Monday, August 23, 2021 10:55 am
By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Partisan Problem of One-Dimensional Politics
In his recent book, Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics and the Fight for Better Future, the American economists, Paul Krugman drew attention to what he refers to as ‘one-dimensional politics’, which is about opinions and not facts. According to him, ‘everything is political. In many cases, accepting what the evidence says about …question will be seen as a partisan act.’ Although the United States was the focus of Krugman’s analysis, one-dimensional politics such that accepting evidence become partisan, goes beyond the US. At least, it is also the reality in Nigeria, largely because opinions dominate almost all political conversations in the country. For instance, there is the widespread belief that the two leading parties in the country – Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) – are the same. Some analysts have gone further to argue that both parties have failed Nigerians.
Prof. Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in a BBC Hausa Service interview on August 2, 2021, reechoed this position with the submission that ‘the two big parties had failed to engender good governance and development in the country.’ Consequently, he called on Nigerians not to ‘give their trust to the parties again.’ Coming from Prof. Jega, the claim that both the PDP and APC are the same and had failed Nigerians should not be taken lightly. Prof. Jega wasn’t just the former Chairman of INEC. He is a respected political scientist internationally. He is both a theoretician and practitioner whose commitment to Nigeria’s development cannot be faulted. He grew through the ranks of radical activism to become the leader, both intellectually and in the practical field of politics and was able to inspire and influence the emergence of generation of both activists and leaders in the country. As Chairman of INEC, it cannot be disputed that he successfully led the reform of electoral management in the country.
As should be expected, both the PDP and APC dismissed Prof. Jega’s submissions that the two parties had failed Nigerians. Speaking through Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan and Sen. John Akpanudoedehe, respectively PDP National Publicity Secretary and APC Secretary of Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, they both argued that Prof. Jega was wrong to conclude that the two parties had failed Nigerians. PDP went further to accuse Prof. Jega of being ignorant of the ‘significant milestones’ it recorded during its reign and contended that ‘it is indeed unfortunate that … a professor of Political Science could portray an ignorance of the manifest contrasts between the robust fortunes of our nation under the PDP and the wasteland she has become under the APC.’
Somehow, both responses from the two officials of the PDP and APC failed to disproof Prof. Jega’s declaration that PDP and APC have failed Nigerians. A clear demonstration of the problem of one-dimensional politics, which is just about opinion and even when there is evidence to prove otherwise, individual opinion of leaders, which was what the responses of both Mr. Ologbondiyan and Sen. Akpanudoedehe represents, will instead be the reference. The responses from Mr. Ologbondiyan and Sen. Akpanudoedehe, if allowed to stand can only strengthen the argument that both PDP and APC are the same, which is not correct. The question of whether PDP and APC are the same and have all failed Nigerians should therefore be proven beyond the opinion of anybody, including the responses of Mr. Ologbondiyan and Sen. Akpanudoedehe. Irrespective of whether it is PDP, APC or any other party for that matter, performances of parties when elected to manage governments must go beyond opinions.
Perhaps, it needs to be acknowledged that given the disposition of politicians to switch between parties, especially from PDP to APC and vice versa, is often cited as justification of semblance. In addition, there is also the question of ideology, which many have argued is absent in Nigerian politics and is another evidence of why the two parties are the same. While it is important to acknowledge the validity of these criticism, it doesn’t however confirm that both the two parties are the same and as Prof. Jega alleged have failed Nigerians. Noting that Prof. Jega granted the BBC interview as a member of the People Redemption Party (PRP), it is important that he is assisted to go beyond the seductive appeal of one-dimensional politics by checking what the evidence are with respect to the credentials of both the APC and PDP as ruling parties.
Recognising also that one-dimensional politics, in the context of Nigeria, encourage politicians to resent criticisms, which is why Prof. Jega can be accused of being ignorant of ‘significant milestones’, politicians, especially from leading political parties need to also be made to appreciate that their opinion does not prove any achievement or disprove failure. To dismiss people criticising both the PDP and APC highlight the problem of intolerance, which Nigerian democracy must overcome. Intolerance creates a big gap between politics and knowledge. The consequence is that many politicians will continue to develop inferiority complex, based on which they use very uncouth language in responding to criticisms. It will either be a case of ‘ignorance’ as Mr. Ologbondiyan and Sen. Akpanudoedehe, will argue, ‘nauseating, malicious and nonsensical’ as Dr. Chris Ngige will refer to criticism of his management of industrial relations in the country or Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s reference to people critical of his leadership approaches as ‘cowards and pigs’. Once the attitude of politicians is to resent criticism, loyal party members will be intimidated and forced to submission. Nigerian politics must be reoriented such that leaders are able to respect criticism.
