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OBIECHINA: I Have Confidence In The President’s Team


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OBIECHINA: I Have Confidence In The President’s Team

By LAWRENCE NJOKU


Dr. Alex Obiechina is a policy analyst with bias for the economy and investment. In this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU in Enugu, he took a critical look at the policy direction of President Jonathan in his first 100 days in office.

President Goodluck Jonathan will be 100 days in office soon. What can you say about the administration?

THE state of the Nigerian nation is good; President Goodluck Jonathan and his team are doing well.  Nigeria’s performance in these 100 days must be taken in the context of what she is - a third world country or a country geo-politically and economically located in the southern hemisphere, or an underdeveloped nation with the attendant strings of underdevelopment constraining her efforts.

So in comparative analysis, she is doing well. The Presidency is focused with her prime concern in solving the energy crisis. With brilliant and energetic Prof. Bartholomew Nnaji heading energy sector; seasoned and industrious Mrs. Deziani Alison Madueke-with her positive reforms, in charge of Petroleum, Mallam Lamido Sanusi at the Central Bank, and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala anchoring the Finance Ministry and the economic team, there is high hope for economic progress. The report from the Central Bank of Nigeria shows that the economy is doing well. The core inflation fell from 12.8percent in the first quarter of 2011 to 11.5percent in June 2011; real GDP is estimated at 7.93percent in the second quarter of 2011, the spot price for Nigeria’s reference crude oil, Bonny light rose from $93.33 per barrel in December 2010 to $116.66 in second quarter of 2011. This economic index clearly shows that the economy is moving in the right direction; however, government must seriously tackle unemployment, which is getting out of hand.

The challenge must be to continue enhancing the economy so that, the citizens will practically benefit in terms of economic aggregates resulting in more quality and cheap food on their dining table. Our democratic experiment is working and progressing well, the recently conducted 2011 elections have been severally described as very successful, meeting the expectations of majority of Nigerians and the international community. It is the best election ever conducted in Nigeria, with only internal democracy as the shortcomings. The courts have also performed well, rolling out judgments that have enhanced and deepened our democracy. Hence, politically Nigeria is progressing well. Today, we are also better appreciated internationally because of our democratic and economic reforms.

On security, it is impressive that we have been able to address the problem of the militants, but then, we have sour areas in robbery and Boko Haram. The Inspector General of police should sit up and seriously checkmate robbers.

I earlier advised in a previous interview that Boko Haram security problem should be handled through negotiation, as the group is amorphous. Militancy as been advocated by our top security operatives cannot handle this problem. The United States of America spent ten years before getting at the Al-Qaeda king pin Osama Bin Laden, because it is an amorphous warfare. We cannot afford to spend such time tackling Boko Haram. We need diplomacy to get out of it quickly, as not to endanger our economy and democracy. Their impacts have shown that they are highly connected a serious group and cannot be watched with tinted gloves. We are also to find a lasting and sustainable peaceful co-existence between the itinerant Fulani cattle farmers and the famer indigenes in parts of the middle belt zones.

Again, looking at the composition of the President’s cabinet, what could be his line of thinking in constituting what many have described as large executive council?

I believe that what the administration is trying to do is to unlock all the potentials that could transform to the growth and development of the country. Government is looking at the various sectors with the aim of attaining their full economic benefits to the development of the country. In this regard, I don’t think it is an elaborate cabinet, but one that looks inwards and brings out the potentials that may not have been discovered or those discovered but without political will to carry them out. Now we have a Ministry of Communications Technology, which on its own must strive to place the country in the rating of world technologies as well as tap fully all-available benefits of the sector for the growth of the country. There is the Ministry of Investment and Promotion, which before now was embedded in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. With the division, each of the departments is expected to fully develop and in so doing grow the economy. My thinking is that given the right atmosphere, the desire in setting up these agencies will begin to yield their maximum benefits. Now that we have the Ministry of Investment and Promotion, it has got a duty to ensure that resources that abound in the country, which have not been fully utilized are put at their proper perspectives for the good of the country.

President Jonathan is mooting constitutional review in the area of one single term of six years, even when this was not contained in the manifesto he presented to Nigerians during his campaign? Is single term of six years a priority at this time?

The proposal for a single term of six years is very sound, as the proposal has arisen out of a careful study of the socio-cultural cum political issues confronting and twisting our development. A study of our political history and developmental crisis reveals that the greatest problem facing our nation is our inability to conduct free and fair elections and the issues of north/south divide in our political analysis. Any solution to these twin problems is central to our development. The main thrust of the arguments of the opponents to this proposal is that in their opinion, it is archaic, polar opposite to the modern democratic paradigms and generates lame duck leadership.

From the window of lazy-bones analysis, their logic seems sound, but quickly collapses under intellectual inquiry. The truth is that we do not need always to copy totally any political model once it is practiced in Europe or America, to solve our problems. Our socio-cultural and political experience must be weighed in before adopting any. We must consider our culture, human development index, tendency towards corruption, level of political development and awareness, religious differences, ethnic divide etc, before pitching our tents with any governance model. Two terms of four years is good, but a single term of six years is better for us, given the factors above. The greatest threat to our democratic governance is the determination of our past presidents but more particularly, the governors to secure their second term mandate by all means. Any arsenal, especially corruption and thuggery is deployed to achieve this. Instead of resorting to good governance in other to win the hearts of the electorates, they spend the first four years looting the treasury, while their commissioners, advisers, board appointees, local government chairmen etc serve as appendages and leakage pipes or conduits through which state funds are siphoned to their private accounts. Their logic is to use those funds to corrupt and induce the electorate to achieve second tenure. During their second term, they loot the treasury again to recover what they had spent and to balance themselves as to be politically and economically relevant after leaving office. This builds a circle of corruption.

Another advantage of a single term of six years is that it could be used to build bridges of understanding and confidence and enhance the unity of our country. This will be through a constitutional provision that allows for the rotation of the presidency at the end of the six- year term between the north and the south for a specified number of years, to further unite the country through confidence building.

At the end of the specified years, a referendum will be conducted to decide whether it will be continued or jettisoned depending on the level of national integration.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s top priority should be generation of sufficient energy, elimination of insecurity and creation of jobs as to seriously reduce unemployment in the country .

Most Nigerians feel that true federalism is key in all these development efforts and this should also be accorded priority?

I share in the view that we need true federalism, which if put into consideration can address the political and even economic imbalances in the country. I also share in the view that several agitations that have become common in the country are borne as a result of lack of true federalism. If you look at it our porous security system, it is borne from this, the ethnic militias in the country, from the Boko Haram to MEND, OPC and MASSOB, all tailor towards one thing – injustice. So the President can begin this process by way of presentation of executive bill to the National Assembly to find way of addressing several agitations in the land. It will also go a long way in ensuring development, which now stares the country on the face.

 

 

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Updated 7 Years ago
 

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