WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
“.. But passion and envy are rottenness to the bone.”
That is the submission of the Holy Book. For a life and disposition built on hatred and envy is a recipe for degradation of values, health and all-round worth. That has become the position and lot of many assumed valued but actually valueless, undecorated leaders in Nigeria who, despite noble intention and undeniable actions of the president and his Administration to revive the lots of the country and the obvious evidence of those policy actions and outcomes but choose to be fixated on what remains wrong or not fully resolved as the basis for judging and discrediting the President.
Last week, I began ruminating on the behavioural characteristics of Nigerians and the notable achievements of the Buhari led Administration since the commencement of the government in 2015. The more I attempted to understand why Nigerians are not unanimous in their acceptance and praise of the President for the conspicuous development in a good number of sectors, the more I remained in the dark over the subject matter, notwithstanding the opening quote in this piece lifted from the Holy Book.
It remains unspeakable to me how a number of Nigerians will easily wish away the rice revolution that has, in just four years, reversed the nation’s fortune from being the highest importer of rice to the highest exporter of the commodity in Africa, with full consideration for the benefit to Nigeria and Nigerians. How we freely spread the rhetoric that the commodity is expensive and ‘full of stones’ and how we would have preferred – or is it addicted to – the imported rice instead.
I cannot fathom the rationale behind ignoring the implications of the impact of the development in the transportation sector of our economy; the massive, visible development in the railway sector and the mass renewal of our airports and air travels qualities. These are possible developments that have eluded us for a long time because preceding administrations did not consider them needful to the detriment of the national economy.
The nation’s security cannot be claimed by anyone, not even the government, to be perfect, but it would equally be tantamount to an error to ignore willingly the visible efforts of the present Administration since inception and the trends of positives recorded in the sector. I don’t think any reasonable person would be able to boldly prefer what our security structure and situation was pre-2015 to what it is now. I did a rapt understudy of nations and I couldn’t find one that has in the last few decades totally won its war against internal and external insecurities. Not one. What I have seen are nations managing their insecurities and putting attacks as low as feasible. Not even the almighty America; internal insecurity remains as high as ever while the fight to halt external aggression never stopped.
Mixing politics with our total existence as a nation and resolving to play politics with every aspect of our national life has become our undoing as a people and a factor mostly responsible for our continuous regression on most fronts.
We cannot come together because politically we belong to different biases; we cannot ‘see’ and accept good works because it would jeopardise our self-interest, chances and recognition; we must forever ignore and disapprove of good intentions for the country and minimise the impact of good development strides because it will hurt our pride to do so; and so we chose to move the country in a go-round, non-constructive, demolishing opposition.
So, when I am done with my appraisal of the acts of Chief Edwin Clark and the many who shared his opinion about the President and his Administration, I get reasonably worried for this country. When elders who are supposed to serve as pillars for the country become blinded by hatred and pains of defeat of the past and more or less, a change in the way of running the business of the country that do not accord them same unnecessary, unpatriotic and undeserved privileges as before, I can’t help but worry for the future of Nigeria.
So, continuing with what I started last week, I will further expand the glaring achievements of the Buhari led Administration across sectors; and, perhaps, more pessimists would see reason with reality and abandon hate and envy to appreciate what should be appreciated. The ease of doing what I have chosen to do is that, even those who publicly deny the facts of the achievements cannot do the same to themselves. The works are mostly in the public domain. It’s just the story of a people who claim the second Niger Bridge is a hoax; either it is not there or it is not supposed to be there or it shouldn’t have been him that is putting it there. The project is there and ongoing, and like so many other undeniable evidence of determination to transform Nigeria’s fortune and give Nigerians reasons to face the future with hope – that things can really get better.
So, I would return to continue on the activities of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). As an entity, it has in the last five years contributed immensely in a number of key sectors of our economy, making substantial difference with a high level of integrity, discipline and transparency. As a marked departure from the era of sharing excess crude revenues, when the governors slug it out with the former presidents on a monthly basis on how to share whatever is in excess from the nation’s oil sales. We have, thankfully, come to the point where via NSIA, the Nigeria government now invests the excess in profitable long term investment including infrastructures that benefit Nigeria. Today, via NSIA, Nigeria can boast of investments in portfolio funds as well as a number of direct investments in 42 countries across five continents with 32 fund managers. A good example of the Fund’s direct investment is the $15 million investment in MTN from which the Fund earns regular dividends. This is a well thought out preparation, not just for the raining days but more importantly, in meeting its objective of generating funds and for the needs of the future generations of Nigeria.