PDP and APC have failed Nigerians: Scholar Jega Vs Politician Jega
First thing first, is it true that both PDP and APC ‘had failed to engender good governance and development in the country’ as argued by Prof. Jega? What exactly are the evidence that made Prof. Jega to arrive at such a conclusion? So far, from the BBC interview, Prof. Jega did not present any specific validation of his conclusion. Both listening and reading the script of the interview, one is tempted to conclude that Prof. Jega spoke more as a politician in that interview than the thorough scholar he is. Being a PRP member, it was more about justifying his choice of PRP as opposed to any of the so-called big parties. In many respects, it wasn’t necessary at all. He doesn’t need to justify his political choice with reference to other parties. Doing so, cheaply bring him down to the basement of one-dimensional politics, which he is way above. As a result, at least from the BBC interview, he didn’t make any attempt to present how his party, PRP, will be different.
A person of the stature of Prof. Jega is entitled to his own political choice without having to justify it with reference to what is in existence. Projecting his choice confidently without having to situate it in relation to existing parties will determine substantially the value he is bring into Nigerian partisan politics. No doubt, his potentials are very high, which is why every serious-minded Nigerian should continue to advocate that people like Prof. Jega should join partisan politics. Being the successful scholar he is, in fact an authority in the field of political science in every respect, evidence-based politics should be the reference point of his political conclusions. He should be able to engage politics based on facts and not just opinion. Once he deviates from that and orient his politics based on opinions, it will be difficult, if not impossible for him to be different from the mainstream Nigerian politicians. This will simply mean that partisan politics will erode his moral authority and devalue his personality.
The second concern borders on how the two senior officials of the two parties – PDP and APC – contemptuously dismissed Prof. Jega’s statement. The PDP went further to question the credential of Prof. Jega as a professor of political science. This highlights one of the dangers of the Nigerian brand of one-dimensional politics. What qualifies any politician to question the academic qualification of anybody? Anybody going into politics, should be ready to be bullied by politicians who are experts in all the conventional strategies, both fair and unfair. It is debatable, if politics has entry requirement, Mr. Ologbondiyan can qualify to be anywhere near Prof. Jega. Once the disposition of politicians is to disrespect people like Prof. Jega, it will be almost impossible to expect anything more than what the PDP has achieved in Nigerian politics, which is more about opinion rather than evidence.
The truth is that one-dimensional politics in Nigeria, create a situation whereby no matter one’s level of education or exposure, the person must contend with the strong opinions of politicians. Going contrary to those opinions will be resisted. In the process, crude methods will be applied to rubbish the person. Recall how sadly under the immediate past leadership of the APC, a particular person was disqualified from emerging as a candidate of the party for election based on false allegation that his academic qualification was forged. Even when the Registrar of the institution made public statement confirming that the person graduated from that institution, the APC leadership went ahead to disqualify the person.
With one-dimensional politics, everything is reduced to opinion. With Prof. Jega now becoming a partisan politician, will he play politics based on evidence or it will just be about his opinion? Will he fail to apply all his knowledge and experience, which is his life achievement and use it to contribute towards building Nigerian political parties to practice evidence-based politics? Or will he join the conventional one-dimension politics, which is just about opinions? One will be tempted to imagine that even the choice of PRP suggest that Prof. Jega want to practice evidence-based politics largely perhaps because he is looking for a free space where internal dynamics doesn’t have the strong opinion that will be hard to break. In many respects, the choice of political party based on the strategy of avoiding strong opinions is simply a quick fix, which may not translate to any qualitative shift. That is why Prof. Jega’s BBC interview makes him vulnerable to being downgraded to the basement of one-dimensional politics.
