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Last Sunday’s Presidential chat, about fourth in the series, was probably President Goodluck Jonathan’s well conceived strategy to sketch out his pan-Nigerian view, react to some national questions, forge interaction with the nation, explain, defend crucial policies and standpoints of the government, reassure the electorate on the transformation course of the administration.
The format was markedly different from that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo which was a phone-in thing receiving calls on issues from people all over the country and the president responding.
Political analysts and critics believed that Goodluck Jonathan may have had foreknowledge of the issues to be raised and the questions packaged for him. But no one can be so emphatic about that.
However, the crux of the matter is that the country is riddled with so many socio-economic maladies, security challenges, seething with corruption and injustice appalling to the people who looked up to their president at the media chat to assuage and honestly, genuinely point the way to redemption. To a large extent, it was not exactly so.
Rather, the presidential media chat brought more questions than answers, leaving people more confused than before.
Eustace Folusho, an engineer with a construction firm, said the president was just beating about the bush.
“How can President Jonathan say that electricity supply has improved? As I was listening to the chat on TV, there was sudden blackout. PHCN took power. I had to look for a transistor radio to continue listening to the interview. It seemed that the government is only interested in the oil sector where cheap money comes from.”
He added: “Jonathan was even justifying the involvement of some past heads of state in the power sector insinuating that because they are former heads of state does not mean they should not earn a living. I was shocked. It is so sad that these ex-leaders are coming back to bid for their companies to own distribution and generating companies in the power sector.”
Folusho lamented that there had been no improvement in power supply since the exit of Prof Barth Nnaji.
“Electricity has multiplier effect on the economy and power supply has dropped drastically. We are now paying more for darkness. It is mere propaganda for Jonathan to say power has improved. This could be so in few places but we have darkness in most places.”
Deinde Oluyemi, an administrative executive with an Insurance firm in Lagos, decried the attitude of President Jonathan to corruption, making excuses for the Halliburton and Siemens bribe scandals in which no Nigerian has been found culpable so far.
“I think he lacks the political will to fight corruption. There are glaring incidents of high profile corruption involving top politicians, their children, friends, relatives and so on, but nothing has happened to them. Let’s hope justice will come soon for the corrupt leaders and government officials.”
Oluyemi noted that the president seemed dodging some questions and giving income inconclusive responses to many others.
“Look at the issue of monetisation. The president agreed that the idea of monetisation was theoritically good, but the problem was implementation. Yet there are cases of officials using government vehicles and still receiving vehicle allowances. Also those top people who bought their official houses at rock-bottom prices only to demand that new houses be built for them at high cost.
Again probe reports are never implemented, locked up inside government cupboards and left to gather dust. Those indicted by these reports are not brought to justice. For how long can we continue like this?”, he asked. “Yet the president was telling the nation that reports are being implemented only that people are not noticing the implementation.”
On the disparity between capital and recurrent expenditures in the national budget, Oluyemi believed that the ratio between capital and recurrent can be further bridged.
“A situation in which over 70% of the budget goes to recurrent expenditure while less than 25% for capital can not make for national development, I observed President Jonathan trying to explain how the recurrent is now going to 65% and capital above 35% and that any demand for increased salaries and allowances are met from the capital fund. And that the objective is to have a parity of 50/50, promising the country would get there.”
The insurance practitioner likened the chat to Tales by moonlight usually told to children by elders in a village setting.
“Our president is yet to get cracking and be more serious in finding solutions to national problems. He cannot just be telling story.”
On corruption, Oluyemi enjoined Nigerians to take with “pinch of salt,” president’s declaration that he is fighting the monster.
Jonathan had said: “I can assure Nigerians and the global community that this government is fighting corruption frontally,” pointing to free and fair election as a prerequisite for a fight against corruption as he cited Anambra, Edo and Ondo governatorial elections for examples.
Jonathan’s words: “We have dealt with political corruption, the corruption in fertiliser procurement and corruption in the oil industry. There has never been a time corruption in the oil industry has been attacked in all fronts. The effort this government has put in fighting corruption, I don’t think any other person has done that.”
There were some inconsiscies in Jonathan’s pronouncements on wealth creation and poverty reduction saying he did not promise to reduce poverty rather he wanted to create wealth. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) took him up on this describing this latest shift as “a clear political equivocation which is patently illiterate at best and self-indicting at worst.”
In a statement by ANPP publicity secretary, Emma Eneukwu, it added:
“Nigerians are now left to wonder who Mr. President had set out to empower all along. This is because for sure, creating wealth might actually be a metaphor for putting more money into the hands of his already rich party members and cronies, while leaving the poor of the nation in the hands of chance.”
On poor ranking of Nigerian Universities whereby University of Ibadan once ranked as fourth in the Commonwealth has now slipped to 34th in Africa, President Jonathan bemoaned the drastic drop, wondering how this came about and that efforts are being made to restore the lost glory of our universities. He said government was studying the report on the rot of the universities characterised by all types of corruption and abuses which would be looked into and remedies found. But a University of Lagos lecturer (prefers anonymity) blamed government neglect and inadequate funding of the University system for falling standard.
Roads also were among issues which the president promised to fix especially the Lagos-Ibadan expressway which has become slaughter slab, describing it as one of the busiest highways in the country.
A day after he expressed dismay over the unsatisfactory performance of the contractor concessionaire – the federal government revoked the contract bringing sigh of relief to people who used the road.
And when some one twitted that any president who can fix the Shagamu-Benin road will be the best president ever in Nigeria.
Jonathan was quick to contend that should the road be put right by him then he ‘ll be the best president. The bottom line is the fact that our road system across the country has virtually collapsed and we need a messiah to fix the roads and stop the carnage going on daily.
Anxieties of the people remained feverish as they are yet to be convinced that Jonathan can effectively deliver on his promises.
All may truly not be well between former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. No one says the things he said about GEJ at a recent public forum in Warri unless there is a war (cold or hot) between them.
He basically called Jonathan a "weak" leader. More than that, he called himself a "strong" president while he was in power. He justified it by recalling how he sent soldiers to level Odi in Bayelsa State when nineteen security troops were murdered by armed militants.
He also blamed Nigerians for electing GEJ, saying that without their votes Jonathan would not be in power. I want to look into these two issues because as a chronicler of Nigeria's current affairs (which become history as time goes on) I am familiar with them.
I am also very familiar with Obasanjo's place in Nigeria's history and his never-ending efforts to whitewash his records as a two-time leader of this country while putting others who have occupied that position in bad light.
The only leader of Nigeria (both serving and erstwhile) that Obasanjo speaks of in glowing terms is the late General Murtala Mohammed.
Mohammed probably earned that special place in Obasanjo's heart because his death made Obasanjo a head of state. Add Abdulsalami Abubakar. He released OBJ from prison, pardoned him, and made him an elected president.
GEJ is not the first leader Obasanjo is bad-mouthing while in office. In fact, Gen. Sani Abacha nearly sent him to a firing squad for his busy-body activities interpreted as "concealment" of coup plot in 1995.
We must not allow Obasanjo to twist our history. We know how GEJ emerged as president of Nigeria. He was imposed on the nation by Obasanjo. There was no way GEJ would have been president if Obasanjo had allowed Nigerians to choose. Jonathan would probably be serving out his second term in office as Governor of Bayelsa State.
Even that would have been a gift by Obasanjo who got Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha impeached "for corruption", though political pundits said the real reason was Alams' support for Obasanjo's Vice President, Atiku Abubakar with whom OBJ was locked in mortal political combat.
If Obasanjo had allowed Nigerians to pick, they would have had to choose between Dr. Peter Odili (who had emerged as the front contender for the People's Democratic Party (PDP) flag and All Nigerian People's Party's (ANPP) candidate, Gen. Buhari.
Obasanjo personally hand-picked terminally ailing Katsina Governor, Yar' Adua, and dovish Bayelsa Governor, GEJ. He brought them to Aso Villa and paraded them before television cameras as the presidential candidate and running mate of the PDP.
The do-or-die 'candidates'
Not only that, he announced to his party and the nation that the election of his successor was for him a do-or-die affair. He campaigned fanatically for Yar'Adua/Jonathan and got them elected.
A few months down the line he was on the streets denigrating Yar'Adua but he was not brazen about it as he is with GEJ. Yar' Adua had reversed some of the give-away privatisation exercises from which OBJ and his acolytes had sumptuously benefited.
When Yar'Adua's recovery became hopeless, OBJ started the whispering that GEJ should be empowered as full President. OBJ was one of the first to urge Jonathan to run for president as from June 2010. He was part of GEJ's campaigns until he was elected in April 2011.
Nigeria's presidency is one of the most powerful offices in the world in that it (rather than the people) decides who occupies the highest office in the land (and other high offices). It was that power that made the emergence of Obasanjo, Yar'Adua and GEJ possible.
It is that power that will make Jonathan president for a second term in 2015, unless a major shift of paradigm in the political behaviour of Nigerians takes place. For now, the Nigerian people only queue up to confirm what the presidency has already worked out.
OBJ's tongue in cheek
It is one of Obasanjo's classical hypocrisies to put the blame of GEJ's election on the Nigerian electorate. He knows he is not speaking the whole truth. That is Obasanjo the only saint in action.
