by Peter Obi
Governor Babatunde Fashola’s piece entitled, “Presidential Declarations: My Take Away”, which appeared on the back page of THISDAY last Monday, raised critical issues in the on-going electioneering and my decision to respond is predicated on the fact that the writer is one of the few contemporary Nigerian leaders whom I believe approaches public service and issues with seriousness. He is also one public office holder I can appropriately address as ‘His Excellency’, not because of his achievements in physical infrastructure but because of his character and conduct, especially in public.
I have always maintained that character and values, when cherished by leaders, are far more important than their contributions in other areas of public service. It is also for the above reasons that I have chosen to engage him here today.
While I agree with Fashola that President Goodluck Jonathan should base his campaign on what he has done so far and also that core issues should occupy the front burner in this election campaign, I must invite his attention to the fact that President Jonathan actually told Nigerians what he had so far done in office. Close attention to the campaign of Mr. President shows that he discussed all the issues Fashola raised, and even more.
On corruption, for instance, he emphasised the strengthening of the institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), in addition to his resolve to follow due process of the law at all times; rather than arbitrarily arresting and jailing people for countless number of years. The president explained that his government has prosecuted more persons for corruption than any government before, but that the best way to fight corruption is to build institutions that will make it difficult for people to steal.
Fertiliser distribution and the pension reforms were respectively cited as examples of where institutional measures eliminated the old, corrupt practices associated with pensions and fertiliser distribution, respectively.
The president also spoke of how his government drastically reduced, if not stopped, militancy in the Niger Delta and kidnapping in the East, while dealing with the international terrorism in the North-east. He educated Nigerians on the global dimension of the phenomenon and further pointed out that previous government had not equipped the nation’s armed forces for decades.
The All Progressives Congress (APC)’s claim that it would stop insurgency, if elected, raises two major issues. The first is whether genuine patriots would wait until they are in office to proffer solutions to serious national problems. The second concerns the endorsement of the APC candidate by Boko Haram and the fact that the party and its candidate see nothing wrong with this endorsement.
Governor Fashola used France as an example of how, within hours of terror attack, it was possible to bring things under control. But my brother knows that this is not a fair comparison, as he did not mention how everybody in France, including the opposition, came out with one voice and how on Sunday, President Francois Hollande held hands with the opposition in condemnation of evil. When last did such happen in Nigeria?
Instead of doing so, the opposition was recently quoted to be encouraging mutiny and perhaps even celebrating terrorism in their fatherland. His Excellency is most likely aware that Boko Haram has the same flag as ISIS and Al Shabaab, which are renowned international terrorist organisations. He is also aware that the group celebrated the attack on France. Meanwhile, APC is yet to comment on the adoption of its candidate for the 2015 elections by Boko Haram.
I agree with Fashola that all matters relating to the forensic audit should be properly investigated, but I must also draw His Excellency’s kind attention to the fact that no money has been misappropriated, as the office of the Auditor General, which instituted the audit has confirmed to me that the audit is still on-going. The SURE-P monies have also not been used for politics, as we all know that the states and local governments received their own shares of the SURE-P money.
The federal government’s component of the money has been used to finance the N50 billion Lagos-Ibadan dual carriageway, the first and second sections of the Apapa-Oshodi dual carriageway and the Abuja/Kaduna rail line, among other federal projects.
The president showed that the sound economic policies of his government have brought about macro-economic stability. This has been acknowledged by the renowned economist and former Chairman of the Asset Management Division of Goldman Sachs Group, Dr. Jim O’Neill, who coined the term BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey), recognising these countries as the world’s fastest growing economies.
He said: “The deliberate efforts by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to encourage entrepreneurs would go a long way in supporting the country’s growth.” Further he said: “I think the government’s efforts to allow more entrepreneurialism has been good and the government’s macroeconomic policies have been encouraging.” To show how highly Nigeria is rated under Jonathan, he continues “I think, like I said before, Nigeria should be included in the G-20. South Africa is in the G-20, whereas Nigeria is bigger.”
I agree entirely with his position and state that the highest growth among quoted companies was recorded between 2011 and 2013. The values and profits of many companies within the same period doubled, one example is Dangote Cement Plc. Manufacturing, which was declining, had a reversal and Nigeria moved from massive importation to self-sufficiency in cement within the period.
The country also witnessed resuscitation of auto companies such as Peugeot Assembly of Nigeria (PAN) and ANNAMCO. New ones also came up such as INNOSON Motor Manufacturing Company, Nnewi and NISSAN and they are doing very well.
All these created many jobs for our people and multibillion dollar petrochemical industries are also being set up. While the Dangote Group is building its own ($9 billion) refinery and petrochemicals plant at the OK-LNG Free Trade Zone, between Ogun and Ondo States, President Jonathan on the 14th of August, 2014 performed the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of $1.5 billion methanol plant in Ibeano, Akwa Ibom State, by quantum Petrochemical Company Ltd, established by Mr. Jim Ovia. Many similar projects are ongoing in the country.
Let us note that the creation of Mortgage Refinancing Institution to make available long-term funds available and increase liquidity by funding primary mortgage institutions is a job creation initiative of the Jonathan government. The boom in the housing sector, with an estimated six direct jobs and four indirect jobs for every house built, has done a lot so far.
Many of the 2,400 businesses under YouWin 1 and 2 have created about 22,000 jobs, translating into nine jobs per winner. The turnaround in the agricultural sector has reduced our import bill by 50 per cent and the effects of the recent collapse in oil prices and devaluation of our currency would have been worse, but for the diversification achieved through agriculture and other sectors.
In aviation, all of us can see the upswing in bilateral agreements, improved services and the on-going renovation and remodelling of our airports. There is also what I consider the audacious construction of five new terminals simultaneously in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu. This is in response to the perceived needs of the travelling public and businesses. On completion, they will change the face of our airports, improve commerce and tourism.
So will the roads some of which I mentioned before, like the Lagos-Ibadan, Apapa-Oshodi, which are at various stages of completion, while some like the Benin-Ore road have been completed.
It is not correct to say that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caused chaos during its campaign in Lagos. The party conducted its campaign in a most responsible manner. Traffic control was near excellent, because the president insisted that no citizen should suffer because he was in town. Instead, the APC primary was an exemplary display of disorder, in terms of traffic control and coordination of activities connected with the event.
I should perhaps not say much on power, than just point out that the president has taken the most critical decisions in that sector, by unbundling the generation and distribution of power in the country. We should all calmly watch out what will follow, as the revolution Nigeria witnessed when the telecoms sector was liberalised will be replicated in the power sector.
It is worthy of note that an article that was supposed to celebrate the APC did not mention its presidential candidate, but rather celebrated the speech by their vice-presidential candidate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. This supports the widely held and evidence-based perception that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari will be a mere figure head while the running of the government will be in the hands of Prof. Osinbajo, if elected.
All things considered, we can see the compelling reasons for re-electing President Jonathan, as he is in a better position to deal with all the issues of genuine and sustainable national development. Considering the experience he has garnered over the years, it is better that we cannot have our democratic vehicle manned by an inexperienced person, or one with analogue credentials.
• Obi is the former Governor of Anambra State and Chairman, South, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation