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Senator Ihenyen: Mr. President must accept that his team lost the first half

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Senator Ihenyen: Mr. President must accept that his team lost the first half

by Senator Ihenyen

When in 2003 the Governorship elections were to hold nationwide, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the father of the then Edo governor, Lucky Igbinedion, conceded that his son had failed when he jokingly said: “If a child fails his exams, he should be allowed to repeat the class.” That was another way of asking Edo people to vote for the incumbent Governor and return him for a second term!

Of course, it was clear to the former governor’s supporters that if performance was the yardstick, Igbinedion would never return to the government house.

It is in the light of the above that Nigerians should be glad that on the occasion of the presentation of his mid-term report on his performance after two years in office, President Jonathan did not have to say he deserves to “repeat his class”, but as a former teacher, he was conscious of the fact that any examination should be guided by a marking scheme:

“As a teacher, I know that for you to mark a student, you must have a marking scheme. Because, assessment could be very subjective…,” he said.

When President Goodluck Jonathan came up with the mid-term report on Democracy Day, I had reasons to wonder what yardsticks Nigerians would use to measure his performance after two years in office. A close look at a number of his campaign promises in 2011 show vague generalisations bereft of specific targets or timelines.

Little wonder then that mixed reactions have continued to trail the President’s scorecard of his own administration. Thankfully though, as I mentioned above, the President has told Nigerians that they can go ahead to develop their own “marking scheme”.

Of course, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has since reacted that Nigerians need no “marking scheme” to score the Jonathan administration, narrowing down the issue to the common opinion held by most Nigerians that there has been no meaningful impact on the people. While it is typical of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and a good number in the opposition to fault the presidency on its policies and decisions, however any objective assessment of the performance of this administration would reveal that it has not performed well.

On account of our GDP estimated at 273 billion dollars last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranked Nigeria number 36 in the world. An economic achievement the administration would throw a party over, one wonders if growth is synonymous with development. Or how else can one reconcile this growth with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranking in the same year of the country as 157th in the world in terms of our human development index?

Under the leadership of President Jonathan, the rate of unemployment has grown from about 21% in 2010 to an estimated 29.3% in 2012, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Every year, the government needs to create 3 million jobs. But clearly, the Federal government’s over-hyped Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) initiative has not been winning jobs for the over 67 million unemployed Nigerian youths out there.

Yes, it’s a staggering figure that is surely bound to be a serious threat to national security. With the alarming rate of terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and all sorts of crimes across the country, the disease is already manifesting deadly symptoms in our society. If you ask me, YouWIN is not adequately tackling the issues and solving the problems. Launched in 2011 to promote entrepreneurship among Nigerian youths, it provides business training and financial grants to start ups with a minimum of 5 employees. Since inception, it has generated only 2400 direct jobs!

No doubt the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, has been doing a good job, including the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Minister of National Planning and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Okonjo-Iweala has highlighted some of the achievements of the administration. In the petroleum sector, the number of petrol importers has been reduced from 143 to 32, while indicted marketers in the probe of the petroleum subsidy sector have been forced to cough out billions of dollars. This the Minister said was meant to curb corruption in the petroleum sector.

The Minister also mentioned that efforts to reduce the country’s over dependence on crude oil has started yielding positive results. According to her, crude oil export now accounts for only 70 per cent of Nigeria’s exports while agricultural produce, manufactured goods, and so on now accounts for the balance.

Our economic growth figures would show that Nigeria’s economy has been waxing strong. Inflation rate dropped to 9.1 per cent from 12.4 per cent in May 2011, while the external reserves rose from $32.08 billion in May 2011 to $48.4 billion as at May, 2013. External Crude Account (ECA) also rose from about $4 billion in May 2011 to about $9 billion at the end of 2012 and presently $6 billion in May 2013.

The fall in oil production from the projected 2.53 million bpd to between 2.1 and 2.2 million bpd had obviously resulted in the reliance on the ECA. One wonders though why the government has allowed oil theft to rob the country of such a high amount of oil production in a peaceful Niger Delta.

The minister went on to explain that there has been an increase in exports from nine per cent in 2008 to 31 per cent in 2012. Significantly, oil export by May 2013 is put at 69 per cent of total exports compared to 91 per cent in 2008. Lastly, Nigeria was reported to have become the highest investment destination in Africa with over $7 billion foreign direct investment into the country in 2012.

As the Jonathan administration reels out its achiements in economic growth, the question Nigerians continue to ask is that if these figures are anything to go by, why have we not started experiencing any real impact on our poor human development index?

For instance, the National President of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, believes that the statistics reeled out by the various speakers on the state of the economy amounted to President Jonathan insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians. He thinks the policies of the administration have had no impact on the Nigerian people. That may be one extreme which may as well reflect the majority view in the north, including the opposition parties. The ACN has said afterall that Nigerians need no “marking scheme” to know that the administration had underperformed.

On the other extreme is the position of the Presidency itself describing as “reckless and irresponsible” the statements credited to opposition political parties on the mid-term report by President Jonathan on Democracy Day.

Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, said contrary to the stance of the opposition parties, “President Jonathan’s achievements are facts and verifiable. They are there for all to see, they are not rhetoric. Nigerians should be the ones to be talking and not the ACN and others that will never see anything good in this administration.”

I think the common factor with these mixed reactions is the widening gap between economic growth and economic development. The economic figures are not necessarily untrue. Indeed, the Nigerian economy is undisputably one of the fastest growing in the world, but the daunting challenge is how to translate these fine achievements in economic growth to real human and infrastructural development.

It is for its failure to appreciably transform the lives of the Nigerian people who continue to suffer from worsening poverty that the President Jonathan administration must accept first half defeat. Any political white-wash to the contrary would only be seen to be the signs of an imminent failure by the end of the second half in 2015. The Presidency should listen and learn from its mistakes, and demonstrate the political will and courage to achieve economic development. Corruption, high recurrent expenditure and lack of political integrity are some of the major causes of the dangerously widening gap that continue to threaten national security.

Thankfully, Okonjo Iweala also identified this fundamental challenge when she said that there were deliberate government policies to reduce recurrent expenditure and complete unfinished capital projects. She said: “Recurrent expenditure has dropped from 70.4 per cent of total budget in 2011 to 68.7 per cent in 2013.”

President Jonathan should also choose between saving this country or saving his 2015 presidential ambitions, and should realise that while the former can save the latter, the latter bereft of the former is his highway to self-destruuction in the nation’s political history books

Senator Ihenyen is a lawyer and an author. When he is not in court, he is researching the law. When he is not researching, he is writing. When he is not writing, he is working on the next big idea or managing a youth NGO. When he's not doing any of these? He's busy contributing on politics, policies and current affairs on The Scoop because it's the smart thing to do. Disclaimer: Senator is Senator's given name even though Facebook doesn't believe and so shortened the name to 'Sen' on that site. Unlike those who bear the name as a title, Senator has never accepted the millions of Naira which they receive as allowance - not like he's ever been offered though.

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