Goodluck Jonathan’s First Year:What they don’t want us to talk about –By Adelaja Adebanjo
It is appropriate to put every government on a scale from time to time. And this is more so when that government has spent at least 365 days in power, which is a quarter of its full term. Because of the missed opportunities and patent misrule of the past, Nigerians are very sceptical and do not believe those in power. Some of them are also outright cynics who believe that nothing good can come from government. This mindset has therefore coloured their perception of the administration of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Of course. the magnitude of the problems and challenges he met on ground are all too glaring. The power sector has been so sick to the extent that there is no stable power supply in any part of the country. Our education sector was at best comatose and begging for rejuvenation. Roads and critical infrastructure needed a kiss of life and our economy has continued to totter.
So what has President Jonathan done about all these in the last one year? Is it a case of business as usual? We may all be tempted to conclude that nothing has changed in the last one year. This is more so because by accident or design certain power mongers and forces with powerful reach want all of us to have that impression. They want us to concentrate on the inadequacies of the administration and the failure that is being simulated. They want their spins and carefully woven lies and half truths against the President and his administration to be the main items of discourse at all forums both private and public.
They have almost succeeded in convincing all Nigerians that nothing has happened in the last one year except the mindless bombings by the Boko Haram, heightening of insecurity, corruption and other very depressing scenarios. They don’t want us to talk about the quiet transformation agenda being spearheaded by Dr Jonathan whose fruits are already sprouting. Indeed in spite of all the hidden and open agenda against the person and office of President Jonathan, a dispassionate look at governance in our polity in the last one year will reveal a president who has kept his eyes on the ball and who has not allowed himself to be distracted by the obvious minefield and deliberate obstacles kept in his way.
Nigeria in spite of many challenges is making sure and steady progress under Jonathan. Nowhere is the quiet transformation of Nigeria by Mr. President so clear than in the area of agriculture and empowerment of small scale industries. Never in the history of Nigeria have we had such massive support for small businesses and industries as we now have under the Jonathan administration. Through the bank of Industry, BOI, the government has injected massive funds which numerous small scale industries have tapped into across the country. They bank is not just giving the money ,it is also giving adequate support to help the emerging entrepreneurs nurture their businesses. The government has even done better in the agriculture sector with various initiatives that have seen a revival of the sector. With critical support currently being given to small and large scale farmers in rice, Cassava, sorghum, cocoa and cotton the revival of the sector has had a positive impact on the economy. The target is to ensure that agriculture generates over 3.5 million jobs overtime. Each zone of the country is being supported to achieve massive production in its area of comparative advantage.
And with the establishment of private sector led commodity trade and market development corporations, farmers and other chains of businesses in the sector will reap maximally from their investments. A 10 Billion Naira credit line from the Bank of Industry is also being used to drive the establishment of 17 rice mills across the country. The one in Ebonyi is already up and running while others are in the making. The ultimate goal is to achieve import substitution in the area of rice so that the country can save 2.5 billion dollars from importation of the commodity. The substitution of 20 per cent of bread wheat with cassava flower will also inject N60 billion into the economy. And because of the many incentives including fertilizers which for the first time are getting directly to the farmers who need them, more Nigerians are turning to farming.
Sir Howard Jetter a former American ambassador to Nigeria has already predicted that if Nigeria maintains its current course in agriculture, it will become Africa’s leader in the sector. To the discerning, the two pronged support for small scale industries and agriculture is leading to the creation of massive employment in the country. It will also have a positive effect on the economy as inflationary trend will wane. . This is because if a country can feed itself, which is what Jonathan and his team are targeting, and is also able to ensure massive employment generation, the pressure to import food and goods and services will be reduced. Social tension will also be greatly reduced and the economy and the people will be the better for it.
The most stringent monitoring and stringent compliance to set standards in the education sector in the history of the country are being carried out in this era. There is improved access to higher education with the establishment of nine new universities and licensing of five private ones. The Open University is being prepared to fully come into its own while the accreditation of its programme is ongoing. Before long , the Open University which was largely left on its own in the past will also rank with its peers across the world as the NUC is developing content materials in collaboration with the Open University of United Kingdom and the British Council. A 4-Year Strategic Plan for the Development of the Education Sector: 2011-2015 has also been initiated. Higher institutions are now being massively funded while their decaying infrastructure is being renewed across the country.