But on the issue of President Jonathan mismanaging the Boko Haram uprising, I agree. Lack of decisive action allowed a rag-tag band of gunmen to balloon to a full-fledged terrorist organisation able to assemble explosives and carry out suicide bombings. Obasanjo and Yar' Adua as presidents gave people reasons to fear them. Even on his sick bed, Yar' Adua's aura hung over Abuja and the nation, same as the dead body of Josef Stalin hung over the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for months before it was officially announced. Obasanjo and Yar'Adua made power look truly powerful. Yar'Adua made northern hotheads, such as Nasir el Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu to stay away from Nigeria out of fear.
But as soon as he died they came back. El Rufai took up a newspaper column and every week calls GEJ a weak and incompetent leader. Ribadu drifted to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and ran for president against GEJ. He was brought in to audit the oil industry and somehow he ended up messing up the president with a leakage of his committee's report. It is not just Jonathan's foes that have portrayed him as "weak". He himself has made it clear that he was no "Pharaoh" or "general".
This perception of him as leader who cannot hurt a fly emboldened disgruntled power brokers from the north to offer support to terrorists and enabled them to grow.
Today, we hear of "dialogue" between the Federal government and terrorists. We also hear some of them "unjustly" handled will be financially compensated!
We hear so many things that under Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, OBJ and Yar'Adua were simply unthinkable. I wonder how GEJ feels when people say these things about him.
Beloved countrymen and women, on this day, fifty-two years ago, our founding fathers brought joy and hope to the hearts of our people when they won independence for our great country. Nigeria made a clean break with more than six decades of colonial rule, and emerged as a truly independent nation. That turning point was a new beginning for our nation.
Those who witnessed the lowering of the Union Jack and the emergence of the Green White Green flag continue to relish the memory, because that ceremony was not just about the destiny of a nation, but the future of a people.
That future is here; we are the inheritors of a great legacy that goes even much farther into the past.
The worthy patriots who made this possible were young men and women in their twenties and thirties. They worked together to restore dignity and honour to the Nigerian people. Their resolve united a multicultural and multilingual nation of diverse peoples, with more than 250 distinct languages and ethnic groups.
In 1960, our diversity became a source of strength, and the new leaders resolved to carry the flag of independence for the benefit of future generations. They had their differences, but they placed a greater premium on the need to come together to build a new nation.
It is that resolve, and that glorious moment that we celebrate today. We also celebrate the patriotism of our heroes past: Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Michael Okpara, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Herbert Macaulay, and several others who made the case for our independence.
We remember as always, their contributions to the making of the Nigerian nation, and the efforts of their successors since 1960. We also celebrate the unfailing optimism and resilience of Nigerians who remain proud of our national identity.
On this special day, I call on every Nigerian to remain steadfast, because our nation is indeed making progress. I call on every Nigerian to rediscover that special spirit that enables us to triumph over every adversity as a people:
We weathered the storm of the civil war, we have refused to be broken by sectarian crises; we have remained a strong nation. I bring to you today, a message of renewed hope and faith in the immense possibilities that lie ahead.
Fellow citizens, I have an unshaken belief in the future of our great Country. I consider it a priority and sacred duty to continue to strengthen the bond of unity that holds our nation together and to promote and nourish the creative energies of our people. This is a central objective of our administration’s Transformation Agenda. Nigeria, I assure you, will continue to grow from strength to strength.
Since I assumed office as President of our dear country on the 6th of May 2010, I have continued to work with our countrymen and women to enhance our nation’s growth and development.
Our vision is encapsulated in the Transformation Agenda. We are working hard and making progress on many fronts. We have cleaned up our electoral process; our elections are now globally acclaimed to be free and fair. Nigeria is now on a higher pedestal regarding elections.
Over the past five years, the global economy has been going through a weak and uncertain recovery. During the same period and particularly in the last two years, the Nigerian economy has done appreciably well despite the global financial crisis. Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 7.1 per cent on average.
It is also significant that the GDP growth has been driven largely by the non-oil sector. In pursuance of the main goals of the Transformation Agenda, a number of reforms and initiatives are being pursued in key sectors of the economy with a view to consolidating the gains of the economic growth.
Our country’s power supply situation is improving gradually. We are successfully implementing a well-integrated power sector reform programme which includes institutional arrangements to facilitate and strengthen private-sector-led power generation, transmission and distribution.
We have also put in place a cost-reflective tariff structure that reduces the cost of power for a majority of electricity consumers. I am pleased with the feedback from across the country, of improvements in power supply.
We are continuing to improve and stabilize on our crude production volumes; our 12-month gas supply emergency plan, put in place earlier this year, has produced more than the targeted volumes of gas for power generation. A robust Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has been placed before the National Assembly. Its passage into law will ensure far-reaching reforms, transparency, accountability, increased government revenue and predictability for investors in the Oil and Gas sector.
Several government programmes and projects are creating wealth and millions of job opportunities for our youth and general population. Such programmes include: You-Win, both for the youth and for the women, Public Works, the Local Content Initiative in the Oil and Gas Sector, and the Agricultural Transformation programme.
We have improved on our investment environment; more corporate bodies are investing in the Nigerian economy. Our Investment Climate Reform Programme has helped to attract over N6.8 trillion local and foreign direct investment commitments.
Nigeria has become the preferred destination for investment in Africa. It is ranked first in the top 5 host economies for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa, accounting for over 20 per cent of total FDI flows into the continent. We have streamlined bureaucratic activities at the ports to ensure greater efficiency in the handling of ports and port-related businesses. Specifically, we have drastically reduced the goods clearing period in our ports from about six weeks to about one week and under. We have an ultimate target of 48 hours.
We have put in place, a new visa policy that makes it easier for legitimate investors to receive long stay visas. We have achieved a 24-hour timeline for registration of new businesses, leading to the registration of close to 7, 000 companies within the second quarter of 2012.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has disclosed that, as at July 2012, 249 new members across the country had joined the Association, and that capacity utilization has also improved. The multiplier effect of this development on our job creation programme cannot be over-emphasized.
In the last two years, we have put in place structures for an upgrade of the country’s health sector, to promote in every respect, the individual citizen’s right to quality, affordable and accessible healthcare.
In this regard, we are devoting resources under the Subsidy Reinvestment Program (SURE-P) to reducing malaria incidents, dramatically reducing maternal and child mortality, and eradicating polio.
Fellow Nigerians, in recent times, we have witnessed serious security challenges in parts of our country. We have taken pro-active measures to check the menace. This has included constant consultation and collaboration with our neighbours and other friendly nations on issues relating to internal and cross border security, and the sharing of information on smuggling and illegal dealing in small arms and light weapons.
Our security agencies are constantly being strengthened and repositioned for greater efficiency. Many Nigerians have acknowledged that there has been a significant decline in the spate of security breaches.
While expressing our condolences to the affected families, let me reiterate the commitment of this Administration to ensure the safety of lives and property of all Nigerians.
Even as we remain focused on the issue of security, the fight against the scourge of corruption is a top priority of our Administration. We are fighting corruption in all facets of our economy, and we are succeeding. We have put an end to several decades of endemic corruption associated with fertilizer and tractor procurement and distribution. We have exposed decades of scam in the management of pensions and fuel subsidy, and ensured that the culprits are being brought to book.
In its latest report, Transparency International (TI) noted that Nigeria is the second most improved country in the effort to curb corruption.
We will sustain the effort in this direction with an even stronger determination to strengthen the institutions that are statutorily entrusted with the task of ending this scourge.
I have given my commitment of non-interference in the work of the relevant agencies and I am keeping my word. What we require is the full cooperation of all tiers of government, and the public, especially civil society and the media.
This Administration has also introduced for the first time in Nigeria’s history, a Performance Contract System for all Ministers, and other officials of government. This is to further place emphasis on performance, efficiency, and service delivery.
Fellow Nigerians, our determined efforts on several fronts not-withstanding, our country still faces a number of challenges.
Those challenges should not deter us. In the last few weeks, for example, many of our communities have been ravaged by floods, resulting in the loss of lives and property, and the displacement of persons.
I want to reassure all affected Nigerians that I share in their grief, and our Administration is taking steps to address these incidents, in collaboration with the States and Local Governments.
I have received the interim Report of the Presidential team that I set up to assess the flooding situation across the country.
The Federal Government has taken measures to assist the affected States, while considering long term measures to check future reoccurrence.
We must continue to work together, confidently and faithfully, to ensure that our country’s potentials are realised to the fullest; that our dreams are translated into reality; and that our goals are achieved.
Let me reiterate that our administration is committed to the pursuit of fundamental objectives of an open society: the pursuit of freedom, security and prosperity for the Nigerian people, and the rule of law.
In the next few days, I shall lay before the National Assembly the 2013 Federal Budget Proposal so that deliberations can commence in earnest on the key policies, programmes and projects that will mark a decisive year for our development and transformation.
I have no doubt that by the time I address you on our next independence anniversary, many of our reform efforts would have yielded even better results.
Over the years, several leaders have built on the foundation laid by our Founding Fathers. The baton is now in our hands. Let me assure all Nigerians that we shall not fail.
I am confident that Nigeria will continue to be a source of pride to its citizens; to Africa and the Black Race and to humanity; a land that is known for progress, freedom, peace and the promotion of human dignity.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. May God bless you all.
United Nations, Sept. 20, 2012 (NAN) President Goodluck Jonathan has been listed among first 38 Heads of State that will speak at the general debate of the UN General Assembly commencing on Sept. 25.
In a provisional list of speakers for the General Assembly 67th session obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York on Wednesday, the president would address the session in the afternoon.
According to the list, Jonathan is on number 16 out of 23 speakers.
The heads of states to speak along with the president were those from Rwanda, Switzerland, Argentina, Senegal, Finland, South Africa Panama, Jordan, Hungary and Pakistan.
