I promised at the beginning of the year to always do a review of the performance of the federal government every quarter or biannually in order to continually evaluate how far it has gone in delivering the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. I allowed one full month to pass before posting the performance assessment report in spite of the fact that the report was ready as early as the first week of this month.
It is important to point out early that the assessment was based purely on the day-to-day activities of government and how they affected the people within the period under review. In reaching some of the conclusions, I took particular notice of the prevailing security situation in the country, with a view to placing the facts where they should be. Nevertheless, I observed something interesting, while reaching these conclusions: the government did not allow media reports on the real situation in the country to affect its vision. Government ensured that it kept faith with the transformation programme and at the same time working frenetically to tackle the threats to security from across the country.
It must as well be clearly stated that only a few administrations could have been able to successfully and tactfully manage the two extreme situations. Matters bordering on security are usually very delicate and contentious; and that explains the serious attention the government has paid to it. It is unfortunate that some critics have failed abysmally to differentiate between politics and the economy. Both are asymmetrical, even though it is generally argued that one affects the other directly or indirectly.
Indeed, I have absolutely nothing against those who mix up the two. But the point I push here is that politicization of topical national issues has often created the wrong impression about the government and its commitment to redressing the current logjam in our march to greater freedom and development. Painfully, what bothers many Nigerian politicians now is how to be reelected. Only a few of them really work for the peace, progress and development of the nation. It is this negative attitude to national development that has accounted for the crises plaguing the nation.
The ability of any government to perform is hinged on the cooperation it receives from the political class and the populace. In our present circumstance, the political class has not lived up fully to expectation. The efforts by the government to develop the economy and restore normalcy all over the country have been sabotaged by some subterranean forces that have vowed to pull down our democracy. On the part of the masses, they have demonstrated unusual courage by standing by the government in most of its fiscal decisions, even when such decisions bring pain upon them.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration assumed the leadership of this country at a rather precarious period – when militancy and other forms of insurgencies had taken root. Despite this obvious impediment it was not deterred in his determination to pursue its vision encapsulated in the transformation agenda vigorously. The transformation agenda is the roadmap of the administration to take Nigeria to a new height.
So, how far has the agenda been driven and how much impact (negative or positive) has it had on the masses? Attempting to answer the first part of the question takes us to another question: what factors have affected the effective and efficient driving of the agenda? This latter question has become important because of the many man-made problems the government has been made to encounter.
Truly speaking, the intention of the government in designing the transformation agenda in the first place was germane. More so, its capacity to transform our nation and its people has never been in doubt. It is agreed that the agenda would have achieved at least 60 per cent of its goals by now, if not for the activities of saboteurs and other enemies of the country who have been working tirelessly to clog the wheel of progress.
Looking critically at the key indices of the agenda it will easily be seen that the nation has fared well and the future appears great too. On the Health sector, there has been remarkable improvement in service delivery in most of our hospitals. The out-of-stock syndrome, which had constituted a huge problem to healthcare delivery in the past, is gradually giving way to sufficiency. The training and retraining of doctors has consistently been pursued, with a special focus on stemming the brain-drain that has hit the sector in recent times. The primary healthcare scheme has also undergone a systematic overhaul with a view to stimulating it to reach its target audience most pragmatically.
The national strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has not diminished the fact that healthcare delivery has taken the centre-stage in the overall developmental package of the government. In line with the goal of the government to ensure a healthier citizenry, the government has embarked upon the reequipping, construction and reconstruction of health centres and general hospitals across the country. The impact of the huge investment in the health sector will begin to manifest in a few years from now when all the projects initiated will produce the desired results.
Agriculture is one area the government has performed impressively. The days of Nigeria leading in cash crops production are gradually returning. Massive investments in mechanized agriculture have taken the front burner in the revolution in the sector. So far, government has embarked on the massive production of rice and other grains to save the billions of dollars spent annually in the importation of the products. The same approach is being adopted in other critical areas to make Nigeria sufficient in food production, and possibly export. The dependency on food importation had been responsible in the past for the lack of interest in agriculture. It would have been disastrous if the government had not taken the bull by the horns to deal with some of the leakages that had impeded effort to develop the agricultural sector.
Education is the livewire of any nation. How far have we fared under President Jonathan? I think there has been some improvement, but more need to be done. The long ASUU strike of 2013 was a minus for the government. The issues that led to the strike should have been resolved long before the teachers went on strike. It does not tell well of any government to allow strike in the educational sector. Apart from exposing the students to diverse social problems and risks it also retards growth in the sector. In terms of infrastructure and funding, the sector is witnessing some significant improvements. However, more resources need to go into the sector to bridge the yawning gap between the carrying capacities of our educational institutions and the amenities available to them.