This being the case, Prof. Jega, the politician risked being different from Prof. Jega the scholar. If Nigerian partisan politics is to benefit at all from Prof. Jega’s wealth of knowledge and experience, Prof. Jega the politician should be the same person as Prof. Jega the thorough scholar, theoretician, and practitioner of evidence-based politics. Being a member of PRP, his contribution towards the development of the PRP, should be evidence-based so that he is able to apply his knowledge and experience in politics. Otherwise, his ability to contribute to making PRP competitive in the politics of Nigeria is not blocked because however he approaches it, he will have to still contend with all the strong opinions that dominate Nigerian politics when seeking to mobilise support for his party, as was the case with the BBC interview.
PDP’s Significant Milestone – A Confirmation of Failure
If evidence-based politics is the reference, the recognition that no party is perfect is important. To that extend, it should be also recognised that both PDP and APC have challenges. Part of the challenge is that leaders and members of political parties should constantly be working to build capacity and correct inadequacies. The degree to which leaders of political parties ignore problems or deny that those challenges exist, the weaker they will be in managing public trust. Once the disposition of leaders is to deny existence of challenges, one-dimensional politics oriented based on opinions, which may not be the true reflections of reality, will be the attraction. Therefore, when PDP’s Mr. Ologbondiyan referred to ‘significant milestones’ recorded during the sixteen years tenure of the PDP, it is more about his opinion, which for opportunistic reasons of gaining electoral advantage could be acceptable to other PDP leaders and members.
The evidence so far from PDP’s record of sixteen years in government is largely about litany of corruption and how problems of insecurity become widespread in the country. With respect to the problem of corruption, series of reports of investigation are there, which is not about anybody’s opinion. For instance, recall the House of Representatives investigation on petroleum subsidy in 2012. Under the Chairmanship of Hon. Faruk Lawan, the Committee reported that “contrary to official figure of subsidy payment of N1.3 Trillion, the Accountant-General of the Federation put forward a figure of N1.6 Trillion, the CBN N1.7 Trillion, while the Committee established subsidy payment of N2.587 Trillion as at December 2011, amounting to more than 900% over the appropriated sum of N245 Billion. This figure of N2.587 Trillion is based on the CBN figure of N844.944 billion paid to NNPC, in addition to another figure of N847.942 billion reflected as withdrawals by NNPC from the excess crude naira account, as well as the sum of N894.201 billion paid as subsidy to Marketers. The figure of N847.942 billion quoted above strongly suggests that NNPC might have been withdrawing from two sources especially when double withdrawals were also reflected both in 2009 and 2010.” The report also indicted the Accountant-General of the Federation because of payments in 2009, in equal instalments of N999 million for 128 times, totaling N127.872 billion.
Also recall the claims and counterclaims of missing oil revenues in October 2013 when Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as CBN Governor alleged that $49.8 billion from the sales of crude oil between January 2012 – July 2013 was missing from NNPC accounts. Following series of audits and reconciliation meetings involving NNPC, CBN and Ministry of Finance, the former CBN Governor reported the missing amount to be $20 billion while the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala reported $10.8 billion. On February 20, 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan suspended Mallam Sanusi from office over allegations of financial misconduct. After the suspension of Mallam Sanusi as CBN Governor, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) confirmed that about $20 billion was missing.
In 2012, there was the case of Police Pension Task Force, which was investigated by the Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration. Some of the revelations include withdrawal of N24 billion for payment of pension that required about N3.5 billion — the Chairman of the Pension Review Task Team, Alh. Abdulrasheed Maina, informed the Senate Committee of two accounts in Lagos where police pension funds were lodged, each amounting to N21 and N24 billion. Alh. Maina reported daily withdrawals of various sums of money from these accounts ranging from N200 to N300 million. A total sum of N273.9 billion was reported by the Senate Committee to have been looted in 6 years from the police pension fund.