Others are: El Salvador, Turkey, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Slovakia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Czech Republic and Afghanistan, Uganda’s Vice President, and Spain Head of Government.
Also 15 countries, which their heads of state had been listed in the morning session of the same day , were Brazil, United States, Serbia, Morocco, Benin, Cyprus, Qatar, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Georgia, Dominican Republic, France, Lithuania, Honduras and Namibia.
On Tuesday, the General Assembly opened the session with an urgent call for cooperation to tackle the economic and political uncertainties being experienced in many parts of the world.
The new President of the 193-member body, Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, had said that ``Peace and security is a prerequisite for the stability needed for global economic growth, sustainable development and social progress.” (NAN)
They” in this piece refers to all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan.
This army of sponsored and self-appointed anarchists is so diverse; many of them don’t even know why or how they should attack the President.
The clear danger to public affairs commentary is that we have a lot of unintelligent people repeating stupid clichés and too many intelligent persons wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions. Hold on. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not saying nobody should criticize the Nigerian President. I spent some time learning that legal maxim: “volenti non fit injuria”. Public position comes with its own share of risks and exposure. But the twittering, pinging, Facebook crowd of the new age must be guided by facts.
Hold your stone. Don’t haul it yet. Shhh. Wait, Mr. Alaseju! I have spent the last fourteen months working with President Jonathan. I have followed him everywhere. I can write a whole book on his Presidency so far, but you won’t get to read that until much later. I have heard that some people are protesting that they will not buy the book if it gets written. Well, your choice. What I can report, for now is, that he is a grossly misunderstood President. Too many people are unfair to him. They criticize him out of ignorance. They abuse him out of mischief. And the opposition doesn’t make things easy at all. Can we look at a number of issues?
You say he is a clueless President. You are wrong. He is not clueless. Nobody is more committed to the Nigerian Project than President Jonathan. In spite of unforeseen challenges which his administration has had to contend with, President Jonathan is doing his utmost best to positively transform Nigeria. Ordinary Nigerians know and appreciate this. Those parading themselves as leaders of the opposition who claim that the President has lost the support of Nigerians represent only themselves and their selfish interests.
President Jonathan is a clever, methodical and intelligent man, who is very adept at wrong footing all the persons who make an effort to second-guess or under-estimate him. He understands the complexity of Nigeria. He is acutely conscious of the historicity of his emergence as Nigeria’s No. 1. He knows that he is here as the leader of all Nigerians. He knows that he is a representative of all common persons, particularly the children of all blue collar workers who never wore shoes or got a chance to eat three-square meals, and whose mothers and aunties could never be part of policy-making processes.
When he spoke about not wearing shoes as a child, he meant that as a metaphor for the disparities in the Nigerian system, and the urgent need to redress inequalities. But I have heard some persons responding literally that Nigerians should never vote for a man who never wore shoes. How simplistic. Attention needs to be drawn to the fact that a rooted, people-sourced President who seeks to transform Nigeria, and who campaigns on a platform of transformation, will necessarily be opposed by those who consider themselves the children of Empire builders, those who think that their ancestors built Nigeria. Wrong.
The Ijaws, the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria, have as much right to have their son as President as every other Nigerian group. But Jonathan doesn’t even dwell on this. I have never heard him utter an ethnic statement. He sees himself as the President of all Nigerians. He is at home with every group. He is focused on the challenges of nation-building. He wants to transform Nigeria. He wants to unite the country. He is determined to promote the country. And he is doing so already. He knows Nigerians want regular power supply. He is working at it. That is why we have crossed 4, 400 MW.
He knows Nigerians want infrastructure. That is why he is telling Bi-Courtney to fix Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or get out. That is why he is telling a particular Minister to fix the East-West road and get it fixed quickly. That is why he has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds. That is why he is strengthening Nigeria’s foreign relations. That is why he is transforming the agriculture sector, from a contract-awarding, fertilizer distribution enterprise into big business. And more… The reason President Jonathan does not go into a song and dance routine is because he knows that true rebranding of a nation is a projection of positive things that are already happening.
They say he is “tribalistic”. Not true. How many Ijaws are in President Jonathan’s inner circle? Very few, I can tell you. There are of course, all kinds of persons who go about telling people that they have the President’s ears and eyes. They would even tell you that they think for the President! I used to have nightmares whenever I heard that, but it no longer bothers me. I have since learnt that some Nigerians consider it fashionable to wear false garments.
The Presidency qua Presidency is staffed by key officials from all parts of the country. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation is from Ebonyi State. The Chief of Staff and the Head of the President’s Secretariat are both from Edo, the Protocol Liaison Officer and Principal Private Secretary are from Adamawa, the Chief Detail is from Borno, the Aide De Camp (ADC) is from Kogi, the Perm Sec, State House is from Benue, the State Chief of Protocol is from Kwara, the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity is from Ogun, the Chief Physician to the President is from Rivers. Only the Chief Security Officer, the Special Assistant, Domestic and the Special Adviser, Research and Strategy are from Bayelsa.
When he is in the office, and he gets there early every day, and works till very late, he is exposed to all categories of Nigerians. He runs a modern and open Presidency. He is on Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS, BB, and he reads. And he writes. This is not a provincial President. The intelligentsia, his immediate community, should support him to do his work.
President Jonathan was the first Nigerian leader to appoint a woman as his Chief Economic Adviser as well as the Nigerian leader who opened up the Nigerian Defence Academy to women. And he took affirmative action in political appointments to a higher level by reserving 35% of all appointive positions in government for our women folk.
The facts in this regard are incontrovertible. Under President Jonathan, women occupy very strategic positions (Petroleum Resources, Education, Co-ordinating Minister/Minister of Finance, Water Resources, Minister of State, FCT, Minister of State, Defence, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs 1, Minister of State, Niger Delta) and the headship of many of the MDAs. The President’s commitment to Nigeria is total. All his children school in Nigeria. Even his dress code promotes Nigeria.
They say Mr. President drinks. My friend and colleague, Etim Etim, called the other day to say that whatever may be the challenges on this job, he could affirm that I am at least enjoying. “What with all the choice drinks on every trip,” he said. I told him, “No, we don’t drink.” He protested. He thought I was lying. He had heard that kain-kain is a staple fare on presidential flights. I told him No. We are not allowed to touch alcohol. Alcohol is not served during official duties. Yes, when there is an international function, wine is served, but nobody gets drunk around here. That will amount to an act of indiscipline. The President himself does not allow alcohol to be served at his table. But when you go to social media they tell you something else. Lies. Lies. Lies.
I have even heard that the President spends billions on feeding. Well, I have enjoyed the privilege of eating at the President’s table. What does he eat? Fish pepper soup. Cassava Bread. Slices of yam. Rice. Boiled plantain. Fruits and vegetables. He fasts when he chooses, and fasts all month during Ramadan and Lent. And because he takes his exercises and keep fit regime seriously, he eats very little. Okay, he drinks coffee. And yet there are people out there who keep claiming that there is a feast in the Villa every day. They say at every meal, the table is decorated with roasted turkey, and every delicacy under the sun. Lies. Lies. This President is not a glutton. We have a disciplined, hardworking president who enjoys his privacy, and the company of intelligent people.
Here is a man who is an epitome of loyalty and simplicity. The thing about the President’s critics is that they just cannot accept that someone with his simplicity can be their President. This is the Saul Complex. Saul could not accept the fact that somebody as simple as David could be favoured by God. And just like Saul threw the spear at David out of uncontrollable jealousy, these critics are out to throw any kind of spear to see which hits the target, hence all their lies about the President.
Let me end by saying that the President is a simple man but simplicity is not naivety. If simplicity were to be naivety then the world would not be where it is today because it is simple men like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Kwame Nkrumah, who have shaped the world that we live in by simplifying what others have complicated.
Reuben Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Jonathan
Nigeria's President Jonathan signed a Performance Contract Agreement with his cabinet yesterday at Abuja. He made it know that his intention is to improve and measure performance and not to witch-hunt anybody. Affterwards he spoke on the contract agreement and role of media.
Words of President Jonathan:
"I read all kinds of things in the media that the President wants to assess the ministers, so that he would know who should go and who would stay. That is not the purpose of this.
We would have done it probably the first week when we came on board but the key thing is that we have given ourselves points that we think we will get at. We believe that if we get at those points or even if we achieve 70 per cent of that, at least it will be better off for our own country. I am quite pleased that all the Ministers have completed the forms.
I want to assure every one of you who has taken part in the exercise that this is not meant to witch-hunt anybody.
It is to remind all of us, from President to Directors General, to Advisers and other aides, that we are representatives of the Nigerian people, and we are accountable to them at all times.
I had stated clearly during the inauguration of the Federal Executive Council that Ministers are expected to be accountable, productive, transparent and focused.
“Before, the media used to be the voice of the ordinary people but now, the media is the voice of those who own the media houses and those who own the media houses have private jets and those who own private jets are not ordinary people."
On the Media and Government Ministries:
“So the media is now the voice of the powerful people. So, we have to have a way of assessing ourselves.”
‘The Minister must know everything happening in the ministry, just like the Permanent Secretary, will know everything happening in the ministry.
‘If Minister A does not now what Minister B is doing and Minister B does not know what Minister Ais doing, but the PermanentSecretary knows everything that all of you are doing, the Permanent Secretary becomes a boss of the two ministers and the Permanent Secretary can use your heads to hit yourselves and just laugh at you.
