by Tolu Orekoya
The first year of President Goodluck Jonathan has come and gone. How has he fared?
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s position as co-ordinating minister for the economy has helped immensely. She has fought to push down costs of a bloated government and is trying to plug the monetary leaks plaguing the budget. The fuel subsidy removal blunder at the beginning of 2012 and signs that the economic growth rate is slowing have blunted some of GEJ’s successes. Also, sectors showing strong growth are not translating to jobs and financial stability, leaving most Nigerians out of the economic windfall loop.
2011 saw the Boko Haram graduate from menacing public nuisance to full-fledged suicide killers, terrorising Northern states and causing non-northerners to flee states like Kaduna in droves. With extrajudicial killing accusations levelled at the police and army has not helped, inflaming emotions in the North and causing an even more violent backlash against the police. Tackling not just the terror sect, but the underlying causes are monumental but paramount tasks for the president and his administration.
Nigeria’s abysmal power situation is nothing new, and though pronouncements were made and the president raised hopes of days of uninterrupted power supply, capacity only increased from 3600MW to 4,400MW. Instead, the country got the announcement that electricity tariffs would be rising in June, for some as much as 88%, and that the rich would subsidise the poor. Large-scale, long-term projects to significantly boost power supply are thin on the ground, with the Egbin power station still the only one capable of producing over 1000 MW of electricity.
We may be the best-educated ethnic group in America but here at home, Nigerians struggle to get some semblance of basic education. There are signs that the presidency is paying attention to the issues, pioneering almajiri schools for northern states and a NERDC promise to revamp the current curriculum. Still glaring issues like dismal school attendance rates for boys in the east of the country, female education in the north, and the quality of teachers need to be tackled.
The president understands that Nigeria’s food importation bill cannot is growing at an unstainable rate, but his current push for the consumption of “cassava bread” ticks all the wrong boxes of “grow local, eat local”. A sustainable plan to redevelop former agricultural belts and increase competitiveness is needed, and the president has started with a promise to create half a million new agricultural jobs. The issue of valuable seafood stock are being overfished by foreign trawlers, pushing up the cost of seafood, has yet to be addressed.
While some believe that corruption is neither as wide nor as deep as many perceive it to be, it still one of the biggest millstones around the country’s neck. Investigation into the pensions scheme and the fuel subsidy probe were some of the highlights of the year and show signs that this administration has started in the right direction. Whether there will be any convictions is unclear. Still it took a British court to send ex-governor James Ibori to prison for stealing millions of dollars from his country, crimes he was cleared of here in Nigeria, and many other cases are stalled in courts.
The fear of Boko Haram has led the US to contemplate officially put the group on the terror watch list, and the yellow fever spat with South Africa has left fractures in that have merely been papered over. The country is forging increasing ties with China, as an alternate market for our oil, and to rapidly build our infrastructure (not withstanding arresting illegal Chinese nationals) as well as doing its part in regional affairs by planning to send troops to Guinea Bissau and Mali.