As 2013 Ends, Not Much to Thank Jonathan For By Niran Adedokun
Someone once said time is man’s greatest enemy. You think you have a period of time to do something, you promise to bring heaven down to earth within that period, then you suddenly realise that you have lived 70 per cent of the period you set for yourself with only modest or non-attainment of any of your set goals . You instantly go hating that item known as time wishing it would just be kind enough to lend you a bit more of it or that you never made a promise in the first place. Time is the only thing that works against man which he has unfortunately, been unable to conquer. It is the albatross of the low and the mighty.
Ask President Goodluck Jonathan what he thinks about how much time his administration has left and how satisfied he is with his level of achievement and see what I mean. I am almost definite that he would express the wish that he had more time. And here, I am not just speculating, if the President would be honest with us, he will confess that he aspired for Nigeria to be much better than it is at the beginning of his administration. Jonathan did not just think this, he verbalised it to our hearing
During one of those Presidential media chats about 18 months ago, Jonathan uttered the following words: “I promised Nigerians that I would not disappoint them; I stand by my promise…”When I took over as President, I told my close friends that they would hear people abuse me in 2012 until 2013 when they will start to see results and the insults will reduce…”
In saying the above, it is difficult to tell whether the President underestimated Nigeria’s challenges or if he just relied on the low hanging fruits mentality of most Nigerians, thinking that modest achievements would be enough to regain the lost love between him and the people that he leads. At the moment however, it is clear is that neither what the President promised nor what he desired has happened. While it would be dishonest to say that there are no positives in the outgoing year, it is true that whatever modest gains this government may have made has not trickled down to the bulk of Nigerians and that more Nigerians are currently more disillusioned and angry at their leaders than they were 18 months ago.
For an objective assessment of the presidential promise and the current reality, we should look at some of the issues that this administration would claim to have attempted to deal with.
During the media chat from which the above quote emanated, Jonathan spoke about the desire of his administration to provide stable supply of power in major cities in the country by the end 2013. At some point, it was said that Nigeria would generate nothing less than 10, 000 megawatts of electricity by this month but that has not happened. While it is commendable that the administration has made tremendous progress by concluding the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, there are myriads of problems which still make the stable supply of power a mirage Just a few days back, Minister for Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, spoke about problems ranging from cut in the supply of gas, vandalisation of pipelines as well as funding difficulties encountered by the new power generating companies as some of the obstacles to the reality of improved power supply in the immediate future. The summary of this long gist is that Nigerians are still suffering from irregular supply of electricity, companies are groaning under the burden of fuelling their generators as millions of ordinary Nigerians die in installments from the inhalation of carbon dioxide.
The President also gave assurances about agriculture. He spoke about the distribution of seedlings and improvement in the distribution of fertiliser. More than his own promises however, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, gives us a lot of confidence that work, able to unlock the potential of the sector, is going on. Adesina talks about the creation of a data base of about 4.5 million farmers and a growth enhancement programme to provide seed and fertiliser support. There are also claims of appreciable boosts in the production of wheat and rice which have reduced the volume of imports. However, the reality is that Nigeria cannot feed its citizens. There is suffocating hunger all over the land. Nigeria still imports rice and wheat, we even import beans! In spite of the much advertised cassava bread revolution, the prices for bread have increased by about 20 per cent in the last 12 months.
I am also wondering whether this massively promoted reform of the agricultural sector is thinking of a new generation of farmers comprising educated young men and women who can creatively turn around the fortunes of agriculture in the country within a few years. Is it impossible, for instance, for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to select and train a hundred young people per state in modern agricultural practices every year thereby creating employment opportunities for thousands of Nigerians annually, in addition to improving and deepening the potential for the improvement of agricultural practices.
This brings me to the issue of youth unemployment and the poverty that attends it. Just last week, the National Bureau of Statistics released the 2012 National Baseline Youth Survey Report with claims that 54 per cent of Nigerian youths were unemployed in 2012. I imagine that government people will cite the 130,00 jobs that the Subsidy Re-investment Programme and the 3,600 people who would have benefited from the Youth Enterprise With Innovation grant by the time the programme ends next year as evidence of efforts made to improve the situation, but it is clear that these are insignificant drops in the ocean of unemployment in Nigeria. One can only then imagine the dangers that not positively engaging the minds of millions of young, educated, able-bodied but unemployed young men and women portend for a country. It would account for the volume of violent crimes that we currently see in the country. Even the NBS report quoted above highlighted criminal activities identified with a sizeable number of employed youths.
This is made worse by the very harsh conditions under which businesses are conducted in Nigeria, the inefficient ways in which institutions are run, which promote the “man know man” syndrome and the failure of the banking system to encourage young Nigerians who have entrepreneurial ideas with facilities that will not suffocate their businesses.
Unfortunately, time is running out on the Jonathan administration. As we go into the New Year, governance would begin to take the back seat as politicians warm up for the 2015 elections. If Jonathan hopes to leave after leaving office however, his government needs to do more towards alleviating the sufferings of Nigerians. One very important part of addressing the needs of Nigerians is the need to collaborate with state governments towards improving health care delivery, standard of education and general standard of living across the country. Contrary to his promise, it is obvious 2013 has not brought much for Nigerians to appreciate about their government but who says the next 12 months cannot change all of that?
Wishing all Nigerians a very fruitful 2014.
– Adedokun is a Lagos-based PR specialist
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