Living up to its fundamental objectives, NSIA has eventually become the nation’s front in the global business corridor. Though a public agency, NSIA is fully operated by private sector philosophy, turning in profit by the year on behalf of the nation and accumulating funds to serve its various objectives.
Taking 2018 as a case study of the NSIA business operations, despite huge worries over international trade, the total asset of the fund rose to N617.70 billion. From this, the Sovereign Wealth Fund profit jumped up by 106% from N22.56 billion in 2017 to N46 billion in 2008; in 2019, the Fund’s profit was raised to about N57 billion. Instead of sharing and wasting as it was before, the Buhari Administration has finally put the NSIA to function in its expected capacity and we are all seeing what the outcome is.
What this means to Nigeria is robust; we are, for the first time, seeing the country engaging in sustainable development; cleverly preparing for the future generation as much as it strives to meet the needs of the present population. It is a total departure to what was obtainable in the past, when the norm was to ‘cut and share’ everything, to the point that we cannot even talk of an excess – but in past tense after being shared.
I have tried to check myself not to become biased and offer my opinion on any course or issue emotionally. I have therefore taken time enough to access factual and publicly accessible documents and information that would define and establish or otherwise, the long discussed issue of lopsided appointments by the administration of president Muhammadu Buhari. If that were to be true, I would personally have been hurt but in contrast to what has been in the public domain and continue to reverberate, the truth differs.
As at the last count, Mr. President has appointed 1,467 board chairmen and members of government agencies and parastatals, but it pleases Chief Edwin Clark to hand pick nine of these appointments and reappointments to blacklist the Administration’s appointments structure. He cleverly did not pick on the board of NSIA, where the South holds the card or several others where the story is good for the south. The replacement of Dakuku Peterside, appointed by the president himself and who served his term, recall, after a southerner had previously completed his term is just good enough to castigate the president. Why replacing Patrick Akpobolokemi, a South-South man with Dakuku Peterside, another south-south man is accepted without complaints but replacing Dakuku Peterside with a northerner is a crime against the South-South is a question for the complainants.
Chief Edwin Clark was the godfather of former President Jonathan whom he utterly believed was unbiased in his appointments. He speaks loudly of President Buhari eroding the legacy of equality in government appointments laid down by former president Jonathan. But a quick glance at the Jonathanian administration’s appointment structure says something different from what they want us to believe.
In the five years of the Jonathan administration, I took a list of the most significant appointments of the Administration and it posits a unique difference from what I expected. The SGF was Anyim Pius Anyim (South-South), the DG, DSS was Ita Ekpenyong (South-South), the CBN governor was Sanusi Lamido from the north but was removed and replaced with Godwin Emefiele ((South- East), the COS was Mike Oghidomhe (South-South), NIMET was headed by Anthony Anuforom (South-South), NNPC by Andrew yakubu (north), NIMASA by Patrick Akpobolokemi (South-South), FERMA by Chukwu Amuchi (south), DPR by George Osahon (south), BOI by Evelyn Oputu (south), Nigeria Content Development Agency by Ernest Nwampa (south), CPA by Dupe Atoki (south), NCC by Uegene Juwa (south), NAMA by Nnamdi Udoh (south), NCAA by Engr. Akikuotu (south), FAAN by George Uriesi (south), NCAT by Capt. Chinyere Kali (south), SEC by Aruma Otteh (south), NSIA by Uche Orji (south), NAFDAC by Paul Orhii (south), FIIRO by Mrs. G N Elemo (south), Maritime Agency by Joshua Ekpo (south), NRC by Seyi Sijuade (south), Tourism by Sally Nbanefor (south), Budget Office by Bright Okogwe (south), NERDC by Godswill obioma (south), NEXIM by R R oriya (south), SON by Joseph Odumodu (south), ITF by Longmas Wapmuk (south), NUC by prof. Okojie (south), NESREA by N.S benebo (south), MDG Office by Precious Gbenro (south), Surveyor General by Peter Chigozie (south), Statistician by Yemi kale, Accountant General by Jonah Otunla (south), Auditor General by Samuel Yonongo (south), NOA by Mike Omieri (south), NAN by Oluremi Oyo (south), NEPC by David Odelugba (south), IGP Police was Solomon Arase (south). The list is endless.
Chief Edwin Clark and the body of opposition he represents were part of that administration and to them it was a balanced appointment. All ethnic nationalities were justly treated yet the South-West went against the administration because they were totally left out; the north was quiet as the government became a southern show, and Chief Clark as an elderly man and one of the leaders of thought in the country was satisfied with his surrogate son’s sharing of national appointments to his people.
The president, since the commencement of his second tenure in 2019 has made 190 political appointments; contrary to what Chief Edwin Clark want Nigerians to believe: the South-West, comprising of Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti states tops the list of the president’s appointments with 64 appointees; the North-West, the region Chief Edwin Clark was particular about has just 37 appointees; the Northeast has 29 appointees, the South-South has 24; the North-Central has 21; while the South-East has 15. That makes it a total of 103 of the 190 appointments for the south and 87 for the north. The same trend is seen in the President’s appointments of his aides that see 102 of the 189 aides coming from the south as against 87 from the north.
Then, we have been dealing with the rhetoric of excessive borrowing by the Administration. I make bold that every nation or business with development targets thrives on loans. As of the 2020 calendar, the burden of loan on the United States of America stands at $24.95 trillion. In the last four year, President Trump has increased the loan by as much as $4.7 trillion. And yet America is much more conservative when compared to the UK and Germany. Borrowing is economically advised when it is purposeful. The problem we have lived with in Nigeria before now has been our leaders borrowing then either mismanaging or embezzling it. That is the reason why pre-2015, we were borrowing to pay salary and when we borrowed to build roads or any other infrastructure, the money would be spent without physical evidence of the project.
In the less-than six years of Jonathan presidency, the total loan taken by the administration was approximately $28 billion. That was at a period when crude oil sales averaged at $100/barrel and had a stable production output. According to the Debt Management Office and data provided by Africa Check, the administration of President Buhari increased the nation’s debt by $20.2 billion in its first tenure spanning the period between 2015 and 2020. Taking into consideration the implication of the current dollar exchange rate, and the fact that the oil value averaged $45/barrel between 2015 and now. The picture becomes more glaring when we run the list of physical infrastructures being undertaken by the Buhari government; the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Abeokuta Railway, Abeokuta-Ibadan Railway, completion of Abuja-Kaduna railway, completion of Abuja metro train, Delta-Edo-Kogi Railway, Abuja-kaduna-Zaria-Kano Highway, Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kaduna-Kano 600Km gas pipeline, Train assembly plant, the ongoing 3050Mw Manbilla Hydro Power Plant, 700Mw Zungeru hydropower plant, ongoing 215Mw Kudenda power plant kaduna, 40Mw Kashimbilla power plant and many others are open evidence of what borrowed, purposeful money are being used for in the current Buhari Administration.
I wonder why some elements within our population would remain bent to paint the Administration black despite fact and figure abounding and saying otherwise. Till today, we cannot visually identify capital projects financed by loans during the Jonathan administration beyond the submission of the coordinating minister of the economy to the effect that they were borrowing to pay salaries despite huge income from oil sales throughout the administration’s tenure.
I believe a time will come when we will all recognise the goodwill of this Administration and that time would be very soon. When we begin to travel on the second Niger Bridge, tour the country with trains as it was in the good old days, produce everything we eat locally and become the export hub for food crops, enjoy longer hour of uninterrupted electricity supply, among many positives that are either currently with us or on the way. Even Pa Clark would either join the population of happy Nigerians or chooses his old ways.
By then, the reason why Chief Edwin Clark and his type would still have their voice and sell in Nigeria would no longer suffice; the end of hatred and unchecked negative opposition would be here soon.
God Bless The Federal Republic Of Nigeria!