government agencies than by the faceless cabal that was the taking all the opprobrium until the Occupy Nigeria protests forced a probe into the scheme.
Nigerians are not confident heads will roll or the purveyors of this corrupt enterprise who seem to be in cahoots with the leadership that they are untouchable will ever be brought to book.
From 2010 to 2011 Nigeria fell in the Corruption Perceptions Index from 134 [4] to 143 [5], sadly, the government has not been seen to be ready, willing or able to tackle corruption. The escalation of the cost of fuel subsidy in 2011 has been attributed to funding of the electioneering campaign [6] of the ruling party in 2011 and it hardly paints the President in any good light but in the ranks of rotten plundering leaders of Nigeria who have gone before.
Hostile business environment
In the rankings of the ease of doing business [7] published by the World Bank Group, Nigeria stands at 133 out of 183 surveyed countries and ranks at 176 and 180 respectively for Getting Electricity and Registering Property – these, the President should already know these are the core impediments to business growth and consequently exacerbate the unemployment numbers – it is no rocket science at all.
No one is asking the President to create jobs but there is a lot he can do to create enabling environments for employment, development and growth with policies, laws and acts that address security, infrastructure, corruption and governance.
After two years in office, Nigerians are tired of the Lamentations of Jonathan; he should start acting like the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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