In an attempt to encourage Nigerians to see the Jonathan Presidency as a continuation of Yar’Adua’s ‘legacy’, the Federal Executive Council recently announced their adherence to the late President’s controversial 7 Point Agenda.
There appears to be some consensus amongst critics that adequate power provision and electoral reform are probably the most critical areas to which resources and efforts should be skewed. It is expected that adequate power provision would stimulate industrial and commercial activities at all levels from that of the self-employed to the small & medium and the larger conglomerates.
In this manner, our growing army of unemployed youths will find work and this may reasonably be expected to improve the level of security in the land and improve government’s revenue base, even as industrial production costs fall with reduced expenditure on generators and fuel. The question, however, is whether it is rational to expect adequate power supply with the current constitutional framework with regards to power generation, transmission and distribution. It seems that critics who demand that power should be one of a 2-Point Agenda generally expect that government should spend more money on the sector; but, as discussed in an earlier article titled “Why Adequate Power Will Remain Elusive” of 07/06/2010, this cannot be the way as it is patently obvious that government does not have the funds to provide adequate power!
Our dream for adequate power can only be adequately funded by private investment; meanwhile, the sector will remain relatively unattractive for such investors so long as 1999 Constitutional provision of PHCN monopoly of transmission and distribution of power remains in place!
The second leg of the 2-Point Agenda as often proposed by critics is that of electoral reform. Nigerians have been convinced by politicians and the media that electoral reforms will usher in free and fair elections, where each vote will count. It is argued that such a scenario will become possible, if the President has no say particularly, in the choice of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and also adopts other key electoral requirements such as deferment of the swearing in of elected officials until all pending petitions are disposed of and the shifting of the onus of proof to INEC in the Uwais report.
But again, the questions must be asked ‘will electoral reform, as currently proposed, really ensure that Nigerians who want to serve rather than those who wish to steal enter into the political arena?’ ‘Will electoral reform, as currently proposed ensure that political parties will be formed on the basis of common beliefs in service and sacrifice to the fatherland rather than on the platform of opportunistic cabals, whose fight for power is for self enrichment?’ ‘Can a party made up of honest, sincere and patriotic Nigerians with a social conscience ever garner enough clout to successfully contest against money bags, who see politics as an enterprise?’ (Gani Fawehimi’s National Conscience Party is a reference point) ‘Will electoral reforms, as presently proposed, reduce the degree of corruption in the electoral process and public office?’ ‘How useful can electoral reform be, if elections are predicated on a far from comprehensive and credible electoral register?’ ‘Will electoral reform reduce the political tensions in the country and stem the rising agitation for self determination by the Oodua States in the West, MASSOB in the East, Niger Delta militants and Middle Belt activists?’ ‘Will electoral reform eradicate perceived inequities and social injustices that threaten to tear our country asunder?’ Or indeed, will electoral reform succeed in cleansing the judiciary of those bad eggs who see elections as good business?
The truth is that, Nigerians have been deliberately led by a cunning political class with media collaboration to believe that electoral reform is the answer to our political problems as a nation. How naïve can we be?! The numerous laws and amendments to promote accountability and service in all facets of Nigeria’s political, social and economic life are still subsisting, but these laws are observed more in their breach than compliance by the executive and legislatures; so it is clear that the apparent consensus on power and electoral reform as the critical 2-point agenda of choice may also not really be meaningful in terms of the desired impact on social cohesion, welfare and security.
So, if the 7-Point Agenda (consisting of energy, security, wealth creation, education, land reform, mass transit, Niger Delta) is considered too broad to be impactful, it would seem that a condensed 2-Point version with power and electoral reform as arrow heads maybe equally also inadequate to fulfill our aspirations as a nation. So, the million dollar question is what can Jonathan honestly do to strategically position our country for rapid economic growth and social development in the remainder 10 months of his inherited tenure?
We have earlier noted in this analysis that improved power supply has potential to release such benefits, but unfortunately, constitutional shackles will make adequate power supply unrealizable. Thus, it must be imperative that Jonathan should remove the provision that limits the states’ power for generation, transmission and distribution of electricity only to areas not covered by a National Grid system within that state”. in the 1999 Constitution for our country to realize its greater potential. But would such a single measure be adequate to set Nigeria on the path of industrial regeneration and expansion and also provide a stable platform for sustainable peaceful coexistence among the various geopolitical divisions? Indeed, will liberalization of the power sector engender equity and social justice in our polity? There is general recognition that even a progressive and industrious nation cannot remain stable if perceived inequity and injustice form the foundation of such a state.
