PRESIDENT Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan was formally sworn in as President on May 29, 2011. He is legally expected to exercise presidential powers from that day till May 29, 2011. As an incumbent,
who assumed office following the death of President Umaru YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Adua, the 2011 election was his first contest for the office of president in Nigeria. Until now, he was the inheritor of the joint mandate which he shared with the late President YarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Adua in 2007. Fortunately for him, the mandate he has just received derives from an election that is easily the most credible presidential election since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999. This means that he enjoys a legitimacy that towers above that of his predecessors. But to whom much is given much is expected. President Jonathan must handle this mandate with utmost sense of responsibility and consciousness of the privilege given to him to insert his footprints in the sands of time.
RIGHT from the time he assumed office as acting President, Jonathan has not failed to show Nigerians that he has a sense of priority. Indeed, this became clear in his famous interview with Christiane Amanpour of the Cable News Network (CNN) during his visit to the United States. In that interview, he emphasised that his government will concentrate on ensuring free, fair and credible elections, developing the power sector, especially electricity and rejuvenating the anti-corruption war. In the build up to the election campaign for the office of president, he further produced a road map for the power sector, a blueprint for the gas sector and a renewed commitment to rail transportation, and employment generation. It is expected that this list will continue to grow.
JONATHAN must give priority to security. This is because the maintenance of law, order and security is the essential function of the state. Indeed, the failure of government to guarantee the safety and security of life and property is the most visible evidence of state failure. In the particular situation of Nigeria, the post-election violence that witnessed the death of 10 youth corps members on election duties, shows the great challenges ahead. Economic activities cannot take place in an insecure environment.
GIVEN the high levels of poverty, the prevalence of youth unemployment and poor capacity utilisation of industry, Jonathan must adopt a strategic approach to dealing with the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s developmental challenges. While focusing on the low hanging fruits in order to hit the road running and taking adequate advantage of his honeymoon period, he must lay a solid foundation for future growth and development. He must therefore prioritize his programme and ensure a systemic sequence of intervention that will yield maximum positive effect.
JONATHAN must focus on the power sector. This means that this sector be given high priority. It has a great and immeasurable multiplier effect on the economy. Ensuring adequate and constant power supply will have direct effect on the productivity of the many small scale industries and individual craftsmen on the streets whose productivity and income has been bridged by electricity outages. It is not news that craftsmen and artisans have abandoned their trade to become Okada riders because of the sheer challenge of surviving on such trade. Furthermore, ensuring adequate and constant electricity supply will help revitalise manufacturing. Shortage of electricity has meant that industrial organisations have had to rely on diesel-run generators to sustain production. The cost of production has become so high that it has undermined the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s competitiveness. Many industries have had to relocate to neighbouring Ghana in search of a better business environment. Thus, the achievement of adequate and constant electricity supply is a sine qua non for rapid industrial growth and employment generation.
THE second critical and strategic focus of the government should be infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure. In this regard, road transport is very critical because of the poor state of existing roads. But what is called for is a strategic focus on road, rail and water transport as complementary means of moving goods and passengers. The government must in the long term modernise the rail system. This is the only way to ensure that roads are not easily overwhelmed and destroyed by big trucks and trailers that are the dominant means of transporting goods across the country today. The government needs to also promote the use of water transport wherever possible. It can do this effectively working with the relevant state governments.
ANY investment in infrastructure cannot be meaningful if rampant corruption is not curbed. Several studies have shown that Nigeria gets 40 per cent value for its investments in infrastructure. These means a large chunk of the money allocated to develop infrastructure has ended in private pockets. If the goals of infrastructural development are to be realised, then the governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anti-corruption campaign must proceed in earnest and with good results. The problem with corruption is that it prevents policy inculcation and erodes the legitimacy of government. Once projects are not carried, technology adoption and transfer cannot happen. Contracts are done in a substandard manner if they are done at all. This means the country loses both the opportunity to learn by doing and are deprived of the facilities that are left undone. Government cannot effectively respond to the welfare of the mass of citizens if corruption persists at current levels. The growth that Nigeria has experienced since the return to democratic rule has not translated into reduced poverty levels because of the unsustainable levels of corruption.
THE third and final important strategic focus should be education. These must be better funded by working with the other tiers of government. The educational policy and practice must be fine-tuned to ensure that both the philosophy and curriculum of education directly relate to the economy and society. There must be emphasis on innovation and connection with industry. Indeed tertiary education must be redesigned to feed industry. Here, the Federal Government needs to facilitate linkages and provide mechanisms for the use of research from the universities by government and the private sector. This is the only way we can utilise our educational system to drive development and solve social problems.