It has been observed that many universities cannot afford decent accommodation for their students let alone meet the curricular requirements to develop them cognitively. What then is the need sending a child to school without learning aids. This is why some students produced by our tertiary institutions cannot hold their own outside the country. I am happy the present administration is aware of this nagging problem and is working hard to solve it.
Providing employment for millions of our youth has remained an intractable problem. And how much has the Jonathan government done in this sector? The answer is simple: no government can provide all the employments we need. What successive governments had done was to establish some ad hoc programmes to try to address this problem. The Jonathan administration is no exception. Though it has gone a step further to do things differently, yet this has not changed things much. Unemployment can only be tackled frontally with the provision of adequate electricity to help the industrial sector increase productivity and provide more jobs. The large army of unemployed youth can also be trained in different skills to make them self-sufficient. And this goal requires steady electricity supply to attain.
This brings us to the issue of power supply and provision of other social amenities. This is one area the present government has injected enormous resources with intangible results to show for it. What we need to do, however, is to ensure that the process for the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria is strictly implemented. The Distribution Companies (DISCOs) are currently finding it difficult to operate. They have had to face hostile customers and other exigencies that have made their effort to meet the purpose for which they were engaged difficult. In my estimation, the DISCOs have not taken any serious steps different what they inherited to transform the power sector. The government is therefore left with the option of managing what is available to it to sustain electricity generation. What has happened to the Public Partnership Projects (PPPs)?
The truth is that the infrastructure in the power sector is disused and requires immediate change. It is absolutely impossible to attain sufficiency in the power sector with the obsolete equipment that litters the whole place. Again, the DISCOs should be innovative by creating a new platform to speedy up their operations and make them consumer-friendly. The only language consumers understand is effective service-delivery. It is gratifying to observe, nonetheless, that the Minister of Power and the Presidency have collaborated to drive the sector and, by so doing, stimulate economic growth.
On roads, the government, through the Ministry of Works, has performed creditably. Many of the roads that were once impassable have been fixed, while works are in progress on numerous others. But I must not fail to draw attention to the deplorable condition of some of the roads in the Southeast axis. Some of these roads have been in their present terrible state for a very long time. The Okigwe-Arondizuogu-Nnewi Road is an eyesore. In fact, it is completely impassable. Motorists travelling to Okigwe have to do a round-robin trip through Urualla, Osina and Isiekenesi before getting to Okigwe. The same situation is obtainable on the Umuahia-Ikot-Ekpene Road. Since Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road was cut-off motorists have found solace in the Umuahia-Ikot-Ekpene Road. As you read this piece the road is almost impassable due to deep potholes caused by the rains and heavy traffic on it.
The aviation sector is another critical sector. The safety of passengers has been the focus of the Jonathan government. The administration of Stella Odua (who was removed in hazy circumstances) was the best in the history of the sector. She transformed the sector to such a level that international community has been excited to visit Nigeria more frequently. A trip round major airports in the country shows far-reaching physical changes. Air crashes which used to be a frequent occurrence have drastically reduced. It is heartwarming to note that since the onset of this administration there had been only one major air crash, involving DANA Airline passenger aircraft on June 3, 2012. The appointment of another seasoned administrator and performer, Osita Chidoka, as minister, to oversee the aviation ministry demonstrates the commitment of President Jonathan to achieve an accident-free sector.
In truth, driving the economic sector and achieving other government developmental initiatives require the provision of adequate security. The Boko Haram sect has continued to be a thorn in the flesh and slowed the wheel of progress. It is the biggest challenge the administration of President Jonathan has had to face. The declaration of state of emergency in the Northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa has not done much to stem the tide. Thousands of lives have been lost and billions of naira worth of properties destroyed, yet the ominous signs still hover in the sky. Kidnapping and other forms of brigandage have become a part of our national life. All these have made life brutish and development slow.
Let me state here that the causes of militancy in the north could not be blamed on Jonathan. In my opinion, it should be blamed on those who do not wish Nigeria well. After all, Boko Haram started its operations in 2009, even before Jonathan replaced the late Musa Yar’Adua. It has failed up till date to state the real reason behind its taking up arms against the federal government or what should be done for them to lay down their arms. All they have done is to continue to unleash mayhem across the country. To deal with Boko Haram insurgency requires the cooperation of every Nigerian. No amount of money can deal with the situation unless Nigerians begin to volunteer information.