‘I expect that if the main minister travels and I need information, I should call the Minister of State and that Minister of State must give the information about that ministry.
“If the Minister of State cannot give the information about that ministry, then something is fundamentally wrong either from two of them or from one of them.
“If the minister of state travels in a ministry where we have clear responsibilities, I called the main minister, to give me information, I expect the minister to give me information on that ministry."
Since the former chief security adviser General Owoye Azazi told Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan had stopped him from inviting General Muhammadu Buhari for interrogation on some security issues in an apparent move to show that he did not fail from his responsibilities because of Boko Haram, the question on the lips of so many Nigerians has been; is President Goodluck Jonathan a weak president?
Basically, President Goodluck Jonathan is not a weak president but rather our operational structures that are based on lies and deceits by the colonial masters and sustained by the military juntas are damn too feeble. What is weak are the Nigerian constitution and the political structures. They promote corruption, ethnic and religious war, gender segregation and abuse of privileged positions. The military that does not know what democracy is all about and that understands only commanding words (come, go and stop) gave us a constitution. Can you give what you do not have? Look at the contaminated political structures they gave us that have made it almost practicably impossible for many Nigerian politicians to be in a political party based on ideologies and not on business interest of what goes into their pockets to the detriments of the masses which has dangerously made them to jump from their parties to any ruling party.
Even though I am of the opinion that we should try our female counterparts since male politicians have nothing really tangible to show for their leadership position since 1960 except epidemic corruption, however, no matter the tribe or the gender of the president of Nigeria in today’s structure, we will continue to produce presidents that will be tagged “weak president”, “dull president”, “corrupt president” and so on and so forth because the structures we have are not right. Consequently, Nigerian leaders must consider the sensitivity of the people based on their religion or ethnic background to avoid uproar. And on the process of trying to avoid these bumpy structures, they sometimes slump. That could perhaps be the best way to describe the stand of President Goodluck Jonathan against the invitation of General Mohammed Buhari by General Owoye Azazi for interrogation.
Remember, when the former president, General Olusegun Obasanjo was taken from prison and made president in 1999, Nigerians celebrated thinking that their messiah had come because of the nature of his emergence but not up to one year of his administration Nigerians started to rain abuses on him as a failure. Obasanjo, underrating our bad political structures and the force of the cabals against steady power supply in Nigeria had sincerely made the promise of giving us steady power supply within six months if elected as president of Nigeria in 1999. He did not only get the opportunity he had asked for but he got it twice, but the Nigerian structured to fail structures consumed him as his 8 years administration between 1999 and 2007 did not give us steady power supply as the same old national anthem of ‘up NEPA’ and ‘oooooh’ that people shout when the light comes and goes still reigns the air in Nigeria even as you read this now. Nigerians tagged him a hard and a brutal president who used his power arbitrarily.
When President Goodluck Jonathan was elected in 2011 people said that a well read man was elected in Nigeria for the first time, they hailed him and jubilated like the way they had always welcomed every military coup during the military era. But barely four months into his administration, they again changed the music to ‘oh, we made a mistake to have voted him’ as if four months were enough to judge meaningfully. But sadly, President Goodluck Jonathan and his leadership style in security issues have not changed even after one year, thus trying to confirm the fears expressed by Nigerians during the first four months of his administration. Some people threatened before the 2011 general election that if they don't become president that Nigeria will be ungovernable. Nigerians have tagged him a weak president. The story was not different during the time of late Musa Yaradua as Nigerians tagged him a slow leader and a sick president as if we all do not get sick. Haba Nigerians! Then, something must be wrong somewhere that we are yet to identify or are too scared to confront. And as long as we are not ready to remove these cobwebs we all know, no matter the level of someone’s integrity one will get consumed in these Nigerian bumpy and pothole set-ups. But what is the root of these cobwebs?
The root of all the problems is insincerity from the colonial masters to the indigenous leaders. Nigeria has got multiple and complex problems that I acknowledge in totality, but if we are honest enough, we would not be where we are today. Fundamentally, the first sincere route to an everlasting solution is to conquer the fears of bondage in us that we may break up, that we may lose our positions or that we may get killed if we speak the truth that it is imperative that we must sit on a round table and talk, and that is, the Sovereign National Conference (SNC). It should be a place where we should frankly and critically scrutinize our existence with the aim of correctively reflecting on issues in order to take care of the future where we all could happily live together with mutual respect to each other’s fate and be appreciative of our cultural diversities.
The opinionated fear that Nigeria will disintegrate one day is one the fundamental forces why we have massive corruption and looting. With this mentality, most people privileged in some positions go into alliance with the political looters for protection against prosecution in other to steal from what they have called “national cake” before Nigeria breaks up. Until this fear is gone there will never be real patriotic services from this group. Until we all stand up and demand what is right, no matter who is the president of Nigeria under this structure, there will always be corruption to impunity, bloodshed, sorrow and hatred. Our development will continue to be as slow as a snail movement because that robust or radical development we all are yearning for will continue to elude us.
And my fear under this structure is that, any president produced in Nigeria now is in bondage because if such a president attempts to make a drastic change against the wishes of the vampires in the name of king makers, is most likely to get an impeachment threat that would mean to make a u-turn. And if such a president insisted in doing the right thing, that president would be impeached by the assemblies with reasons that would throw you and me jubilating on the streets without understanding the ethnic and parochial self-interests of Abuja politicians that ignited such impeachment.
Anambra State, one of the most complicated and difficult states to govern in Nigeria until Dr. Chris Ngige’s drama that led to his being kidnapped as a seating governor in 2003 should perhaps be a good case study of a failed structure or a polluted system. If Dr. Chris Ngige had not been willed to puncture this structure, Anambra State would have still been under the influence of these so-called godfathers. And as commercial politicians, as long as their political sons and daughters pay the public money into their private accounts to take care of their immediate families, buy expensive cars and deceive people with big chieftaincy titles, the pains we are going through do not really matter. This is the structure we have in Nigeria from the local government councils to the state/national assemblies, governors to the president. Please, even when our political leaders want to be fair, the bitter truth is that they are trapped in this structure. Nigerian masses should in unison stand up and dismantle this parasite called structure or else they should all be silent and be slaughtered like cows.
We often continue to use the US to give examples when it suits us but we will turn more than 100 degrees like a mouse that has seen a cat not to use the same US as our yard stick when we want to commit evil. We seem to have forgotten that the US sat and mapped out their policy and strategy based on their culture, mentality and atmosphere that made it possible for one family like the Bush family to govern America for 16 years in regards to the wish of the people through fair and credible elections. Is this possible in Nigeria under our current structure? The answer is emphatically no, because the first thing that comes to the minds of every Nigerian is to know where a candidate is coming from or his/her religion and not the integrity and the capabilities of such a candidate before his/her bribe can be accepted to vote him/her because the structures have been corruptly narrowed to clan, ethnicity and religion.
The problem of Nigeria is structural, and the beneficiaries are only those few privileged individuals who have turned themselves into political Goliaths and as such untouchables. If the structure is left the way it is presently, Nigeria may fight another war. But may God forbid, at least because of our pregnant mothers and innocent children! But, what if God refuses to forbid? We know that injustice has been done to Nigeria since 1914 but yet we have not sincerely done enough to address the issue? Yes, God can decide not to forbid because you dare not tempt Him. MOSSOB, OPC, Boko Haram and the declarations of autonomy and independence by Ogoni and Bakassi indigenes whether right or wrong are all signs of a failed structure.
The fundamental truth about Nigeria is that, President Goodluck Jonathan is not the problem of Nigeria but the structure of the colonial masters, corruptly sustained by indigenous politicians and heavily advanced against the middle class citizens of Nigeria with impunity. A structure that undermines democratic norms and ethics by recognizing a federal character in some powerful positions as practiced in Nigeria and not based on people’s choice of who is capable in such positions is anti people and a failed structure. A structure that allows a national census to be taken without inscribing the state of origin of a person or his/her religion is a fraud and a failed structure. A structure that zones the presidency on ethnic line and not on the best candidate based on people’s choice is anti people and a failed structure. A structure that makes a thieving politician immune from prosecution promotes corruption, arbitrary use of power, jungle justice, torture and murder, it is anti people and a failed structure. A structure that recognizes over 50 political parties and is still open to register more parties but has made one of the parties so powerful against others, is faulty and a failed structure. A structure that condemned military in governance but operates with a constitution written by the same few condemned military men is a failed structure and unacceptable. A structure that rejected the national anthem, “Nigeria we hail thee”, given to it by the colonial masters but that still maintained the meaningless and opprobrious name “Nigeria” given to it by the same colonial masters is a disgrace, a shame and a failed structure. If you like bring many Bill Clintons and Obamas to head Nigeria from Aso Rock without first dismantling these anti people structures, they will all equally be consumed.
Even though President Goodluck Jonathan is right now at the helm of affairs in Nigeria and one of the beneficiaries of these failed structures but sincerely speaking he is not the main problem of Nigeria. Let us go back to the root of our problems and stop postponing the pains of ordinary Nigerians because of a few beneficiaries of these structures who are just too scared to face the reality that the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) is inevitable.
Nigeria is boiling and if we continue to pretend that all is well like the way it is now, I am afraid to say that Nigeria may very soon say "To your tents O Israel", in peace or pieces.
