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One year after and freedom day

Posted by By OLU OBAFEMI on 2008/05/29 | Views: 876 |

One year after and freedom day

The history of one year in power and its usual celebration can be very intriguing—depending on what bliss or blight that voters have gone through in the period under review. Many take it as a period to record quick achievements, as a reflector of bounteous and happier times to come.

The history of one year in power and its usual celebration can be very intriguing—depending on what bliss or blight that voters have gone through in the period under review. Many take it as a period to record quick achievements, as a reflector of bounteous and happier times to come.

Sometimes, it may mean a source of hope for the people, if sunrise provides early warmth for the people being governed. At times, it is a mere fluke; a ruse. After the celebration, and the people are sufficiently fooled, the leaders go to sleep. But for us here, it should be more than an epoch-marker. It should be more than wining and dining-- a festivity- streak.

It should be a sober stock-taking event, during which set agenda are consolidated, with their strategic plans for implementation laid out clearly for the people to see and peruse. No doubt, a year is long enough, if it provides sun rays and warm showers after wintry and stormy times, to begin to warm up to a leadership.

But if the signs are those of sighs and seamy disillusions, frustrations and castrated dreams, it will be time to raise serious questions. What discerning minds should be doing at this point is to engage a critical assessment of the governing elite’s bench-marks or visional parameters and yardsticks. It should x-ray, if it exists, the government’s clear leadership vision and its strategies of execution.

On the level of the symbolism of May 29, as Democracy Day, there was great discomfort and outright rejection of that day as a day that truly indexes genuine freedom and struggle for this country. The progressives, Human rights and civil society, who genuinely upbraided and combated the June 12’s horrifying annulment of the elections and the reign of terror that succeeded it, rightly claimed and named that day as the true freedom or Democracy Day.

The argument continues, but the reigning government has its way, as the people continue to have their say. The real crunch and acid test of democracy is not its temporal marker, but the concrete returns in terms of public goods, welfare benefits and quality of governance, such that makes a clear, rewarding difference in the lives and living conditions of the electorate. That did not truly come to pass in the eight years of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, principally, as a result of a derailment of vision and a mis-perception of the anticipations of governance as self- actualization, rather than as the realization of the collective dreams and humane aspirations of the populace.

The question of the moment is whether Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua can and will make a significant difference in the real and core areas of governance from his predecessor. Truly, no one should expect landmark exploits and achievements from any government in just one year of ascendancy to power. No balance sheet can be expected from a government in just one brief year. Yet, I believe a clear ideology and perception of national needs, if provided within the period under review, should be early indicators and signs of what we expect to find in the government’s take-off strategy. Does the government have a vision?

Has it provided strategic blue-prints, policies and missional directions for actualizing that vision?
When reflected on Yar’Adua’s 100 days in power, I asserted that we have begun to see such positive signs, even that early, such that will lead us to expect happier times, if they are pursued with vigour, purposefulness and commitment. At that point, there had been talk of a seven-point agenda, backed by the magnetic axiom of rule of law and due process. Then, there came afloat a few positive signs that happier times are underway.

The President, Umar Yar’Adua, had, in a salutary manner and in a more concrete way, gone on to take steps in areas where he has made promises. For instance, he has set up a 21-man electoral reforms panel. Some of the panelists are time-tested people of proven integrity, experience and moral rectitude. We all agreed that, given the pedigree and statures of these panelists, they certainly deserved to be given a chance to guide the process of reformulating, redesigning and reinventing our electoral laws, such that will remove the mockery that has been inflicted on our fledgling democracy.

I personally, additional felt, and still do, that in order to give them an unfettered reign to perform, Professor Maurice Iwu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be removed promptly – if he cannot find the moral fibre to bow out voluntarily and his band disbanded. That, of course, was not done, and Iwu sits tight, in power, and supplementary elections and re-runs of major, Gubernatorial elections took place. Some of the circumstances and outcomes of the elections have vindicated our suspicion, that nothing truly wholesome and edifying can take place, electorally, with Iwu firmly in place.