Other corruption cases under PDP (1999 – 2015) include the case of $180 million Halliburton; $1.1 billion Malabo Oil; Princess Stella Oduak N255 million Aviation Ministry bulletproof cars; N10 billion jet scam involving the Petroleum Minister (2011 – 2015), Mrs. Dizieni Alison Madueke; and House of Representatives Capital Market probe; and N360 billion service-wide scam. There was also the case of $2.1 billion arms deal involving Col. (Rtd) Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser under the Jonathan’s PDP administration. The breakdown showed that N1.5 billion was paid to Alh. Bashir Yuguda, which was reportedly disbursed in respective sums to the following PDP chieftains – N600 million to PDP 2015 election campaign Contact and Mobilization chairmen (Chief Bode George, Amb. Yerima Abdullahi, Mr. Peter Odili, Alh. Attahiru Bafarawa, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Col. (Rtd) Ahmadu Ali); N300 million to BAM properties linked to Alh. Bello Haliru, former PDP National Chairman; N200 million to Alh. Bello Sarkin Yaki, former PDP Kebbi State 2015 governorship candidate; N100 million to Alh. Mahmud Shinkafi, former PDP Zamfara State Governor; and N100 million to Dalhatu Limited linked to Alh. Attahiru Bafarawa.
Other disbursements from the $2.1 billion arms deal were N750 million to Reliance Referral Hospital Limited for special prayers; N380 million to support re-election of PDP members of House of Representatives; N550 million to Thisday Newspaper allegedly as compensation for attacks on the newspaper’s offices in Kaduna and Abuja in 2012; N120 million to Nduka Obaigbena allegedly as compensation for copies of various newspapers seized in June 2014; N170 million for the purchase of four-bedroom duplex; N260 million paid to Chief Tony Anenih; N345 million paid to Sen. Iyorchia Ayu; and N90 million for Dasuki’s son’s house.
Even in terms of the internal administration of PDP, corruption was an identifiable legacy. The proof is the construction of the PDP National Secretariat for which on November 14, 2008, the then National Chairman of PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, organised a fundraising dinner in Abuja to raise N10 billion to finance the construction of a 12-storey new PDP National Secretariat, located on Muhammadu Buhari Way, Central Business District, Abuja. Quoting Premium Times, Sahara Reporters of January 22, 2017, reported that the dinner, which was chaired by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, then Vice President, raised over N6 billion for the project.
Some of the donors include Mr. Femi Otedola who donated the highest amount of N1 billion and his late father, Chief Michael Otedola, who donated N25 million. Other big donors included Alh. Aliko Dangote who offered to supply cement worth N3 billion; the PDP National Working Committee, N1 billion; Mrs. Bola Shagaya, N25 million; Strabag Construction Company N100 million; Ogun State Government, N10 million; and an anonymous donor, N100 million. Late President Umaru Yar’Adua and his Vice President, Dr. Jonathan, contributed N527,205 and N454,735, representing 15 per cent of their basic salaries, respectively. Each of the party’s 28 State Governors at the time was reportedly levied N50 million by the party.
The contract for the PDP National Secretariat project was awarded to BNL Limited. The party paid an initial sum of N2 billion while BNL Limited was billed to complete construction of the National Secretariat project in 126 weeks. Sahara Reporters further reported in January 2017 that because of construction variations over the years, the project cost rose to N16 billion from the 2008 estimated N10 billion out of which the party had paid N6 billion before work stopped. At it is, the project has been abandoned.
Another major legacy of the PDP’s sixteen years tenure was the problem of insecurity, especially Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. Of course, there were problems of vandalisation of oil installations and kidnapping in the South-South and parts of South-East, cases of cattle rustling in North-West and North-Central. While it needs to be acknowledged that in the cases of vandalisation of oil installations and kidnapping by Niger-Delta militants in South-South were brought under control, the case of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East was politicised by the PDP under former President Jonathan, which accounted for the failure of the PDP administration to mobilise effective response. When for instance, the abduction of more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls happened in 2014, the position of former President Jonathan led PDP Federal Government was that it was a setup. For quite some time, former President Jonathan administration did not mobilise any response to the Chibok abduction. Up to May 2015 when APC government was inaugurated, PDP led Federal Government failed to mobilise strong military response to the problem of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
Apart from all these records of corruption and insecurity, what were the other legacies of the PDP after sixteen years in government at Federal level? May be Mr. Ologbondiyan and other PDP leaders can provide the evidence of ‘significant milestones’, which may be different from the depressing records of corruption and insecurity. Or put differently, the evidence will confirm ‘manifest contrasts … robust fortunes of our nation under the PDP.’ PDP’s Mr. Ologbondiyan will have to go beyond claims and specifically tell Nigerians what exactly were the ‘significant milestones’ recorded by the PDP during its sixteen years reign in power between 1999 and 2015.
