Although it is common to see Nigerians tear down the Goodluck Jonathan administration in so many unprintable words, I have not found myself dispassionately querying these assessments until I read an article last week.
The writer dwelt on various ways in which the Jonathan administration has failed Nigerians including the eyesore which the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, arguably the first choice entry point into the country, has become. He was angry that Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party has invested so much time in retarding Nigeria’s progress and that the current president has gone ahead in the tradition of his precursors, surpassing all of them to become the worst of all. This, in the opinion of the writer indicates that the remaining two years of Jonathan’s administration could be nothing but the further “maladministration” of Nigeria! Really?
Of course, I am aware of the gross level of underdevelopment in Nigeria. That supply of electricity is still epileptic, that we have about 11 million out-of- school children, the highest anywhere in the world. I am aware that Nigeria has about 40 million adult illiterates and that the quality of education has continued to decline. I know that Nigeria is number two on the list of countries with the worst cases of maternal and infant mortality. I know that unemployment is at an all-time high 24 per cent and that the number of Nigerians who cannot feed increase by the day. I realise that Nigeria lacks anything by the name of an health system and that life expectancy is at a scary 52 years. I agree that Nigeria still has so many stories of woe to tell, but it is absolutely dishonest to dump all this garbage at the doorpost of President Jonathan.
The truth is that some of the challenges which Nigeria currently faces are as old as the nation and it is impossible to wipe out these problems within just a few years of anyone’s administration especially with the various security challenges that the government has had to deal with. For example, the problem of out-of-school children from which the country currently suffers dire consequences as evident in the Boko Haram challenge started before Nigeria’s independence when the Northern region did not encourage parents to send their children to school. The level of poverty in Nigeria as it is currently is founded in the discovery of oil in 1956 and the boom that followed in the years after the civil war. The oil boom was followed by a streak of reckless expenditure by the Federal Government and the gradual abandonment of every creative way of revenue generation by state governments. A corollary of these is the pervasive corruption that has become our albatross.
Secondly and more importantly, Nigeria is a federation with three levels of government saddled with different roles all of which should work together for the nation’s development.
By virtue of Part 2 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the substantial part of the basic educational, health and some level of economic needs of the populace are dependent on state governments. Granted though that the Federal Government is responsible for overall national fiscal and monetary policies. Specifically, the creation and management of primary and secondary education and health are within the purview of the state and local government administrations. The constitution also gives states the power to create industries as well as generate electricity for the consumption of individual states. The 1999 Constitution equally allows states to create agricultural policies.
The implication of this is that states are as much in a position to affect the lives of their citizens as the Federal Government. And I want to speculate that framers of the constitution anticipated a situation in which every tier of government would contribute its own quota to the development of the country with the effect that all of this would work for the collective good of the people.
While it is impossible to claim that the Jonathan administration has affected Nigeria in any dramatically life-changing way in its two-years in office, there are positive signs of steps being taken to address the various challenges that Nigeria faces. Of importance is the credibility which the administration has brought on the democratisation process. With the appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Jonathan showed his readiness to deal with the abominable level of electoral fraud in the country. This confidence has been justified in the 2011 general elections as well as the governorship election which have held in Edo State. Even the recent registration of the All Progressives Congress testifies to Jega’s independence.
It is also worthy of note that this administration is perhaps for the first time in the recent history of Nigeria making appreciable attempts to diversify the country’s economy. Agriculture is once again taking its place of pride in the economy while the cement, steel and textile industries are gradually gaining momentum. Government’s intervention in revamping infrastructure in the aviation industry is equally noticeable while there are testimonies of various road projects that are going on all over the country. Although primary education is not a direct responsibility of the Federal Government, it has gone ahead to intervene in the situation of out-of-school children in the northern part of Nigeria with the establishment of Almajiri schools, which is expected to get over 9 million children into schools. We are not there with power but there is a road map which seems to be working. As tokenistic as it is, a few thousands of Nigerian youths have benefited from the Youwinprogramme while the SURE-P employment scheme for unskilled youths and women is actually real. I understand that empowerment of other Nigerian youths is one of the pre-requisites for Youwin. There has also been appreciable progress made in the restoration of railway in Nigeria.
Concerning corruption, this is a cankerworm that every Nigerian, including opposition politicians, the judiciary and members of the legislature would have to jointly battle. Recent events in Nigeria have shown that every stratum of the society is infected with the corruption virus and nothing but the determination of all of us to put an end to the reign of corruption would do the job.
While we are at that however, public affairs commentators must strive to play a non-partisan role in the appreciation of national events. Since citizenship is a key component of democracy, Nigerians should begin to demand performance from elected representatives at all levels and public commentators owe the people the provision of adequate information which should guide them in holding politicians accountable and exercising their electoral franchise correctly during elections. While I concede that national development is an organic process which follows adequate planning and single minded execution of those plans, I hold the opinion that Nigeria would be far more gone in the process of development if all state and local governments in the federation worked harder at it; If we all do not depend on resources from petroleum. States can complain about inadequate revenue forever, but what have we made of the little resources available to us? Some states have more than a thousand political appointees drawing salaries and allowances monthly, yet they complain of meagre resources. Politicians at all levels should learn to deny themselves of some of the ostentation that we see and get their hands dirty facing the real business of making life meaningful for the people.
Written by Niran Adedokun
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