Jonathan’s Half-Time: The Hard Facts, By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
We began the assessment of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration by listing a number of the campaign promises he made in 2011 and added that the achievement of those promises was not easy to measure because in essence, they were just broad generalizations with no targets, deliverables or timelines. Perhaps, that was the point of making such vague promises; so that performance cannot be measured and failures would not be easily evident.
This week, we would rely on field visits and the feedback received from readers who responded via email, phone and SMS addresses provided last week. These responses along with other published facts and opinions would form the basis for assessing the Presidents’ performance. Some readers used the platform provided to engage in abuse, diversion and bigotry that the Jonathanians have perfected as response to any questions demanding their accountability. They forget that we are thick-skinned and do not respond to brainless insults. Many more provided on-the-ground status of projects and programs for which we are grateful.
While the perception amongst majority of respondents is that the Jonathan government is significantly underperforming; most of those who work with him or indirectly benefit from the schema of ethnic division, corruption and impunity his administration has perfected are engulfed in praise singing and forget to remind him of his many promises. Let us look to some of the specific commitments summarized last week.
Let us look at his promises in agriculture; President Jonathan’s government appears to have shifted focus from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture expecting that farm output would increase significantly. Nigeria spends about $11 billion importing rice annually. Apart from three new integrated rice mills built by state governments – Ebony Agro Industries in Ebonyi state, Umza Rice in Kano state, Ashi Rice in Benue state and a large-scale facility for production and milling in Taraba State which combined would process some 390,000 tonnes or a fifth of imports – no noticeable steps have been recorded in reducing this massive foreign exchange outflow under Jonathan’s watch. Against Nigeria’s annual import bill of N23.4trillion, are we close to becoming an exporting country by 2015?
Yet another sugar master plan was approved by the federal government in September 2012; some N496bn would be raised from private sector funds to finance the 7 year plan. This immediately leads to the question, what informed the government’s focus on sugar when its annual import bill is less than N100 billion as opposed to the very hefty N635 billion spent on importing wheat annually or the worst case of rice? Or even the N100billion expended annually on fish imports? These imports are unjustifiable in a nation that has surface water bodies, reservoirs and wetlands suitable for rice cultivation covering about 14.9 million hectares or about 15.9% of our land mass. The agricultural sector has witnessed more rhetoric and declaration of early, non-existent victories than any real transformation.
The president fulfilled two promises related to the South-East – the physical upgrade of Enugu Airport and completion of the Onitsha Inland Port. The Onitsha port reportedly has a 3000-container warehouse capacity of 40 tonnes each. But how come, nine months after commissioning, the port is yet to commence operations? Why are international airlines not flying passengers or cargo to Enugu? Does completing a project simply mean erecting a structure? Do unused facilities benefit the economy?
Interestingly, Jonathan’s promise to provide water to Onitsha has remained just that: a promise. The state government initiated a new partnership with a Chinese firm to resuscitate the greater Onitsha Water Scheme with the state providing 30% financing over 18 months. After cancellations in 2009, 2010 and 15 months into the project implementation with little evidence of progress on ground, the Onitsha people have reasons to doubt the sincerity of government.
As to the president’s promise of building an airport in every state, the logical poser is: would airports in every state the best investment to benefit local economies? Is there sufficient passenger traffic to sustain these airports, and do we have vibrant airlines? In an economy with an officially-accepted poverty rate of about 46%, would light rail and better motor-able roads not be more effective? Would it not make more sense if efforts are directed towards fixing the intercity road or the ‘death traps’ that exist in these states, as opposed to building airports with no sustainable flights, planes or passengers?
A lot of noise has been made about rail transport being revived by this administration, but the effort is deceptive and unplanned at best. According to one Nigerian, Abdulrazaq Hamzat, he spent 19 hours on a train ride from Ilorin- Lagos; a bus ride on the same route would be about 4 hours. Another Nigerian, Ben Ezeamalu also spent 33 hours on the Kano- Lagos route, when the same route takes about 12 hours by road. In its current state, a train ride would be nothing but time wastage and until our current dilapidated locomotives are replaced by modern bullet trains, it would be irresponsible to consider it an achievement.
On roads, only about 12.6 kilometers of the 77 kilometers Enugu – Abakaliki road has been completed in two years. This is the same road the President promised would be completed and dualized within one year of his Presidency! Apparently tired of waiting for the federal government, the Ebonyi state government opted to bear the N6.8billion contract sum for the road. The same failure applies to the Lagos- Jebba rail project and the Ijesa Dam and virtually all the major roads in Nigeria. Those that ply the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Benin-Ore Road, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Road and the like know that the promised transformation of our roadways has gone to nowhere but the pockets of the officials near President Jonathan.
On job creation, the story is the same: in Rivers state, Jonathan promised to build a Petrochemical plant that will create jobs; the people are still waiting. It has been two years since he made that promise, but the realities on ground prove that he has only succeeded in further shrinking Nigeria’s dwindling middle class and worsening inequality. In fact, under his stewardship, unemployment in Nigeria has grown from about 21% in 2010 to an estimated 29.3% in 2012. Perhaps our president should learn from Osun state’s Governor Rauf Aregbesola who has succeeded in reducing unemployment from 14.3% in 2010 when he began presiding over affairs in the state to an estimated 3% in 2012!
There is much talk about the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) initiative. The scheme was launched in 2011 and is open to Nigerian youth entrepreneurs who send in business proposals out of which the very best as judged by a third party international consulting firm would receive business training and financial grants to start up businesses that employ a minimum of 5 people. In March 2012, 1200 young Nigerians received training and grants of between 2 and 10 million naira.
And after the second stage of the competition targeted at women (YouWIN women), 1200 women winners emerged in May 2013 and received similar training and grants. While commendable, it begs the questions: how effective is this strategy to tackle unemployment if in the span of 3 years, it only generated 2400 direct jobs (about 0.4%) for Nigeria’s 67million unemployed population? If you measure this against the 3 million jobs Nigeria needs to create yearly, you begin to appreciate how much unemployment would escalate by the time the Jonathan administration is voted out in 2014!
For many readers who wrote in, the President has done anything but fight poverty. In publications and press releases, the Presidency boasts of a purported 2% decrease in poverty from some 48% to 46% and claim that he has fulfilled his promise to the Plateau people to launch a straight fight against poverty, someone needs to tell the President that a 2% decrease in his 2 years of presidency, if at all correct, is no achievement at all and only points to failure.
President Jonathan promised the people of Enugu and Aba that he would stamp out kidnapping. In Bauchi, he promised to combat terrorism. Again, he has failed on both fronts. A look at recent kidnappings in or around Enugu and Aba says it all: In October 2011, 2 monarchs Igwe Obiora of Obuofia and Igwe Pius of Mgbidi were kidnapped. In September 2012, the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) Vice Chancellor Prof. Cyprain Onyeji was kidnapped, in December of the same year; the mother of Finance Minister Prof. Kamene Okonjo was also abducted. As recent as early this month, two brothers apparently returning from the UK got abducted by kidnappers. Even the daughter and wife of Supreme Court Justice Rhodes-Vivour were not spared recently. Kidnappings are not just on the rise, but now an industry that the media hardly bother to report all but the most sensational cases.
Addressing the epileptic power supply that has plagued Nigeria for decades, Jonathan vowed that Nigerians would no longer talk of generators and that he would end chronic power shortages in his promised one term of office. To achieve uninterrupted power supply for all Nigerians, we need some 50,000MW being generated, up from about 4,000MW Jonathan inherited. That requires billions of dollars in investment, program management skills and at least five years of hard work. So Jonathan knew he was being economic with the truth from day one. It is not surprising that this is one of the many promises that he has failed on. An increasing number of Nigerians depend on generators; studies last year show that the industrial sector in Nigeria spends N1.2 trillion yearly to run diesel generators while households, according to NERC’s estimate, spend N796.4 billion a year on powering generators. Does anyone really expect anything different when the Presidency and PHCN also have generators as major source of power supply, while the government-funded PHCN serves as stand-by?
The petroleum sector is another classic example of the President’s airy promises remaining in thin air. In 2011, Nigeria’s crude oil production was about 2.55m bpd, in 2012 it reduced to about 2.52m bpd and now it fluctuates between 1.89m bpd and 2.1m bpd because of massive crude oil theft to build the war chest for the next elections. Similarly, Jonathan promised that all our existing refineries will be rehabilitated by March 2013, and new one built such that we are able to refine 1m bpd by 2014. It would have been an easy feat to achieve considering that he inherited a plan to build three more refineries in Lagos, Kogi and Bayelsa States from the Yar’Adua administration. Today, not only is none of the existing refineries working at full capacity, but there nothing to show that even a single new one will be nearing completion by 2014! Instead, Nigerians have seen increased fuel prices from N65 in 2007 to N141 in 2012 and N97 in the same year!
Clearly, President Jonathan has not delivered on most of the promises he made despite the fact that federally-collectible revenue including foreign exchange earnings have increased substantially under his watch, just as have domestic and foreign borrowings escalated, with little or nothing to show for them. Where have those funds disappeared to? What is there on ground to justify the domestic debt level, now a staggering N6trn? Are these signs that things would be any better? Is it not inherently dangerous for a grossly incompetent administration to devote so much energy and resources to seeking another term when at half-time, it has only multiplied poverty, corruption, unemployment and hopelessness among the majority of Nigerians?
Next week, we would draw stylized conclusions from Jonathan’s promises and look at the evolving political developments that seem bent on returning him to power in 2015 at all costs, regardless of what Nigerians think or feel, just as it is clear from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election – that there is no way Jonathan and his surrogated can win any decently free and fair election at any level, anywhere in this federal republic!
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