It is also anticipated that the President will proceed after this to embark on Constitutional Review, which was stalled, willy-nilly, by the term- elongation regime of the last dispensation. It is only about now that the National Assembly has taken the bull by the horn to set up its own Constitution Review Committee. Details of its operational strategies and procedures are yet to emerge. It is, however, not an act of the Executive arm of Government.

Many alert minds do not set much value at the intended review or amendment—from experience. We have had too many Constitutions and their reviews and yet a truly federated Nigeria has not emerged. What will this new review or amendment or both do or portend? There is no question that there are a lot of misconstrued and mis-shapened facets of this 1999 version of our Constitution and a lot can be done in the re-designing project of our federalism. Will this happen?

There is a rife feeling across the nation that a lull subtends and that the speed of governance is lifelessly slow. Some others, who are in a position to assess from a vantage point, believe that the speed assessment is inaccurate and we need to tarry a little longer and let governing matters unfold a little more before we take the crown to the guillotine. The president himself advances the virtue of patience, and the essence of adequate planning as critical factors of good governance.

The genuine evaluative yardstick of the direction and focus of this government is to examine the evidence of what it proclaims as its target and the way it is propelling or positioning itself to accomplish it. Generally speaking, if we intend to hold the government to its words, we must seize it by the arm, not by the slippery side of its elbow, lest it slides. The most concrete statement of the government’s vision is the seven-point agenda.

There is much talk about Millennium Development Goals and year 2020, when we shall square up with, even overtake, the big powers of the global race or, at least the Asian Tigers, through a transformed national economy. It is germane to begin evaluation from that point. To be sure, we need to be thoroughly informed, through a well-articulated policy blue-print and ideological explication, what the seven-point agenda entails, what it will do and how it will do it. Beyond public statements, newspaper reports and unofficial rumour, Nigerians are yet to be presented with the state of the nation document of the agenda. Communication is crucial to governance. Obscurity impedes knowledge disbursement and reception.

This has been our experience in this country. Governments hardly ever carry the people they govern along in plain and unambiguous terms on the concepts, theories and perspectives of governance. How can a people develop confidence, sympathy and patriotism about policies applied to them whose tools of communications are hidden from their sight? Let the government begin by moving away from their inherited path of obscurity. From all manner of confused and voodoo-laden acronyms as reform ideologies of the past—IMF, SFEM, FEM, SAP, NEEDS, NEPAD— the government of Yar’Adua must come out clear to the people, what the seven-point transformative agenda is and how it will change their lives for the better, in the next three years at least.

This is why it is a great pity that the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) has not been passed by the National Assembly after nine years that it was thrust on their laps. It is one instrument through which needless secrecy and governmental sealed lips would have been done away with and transparency, unfettered information disbursement, aided by the media would have become a welcome culture and a fluent source of communicational inter-action as well as transaction between government and the people.

What presently transpires is a movement from one extreme to the other—from a garrulous and loquacious president, schooled in robust theatrics as an art of governance to one gifted in incredible taciturnity and near-mum. A middle road is required so that government can be heard by those at the receiving end of its policies. The method of using adviser on Communication to give information at intervals is helpful but inadequate.

From what we have gleaned, second-hand, the seven-point agenda is alleged to include; the provision of core infrastructure through which the economy can advance. These are, the power problem (electricity), energy (national oil and gas); transportation (waterways, railways, airways etc); national security and intelligence; education; food security; health aid and health care; land reform; the Niger Delta situation and development; and wealth creation.

At the point of electoral campaign and podium oratory, some of these agenda points were elevated to the levels of national emergency, given the level of their potential for exacerbating national crises and social discontent. It is important for social commentators to move away from sentimental approbations or reprimand and examine whether the government has taken foundational steps to prepare the mind of the nation that it can and will deliver on these crucial areas of national development and national growth.
From a realistic plank, we can only talk of foundations at this stage, after just a year in office, if we understand the complexities of governance. Obviously, there is a lot of impatience in the nation. There ought to be. The people have been thrashed, humiliated and betrayed through perennially dysfunctional governance—failed and cynical leadership that mere rhetoric will not assuage the feelings and expectations of the people for good governance.