Uzoma Ahamefule, a concerned patriotic citizen writes from Vienna, Austria
Phone: +436604659620 (sms only)
But I wish to dedicate this write up to what the common Nigerians say about him, because there can hardly be a highly placed Nigerian who has a sincere assessment of the President. Those who are close to him give him ninety-nine or a one hundred percent performance which is A+ in any examination. Those who are far from his government score him otherwise due to their feelings that they are not part of the ruling class, or that their expectations from the government are not met.
So after following events from one year ago, I have come across hundreds of Nigerians who have diverse and similar opinions on the government of the day. This article samples, thereupon, the sincere expressions of dozens of the common Nigerians most of who are not political in the viewpoints.
Nay, for a common man who may not have seen the President physically except probably on the screens of television or through the wave of the radio, any assessment would be from a sincere mind because he feels the government in his house, on the streets, in the markets, in the schools, in the offices and in their entire non-political lives. Not hoping to satisfy anybody but the Nigerian patriots, most of Nigerians are happy that the government has effectively, though with difficulties and challenges, preserved the democracy, unity and indivisibility of Nigeria. This is the greatest joy any patriot has to celebrate.
My own boundless joy sprout from what President Jonathan averred on the last democracy day. He said, “We have remained a stable democracy. We have together demonstrated that the government of the people is an ideal that the people of Nigeria cherish. We have our differences as individuals and as politicians, but we have shown great faith in democracy and its institutions. We have refused to be limited by our differences. Despite reservations about some of our institutions, we have refused to submit to despair. This achievement is a testament to the courage and optimism of the Nigerian people”.
He continued, “When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur. Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people’s resolve was firm and unshakeable”.
There are challenges all over the sectors of the economy. The educational system, power generation, road construction and maintenance, healthcare delivery, transportation diversification, agriculture, arts and culture, as well as governance itself are seeking attention. But four from five things that have, even if gradually, been tackled by the Jonathan administration are:
Religion: Owing to the fact that some religious activities in Nigeria have been to an extent intertwined with criminal beliefs, political thuggery and economic penchant, it has become difficult to decipher between genuineness and quackery in religious bearings. In such difficult and complex situation, the government has fearlessly remained absolute in fostering understanding between the religious yearnings of Nigerians. Some faithless religious adherents had thought that the coming on board of President Jonathan would polarize religious affinity in the country, to the extent that many even thought that he would be a Niger Delta President. Today, it is on record that the Niger Delta people seem to be disappointed by that thought. And this has led some of the youths to revert to the former hostilities they engaged the previous governments in. The constitutional provision that every Nigerian citizen is entitled to his or her religion has been doggedly upheld and maintained.
Corruption: That those in authority are seen as the cause of every bad thing that happens in the country because of the heavy corruption, mismanagement of the public money and impoverishment of the people is not novel in the critical assessment of Nigerian governance and social responsibilities. These have been the primary causes of all the social evils pervading our nation. Poverty strikes harder, corruption eats up our fabrics and misappropriation of public funds is quotidian.
For all the years before 2011, the oil industry was under siege. The so-called cabal or mafias controlled the main stay of the country’s economy. Oil, and by extension gas, runs our economy. Before 2011, no government had had the courage to look into the eyes of these ‘untouchable’ oil barons. We know that the prices of oil control the prices of local commodities and foreign imports. Majority of the people are not finding life easy. Yet, some states have not implemented the minimum wage of N18,000, (about 114 US dollars per month).
However, a theoretical analysis of the multi-faceted problems facing the nation tends to show that the incompetence and corruption that pervades our society today are extensively responsible for the rise in the level of civil disturbances. But the government of today in its efforts to curb the excesses of these business people has started somewhere. The President has also ordered a cut in the squander mania tendencies of public officers. Though gradually, it is a step forward in the fight against corruption. And many citizens believe the sincerity of this move.
Boko Haram: This is a challenge that has belittled the federal government’s efforts in repositioning the country. President Jonathan himself admitted sometime ago that this challenge is also from within the government circles, probably interpreted that the Boko Haram has links with state and federal, the security services, the legislature and judiciary apparatuses. Much has been said, and should have been known of this group. But as a respondent concluded, sponsors of such inhuman endeavours must be rich and cannot be doing so on money earned from their human sweat.
The untold truth is that this kind of civil disturbances had challenged past civilian governments. Some of the past leaders employed different approaches to quench it. Some even applied military approach. But this government has kept faith in the democratic procedures and employed force to the barest.
Price control: Reference to my article titled, Can the FG control prices?, I recalled my experiences in price control in Egypt, and now Saudi Arabia and England. The first time I visited Saudi Arabia was in 1993 i.e. about 20 years ago. I was there just last year and surprisingly, the things I bought for instance for 10 Saudi Riyals have remained so or have rather come down in prices. The price of a litre of fuel was as less as N19 and it has remained so for over 20 years.
In Egypt whose economy is not as much stronger than Nigeria’s, I recalled, government control prices of local commodities and Egyptians are trained from cradle to love their country and make no comparison to it especially with African countries. That is why every Egyptian child or any average Egyptian is made to believe that Egypt is the best country in Africa. They sincerely believe that Egypt is the mother of civilization, not even referring to the land as the origin of civilization. An Egyptian prefers made-in-Egypt products over any other. The federal government, therefore, should do more in this regard.
This systematic upbringing of an Egyptian child and to a large extent many children of developing countries is a long term plan that is continually inculcated through schools and local dramas. And in such countries, their orientation agencies are as strong as their governments because the agencies are regarded as the fulcrum for the training of the society and their future leaders.
National orientation: In Nigeria, due to the somewhat visionless plans or instability or underfunding of the National Orientation Agency, this government organ is incapacitated to carry out its constitutional functions. I often wonder, as many Nigerians do too, if this agency is functional at all. This is because many efforts aimed at assisting practically the best upbringing of the Nigerian child meet the wall at the agency.
Either due to the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the nation’s civil service system, or corruption that is pervading all nooks and crannies of the society or mere negligence, the NOA needs to be made functional especially now that the leadership has been reinforced with a new director-general, Mr. Mike Omeri. NOA should swoop into action and work with Nigerians who have genuine plans that can assist in changing the image of our beloved motherland.
The NOA has the responsibility to target the Nigerian child in its orientation programmes. And I suggest that with a long term planning, the agency should move for a legislation that will empower it to establish its units in every public and private schools across the country. There should be no reason why a Nigerian child should begin to develop hatred for its motherland, antagonism for its fellow citizens and unnecessary skepticism and even uncertainty for its future.
This also refers us to the need to enhance the proper utilization of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. It has been discovered that a large chunk of the participants in this programme lobby even by bribing their ways through their school authorities and the NYSC for juicy posting i.e. places where they are not effectively utilized for the nation building but collect fat allowances. Others do lobby to be posted within their states or neighborhoods. I think it is against the primary aims and objectives of setting up the programme. And the new NYSC boss, Brig. Gen. Nnamdi Okorie-Affia should take note.
Mr. President should be commended and encouraged, even while we demand for more selfless sacrifices from him for the mandate we all gave him. As he seeks loftiness in governance, let this second year of his tenure be better, so that Nigerian patriots would continue to stand by him.
1. One year ago, I was privileged to stand before you, to take the oath of office as President of our dear country, the third to serve you as President since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Today, I remember that day and the processes leading to it with profound gratitude to God Almighty and to all Nigerians who have worked very hard to enrich our journey from military dictatorship to inclusive democratic governance.
2. For the past 13 years, we have remained a stable democracy. We have together demonstrated that the government of the people is an ideal that the people of Nigeria cherish. We have our differences as individuals and as politicians, bu twe have shown great faith in democracy and its institutions. We have refused to be limited by our differences. Despite reservations about some of our institutions, we have refused to submit to despair. This achievement is a testament to the courage and optimism of the Nigerian people.
3. As we celebrate this year’s Democracy Day, I pay tribute to all the men and women who have made our democratic experience meaningful: the ordinary people who resisted militar yrule, and have remained resolute in their embrace of democracy; the army of Nigerian voters who, at every election season, troop out in large numbers to exercise their right of franchise; the change agents in civil society who have remained ever watchful and vigilant.
4. I pay special tribute also to all patriots who are the pillars of our collective journey,most especially, our armed forces who have steadfastly subordinated themselvesto civil authority in the past 13 years. They have continued to demonstrate a great sense of professionalism. They have discharged their duties to the nation with honour and valour. In a sub-region that has witnessed instances of political instability, authored by restless soldiers, the Nigerian Armed Forces have remained professional in their support of democracy.
5. When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to PresidentOlusegun Obasanjo, in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur. Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people’s resolve was firm and unshakeable. This is what we remember. This is what we celebrate. On this day, I recall especially the martyrdom of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, whose presumed victory in the 1993 Presidential election, and death, while in custody, proved to be the catalyst for the people’s pro-democracy uprising. The greatest tribute that we can pa yto him, and other departed heroes of Nigeria’s democracy, is to ensure that we continue to sustain and consolidate our democratic institutions and processes, and keep Hope alive.
6. Let us individually and collectively, continue to keep the spirit of this day alive. No task is more important. We must continue to do well as a people and as ademocracy. We must remember where we are coming from, so we can appreciate how far we have travelled.
7. When I assumed office as Acting President, in 2010, on account of the health challenges suffered by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, there was so much anxiety in the land. The tone of public debate was febrile. Some persons sought to use the situation in the country to sow the seeds of discord. My primary task at that time was to do all that was humanly possible to ensure stability within the polity. With the support and commitment of patriotic Nigerians from all walks of life, and the grace of the Almighty God, we were able to do so.