Thanks to the Jonathan administration, Nigeria will no longer be a by-stander in the information super highway as a massive programme to ensure the sustained interest of young Nigerians in the sector has been put in place and it is being systematically implemented. At the last count at least 766 secondary schools across the country have seen the deployment of PCs and internet access. 193 tertiary institutions have also benefited from this ground breaking programme. The programme will be sustained to ensure that every Nigerian child is exposed to the computer and its associated benefits. And the sector has been transformed to the fastest growing one in the country contributing 46% to GDP in 2011 according to the National Bureau of statistics.
The successfully launch of the NigComSat-1R satellite on December 19 2011 has given further impetus to the ICT sector in the country. The satellite will enable hard to penetrate areas to benefit from internet access. To ensure human capital development in the sector the last one year saw 111 scholarships awarded for MSc students and 12 awarded to PhD students. The ultimate plan is to ensure that Nigeria creates the required manpower to man and develop the sector.
There are other areas where we should salute Mr. President. We now have a ministry of foreign Affairs that acts and lives up to its name and billing. When the South Africans wanted to play funny through the Yellow Card saga, we rose up to the occasion and gave it back to them in equal measure. At the end of the face off, the matter was resolved in our favour and now we have become more proactive in our foreign policy. We did also not just sit idle when some adventurers wanted to turn the sub region into a military enclave. Nigeria under Jonathan led the onslaught against them and the situation is gradually being resolved.
Despite the perception that not much is being done in the power sector, a lot is ongoing but it will take some time for the impact to be felt by most Nigerians. Rather than the unwieldy big projects of the past, Dr Jonathan through the ministry of power is laying emphasis on manageable compact power projects like the 750kva power plant at Olorunsogo in Ogun State which has not only been completed but has also been connected to the national grid. Similar projects are being replicated across the country and Professor Bart Nnaji has continued to maintain that before long relative stable power supply will become manifest in the country. This will also be complimented by the power reform which will enable more
openness in the sector and bring in those with the wherewithal to help grow and sustain sector. Other sectors such as aviation, transportation, works and Housing, tourism and sports and youth development are all enjoying positive transformation. The renewal of old and construction of new critical infrastructure across the country is also another reason while the Jonathan presidency is working for the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. We all agree that Boko Haram has remained the single most difficult challenge so far but it is important for us to note that the
Boko Haram challenge is neither about Jonathan nor about the competence of his administration. What is going on is a challenge against our federation and its corporate existence. Jonathan and the security agencies cannot solve the problem by themselves. What is required is a collective will of all Nigerians. It’s important for the religious and traditional establishments to join hands with Mr. President and his team to check mate those behind this insurrection of sorts. The government has started well with its initiative on Almajiri School. The dividends of this initiative will be long term as it would see to a reduction in the ‘army’ being recruited by the managers of Boko Haram. The government in the days ahead should
continue to fashion out better ways to tackle the Boko Haram onslaught through constructive engagement and strict enforcement of the law. It’s time for identified sponsors of the group to be fished out and visited with the full weight of the law. There should be no sacred cow.
We all agree that we are not there yet but we can admit that we are on the way. The transformation agenda should be given more fillip while those driving it should not relent. At all times the government should continue its connection with the people through initiatives that impact their lives positively. What is critical is for all of us to ensure that we do not allow our prejudices and political affiliation to colour our judgment. Let us also resolve to
keep our criticism of the government at all levels genial and constructive. It is time to build a culture of constructive engagement and tap in into our sense of patriotism. As the administration enters its second year those who want to use 2015 as a bogey to distract Mr. President should change course. The President has said that he is focused on using his current mandate to achieve the greatest good for all Nigerians. There should be no attempt to use 2015 to cause confusion in the land or blackmail Mr. President. Those who don’t want us to talk or focus on the achievements of Mr. President will ultimately lose the battle because at the end of the day the truth about the quiet transformation going on in all sectors of the
polity will become manifest. From the small snippets of his first year seen here, there is no doubt that Mr. President has risen above the fray and has shown that the transformation agenda is on course