Every campaign season gives voters the opportunity to see and assess the candidates and political parties jostling for positions. The recent flag-off of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign presented such an opportunity and I wish to share my thoughts on the claims and promises of the APC. Among other things, the party promised to fight corruption and economic crimes, create jobs, improve national security and diversify the economy and promote agriculture. The promises at the rally are the type you hear especially when a party is short on clear programmes or templates for executing anything at all. That is why it did not, at any time, say anything about how it would go about changing the country for the better.
The APC could not say in concrete terms how it would further diversify the economy through agriculture, given the series of initiatives put in place by the Jonathan administration to boost food production and food security, expand the contributions of agriculture to the nation’s export and to re-engineer the entire sector towards making it a major player locally and globally. The party gave no alternative to the National Agricultural Investment Plan [NAIP], which is a private sector-driven agenda focused on all the components of the agricultural value chain. It also did not propose any alternative to the holistic approach to this programme, which goes all the way from conception, production, storage, processing, marketing to delivery. It is Nigerians that will benefit from the over 10% annual growth rate; significant reduction in post-harvest losses; expansion of irrigated and cultivated land to some 100,000 hectares expected from NAIP. The jobs being created through training of thousands of extension workers and the generation of at least US$ 35 billion for the country from agro-exports, with cassava, rice, cocoa, vegetable oil, cotton, tomatoes, sugar and yams as the major focal crops, are for Nigerians.
Will the APC now take over and stop the on-going crop improvement projects, Agriculture Quarantine Services for enhanced crop and yield and livestock and fishery drive, just to show it has something to offer in agriculture? Will it annul the improved surveillance capacity against pests and diseases, the Seed Inspectorate Services, Fisheries and Livestock Departments, Dam and Irrigation Schemes for all-season farming and agricultural research that are on-going? Perhaps the party will cancel, or reverse, the expansion of the national food storage capacity from 300,000 metric tonnes to about two million metric tonnes, just to show that it is doing something in agriculture. The implementation of the Nigerian Sugar Master plan will save the country billions of naira.
The truth is that this government is creating thousands of visible jobs through the youth agricultural programme, SURE-P and YouWin, among many others. There are now over 3,000 businesses under YouWin 1 and 2, with over 22,000 jobs created by the primary beneficiaries. Some 6, 000 young etrepreneurs would have benefited from this programme by the end of YouWin 4. The increase in funding of the insurance sector to N1trillion from the current N300 billion within the next three years, with the aim of further raising it to N5 trillion within the next decade will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs. While the SURE-P programme support Social Safety Net programmes, like Save One Million Lives, which has saved over 631,250 lives by giving renewed priority to health, nutrition, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, malaria control and routine immunisation, the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) has hired and deployed 13,339 graduates so far. This is quite apart from the Community Services, Women and Youth Employment (CSWYE), which has created nearly 120,000 jobs; with a minimum of 3,000 in each state and the FCT.
Concerning corruption, which the APC mentioned at its rally, let us all frankly admit that corruption is, first and foremost, a collapse of values and disregard for norms that cuts across the educational system, the traditional institutions that create the wrong role models through the titles they confer, the religious organisations that preach and focus on material prosperity, as well as the abuse of office by public office holders. The termination of the fertilizer scam that has persisted for decades, the decisive intervention in pension reforms, the tax reforms, among other initiatives, are institutional measures taken by the Jonathan government to end endemic corruption. What is the APC’s understanding of corruption and how does it plan to tackle it, within the rule of law? There is no mention of method, programme content, or approach to efficient public administration.
Instead the APC is calling for change, but without addressing the purpose, direction, programme and likely benefits of that change. It only tells Nigerians that it will assemble a team of technocrats to recreate the nation, meaning that Nigerians should wait for an APC government to be elected, so that it will then convene a meeting to find out what to do? This is pathetic. It is also the clearest proof that the party is asking us to hold our patrimony to ransom by waiting for it to pick whatever comes out of its gambling machine as the solution to our national problems. Its solution to power, employment creation, management of the economy and much more are all speculative.
The APC should recall that President Barack Obama of the United States did not seek office by promising ‘contentless’ change. He calmly and patiently outlined everything he would do in office to bring about the change he was promising. It was a step by step presentation and explanation of how he would achieve what he had in mind. But what, in real terms, have Nigerians been told about what the APC would do differently if elected? It speaks of political will, but forgets that political will must be marched with administrative capacity, tolerance and the ability to cope with the challenges of office.
What Nigerians want to hear is not speaking in general terms about turning the country into an Eldorado. Nigerians want to hear what they will do differently and how. For, instance, anybody can promise regular power supply, but what should appeal to Nigerians are actually the step-by-step actions to be taken to achieve that.
While I agree that the nation has some security challenges at the moment, I hasten to point out that those challenges are being steadily overcome. The Jonathan government is working hard at it, but the APC is telling us: that it has a magic wand which it will keep in its armpit and watch Nigerians bombed to death until it produces its own president. So people can watch their states, nation and fellow citizens die by the hundreds when they can do something about it. I don’t think so! Anyone who wants greater proof that the APC has nothing to offer in the area of national security should simply be roused from indolent mental slumber.
That is why I keep saying that anyone calling for change must say what he means by that change and what he intends to do differently. Change agents must have a contemporary understanding of what the issues of governance are today. International relations, education, national unity issues and the simple matter of inter-ethnic harmony are all on the table. Nigerians should hear what anyone wants to do about school, the standard of education, how to get the children who are out of school back into the classrooms and improve enrolment. Since change cannot just be for its own sake, we must be careful with promises of change that are anchored only on fiery speeches and no programme.
We should learn from the many nations that changed so many things at once, but without being ready at the time for real change in even one sphere of life. Indonesia is only now getting back from its near-total misfortune arising from its needed change. Even Egypt, Libya and other countries where change was truly inevitable would all have fared better if that change was structured and managed to serve the people in whose name it was ostensibly instituted.
In ending this short intervention, let me point out that the PDP has facts, figures and living human beings as proof of the positive impact of its programmes in Nigeria. The states that are governed by the party have created more jobs across the country, with Kebbi State as the most resounding success story on the containment of unemployment. Today Nigeria can speak of one of the most significant efforts at diversification of the economy in recent times. The 2015 campaigns call for much more than generalisations and empty speeches. It calls for the track record of solid performance which only the Jonathan administration can offer.
Obi is the immediate past Governor of Anambra State