8. On May 6,2010, following President Yar’Adua’s death, I assumed office as substantive President. I subsequently presented myself as a candidate for the 2011 Presidential elections, with a promise that under my watch, the elections would be free, fair and credible. We kept faith with that promise. On May 29, 2011, I was sworn in as President, the fifth elected leader of Nigeria since independence. The success of the 2011 elections and the international acclaim that it generated was due to your patriotic zeal and commitment. I will like to seize this opportunity to thank all patriotic Nigerians who stood by us, and have remained unwavering in their support.
These Nigerians understand one thing: that we all have a duty to protect and promote our country, and that this country belongs to all of us. Electoral contest is about values. We must not lose sight of those values that strengthen us as a people. As long as I am President, I will do my utmost to continue to work hard in pursuit of the common good.
9. There are challenges, yes, but we are working hard to address those challenges. And, by God’s grace, we will succeed. My confidence is bolstered by the results which we have achieved in different sectors within the last twelve months.
10. Our democracy is stable. Its foundation is strong and firm. Its future is bright. Last year, I had spoken about the policy of “one man one vote, one woman, one vote,one youth, one vote”. I am glad to see that the Nigerian people in all elections have continued to respect the principle of fair play. Since this administration came into office, we have gone to great lengths to strengthen our democratic institutions, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission. There are still persons who believe that elections should be violent and unhealthy, but they are in the minority. They will not derail our democracy because the majority of Nigerians will not allow them to do so.
11. Following the spate of violence, in some parts of the country, after the 2011 elections, our administration set up a committee on post-election violence to among other things, investigate the causes and nature of electoral violence and make appropriate recommendations. We will be guided by the White Paper, on that committee’s report, in dealing more firmly with electoral violence and fraud. This will include the establishment of Electoral Offences Tribunals to deal speedily with established cases of electoral violence. We cannot afford to treat the success we have recorded withour democratic experience with levity. Electoral reform is central to our administration’s transformation agenda. I urge all political parties to embrace this reform.
12. Our successful elections, last year, opened new vistas for Nigeria’s foreign policy. More than ever before, Nigeria’s achievements have generated a lot of international goodwill and recognition. We have continued to build on this by further showing leadership in the sub-region and the African continent. Under my watch as Chairman of the sub-regional body, ECOWAS, and subsequently, Nigeria was in th eforefront of the efforts to ensure democratic stability in Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, and particularly at a critical moment in Cote d’Ivoire. Our foreign policy process has proven to be dynamic and pro-active. Nigeria’s place is secure among many friends in the comity of nations. We are building on that friendship to open up opportunities for foreign investments in the Nigerian economy and to provide necessary support for the vibrant community of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
13. We will continue to work hard, to turn domestic successes into a source of motivation for greater achievements in the international arena. We are fully aware that it is only when our people are happy and confident that they would be in a good position to walk tall in relating with others.
14. Today, I want to talk about what we are doing and what we have done. I want to reassure you that we are making progress. But we can also do a lot more. We must. And we will.
15. Our economic outlook is positive. When I assumed office last year, there were still fears about the impact of the global economic recession, and implications for investments. Many Nigerians were worried about the growing rate of unemployment. In order to set Nigeria on a sound and sustainable path toward economic growth, this administration unveiled a set of priority policies, programmes, and projects encapsulated in the Transformation Agenda. These programmes and policies are aimed at consolidating our budget, fostering job creation, engendering private sector-led inclusive growth, and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive for the ultimate betterment of the lives of Nigerians.
16. Today, progress has been made. The country’s credit rating is positive, in contrast with many nations being downgraded. In2011, our economy grew by 7.45%. As at mid-May 2012, our foreign exchange reserves had risen to $37.02 billion, the highest level in 21 months. We have stabilized and improved our fiscal regime. We brought the fiscal deficit down to 2. 85% of GDP from 2.9% in 2011. We reduced recurrent expenditures from 74% to 71% and reduced domestic borrowing from N852 billion in 2011 to N744 billionin 2012. We cut out over N100 billion of non-essential expenditure and increased our internally generated revenue from N200 billion to N467 billion.
17. For the first time in over a decade, we now have a draft Trade Policy which provides a multi-dimensional framework to boost our trade regime and facilitate the inflow of investments. We have generated over N6. 6 trillion worth of investment commitments. The total value of our trade is also much higher than the value estimated the previous year due to deliberate government policies. To facilitate the ease of doing business in Nigeria, we have a policy in place to make visa procurement easier for foreign investors, with safeguards to prevent abuse.
18. The goal of our administration is to ensure that every Nigerian can find gainful employment. Given my dissatisfaction with the prevailing unemployment situation in the country, our administration has embarked on an ambitious strategy of creating jobs and job-creators through the launch of several initiatives mainly targeted at the youths and women.
19. In October 2011, we launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria Programme, designed to encourage entrepreneurship and provide grants for small and medium scale enterprises. Over 1, 200 Nigerian youths have benefitted from this initiative. We have also launched the Public Works Women and Youth Empowerment Programme, which is designed to employ 370,000 youths per annum, with 30% of the jobs specially reserved for women. Let me make it clear here that our You WIN programme is designed to nurture and mentor young entrepreneurs to become major players, employers and wealth creators in business.
20. We are gradually reducing the footprints of government in business activities through privatization, liberalization and deregulation based on our recognition that the private sector should be the engine of growth in our economy. To ensure that the private sector is well positioned for this task, our administration has embarked on key structural reforms in the Power Sector and at the Ports.
21. To improvereliable power supply, our administration is judiciously implementing the Power Sector Roadmap, which is at an advanced stage, to fully privatize power generation and distribution while reducing the cost of electricity to rural households and the urban poor.
22. The commitment of this Administration to the provision of regular and uninterrupted power supply remains strong and unwavering. We all agree that adequate and regular power supply will be the significant trigger to enhance this nation’s productive capacity and accelerate growth. It is for this reason that I remain optimistic that the reforms we have initiated, the decisions we have taken so far and the plans we intend to faithfully prosecute will yield the desired results.
23. To underline this commitment, three weeks ago, I convened a special session on Power and gave specific instructions on the fast tracking of gas production and delivery to ensure improved availability of power. I also directed that the power sector reforms must continue on schedule and that privatization of the sector must be completed according to plan.
24. Our approach is two-pronged: First, is the immediate repair of power plants, as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure in the short term. The second is the building of institutions and the provisionof enablers to attract investors. We have revived and are accelerating the completion of the National Integrated Power Projects. We are also building about 4000km of transmission lines and hundreds of sub stations. We have completed the design for the construction of both Mambilla and Zungeru Hydro power plants which will add about 3, 000 MW to the national grid.
25. By mid 2010, the national power output was about 2, 800 MW. By the end of 2011, we reached a peak of more than 4, 000 MW. A National Gas Emergency Plan has also been launched to redress the problem of gas supply which are essentially due to poor planning.
26. For long-term power availability, we have strengthened a number of key institutions such as the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, the Bulk Trader, the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, and others. We are also working with the World Bank to provide guarantees for gas and power providers. The signing of MOUs with World Leaders in power equipment – General Electric of USA and Siemens of Germany as well as US and China Exim Banks for financial investment, is a clear indication of the level of confidence which the world investment community has in our power sector road map.
27. In addition, the privatisation programme has attracted expression of interest from 131 companies across the globe. Our decision to bring in the private sector is clearly intended to achieve our target of generating and distributing sufficient and reliable power within the shortest time possible. With the measures we have put in place, we will surely achieve success in transforming the power sector.
28. We have also focused our efforts on Ports and Customs reforms to ensure efficiency in the handling of ports and port-related businesses. Our administration has streamlined bureaucratic activities at the Ports by reducing the number of agencies from 14 to 7. We have also reduced the time for the clearance of goods from about a month, to seven days, with the long-term objective of ensuring that cargoes are cleared within 48 hours in line with international best practice. In the meantime, our ports, for the first time, now open for business for 24 hours.
29. In the Oil and Gas Sector, our Administration has charted a new course that will ensure enduring transparency and accountability. We are re-drafting the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to ensure it meets the aspirations of all Stakeholders given the current realities and future expectations in the global energy landscape. Work on the PIB will be concluded in June 2012 and formally submitted to the NationalAssembly. Additionally, Special Task Forces dealing with Governance and Control, Petroleum Revenue and National refineries are finalizing their work to ensure probity across the oil and gas sector, and self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products.
30. In the DownstreamSector, the Nigerian Content Development Act, since inception in 2010, has boosted the local production of line pipes, in-country fabrication tonnage and engineering support services. As a result, retained in-country spend has grown from approximately US $1bn to a current estimate of US$4bn, and over US$3 billion Foreign Direct Investment has been brought in for upgrading and building new yards, altogether generating over 120,000 direct and indirect jobs.
31. Capacity utilization of existing domestic refineries has greatly improved from 30 to 60 percent. We have commenced the phased plan to return the refineries to 90 percent capacity utilization with the expected completion of the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery by the end of 2012, to be followed by Warri andKaduna refineries in 2013.
32. In the Upstream Sector, the April 2012 commissioning of the Usan Deep Offshore Field has increased crude oil production capacity by 180 thousand barrels per day. Also,Government continues to support the National Oil Company, NPDC, by assigning 55% equity in 8 divested blocks which has resulted in increase in reserves from 350 million barrels to 2.1 billion barrels and 160, 000 barrels of production. We have also made significant progress in gas infrastructure development, investing close toUS$1bn for the construction of some 1000km of pipelines, gas supply growth and stimulation of gas industrialization. Between now and the third quarter of 2013, Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) will be made on gas-based industries, such as the petrochemicals and fertilizer plants at Koko, the Central Processing Units(CPF) in Obiafu/Obrikom, and the gas growth projects. Also, the sum of N11 billion is provided in the 2012 Budget for Hydro-Carbonexploration in the Lake Chad Basin.
