By Ochiaka Ugwu
Although Nigeria could be said to be in the throes of one of its worst political and economic crises since the inception of our nascent democracy, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is doing everything humanly possible to retain power after the 14 February elections.
But many country men are asking whether the party that touts itself as the biggest party in the black world has delivered in its promises that will enable it win the February contest.
The PDP no doubt is showing signs of decay and at the same time claiming there is no-one to rival its dominance at national level. They even claimed the main opposition; All Progressives Congress (APC) has no electoral value describing its members as assemblage of strange bed fellows trying to win power at all cost for their own selfish interest. The fact remains that even the PDP is divided and has failed to capture the popular imagination and feelings of the people in all ramifications. Former PDP National Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbe once predicted that the PDP would remain in power until around 2040 and this is looking quite unlikely as political pendulum is swinging towards the opposition. The proponent of the statement, Ogbe did not stay long with the party as he got his own dose of PDP’s venom when he was forced to resign under controversial circumstance.
PDP has being in power for almost 16 years and has dominated the legislative arm for that long. But all the people got for their long stay in power is misery and poverty. Development experts have continuously maintained that the only sign of prosperity recorded by PDP led government is the increasing number of private jets owned by our billionaires and office holders while majority of the people wallow in abject poverty. As a political economist, if you roll out the growth statistics about which official spokesmen have made much, in a political economy class however, a fully conscious student may inquire, about how much of the growth is an outworking of economic management and how much of it is an expression of natural and material endowments; and the entrepreneurial vision of businessmen and women who struggle against the odds.
It was on record that before now, economic analysts projected that Nigeria has all the potential of becoming an economic giant on the scale of the emergent Asian tigers, if it could make maximum use of its natural resources properly to develop other sectors that will give the economy face lift. This became imperative owing to the fact that economic growth that is powered mainly by natural resources and the service sector does not give much cause for all round development. As it was pointed out by PDP fans that Nigeria is the highest economy in Africa following the recent rebasing, the truth of the matter is that Nigerians cannot eat rebasing or GDP. They want it reflect in their living conditions.
If one examines the picture clearer, he can see our gradual descent into renewed debt slavery, then the superficial nature of what is going on becomes clearer. This government promised a transformation that will impact on the lives of Nigerians by involving the uninvolved. Today, non-inclusive growth that will deepen the gap between the emergent owners of private jets and expensive cars and those condemned to using the rickety public transport system is all we see.
Concerning electricity, PDP had promised to deliver stable power supply since 1999 with Jonathan assuring Nigerians of steady power supply by 2015. He pledged that Nigerians will no longer use generators more than twice a week and raise power generation to close to 5,000 megawatts. No matter what government praise singers claim, the woes of consumers, as revealed in distress calls published in our newspapers provide a convincing gauge that little or no progress has been recorded on this score. The road map to stable power supply is on slow wheels while the incremental positioning that should convince us that we are on the highway to power upgrade is hopelessly gone.
Is the agricultural sector receiving a boost as we are made to believe by our Agric Minister? Has agriculture been modernised as promised? Well, the lament by most local farmers that government agency shared foreign rice to its workers during the yuletide instead of patronizing them shows that all the mantra to support Nigerian farmers was just an intention to deceive. The recent disclosure by Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala concerning mounting import bills of rice and starch provides a useful hint. Cassava bread, in spite of the President’s solemn assurances, has yet to arrive on our breakfast table and the prospects of that happening soon do not look good either.
Law and order and the pledge to combat rising insecurity featured, expectedly, on Jonathan’s agenda. The continued bombings in some northern states leave much to be desired on his stance on the activities of the insurgents. They want the president to make a bold step by taking a very decisive action. Many will certainly not forgive him for not acting earlier. Could he have acted much earlier, he would have prevented the escalation of the challenge into an existential threat. He has also being blamed for not nipping the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect in the bud.
The promise to run an inclusive government without discrimination by the PDP has ended up as a wishful thinking. Ask ordinary Nigerians who have been alienated from the scheme of things. They have been crying deep over their precarious condition with buttressing statistics on the rise of poverty which breeds hopelessness.
Given the situation on ground, most Nigerians have that fear that democracy is derailing in our clime. With PDP continuing which they are desperately plotting to achieve at all cost, there are chances that Nigeria will be a messy democracy, as the PDP has a long history of non performance. Nigeria also has a robust media and civil society, a feisty, if small, opposition, a powerful trade union movement and a strong business sector which are geared towards affecting change that will better the lot of the society.
They are all trying to root democracy in the system by making sure the independence of democratic institutions is maintained. So far, the judiciary has played not-too-admirable role in keeping a check on state power, along with the offices of the Chief Justice of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
However, other institutions, such as law enforcement agencies, have been accused of brutality, factionalism and corruption, raising fears that the distinction between party, state and business has become blurred. They are now seen to be serving PDP instead of the state. Substantial parts of our territory today are under the control of Boko Haram insurgents.
The criminal underworld has also penetrated the state. Many policemen have been convicted of taking bribes from citizens and even aiding politicians against the state. A case in point is the locking out of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from the National Assembly Complex thereby depriving him of his constitutional right of performing his legal duties. Many military personnel have been sentenced to death by military court over mutiny related cases. A great number of policemen have been dismissed after an investigation found that they are neck deep in graft cases.
Led by a credible retired general, Muhammadu Buhari, the APC is the PDP’s main challenger. The general is a staunch admirer of even development which he demonstrated two times as a Head of State and Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). Buhari who before now was adamant to join politics decided to do so based on the cry of the people who confidently called on him to salvage them from the darkness or torment called PDP.
There is also the point that PDP is trying hard to redeem its image to win Nigerians votes. On clear terms, however, the prospects of it achieving this before the February polls are not very bright as many have argued that they have not performed maximally to win the heart of the people.