Thus, if Jonathan truly loves this country and wishes to reposition Nigeria for future stability and growth, Mr. President will have to do much more than just provision of adequate power. There is undoubtedly a need to jettison the 1999 quasi unitary constitution for a truly federal arrangement. Only a constitution that enshrines fiscal federalism will ensure lasting peace, stability and better governance. Indeed, Jonathan must recognize the futility and wastefulness in our 36 states structure; an erudite scholar himself, Mr. President cannot fail to notice the huge component of government revenue that is needed to run 36/37 executive governors’ offices and 36/37 Legislatures with their usual security paraphernalia. This type of spending pattern will ensure that less than 1% of Nigerians in the political class will continue to consume over 30% of total revenue.
Dr. Jonathan must recognize that government’s centralization of revenue consolidation and disbursement over the years is the factor responsible for the failure of otherwise productive and self-sufficient economies in different parts of the country; for example, the groundnut pyramids, hides and skins export, palm oil, cocoa and rubber export will never again engage tens of millions of our countrymen because of the colonization of the oil fields of the Niger Delta by the centre and the consequent monthly bonanza of cash allocations to fund leaking treasuries of 36 states and 774 local governments. So, if Mr. President cruises through the next 10 months without so much as a thought for equitable restructuring of our body polity, then his sincerity and commitment to midwiving a virile and proud African nation must be questionable.
Indeed, Jonathan does not have to reinvent the wheel; fortunately, the template of the 1963 Republican Constitution is still there. The dream of self-determination of our founding fathers galvanized growth and development to the envy of the current Asian tigers at that time and that spirit should be rekindled. It is in fact the 1963 Constitution that should be amended in the light of past and current realities and certainly not the 1999 Constitution, which ab initio was never a peoples’ constitution, but a military imposition that has continued to evoke distrust, inequity, poverty and instability in the land.
Every true patriot of this country recognizes that the current Constitution encourages idleness and diminishing productivity; why work when you can access bigger and bigger allocations depending on the political clout derived from ethnic, political, population or other such unproductive divisive platform. President Jonathan is well positioned to do it right so that Nigeria can once again inspire hope and pride amongst Africans everywhere in the diaspora. But, the question is, will Jonathan choose to have his name written in gold in the annals of world leaders such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa? Well, only Mr. President can answer that question. But there is no doubt that he could wear the crown of success even if his tenure does not exceed the next 10 months, if he uses his power of incumbency to ensure that a truly federal constitution is adopted before his exit. Indeed, it is only in this manner that all the goals of Yar’Adua’s 7-Point Agenda can be achieved simultaneously!
Thus, true federalism will reduce agitations for self determination everywhere, including militancy in the Niger Delta. States and geopolitical divisions will look inwards as in the past to tap value from local resources; corruption at the centre will diminish, the fight for political power will no longer be ‘do or die’ as there will be less and less money to steal at the centre. It would be easier to identify and deal with treasury looters in the states or local governments as indigenes of each state would not take kindly to public officers’ theft of the product of their toil and sweat, as opposed to the current attitude of celebrating those who have succeeded in stealing more and more of the proceeds from the Niger Delta’s oil fields!
However, even if our President chooses not to rock the boat from a political standpoint, he could still score some vital points with the management of the economy. Indeed, he could transform the economy positively beyond recognition within six months, if he simply recognizes that the main obstacle on the path of industrial economic growth is our Central Bank’s unhealthy monopoly of the forex market. If President Johathan insists that distributable dollar revenue must never be captured and substituted with increasingly worthless naira notes by the CBN, a transformation would begin to evolve such that interest rates will naturally fall below 10%, industries will be resuscitated, employment will climb geometrically, there will be increased demand and other sectors of the economy including the goals of Yar’Adua’s 7-Point Agenda will become positively impacted. So, if you ask me, President Jonathan should pursue a 2-Point Agenda; that is, install a truly federal Constitution and/or dismantle CBN’s monopoly of the forex market; preferably both, but certainly either of these pursuits will most likely positively transform our country.
Save the Naira, Save Nigerians!