33. The Gas Revolution initiative will fully support and sustain domestic power, whilst creating Africa’s largest gas based industrial park, which on completion will underpin the creation of over a million jobs and attract over US$16 billion in Foreign Direct Investment. To protect the gains of these initiatives for all Nigerians, we are aggressively addressing the increasing incidents of crude oil theft and other criminal activities in the sector.
34. As a deliberate move, our goal is to transform Nigeria from a mono-modal economy, to a diversified one. The sector that we are focusing onto diversify our economy – and one in which Nigeria has huge comparative advantage – is the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for about 40% of our GDP and over 70% of all employment. Increases in agricultural productivity will drive down rural poverty and revive our rural economy.
35. In this regard, we are aggressively pursuing an agricultural transformation agenda. Agriculture is no longer a development programme. We are now treating agriculture as a business, one that can generate wealth and create jobs for millions of our youths.
36. We have implemented major reforms in the sector, notably in the fertilizer sub-sector. We have ended the practice of Federal Government procurement and distribution of fertilizers. This we did because only 11% of farmers get the fertilizers that are bought and distributed by government. The old system encouraged rent seekers to collude and deprive farmers of access to fertilizers, while some of the fertilizers ended up with political farmers and in neighbouring countries.
37. Now, the procurement and commercialization of fertilizersand seeds have been fully deregulated to the private sector. We have ended the culture of corruption in fertilizer procurement. We must also end the era of food imports. Nigeria spends over 10 billion dollars every year importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish alone. This is unacceptable.
38. Our agricultural transformation agenda is directed at promoting local production, substituting for imported foods, and adding value to our locally produced crops. We are recording successes already. Government’spolicy to ensure rice self-sufficiency by 2015 is already paying off. New rice mills are being established by the private sector to mill locally produced rice. Ebony Agro Industries located in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State has rolled out its high quality parboiled rice. In Kano, Umza rice mill has taken off and can hardly meet demand, while in Benue State Ashi rice has hit the market. Consumers are buying more of Abakaliki and Ofada rice too.
39. To further accelerate the local production and milling of high quality rice, government is facilitating the import and installation of 100 new large scale integrated rice mills across the country. This will allow Nigeria, for the first time in its history, to have the capacity to mill all of the rice that we consume.
40. Our cassava policy is working, as we accelerate the pace ofutilization of cassava to create markets for millions of our farmers. Our goalis a bold one: we will make Nigeria, which is the largest producer of cassavain the world, to also become the largest processor of high value cassavaproducts in the world.
41. To further encourage cassava utilization and value-added products, government will support corporate bakers and master bakers across thecountry to use high quality cassava flour for baking. Last year I announced anincrease in tariff and levy on wheat.
To encourage the cassava flour inclusion policy, I now direct that part of the levy and tariff on wheat be set aside tosupport the promotion of high quality cassava flour and composite cassava bread. This will include support for needed enzymes, technical training and equipment for corporate bakers and master bakers, as well as accelerated cassava production.
42. We have also secured markets for cassava outside Nigeria, and for the first time ever, Nigeria will export this year 1 million metric tons of dried cassava chips to China. This will earn Nigeria 136 million USdollars in foreign exchange. Last week we also successfully started the commercial use of feed grade cassava grits, produced locally, for use in ourpoultry industry.
43. We are reviving our lost glory in cocoa, with massive distribution of 3.6 million pods of high-yielding cocoa varieties for farmers all across the cocoa growing states of the country. The pods will be provided free of charge. We are reviving cotton production in the North, as well. I have directed that all seeds for cotton should be provided, free of charge, to allcotton farmers.
44. Let me reiterate my personal passion and commitment todriving the agricultural transformation for Nigeria. The prosperity of Nigeria must start with improving the living standards of our farmers, and revitalizingrural economies across the nation. The newly inaugurated Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council, which I personally Chair, will further drive our continued revolution of the sector. Our goal is to add 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply by 2015 and create 3.5 million jobs. To achieve this, the appropriate infrastructure to support all-year round farming through irrigation is being rehabilitated and developed across the country.
45. We must use our population to create markets for what we produce. We must grow local, buy local and eat local. To promote this, I have directed that all official functions of government serve local foods, especially ourlocal rice and cassava bread and other foods. In the State House, I amfaithfully keeping to my promise of eating cassava bread and local rice.
46. Our administration is committed to the rapid and beneficial development of our country’s Minerals and metals potential. In the last year, we recorded remarkable achievements in Mines and Steel Development. We increased the number of investors in the mining sector due to the transparent manner in which titlesare now issued on a “first come-first served and use it or lose it basis.”
A total of 2,476 active mineral titles were issued compared to 666 titles issuedout in the previous year, thereby reducing, significantly, illegal mining activities. About 350, 000 additional jobs were created, arising from theactivities of newly registered operators. We have initiated a programme tosupport private steel production outfits. This has resulted in an increase inproduction figures for steel and other metals to over 1 million tonnes.
47. It is our collective desire as Nigerians to improve the standard of education. We are particularly aggressive in addressing this challenge. As a former school teacher, I know that it is not enough to create jobs; we must develop human capacity, and train a generation of Nigerian children with better competencies and skills. This will grant them the edge that they require to compete in a skills-driven globaleconomy, and by extension, strengthen our national competitiveness index.
48. I want every Nigerian child to have an opportunity to receive quality education and acquire useful skills. We are reforming the education sector from basic to tertiary level. The Federal Government recently launched the Almajiri Education Programme to reduce the number of out-of-school children which currently stands at about 9 million. Similar programmes will soon be introduced in various parts of the country. At the tertiary level, it is the policy of this administration that every State will have a Federal University.
49. To this end, we have established within the last year, nine (9) new Federal Universities and licensed nine (9) new private universities, bringing the total number of universities in the country to 124. Even with this, there is still the challenge of getting adequate admission space for prospective undergraduates. While we are addressing this, the Federal Government is also conscious of the fact that our universities need to be better equipped, particularly with well trained teachers. Government is, therefore, working on aprogramme to provide scholarships for Nigerians who are interested in academics,to enable them obtain their Doctorate degrees within and outside the country.
50. In addition, the Federal Government has launched a Special Presidential Scholarship Scheme for our best and brightest brains. We are selecting the best out of our First Class graduates in various disciplines, especially engineering and science. They will be sent for post-graduate studies in the best universities in the world, with the expectation that this will lay the foundation for a desirable scientific and technological revolution that will take Nigeria into Space in the not too distant future.
51. One of the first steps taken by this administration was the creation of a Ministry of Communications Technology. Its mandate includes the design of programmes and initiatives to deploy ICT as a driver of sustainable growth and the training of skilled manpower. For our country to remain relevant, we need to adequately educate our people, as it is through education that we can turn our people into assets that can help Nigeria compete globally, and create jobs in the new knowledge economy.
52. By the same token, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is providing training opportunities for the youths in the Niger Delta. In the past year, a total of 704 youths have been sent for training, abroad and locally, in various fields of endeavour, including agriculture, petroleum engineering, commerce, tourism, and maritime studies. Nine skills centres are being built, one in each of the nine states of the Niger Delta; three of them will be completed this year.
53. An efficient and affordable public transport system remains a priorityof this Administration. Our transformation agenda in the road sector which seeks to deliver better and safer roads to Nigerians, as well as to link the six geo-political zones in the country with dual carriageways, is very much on course. There has been increased construction activities in the ongoing dualisation of Abuja–Abaji–Lokoja Road, Kano–Potiskum–Maiduguri Road; theBenin–Ore–Shagamu Expressway; the Onitsha–Enugu Expressway; and the construction of the Loko–Oweto bridge, across River Benue.
54. Work has been slow on the East-West road due to budgetary constraints, but government will discharge all liabilities to contractors before the end of June, and funds for the remaining part of the year, will be provided to accelerate the pace of work. In other parts of the country, about 21 other road projects arein different stages of completion. These include the Yola–Numan road, Aba–Owerri road, Owerri–Onitsha expressway, Oyo–Ogbomosho old road, and the Gombe-Potiskum road. Many others are at different stages of completion.
55. Government is also currently rehabilitating about 3,000 kms out of the3,505 km existing narrow gauge rail lines across the country. The Lagos-Kano corridor will be completed this year, while the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri corridor, which has equally commenced, will be completed by the end of2013. We have also commenced the construction of the Abuja–Kaduna segment of the Lagos–Kano standard gauge rail lines, while the Lagos–Ibadan segment will be awarded this year. The Itakpe–Ajaokuta–Warri standard gauge rail line is nearing completion with the entire tracks completely laid.
56. To enhance sustainability in the rail sector, this Administration has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with General Electric (GE) to establish a locomotive assembly plant in the country. Our goal is to make Nigeria a major hub in West and Central Africa.
57. Within the last 12 months, we completed the capital dredging of theLower River Niger from Warri (Delta State) to Baro (Niger State) to boost our inland water transportation. This year, work will commence on the dredging of the River Benue in addition to the construction of River Ports at Baro (NigerState), Oguta (Imo State), and Jamata/Lokoja, (Kogi State). The Onitsha River Port in Anambra State, equipped with modern cargo handling equipment, has been completed and I shall be commissioning the project in the next few weeks.