In any case, the last government came with so much promise; so much good will and it did so much to whet the national appetite for massive benefit derivation. We were led by spiritual hymnals from the dais about things getting better. And we danced. It even obviously appeared that things would get better after all. So many spanners were put to the works and we were surfeited with joyous anxieties and positive perspirations. So many bewildering and wondrous things began to happen at home and abroad (especially abroad where our national image had been swamped and drubbed). But today, is it really possible for the song to go with our raucous voices and parched throats? So, there is a great justification for national impatience and philistine anger. Yet, we need to study the tempo, temper and tenor of the new dancers and their music. We need to find out whether the song has changed or it remains, as they say, the same difference.

Let us set the bottle-necks aside—bottle-necks which have the capacity to incapacitate positive governance. One of this is the question of legitimacy. Yar’ Adua was a product of controversial ascendancy, given the unhealthy nature of the electoral victory that thrust him into power. The air has not yet completely cleared and the man still sits with only three-quarters of his buttocks in Aso Rock. Obviously, there is a large, even popular, acceptance of the man, if not of the means of acquiring power. And a lot will depend on how he mobilizes the people in his favour through dynamic, populist and vibrant leadership. But he must still look over his shoulders and find out whether there are long knives in the dark. A part of the political weaponry and tools of legitimacy lie outside of legality. What he does with his election promises will also determine how the people warm up to or condemn him.

A major pivot and locus of that legitimacy search is his beginning to come to terms with his seven-point. The budget is a starting point. There was so much foot-dragging and conflict-generation over the budget that it only came for passing recently. Integral and interned with economic stability is budgeting. It became law only a few weeks hence. The president is not entirely culpable for this tardiness. He shares it with the national Assembly—but as they say, the buck stops on his desk.

The economy, of course, requires surgical reform, with a clearly humanistic focus. The reforms project of the past government (as captured under NEEDS), being reviewed under and restructured under seven-point, must radically address the basic macro and micro-economic perspectives of growth in society. The whole-sale adoption of privatization, as central economic ideology, requires reconsideration, since, by and large, only those who already possess capital and the instruments of controlling a propertied economic structure stand to benefit maximally, from such a capitalist-prone economy. The rest of society, the bulk of the electorate, who have only their pairs of hands, their brains and their labour—when it is needed and employed—have little say in the direction the economy will move.

They have little benefit to derive in a market forces, deregulated economy. And since the president has informed us that the economy is central to his political vision; since he has indicated his intention to run a government in which the welfare and the human requisites of the citizenry are dominant pre-occupations; critical infrastructure that will make the economy grow in accordance with that vision must be put in place. Some reversals of the ill-considered and ill-motivated privatization drive have taken place, like the sold refineries, Mittal and Ajaokuta Steel.

There have, of course been a few procedural summersaults and a threat potential for foreign investments, but by and large, the reversals were greeted with applause. The energy sector, which he has begun to address, mainly through probes and committee formation, requires purposeful handling. The economy cannot grow, where a generator-profiteering regime prevails to sabotage the drive of government to rid the nation of physical darkness.

The emergency nature of power, as already identified by the president, needs to be systematically pursued. No nation is civilized, in a global economy, where its citizens live in darkness. In this direction, we appear to be making a retrogressive motion. When Chief Obasanjo came to power, we had nearly 6,000 megawatts of installed electric capacity, via three hydro-based stations and five thermal stations. The government promised to expand its electricity generation, transmission and distribution systems with an ultimate, long term ambition of generating 25,000 MW in generating capacity. Eight years after, with a controversial 16 billion dollars down the drain, he left us with an actual generated electricity quantum of a bare 1000 MW.

Today, one year after the president declared another emergency on power, we appear to be in a greater national darkness. We require strategies that outstrip the erection of committees. We have passed through this way before. In the year 2000, Chief Obasanjo dismantled the NEPA management and replaced it a technical committee of nine members, with a mandate to end power cuts in one year! The new president needs to adopt a different strategy, even as the probes go on and as his own committee has handed over to him a power recovery plan that can generate 6,000MW of electricity in 18 months and 15,000MW between 2010 and 2015!!

