President Jonathan: Talking Less, Doing More By Reno Omokri
As we approach the midterm period of the Jonathan administration, many young Nigerians have asked me through various fora but especially on Social Media why I support and project this administration’s Transformation Agenda and if the agenda has yielded any fruit. I believe that as a public servant I owe these Nigerians and all Nigerians answers and I will do my best to answer these questions.
Firstly, I believe that effective rebranding is a projection of positive things that are already happening and I will try to limit myself to things that the Jonathan administration has done or is doing knowing full well that you cannot build your reputation on what you intend to do.
When President Jonathan declared his intention to contest the 2011 elections on September 18th 2010, he touched on three core areas – Electoral Reform, Energy Security and Education. He touched on other areas but I will focus on these three core promises and the Nigerian economy.
On electoral reform, it is commonly said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have much to say about the transparency of the 2011 elections, but as Theo Paphitis says on The Dragons Den “give me the numbers”.
Well how about these for numbers; after the 2003 elections the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had 560 election petition cases stemming from contestants who felt they had been rigged out or suffered from some form of electoral malpractice. After the 2007 elections that number rose to 1,250. However, that number fell to just 400 petitions after the 2011 elections. The numbers do not lie. The sharp drop in the number of election petitions after the 2011 election is by far the most obvious evidence that those elections were the freest and most transparent elections Nigeria has had since we returned to civil rule in 1999.
President Jonathan deserves the credit for appointing an INEC Chair and board that were universally acclaimed by all as competent and credible. The President not only appointed them, but more importantly, he gave them a free hand as evidenced when he had to travel to Bayelsa on April 2nd 2011 for the National Assembly elections only to arrive Otuoke and hear that INEC had postponed the elections. The President heard about the postponement like an average Nigerian.
When all was said and done, the Commonwealth Election Observer Group led by Mr. Festus Mogae, former Botswana President said the 2011 elections ‘discarded the notion that the country can only hold flawed elections’. The group further said that the elections were “credible and creditable”!
So, on his promise of ensuring electoral reform it is safe to say that President Goodluck Jonathan delivered on that promise.
On Energy Security, the outside world focuses on peace in the Niger Delta and the ability of the oil majors to meet their targets in the oil and gas sector. That is of some importance to Nigerians. But when you talk of energy security, availability of electricity power is of greater importance to Nigeria. How has the President fared in this regard?
To answer this question, it is important to establish that between 1980 and 1999 no new investments were made in the power sector. In fact, the Egbin power station that was commissioned in the very early 80?s was the last power plant that was built in Nigeria before the launch of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) and the contract for that plant was awarded in the 70?s. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo was asked about the power situation he met on ground when he ascended to power in 1999 he said “As at 1999, I met 1,500 megawatts”.
The situation that President Jonathan met on ground was that the National Integrated Power Project had been suspended as a result of the House probe of the alleged profligate spending in the sector under the previous administration.
Upon ascension to the Presidency, President Jonathan revived the NIPP without interfering in the House’s probe. He launched a Roadmap for Power Sector Reforms and reinstated the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and created the National Bulk Electricity Trading PLC.
This administration pressed on with the privatization of all Federal Government thermal generation stations and power distribution companies. The process has culminated in the Presidential Power Reform Transactions Signing Ceremony which held on April the 22nd of 2013 where successful bidders received their certificates at the Presidential Villa and are set to run their new acquisitions in a businesslike manner.
But I know that without numbers I may not be communicating with Nigerians so here are a bit of the numbers in the power sector. This administration completed new units and turbines generating Megawatts of electricity in the following locations; Olorunshogo in Ogun state (563MWs), Sapele in Delta state (225MWs) and Omotosho in Ondo state (112.5 MWs).
These efforts yielded fruit in the attainment of a peak generation capacity of 4,322 MWs delivered in December 2011
Now, many Nigerians may complain and say ‘if power generation has increased, I am not feeling it’. But let us put things into perspective. If between 1980 and 1999 there were no new investments in building new power generation infrastructure and if within that period our population doubled is it not obvious that this will affect the per capita distribution of electricity with more people struggling for the same amount of electricity?
It takes one leap to jump into a ditch, but it takes several leaps to jump out of it. Even the peak generation capacity of almost 4500 MWs is not sufficient for our population of 170 million people, but it is a 30% improvement on the 2800 MWs capacity that this administration met on ground.
Moreover, the President is not resting on his oars. On Tuesday, the 28th of May 2013, President Jonathan flags off the construction of the Zungeru Hydro Electric dam in Zungeru, Niger State. This administration has done a lot and is still doing more to improve on Nigeria’s power situation and it is clear that President Jonathan has delivered and is still delivering on his promise to ensure energy security in Nigeria.
On education, President Jonathan has said on more than one occasion that this a sector which has special significance to him given his past as a lecturer. He promised to intervene in the educational needs of the 10 million itinerant scholars in Northern Nigeria more commonly referred to as Almajiri and on the 10th of April 2012 the President launched the first school built under the Almajiri Education Programme. By the end of 2012, 124 such schools had been completed. A total of 400 are to be completed as part of the programme.
Also, the Federal Government created nine new Federal Universities in 2010. These universities were to cater for the huge number of secondary leavers who could not find placement in the available universities. These universities, including the Federal Universities Ekiti, Otuoke, Lokoja and Ebonyi have commenced student intake. Also, three other universities are planned for Gasu’a in Yobe state, Birnin Kebbi in Kebbi state and Gusau in Zamfara state.
Still on tertiary education, the Federal Government has sent a total of 5,867 lecturers for further degrees from its own universities as well as state universities. Of this number, 1,375 were sent overseas. 624 of this number have already completed their Masters and PhD.
In the area of primary and secondary education, this administration trained 28,000 Head Teachers selected from each of the 6 geo-political zones and released $250,000 to each of the 104 Federal Unity Schools for the sole purpose of rehabilitating their science and technical laboratories. In total, 400 laboratories have been renovated and equipped.
To combat the low enrolment of the boy child in the Southeast, this administration launched the Back-to-School Programme in Enugu also known as Mmuta Bu’Ike. This programme is designed to make education more attractive than trading for pre adolescent males.
Nationwide, the Federal Government has distributed 19.6 million activity books for English, Mathematics, Basic Science and Technology to pupils in Primary 1-3.
This unique focus on primary and secondary education led to a modest 8% increase in pass rate in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). It might be modest, but just think what will happen if we sustain this pace.
The President’s vision on education has been centered on the premise that an educated people are healthier, more productive and are better able to compete in the present knowledge worker age.
Albeit, it is far from being uhuru in the education sector, but after the President ascended to the office of the presidency on May 6th 2010, our investments in education have been yielding fruits in other sectors such as the health sector and Nigeria’s Life Expectancy increased from 47 years to 51 years according to the 2011 Human Development Index of the United Nations. That represented the highest increase for Nigeria since records were kept.
On President Jonathan’s promise to improve the education sector, it is certainly obvious that he is delivering on what he said he would do even though it is a work in progress.
On the economy, it is widely known that Nigeria has one of the world’s fastest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, averaging almost 7% (6.7%) growth rate for the last 3 years. Not only have we had phenomenal GDP growth rate, but our inflationary rate has been in single digit since 2012 and remains so till today. Never in the history of Nigeria have we had a combination of such factors (high GDP growth rate and single digit inflation).
These successes have not been accidental. The Federal Government has taken a number of initiatives to get Nigerians working.
On October 11, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan launched the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) initiative which is a competition open to Nigerian youth entrepreneurs by which youths send in business proposals and the very best of these are selected by a third party international consulting firm for which the winners would receive business training and financial grants to start up business that must employ other youths.
23,821 youth entrepreneurs submitted business plans during the inaugural competition. These plans were marked by the Pan African University (a private university) and Plymouth Business School of the United Kingdom. By March of 2012, 1200 young Nigerians were selected as winners and received training and grants of between 2 and 10 million Naira. The second stage of the competition which was tagged YouWIN women commenced in September of 2012 and by May 2013, 1200 women winners had emerged and received similar training and grants.
Time will not permit me to talk about other such initiatives such as the SURE-P Women and youths empowerment scheme, but the long and short of it is that by a series of deliberate strategies, this administration has been able to introduce merit based stimulus initiatives that have gotten Nigeria’s youth working and ensuring robust GDP growth such that in May 2013, the World Bank officially promoted Nigeria from a Low Income Nation to a Middle Income Nation after revealing that poverty has reduced in Nigeria from 64.2% to 62.6%. This might be a modest improvement but to show that this was not a fluke International Monetary Fund (IMF) endorsed our economy and gave it a “positive” rating.
In 2012, Barrack Obama called Nigeria the “next big thing” in the global economy. David Cameron said on October 10th 2012 “We’ve been hearing about China and India for years but it’s hard to believe what’s happening in Brazil, in Indonesia, in Nigeria”.
One key attribute of philosopher kings is the ability to work smarter instead of just working harder and Nigerians may recall that after the nation’s woeful performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa President Jonathan decided to come down hard on the nation’s football governing bodies and initially ordered the withdrawal of Nigeria from international tournaments for 2 years to focus on building capacity. Although the President relented after appeals by his friends on facebook, he still pressed on with capacity building and convoked a National Sports Stakeholders Forum at the Presidential Villa to x-ray what went wrong and brainstorm on how to fix the problem.
The Federal Government implemented the resolutions that came out of that stakeholders forum and the national team was handed over to a new management that was completely Nigerian. From that thought process and its subsequent implementation, we ended up with the Stephen Keshi managed Super Eagles team that did in 2013 in South Africa what it could not do in 2010 and brought home the trophy from the African Cup of Nations.
That feat reminds me of a popular Toyota Ad that ran in Nigeria about a decade ago. The Ad said “good thinking good product”! The strides that Nigeria has made under President Goodluck Jonathan have not come as a result of Goodluck but as the reward of good thinking.
Yes, we have an opposition that politicizes everything, but with domestic and international testimony that President Jonathan has fulfilled his promises in the areas of Electoral Reform, Energy Security and Education as well as delivered an economy that according to the Clinton Foundation and the British Government is amongst the ten fastest growing economies in the world it is safe to say that President Jonathan has made good on that singular promise he made to Nigerians on the 15th of September 2010 when he made history by being the first President in the world to declare his presidential ambition on facebook. What promise did President Jonathan make? He said “The only promise I make to you my friends, fellow citizens and Nigeria, is to promise LESS and deliver MORE if I am elected”.
Reno Omokri is the Special Assistant (New Media) to President Jonathan
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