Wednesday, May 27, 2009
In terms of political symbolism in Nigeria, this week ranks as one of the most, if not the most symbolic of weeks. Ten years of uninterrupted democracy! Who would have thought it was possible? In keeping with tradition, there will be lots of official and media commentaries on the state of democracy in the nation and the scorecard and overall performance of our present crop of leaders. Sadly, there is hardly any of our leaders that will get positive reviews; least of all Mr. President. As a matter of conjecture, if a poll is taken to determine his job approval rating, it will lie somewhere below 25 percent. The reason is not farfetched- he has not delivered. His scorecard in two years is child’s play compared to what President Obama achieved in 100 days.
Exactly two years ago, on the day President Umaru Musa Yaradua took his oath of office at the Eagle Square, he gave an inaugural speech that I considered brilliant by Nigerian standards. I remember more than anything else the closing lines of that speech: “The challenge is great. The goal is clear. The time is now.” Two years and many speeches down the line, the challenge is greater, the goal is fuzzy and only God knows the time. Recently I stumbled upon that speech again, and I realized that the president was ‘economical with the truth.’ I would give facts to that effect by sampling excerpts from that speech he made on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 in Abuja.
“We already have comprehensive plans for mass transportation, especially railroad development. We will make these plans a reality.”
From what we have seen these past two years, it is clear that that was not the truth. He actually didn’t have any (comprehensive?) plans, not to talk of making them reality. What he thought was a plan, was the plan to reverse previous plans by those who had thought. He stalled the $8.3 billion contract for the modernization of the country’s railways that was awarded in the last dispensation to a Chinese firm. The new developments and progress in that area have only come in the sustained level of rhetoric and speeches.
“Over the next four years we will see dramatic improvements in power generation, transmission and distribution.”
We have gone two years now out of the four and what we have seen in the power sector aren’t dramatic improvements but loads upon loads of drama. From the power probe, to the probing of the probers, to the rural electrification scam, Nigerians have been entertained with high budget dramas. Yaradua declared a state of emergency in the sector and since then all we have received are emergency declarations and emergency promises. The latest is the promise of 6000MW by December. I wish they mean business on this one but the one thing I have realized about Nigeria is that promises are the easiest things to make and break because at the end, no one holds you accountable; it does not determine your chances at the next election. So why bother?
“I will set up a panel to examine the entire electoral process with a view to ensuring that we raise the quality and standard of our general elections and thereby deepen our democracy.”
It is in this area of electoral reforms more than any other that Yaradua has been afforded the most opportunities to prove his sincerity. Unfortunately he has come up short time and time again. The truthfulness of the above statement itself is a matter of debate because he didn’t set up a panel. He set up 3 panels. First, the panel headed by Justice Mohammed Uwais, whose report was reviewed by the Shettima panel, whose white paper was further reviewed by another panel headed by Mr. Fix It- Justice Minister Aondoakaa. That makes three panels whereas he promised us just one. The final report from which he has forwarded some bills to the national assembly, needless to say doesn’t exactly look like the original. His fierce resolve to retain his powers of appointing the INEC chairman is at odds with the original recommendation of the Uwais panel. Also, President Yaradua failed to rise above the fray of petty partisanship and do or die politics recently when he chose party supremacy over statesmanship in the sham of an election conducted some weeks ago in Ekiti State. I know he is not the INEC chair, but you must be kidding if you think that the president cannot influence INEC as presently constituted. His frequent one sided meetings with PDP chieftains in the build up to a multi-party election is the road to bias and compromise.
“The crisis in the Niger Delta commands our urgent attention. Ending it is a matter of strategic importance to our country. We have a good starting point because our predecessor already launched a master plan that can serve as a basis for a comprehensive examination of all the issues.”
Whatever happened to the Niger Delta master plan? If I should hazard a guess, it would be that it has gone with the wind just like the report of the committee- headed by Ledum Mitee- set up by this same government to look into all past recommendations on resolving the Niger Delta issue and come up with a workable blue print that will serve the interest of the people. The newly created Niger Delta Ministry is visible only in name and not in action. Nothing positive seem to be happening in that area. Now, there is full blown hostility between the military and the militants causing unquantifiable havoc in the region.
“We are determined to intensify the war against corruption.”
Forget about the media antics of Madam Waziri on the number of convictions that have been secured by the EFCC under her watch. Forget about the posturing of the attorney general of the federation. The grim truth remains that the war on corruption is gradually dying under this government. To a large extent Nigeria has become like India where criminals and fraudsters, are resuscitated, given political make-over and even rebranded. How sad! All those celebrated cases which heightened the expectations of Nigerians that indeed a Jeremiah had come to judgment have been swept under the carpet. The cases involving the past governors, Siemens, Halliburton, Ekiti INEC are either dead or are at various stages of dying. I know they are supposed to still be under investigation, but we know better.
President Yaradua still has two years left. If I were him I would strive to leave a befitting legacy. But then am not him. However, if he decides to change, I am ready to swallow some of my words and commend him. They wouldn’t give me indigestion. After all I was among his few initial admirers. But let me ask you: TWO YEARS DOWN THE ROAD AND TWO YEARS LEFT TO GO, DO YOU BELIEVE MR. PRESIDENT?
STAN’S NOTES: I apologize for my long absence and my inability to bring you my interview with Dr. Anyaeji. I finally realized that juggling four key roles isn’t easy. The interview will still come, but at a later date. Thanks.