58. The Aviation sector remains pivotal to our economic growth. Within the last year, we have developed a road map for the restoration of decaying facilities and infrastructure, some of which had not been attended to since they were first constructed over 30 years ago. Currently, we are renovating airports across the country and have begun the development of four new international terminals at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and Abuja. We have also reviewed our Bilateral Air Service Agreements to ensure improved service delivery, and more customer-friendly processes. We are working to ensure that within the life of this Administration, the aviation sector in Nigeria will be transformed into aworld class and self-sustaining provider of safe, secure and comfortable air transportation.
59. Globally, the role of women in governance has assumed great significance. In Nigeria, it is also widely acknowledged that women who constitute about half of the Nigerian population are great and invaluable assets, in both the public and private spheres. On our part, we have demonstrated serious commitment in further empowering women and projecting their role in public life. Out of the 42 members of the Federal Executive Council, 13 are women, heading major Ministries of Government.
60. Last week, I appointed the first female Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission. In the Armed Forces, female cadets have been admitted into the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy, an institution that was hitherto an exclusive preserve of men. The first set will graduate in 2016. This year, we reached a significant milestone as the Nigerian Air Force produced the first Nigerian female combatant pilot. Our administration will continue to empower women and the girl-child as a focal point of our Transformation Agenda.
61. More than anything else, health matters. We are upgrading the country’s tertiary health facilities to bring them up to international standards. We have increased funding for health-related MDGs. We are also committed to reducing maternal and infant mortality, and to eradicating polio completely by 2014.
62. I want to reassure all Nigerians that this administration remains committed to waging a sustained battle against the menace of corruption. In the last one year, we have taken specific steps to reduce opportunities and avenues for corruption, and to strengthen the capacity and integrity of our institutions. For example, our ports reform programme has reduced the number of agencies at the ports which hitherto frustrated the speedy clearance of goods at the ports. We have also cleared the stretch of trailers and lorries blocking the Apapa Expressway. We have put an end to the fertilizer and tractor scam that once dominated the agricultural sector. Our review of the pension payment system has also blown the whistle on corrupt practices which are now being addressed.
63. Within the last one year, we set up a committee to identify leakages and waste in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies. I am confident that the implementation of the recommendations of that committee will help to eliminate corruption channels within the system, and improve the efficiency of the public service. In January, we announced a policy of deregulation in the downstream sector, but this was misunderstood by naysayers and reduced narrowly to a fuel subsidy removal initiative, whereas the policy was designed to completely eliminate the grand corruption in the downstream sector, and create the necessary incentives for private sector investment.
64. We have strengthened the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Both agencies are being re-positioned for more effective service delivery. We will continue to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies for optimal performance. We will also need the support of our courts. The courts have to do more.
65. Terrorism, a new menace, totally alien to our way of life and culture,has reared its head and is posing a serious challenge. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of the terrorist attacks, andtheir families.
66. As President, it is my solemn duty to defend the Constitution of this country. That includes the obligation to protect life and property. We are doing everything possible to check the menace of terrorism. In this regard, we are determined to review some of the existing laws, to further strengthen the national counter-terrorism strategy. Coordinated joint action among our security agencies has now assumed greater importance. We have developed a new security architecture to strengthen the security environment.
67. I wish to reassure every Nigerian that we will confront this threat against our collective peace and security, and bring the perpetrators to justice. We will confront the few misguided persons who falsely believe, that through violence, they can impose their agenda of hate and division on this nation of good people. We must confront all those who think they can derail us by engaging in indiscriminate violence and mass murder, perpetrated in places of worship, in markets and public places, against the media, and security personnel. Nigeria is a nation of resilient people. We will never yield to the forces of darkness. Nigeria will never, ever, disintegrate.
68. Let me end this address at the point where I began. What matters most to all of us, is Nigeria. It is what binds us together. We have a duty to be loyal to our country. If we believe this to be a sacred obligation, it will not matter whether we are Christians or Muslims, or politicians, irrespective of political parties or divide. It really will not matter whether we are civil society agents, social activists or union leaders. What matters is Nigeria. This nation exists because we are one. We must, therefore, remain as one family, and work together to defend our country.
69. Within two years, it would be exactly 100 years since the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated and Nigeria was born. We need a lot more introspection, even as we look forward. We must take steps to heal the wounds of the past and work together, as a people with a shared destiny underone flag. We must strengthen our collective memory, draw strength from our history, and build bridges of unity to take our country to greater heights.
70. This is what we should do. And we must. As a starting point, we must draw strength from our history and work to ensure that the labour of our heroes past is not in vain. It is partly for this and other reasons, that I have directed, as part of the activities marking today’s Democracy Day, that all due processes should be initiated for the building of a Presidential Museum in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. This Museum will document the lives and times of Nigeria’s Presidents and Heads of Government since 1960, and remind us, by extension, of the high points of our national history.
71. It is also in this regard that the Federal Government has decided that late Chief M.K.O. Abiola be honoured,for making the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and truth. Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom, and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was. We need in our land, more men and women who will stand up to defend their beliefs, and whose example will further enrich our democracy. After very careful consideration, and in honour of Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s accomplishments and heroism, on this Democracy Day, the University of Lagos, is renamed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Moshood Abiola University, Lagos. The Federal Government will also establish an Institute of Democratic Studies and Governance in the University.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, is the Executive President of Federal Republic of Nigeria
Maslow suggests that people are motivated to fulfill fundamental needs before moving on to more advanced ones. According to Abraham Maslow, security of body, property and resources are the most basic of human needs.
Therefore, it is only when people have a good sense of safety and security that they are motivated to pursue other goals. Even in this day and age, Maslow's theory remains valid in any discussions about human developmental psychology.
In fact, this is why the primary duty of any government is to protect the lives and property of its citizens. When a government fails in this primary duty, it lacks the moral legitimacy to continue in other aspects of governance. As such, a state is characterized as having failed when the government fails to protect its citizens, or when a sense of relative safety is no longer felt by its people.
While it may be an exaggeration to argue that Nigeria has become a failed state, in May of 2011 the Fund for Peace, a Washington DC-based non-profit research and educational institution, issued a stern warning indicating that Nigeria is on the verge of being a completely failed state based on safety issues.
Yet many Nigerians presume that Nigeria is as safe as any other nation in the world. This presumption seems valid if you consider events like September 11, 2001. On this day, al - Qaeda succeeded in killing more than 3000 Americans in a single attack. Consider also that on July 7, 2005, Islamic home-grown terrorists detonated bombs, in three quick successions, aboard London Underground trains.
A fourth bomb was detonated on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty-two people were killed, 700 others were injured. Since these attacks, many more terrorist attacks have happened in other parts of the world. The United States and Britain also struggle with domestic crimes, just like the ones we see in Nigeria. So, terrorism and crime are not peculiar to Nigeria.
Perhaps, it is under the same presumption that President Jonathan announced to the world that Nigeria is a safe place for travel and business. He made the announcement in the wake of a Boko Haram attack on December 25, 2011, in which more than 42 Nigerians were killed in Madalla near Abuja. Even after the President's announcement, the world still does not perceive Nigeria as a relatively safe place for travel and business. In fact, the CIA continues to issue alerts to American citizens travelling to Nigeria.
In saying that Nigeria is safe for travel and business, President Jonathan assumes that safety is exclusively the absence of terrorism or crimes. It makes me wonder if President Jonathan actually knows that a collective sense of safety is primarily a measure of trust in the system. For instance, a sense of safety exists in the United States and Britain because people trust that the emergency systems are well-equipped to work in cases like September 11, 2001 and July 7, 2005, respectively.
For the world to agree with the President that Nigeria is safe for travel and business, there must be well-equipped emergency response systems put in place. For instance, the hospitals should be equipped with modern infrastructures and well-trained personnel. The police and fire services should also be ready to respond with precision and professionalism to emergency situations. But the irony is that no country that is as corrupt as Nigeria can afford modern infrastructures for hospitals, police, and the emergency response system required to deal with sophisticated terrorist plots. This is why the world sees Nigeria as unsafe for travel and business, despite the President's appeal.
If we dig deeply into the security issues Nigeria faces as a nation, it is more meaningful for Nigerians to have a sense of safety. Only then can anyone make the argument to the rest of the world that Nigeria is safe for travel and business. The high walls around houses and the personal use of the police by those who can afford it is an indication that Nigerians do not feel safe. In fact, these are the first things that any visitor to Nigeria observes. The reason Nigerians build high walls and use the police as a private security force is the same reason they are inclined toward jungle justice. It is because the police have failed in their duty to protect and serve, and the courts have failed in dispensing justice.
While it is important to stop crimes before they happen, protecting citizens is not necessarily the absence of crime. Protecting citizens extends to what happens after a crime is committed. When the police take bribes and fail to solve a crime, when Nigerians are being kidnapped without any serious effort by authorities to get to the root of it, and when judges fail to dispense justice without bias people's sense of safety is eroded.
Americans have a sense of safety not because they live in a crime-free society, but because they are confident that when a crime is committed the authorities will get to the root of it even if the crime is committed against the most deprived citizen. They also trust that the justice system will take its course.
To sum it up, in today's world when no country is immune from terrorism and crime, fulfilling the need for safety - the most fundamental human need - means having a rapid and well- equipped emergency response system. It also means the ability to solve crimes and dispense justice.
Mr. HAMILTON ODUNZE, a media consultant, wrote from USA.