APC’s Contrasting Scorecard
While awaiting Mr. Ologbondiyan and PDP leaders’ account of ‘significant milestones’, as well as Prof. Jega’s evidence that both PDP and APC have failed Nigerians, as members of APC, we should be able to engage the debate by providing supporting evidence highlighting the contrasting scorecards of APC government in the last six years. In doing so, it will be necessary to acknowledge challenges. Unlike PDP leaders, APC leaders are not in denial of the existence of challenges. Despite the challenges, however, APC Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is making efforts to move the country forward. To confirm that, unlike the PDP, APC led government is not a failure, three important achievements, in the areas of social investment, infrastructure and agriculture will be emphasised. Assessment of challenges of insecurity and how APC is handling it different will be also presented as part of the supporting evidence of APC’s contrasting scorecard.
Social Investment Programme: Since emerging as the governing party in 2015, APC Federal Government has been implementing National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which is far more than what any government in the past has done. Now elevated to a ministerial status, which is the initiative of President Buhari, it is founded on four pillars of N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Home Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). With the goal of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, millions of poor Nigerians are benefiting from these initiatives. For instance, GEEP has disbursed N36.9 billion in interest-free loans of between N50,000 to N350,000 to more than 2.3 million Nigerians. Under the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, 9.9 million primary 1 – 3 pupils in 54,952 public primary schools in 35 states have benefited. Additional 107,000 cooks have been engaged. In the case of Conditional Cash Transfer more than 3 million poor and vulnerable households have been registered on the National Social Register, out of which more than one million families are currently being paid N5,000 monthly.
Infrastructure: When President Muhammadu Buhari administration assumed office in 2015, the total budget for Federal Roads by the outgoing PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan was 18 billion Naira, which is only about 25% of the Lagos State roads budget for that year. The persistent skeletal funding translated to abandoned or slow-moving road projects across the country. APC administration’s first priorities were to increase the amount of funding available for road projects, while also ensuring the resumption of work on abandoned projects. In 2016, the roads budget went up to 260 billion Naira, for which about 200 billion Naira was released.
Significantly, more resources were devoted to construction of road and transport infrastructure than any other administration since 1999, and the results are roads, bridges, highways, rail lines and stations, and air and seaport upgrades. Work has since resumed on several stalled, abandoned or solution-defying road projects that were inherited, like the Loko-Oweto Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Sagamu-Benin Expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway, Obajana-Kabba Road, Ilorin-Jebba Road, Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Road, and several others are in progress, with some already close to completion.
A brand new bridge in Ikom, Cross River State, has just been completed, to replace a dilapidated steel truss bridge originally built five decades ago, as was a new border bridge linking Nigeria and Cameroon, in the spirit of regional integration. Construction work on the Second Niger Bridge, a contract awarded multiple times between 2002 and 2015, but constantly stalled for lack of funding, finally kicked off in 2018, with guaranteed funding, for the first time in the history of the project. In 2017, construction finally commenced on the Bodo-Bonny Bridges and Road (linking Bonny Island to the Rivers Mainland), a project first mooted decades ago, and awarded a number of times without success, prior to the Buhari APC led Administration. Currently, according to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, there are around 900 active road contracts, covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of Federal roads and highways across the country, out of a total of 35,000km of Federal roads in existence.
Agriculture: Some of the specific initiatives of the APC led government of President Buhari in the agricultural sector include National Food Security Council (NFSC), Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), National Livestock Transformation Plan, The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), and Creation of an Enabling Environment. Specifically, the ABP for instance, implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria, since 2015, provided more than 300 billion Naira to more than 3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities (including Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, Cassava, Poultry, Soy Beans, Groundnut, Fish), across Nigeria, successfully cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland.
The PFI has produced and delivered to the Nigerian market, over 30 million 50kg bags equivalent of fertilizer, at reduced prices; and resulted in the revival or construction of no fewer than 40 moribund fertilizer blending plants across the country. That Nigeria today has 44 functioning blending plants, with more on the way, is solely due to the success of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI). The plants include the following:
· In 2017, the multinational group Olam invested $150 million in an integrated animal feed mill, poultry breeding farms and hatchery in Kaduna State, as well as an integrated poultry and fish feed mill in Kwara State.
· In Anambra State, the Coscharis Group began the cultivation of rice in 2016, on a 2,500 hectare farm, and soon after expanded into Milling, with the commissioning of a 40,000 MT modular Rice Mill in 2019,
· In Niger State, the BUA Group is currently completing a $300million Integrated Facility comprising a Sugar Mill, Ethanol Plant, Sugar Refinery and Power Plant, and a 20,000-Hectare Farm.
· In Kebbi State, GB Foods has invested 20 billion Naira in a Tomato Processing Factory supplied by what is said to be the single largest tomato farm in the country. Future phases of the investment will make it the largest processing facility for fresh tomatoes in sub-Saharan Africa.
· The same GB Foods in July 2020 opened its N5.5 billion Mayonnaise production facility in Ogun State, which will be supplied with input from the company’s new farms in Kebbi State.
· In Lagos, Ariel Foods FZE has recently constructed and completed the biggest Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) production facility in Africa.
· In Nasarawa State, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) has recently completed work on the first phase of a multi-million-dollar animal feed processing facility and a backward-integrated 3000-hectare Maize and Soyabeans Farm, in a co-investment partnership with a South African Investment Group.
· In 2021, the Dangote Group commissioned its $2 billion Fertilizer Plant, with an annual capacity of 3 million Metric Tonnes, the largest fertilizer plant in West Africa. In June 2021, the plant began delivering an average of 120 trucks of Urea per week to the Nigerian market, and is also set to target the export market across West Africa and beyond.
· State Governments are also actively keying into the President’s Agriculture vision. In 2018, Cross River commissioned a 3 billion Naira Hybrid Rice Seedlings Factory, to supply rice seedlings to farmers and governments across the country.
· Lagos State is completing the 32 Metric Tonne per hour Imota Rice Mill, which, when functional, will be one of the largest rice processing facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. The Imota Rice Mill will produce 2.4 million bags of 50kg per annum, and create an estimated 250,000 direct and indirect jobs, and will plug Lagos State firmly into the national rice value chain.
· Ekiti State is reviving its Ikun Dairy Farm, in a successful partnership with Promasidor, with a production target of 10,000 Liters of milk daily.
· In Ondo State, the 9 billion Naira Sunshine Chocolate Factory – a Public Private Partnership involving the State Government – was completed and commissioned in 2020, to take advantage of the State’s leading position in the cultivation of cocoa.
Apart from these three sectors, there are other initiatives in other sectors. The achievements cited in these three sectors is just to substantiate the point that based on records of performance in government, APC can’t be in the same category with PDP. Anybody arguing that these achievements represent failure will need to substantiate it with convincing evidence of how their impact on the lives Nigerians translate to negative outcomes.
The need to be honest, whether as politicians or intellectuals is a minimum requirement that should confer legitimacy to conclusions being presented to Nigerians. If APC led Federal Government has initiated the kind of ambitious National Social Investment Programme in the country, which no other government in the past has undertaken, including PDP governments, isn’t that a confirmation of the difference between PDP and APC? If APC led Federal Government has successfully revived Nigerian Railways, actively implementing around 900 road contracts, covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of Federal roads and highways across the country, out of a total of 35,000km of Federal roads in existence, how many kilometers of road contracts were constructed, reconstructed or rehabilitated throughout PDP’s sixteen years rule?
What was the specific agricultural initiatives of all the PDP led Federal Governments between 1999 and 2015? In the context of these three achievements, and in other areas, the APC led Federal Government was able to succeed where other administrations, including the PDP have failed. Take the case of the 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail, completed by the President Buhari led APC administration 33 years after construction began. There was the evidential case of the second Niger Bridge, originally conceived decades ago, which is now more than 50 percent completed, and scheduled for commissioning in 2022. There was the case of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which has defied every PDP administration since 1999.
