PDP’s 14 Years of ‘Greatness’ By Japheth Omojuwa
The Peoples Democratic Party held what it called a ‘special’ convention on Saturday, August 31, 2013 in Abuja. The party, according to the faction that met at the Eagle Square, wants to be seen as having succeeded in bringing Nigeria to a great place in the comity of nations. I believe the PDP is great if we choose to see greatness from its other side . I will use selected realities to make this point: First, education.
It is very easy to score the party extremely low here because university students and lecturers are currently at home as is often the case. This would be the reason to score them low but it would not be the only reason. Just look at the state of education in Nigeria apart from the ASUU strikes and what you get would be nothing short of a disaster. No Nigerian with the means and valued sense of education would send his/her child to Nigeria’s glorified secondary schools called universities. A computer engineering student studying at one of the nation’s top public universities confessed he had never done a thing on a computer despite being in his third year at a university the President cared enough to change its name but not its fortunes. The West African Examinations Council’s results are these days noted more for the failure rates than their functionality as a tool for separating students and identifying their various academic abilities. Most students fail anyway. Nigerian students now find themselves in places like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania not to mention Ghana, the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore and the likes. The PDP has succeeded in killing education in Nigeria. It was a smart move for them. It is always dangerous to have too many educated people in a population to make demands about their human rights and just ask too many questions. So then, we have a kind of democracy quite all right but our “great party” has ensured a majority of the people are more concerned about what they eat rather than what schools their children go to. Over 10 million Nigerian children are out of school. This is a world record and the PDP being a great party is already on course to add to this number next year.
The much-maligned military governments built majority of the airports if not all the airports we have in Nigeria. When these airports were built, they were good enough to be called airports; today, considering what we have around the world, we can safely call ours airstrips. They are nothing better than garages in other climes. Most train stations in saner climes are better equipped than most of our airports. Ask any Nigerian who travels out of this country, any of them with a conscience that cares about our country and they’d tell you their first point of sadness are the airports they see upon arrival in other places, even places like Ethiopia not to talk of the United Arab Emirates that make ours look like their public toilets at best. So then, in 14 years of running this country with tens of trillions of naira to boot, the PDP – what some call a great party – has yet to deliver one, just one major airport to this country. Instead, they are gleefully renovating what the military built.
We should not even talk about roads. To show how much and how bad things have since become, they threw a party to celebrate the award of the contract for the renovation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. As we speak, months after that public display of national mediocrity that had the President himself dancing, nothing has been done. The road remains in a shambles that it has always been.
Power is on the right track. The privatisation process is on course. If done the right way to the last letter, this is one area the current government could write its name in gold.
As regards the economy, make no mistakes, the Nigerian economy has largely grown since 1999 and this growth has only been dwarfed by another kind of growth; poverty! The growth of the Nigerian economy has benefited a few to the detriment of the majority. As of the last count, this growing economy still cannot guarantee four out of five graduates jobs, it cannot keep seven out of 10 Nigerians out of poverty and it has ensured a majority of Nigerians depend on families and friends to keep body and soul together. In perspective, there are just as many poor Nigerians today as they were Nigerians in 1998. What is the point of a growing economy that also grows poverty? Do we deny the reality of poverty because international organisations and aunty Ngozi tell us our economy is growing? The PDP has done extraordinarily well here; growing an economy during periods of increasing world oil prices while simultaneously breeding a society of more poor people than there are people in West Africa outside of itself.
And considering indices like maternal mortality, child mortality and life expectancy, every passing day, more women die trying to give birth in Nigeria than at most other places in the world. Almost 53,000 Nigerian women and girls die of pregnancy- related issues every year! According to UNICEF, some 20 per cent of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa occur in Nigeria. According to the World Health Organisation, almost 400 out of 1000 Nigerians die before they are 60 years of age. That is apart from the number that die before the age of 15. Should we talk about the fact that had any of the major delegates fallen from the podium at the convention venue, they would have been flown to India to have their heads checked faster than it takes for these hypocrites to see that today, we are worse off than we were in 1999. When you realise how much has gone down the drains to have us where we are today; — a people without direction and hope for a better tomorrow — you will weep for our beloved country. Some Nigerians would wish these brigands were wiped off the face of the earth.
One cannot begin to outline the failures of Nigeria since 1999. One way to know how bad it is would be to pay attention to what Nigerian governments celebrate these days. Gone are the days when projects were inaugurated after completion; these days things are so bad that projects are celebrated for being awarded to contractors. This says it all about where we are today compared to where we used to be. All hope is not lost but you cannot solve a problem you insist does not exist. As long as the ruling party continues to celebrate itself as having helped Nigeria succeed over the past 14 years, then we are safe to agree that we are in a really bad place. No country moves forward being led by a group of largely deluded rulers who are perpetually obsessed with perpetuating their gluttonous selves in power rather than making the country work.
Nigeria has a long way to go, not essentially because things are so bad we can’t fix them but because those expected to fix them believe we have never had it so good. Isn’t that what they mean when they say each mediocre step of the current government is “in line with the transformation agenda”?
•Omojuwa teaches about Africa and its democratic struggles at the Free University, Berlin. He tweets @omojuwa
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