What is being done to the oil sector, through restructuring—the unbundling of NNPC, through a directorate regime; the anticipated oil and gas reform policy, is expected to yield maximum benefit for the people from our nation’s petroleum resources. The sick petroleum sector should become healthy, shunned of all bureaucratic red tapes—through a dynamic National Oil Company, which is independent, dynamic and competitive.

The vision to redeem the oil sector is in order, if well articulated and well-communicated to the citizenry. It is unacceptable for a country, which is one of the biggest producers of petroleum products to remain a major importer of refined oil and the price of purchase of domestically consumed oil threatens to rise on a daily basis. Our refineries are hardly operational. The incompetence of the NNPC is further exposed by the ease with which multi-nationals evade payments of outstanding monies from deep off-shore fields.

There is also the problem of the nation’s inability to feed its populace. The nations we wish to overtake in developmental terms are, in fact, paying farmers to leave their farms fallow to avoid over-production! Food is a major import on our land, with one of the most fertile arable lands around the world. Yes, the government has shown signs of preparedness to address this food crisis, which is threatening to be a global contagion. remedial steps of rice importation provides this sign, but this is only a short-term remedy—if remedy.

As I averred last week, what is the raison detre for the food security project and vision of the government, if importation and not production takes the pride of place and attention? A nation that cannot feed itself is an insecure and endangered nation. Many wily, self-serving and smokescreen plans had been taken in the past and by various governments seemingly, but with resultant gross futility, to address the problem of feeding the nation. Such programmes as Operation Feed ( or fool) the Nation, Green Revolution, and so on ended merely in making a few contractors richer and leaving the nation hungrier. The irrigation projects, especially in the northern states, were virtually abandoned by a nation in a frenzied pursuit of the black gold—oil, which has since turned out to be the doom, and not the boon it ought to produce.

When will this nation truly address the critical problem of deploying the gift and endowment of nature to feed itself? The country has vast, fertile, arable lands which any purposeful government, with the appropriate political will and compassion for the hunger-stricken populace can transform into a source of wealth, emanating from food surpluses and exportation.

Other areas of our nation’s political economy are equally of emergency proportions. Education, for instance, is the president’s original vocation and he needs no prompting that in a knowledge imperative world, the development and over-hauling of our rickety education sector, at all levels, is the key to the advancement of the millennial goals of the country. What of the health sector? Mainly for lack of resource input and equipment, we rush to other lands, including India and Germany for treatment and diagnosis of minor ailments. This should worry our government is a symptom of national backwardness.

The Niger Delta boils on. The loss is not only economic. It is the real powder magazine waiting for national explosion. One year after, the solution to the Niger Delta emergency still eludes us.
Signs abound that the president will listen to the yearnings of the electorate. There is also ample evidence that the rule of law will be held sacrosanct and the judiciary is being rapidly empowered and enabled to provide justice in accordance with the Constitution. All of these and more are the projections, which the stock-taking of today only outline.

The signs are that true democracy will come to be in our nation, through the activities and governance of a determined and foresight-full president, in collaboration with a National Assembly, which should grow less self-seeking and a judiciary which is autonomous, warm the heart. The challenges are daunting, but years of wrecked dreams and insensitive governance have rendered the populace both apathetic and crassly impatient.

As we count on our fingers 12 months of a new government, even in the middle of what Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, our Secretary to the Federal Government, aptly describes as the evolvement of eternal peace on our land, President Yar’ Adua should brace himself to the business of purposive governance so that the people find blessings of abundance and plenitude to count rather than merely counting years.

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Comments (6)

Joel Efiong(Calabar, Nigeria)says...

This is a great piece. The examination bodies should hire you as ICT consultant.

Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...


Sunday Mbe(Kaduna, Kaduna, Nigeria)says...

The name ULIMASI is from the UTUGWANG tribe in OBUDU local government area of CROSS RIVER STATE in Nigeria.

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding