This president’s record on security can rightly be graded negative, we are not yet winning the war against Boko Haram and we are failing on securing communities and states and building a frame of trust across the Nigeria. His federal government has also missed a huge opportunity to rally Nigerians in conduct, strategy and focus on bringing back the lost Chibok girls.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s body language these days belies one taken hostage because of the criticism he has suffered over this. And he should be. For as long as citizens are dying across the country due to the insecurity under his watch, he has a responsibility to sleep with one eye open.
Still, in a democracy, where we require the leadership to continue to act in the best interest of the citizens, it is important for the custodians of public will to approach the assessment of governance with a full view, both to encourage the leaders to accelerate growth as well as to connect citizens with the sustenance of hope and the opportunities where they exist.
To that extent, it is important to note that the government of Goodluck Jonathan is not, in fact a failure – despite the problems with security, health, education and corruption.
Power stands out. The administration’s work in the sector has been as tough as it has been brave. Following the launch of the roadmap for power sector reform, it has shown a commitment to seeing through the reforms that began under erstwhile president, Olusegun Obasanjo. The unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria and privatisation of the distribution companies are pivotal steps – even if electricity hasn’t massively improved in the interim; for the first time in our history, stakeholders believe steady power supply is possible.
Then there is the economy, growing at a rate as one of the fastest in the world, with the finance ministry pushing through reforms and policies that stimulate the macro economy. While income inequality continues to gallop, Nigeria has continued to grow its foreign direct investment, inflation has reduced to single digits of 8.6, foreign reserves remain at 50 billion in dollars, exchange rate remains stable, and the U.S-based economic advisory firm, Frontiers Strategy Group recently named Nigeria the continent’s top investment destination. And the steady strides in the mortgage industry as well as the maintenance of the productive pension regime are worthy of praise.
Agriculture is one sector that warms the heart. For years, it has been presided over by unscrupulous elements who made sure the government’s fertilizer subsidy never got to the farmers who needed them the most. The new minister Akinwunmi Adesina, has successfully dismantled this cartel, making fertilizer directly available to the rural farmers. Under his watch, Nigeria has nearly halved its previous food importing bill from N1.4 trillion in 2009 to N717 billion in December 2013. Some of the praise that comes to him flows from a continuously oiled public relations machine, but much of it is deserved – the country now has 60% self-sufficiency in rice production, helping to raise significantly the world rice output. The recent commissioning of the 105,000 metric tonnes capacity Olam Integrated Rice Mill in Nasarawa is evidence that the sector has become attractive once again for serious private sector investment. The president should be proud of this.
There is also a recent report by RenCap, revealing that our manufacturing sector, once seen as a basket case, is now a major driver of economic growth. The Manufacturing Association of Nigeria reports an increase in manufacturing capacity utilization from 46.3% to 52.7% in the second half of 2013. This has been practically demonstrated in cement manufacturing which has seen Nigeria join the leagues of cement exporting countries with a capacity of producing 28.5 million metric tonnes from a mere 2million metric tonnes in 2012. A recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the World Bank group shows improvement in Nigeria’s retail and manufacturing sectors from 22% to 24% and 6.5% to 7.7% respectively.
While we are yet to be seduced by the cosmetic improvements to our rail networks, preferring to wait and see how the transformation evolves, transport infrastructure have registered marked improvement with major rehabilitation work going on the popular Benin-Ore and Lagos-Ibadan roads.
We are also unsure about the dimensions and future of the automative policy driven by the trade and commerce minister, Olusegun Aganga but at least there is the evolving reality of our aviation industry. Despite the ejection of Stella Oduah – who might have been an obscene spender, but was at least a visionary executive – work is still going on, and some of our airports are now wearing a brighter look, including the excitement in the South East from new and functional airports. All of these are separate from encouraging reports coming out of the ICT, water resources and government’s focus on educating the almajiris up north.
Acknowledging this administration’s successes is not fatal to the case for demanding better. And while the work ahead, especially in reducing income inequality, providing jobs and lifting up small business so that the economy can experience a truly equitable boom, it is important to appreciate its efforts to expand the economy, support private sector-driven reform and drive opportunities.
Still, the president – with his people – also needs to understand that citizens have a right to demand better, and with them a free press, civil society and an active opposition. The tug and pull, the push and shove does not mean enemies are circling, and is not an excuse to be a bull in a china shop. He needs to understand it is something else. It’s a principle bigger than him.
It is the only way this democracy can work.