There is the case of the new Petroleum Industry Act assented to by President Buhari on Monday, August 16, 2021, which is going to restructure the operations and management of the Nigerian oil and gas industry. The initiative to put in place a new legal framework for the oil and gas sector started under the PDP government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, more than two decades ago. It was shrouded in endless national debates and stalemate but was eventually passed by the two Chambers of the National Assembly under APC leadership with a six-month transition for the emergence of new institutional framework for the operations of oil and gas industry in the country.
If with all these, it means that PDP and APC are the same and have all failed, then failure must be defined in a way that invalidates APC’s achievements since taking over the reigns of Federal Government in 2015. However, recognising that the issues of insecurity inherited by the APC led government of President Buhari remained a major national challenge, it is important that assessment of performance of APC government is not reduced to opinions of individual politicians. The reality is that both President Buhari and all APC leaders acknowledged the enormity of the challenges of insecurity in the country, which is why Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser was reported after the meeting of National Security Council of August 19, 2021, to have declared that President Buhari ‘would not leave office a failure.’ This is in recognition of the fact notwithstanding all the achievements of the APC administration, once the problem of insecurity persists, it means the government has failed.
Noting also that APC administration is taking steps to equip the security agencies and build morale, promote community-led solutions, develop new security infrastructure and operations across land and maritime environments, and address the underlying drivers of insecurity (poverty and youth unemployment), encouraging reports are emerging from the various theatres of operation. Although serious challenges still exist, and there is still a long way to go in restoring a robust sense of security in the country, it is also very important to continually acknowledge the victories and successes being recorded by the military and law enforcement agencies, in the various theatres of operation across the country.
For instance, the tide has turned against Boko Haram and ISWAP in the North–East and is turning against the bandits and criminals in the North–West. In the South East, relative calm has returned, and efforts are ongoing to fully neutralise the militant networks that have been troubling the region. In the Coastal Areas, the full rollout of the Deep Blue and Falcon Eye surveillance and security projects is certain to deal a strong blow on the activities of pirates and militants in the weeks and months ahead.
Certainly, all these measures can be strengthened, and the government can do more especially in relation to getting our security agencies to be more accountable. Everything considered, the current security structure in the country needs to be radically reformed. Issues of amending the laws to enable state governments establish state police
are clearly unavoidable. However, there are conditions that must be met before any decision to establish state police can serve as a good response to Nigeria’s security challenges. This include the requirement that processes of regulating the operations of the state police should be centralised as part of the functions of the Federal Police. Under that, for instance, issues of recruitment, qualification, background checks for those to be recruited, enforcement of disciplinary requirement, arms procurement and training for weapon handling, etc. should be handled at Federal level so that there are uniform standards across the country. It should be like the case of universities with National University Commission (NUC) serving as the regulatory body enforcing standards across all Nigerian universities.
Outside regulations, there are issues of funding. Most time, Nigerians make proposals in terms of how government should address challenges with the assumption that funding is given, which means that government can always mobilise the resources. This is mostly exaggerated. To address Nigerian security challenges, especially if the establishment of state police is to be considered, there must be a new funding arrangement, which should insulate the operations of Nigeria Police including the new state police to be established from all the uncertainties surrounding public financial management.
Conclusion – Facts Should Define the Boundaries of Politics
If the narrative is that PDP and APC have failed, what is the evidence based on the performances of both the PDP during its sixteen years tenure between 1999 and 2015, on the one hand, and that of the APC since 2015, on the other? If the disposition of politicians is one-dimensional politics, which is limited to opinions, why should scholars endorse opinions without evaluating them based on what the facts are? Could it be that the field of politics is truly different from the intellectual environment? May be that is so. However, it will be important to recognise that ability of individuals to contribute to changing Nigerian politics will depend a lot on the extent to which facts are recognised and respected. Whether political conclusions are oriented based on unsubstantiated opinions or facts, depend a lot on the degree to which evidence rather than opinion is the reference. Once conclusions are about opinions, propensity to ignore facts and become intolerant will be high.
The contours of the difference between the PDP and APC should be defined by the records of their experiences managing governments. The commitment to move Nigerian politics forward should be constructed based honest recognition of the realities, which the facts of performances of political parties when entrusted to manage governments represents.
*Salihu Moh. Lukman, Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum