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19.09.2013 Feature Article

Rethinking Our Path To National Development--Part 4

Rethinking Our Path To National Development--Part 4
19.09.2013 LISTEN

Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals. Management activities such as planning, organizing and decision making could not function until the leader trigger the power of motivation in people and guide them towards goals; and further ensure that appropriate policy guidelines are implemented to achieve organizational objectives. BY THIS YARDSTICK, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN IS A LEADER.

Nigeria attained flag independence with a lopsided federation. The political tripod was dominated by the majors to the exclusion of the 'minority groups'. This brought to limelight the knotty issue of domination, which evoked morbid fears marginalization. Thus the federal character was seen as a panacea for solving the problem of majority domination. In fact a sea of ink has been shed on the subject matter. As stipulated in the fundamental objectives and directive principles of State policy, the implementation of the federal character principle was considered a recipe for national integration and cohesion. In stark realization of the perceived diversity among the multiplicity of ethnic groups, the concept of federal character was particularly adopted as a panacea for reducing ethnic tension, to curb suppression of minorities and ensure equalization of opportunities such as appointments, distribution of amenities and working out a credible arithmetic for leadership equation.

Section 14 of the constitution stipulates inter alia: 'The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in the government or any of its agencies'.

The constitutional provisions, though seemingly ambiguous, are intended to ensure that no Nigerian is excluded from any aspect of national life simply because of ethnic provenance. However, since the adoption of the principle, many factors have vitiated its workability. First the Nigerian federalism was established on a distorted, pseudo foundation. The forceful lumping together of the multifarious ethnic nationalists in 1914 by the British was a great historical mistake, as the voluntary consent of the constituent ethnic groups was neither sought nor obtained. That was where the rain began to beat us. This is a foundational mistake that must be corrected before Nigeria can make progress.

The distorted pattern of the evolution of our federalism has led to a dangerous phenomenon. Our leaders were socialized in a culture of ethnicism and rather than being seen as national leaders, they gyrate after some relevance as tin gods with very deep primordial attachment and sentiment toward their ethnic groups. The collapse of the First republic and the and fratricidal civil war that followed accentuated the ethnic divide and this vitiated any genuine attempts at national integration. If there were a reservoir of injustice, the quantum of injustice doled out to the oil producers would have been over-flowing since Oloibiri-the symbol of oil was abandoned like a castrated cock, deprived of its fertility and derided by those who castrated it.

Essentially too, the inherent contradictions in a predatory capitalism have widened the gap between the rich and the poor. Whereas the bourgeoisie see the State as an instrument of ruthless exploitation to hold down the downtrodden masses, the enthronement of equality and fairness would violate the established class relations. Since the federal character principle seeks to entrench equity among the States compromising the Nigerian State, it is likely to jeopardize alienation and the profound class disparity skewed in favor of the privileged few.

The multinational corporations in the Niger Delta are inundated by manpower that is not from core oil producing areas. The usual excuse is that the oil producing areas lack the requisite manpower to work in the companies. However, the truth is that when interviews are conducted those at the positions of taking decisions as to who should be employed are not from the Niger Delta. So at every turn of events the people are short-changed even against the well-grounded logic of federal character.

Today, there are consociational pressures manifested in communal elitism, fragmented political culture all of which militate against the workings of the federal character. It is common knowledge today that even in the public service, bureaucratic elites tend to award contracts to members of their ethnic groups or their cronies. The implication has been that ethnicity has held sway over federal character in all spheres of national life. It is now understandable why the Obasanjo administration awarded contracts for the dualization of the Lagos-Ibadan and lagos-Abeokuta express way while the Yenegwe-Kolo-Nembe-Brass road cutting across the most lucrative crude oil producing area with vast agricultural potential has been on the drawing board for upwards of 45 years.

The same explanation may be responsible for why the federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) neglects the entire road in the South-South and South-East and concentrate their activities on other parts of the country. They may advance the same reason for chasing away Julius Berger and allowed SETRACO- a company in which a politician is a major shareholder to tinker with the construction of the East - West Road.

Now, the Nigerian nation is voraciously devouring the oil and gas resources in the Niger Delta Region, but whereas the Transnational Corporations have learnt no lesson on how to deliver corporate social responsibility, the Federal Government on its own is not eager to show sufficient political will to ameliorate the injustice melted out to the people. But when it comes to the sharing of oil and gas revenues, all kinds of logic and principles such as population, even development and landmass are used by the ruling class to short-change the owners of the resources. It is majoritarian dictatorship and a despicable economic calculus that has bogged-down the development of the oil-rich Region.

How can a federal character principle work when ministerial and ambassadorial appointments are skewed in favor of the majority ethnic group? In a country where admission into tertiary institutions is quotarised and merit is undermined, the federal character principle has become notoriously nonsensical. The federal character principle has been compounded by the crude gimmick invented by the ruling clique to further pauperize the oil-producing minorities, especially Bayelsans.

The Nigerian nation is indebted to the Niger Delta Region and the whole nation will pay the price sooner than later. The continued existence of the land Use Act and other obnoxious Petroleum related laws are not only inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria but exacerbate the Niger Delta crisis- which is a result of decades of cruel neglect, marginalization and exploitation. For instance, 49 years after the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri in Bayelsa State, the town has no development blueprint, and no visible signpost that development will occur. Oloibiri is a crude reminder that when the top oil wells stops flowing. The Niger Delta region will be abandoned to tackle the problems of a debased environment, distorted eco-system and their attendant health challenges.

How can the federal character principle work when government is insensitive to the plight of oil producing communities? Successive administrations promote the same discredited principle of 'monkey dey work, baboon dey chop? Where oil producing areas are given marginal attention and the resources are siphoned to develop other parts of the country. The consensus of popular opinion is that the Federal Government can directly award contracts to develop the area without necessarily passing through corrupt development agencies such as the NDDC with the current Managing Director ruling as a Czar with utter disregard of Board decisions.

Three practical steps must be taken for the federal Government to effectively implement the federal character principle. First is the repeal of all the obnoxious laws arresting the development of the Niger Delta? The second level is to give oil producing areas substantial control of their resources. This can be achieved by implementing at least the recommended 25 percent derivation formula. Thirdly, the Federal Government needs to adopt a bottom-up approach towards development by sitting projects directly without the use of patronage development agencies. Some of the development agencies only create avenues for a few privileged classes to enrich themselves at the expense of those directly affected by the scourge of oil spillage, gas flaring and other environmental hazards.

There are several areas where the Federal Government has been successful in implementing the Federal Character Principle: the National Youth Service Corps and recruitment into the Armed Forces. The sharing of oil revenue should also follow the same avowed Federal Character principle. That is the only recipe for a stable Niger Delta and a virile Nigerian economy. The most strategic weapon to persuade a disillusioned people is to give them what rightfully belongs to them in line with the principles of natural justice. The Niger Delta people can only interpret the federal character principle as another legal-constitutional instrument designed to further deprive them of their rights.

This is the time for President Jonathan to reassess his relationship with past Presidents, some of who are ready to drag him down. The reassessment is also underscored by the fact that at the national level intrigues and manipulations are in top gear; and politicians especially the anti-Jonathan forces are seeking realignment and relevance in the scheme of things. The drift towards a one-party system in the past seems to be coming to an end. There is an emerging scenario of a well-organized, virile opposition in the National Assembly. So President Jonathan should know that the business as usual scenario is gradually giving way for real popular participation.

Presently, it is most discomforting that World Bank has listed Nigeria as a fragile State with a soft economy, alongside Burundi, Cambodia, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Guinea-Bissau Kosovo and Laos PDR. The fragile States as according to the world Bank are characterized by weak institutions, poor governance, high mortality rate low life expectancy, with maternal mortality rates 20 percent higher than other developing countries. We all know that Nigeria is running a war economy amidst excess crude oil monies. For the Jonathan administration to change these bad statistics and put the economy back on track he needs to be pragmatic rather than repeat the vacuous inanities of Vision 20:2020 and setting agenda that is utopian.

President Jonathan should run Nigeria as a country not based on the stale orthodoxy of the Peoples Democratic Party. His Ministerial nominees show that he has not departed from the ways of PDP under Obasanjo. Nigerian masses are suffering and the hardship does not discriminate between PDP and others. While emphasizing on appointing technocrats, he should not politick with the major sectors of the economy such as security, power, infrastructure and industrialization for productivity and job creation. Mr. President should use the same criterion of technocracy in appointing diplomats, and heads of Boards and parastatals. Mr. President should break the Chinese wall being erected by his aides at the Presidency and the people, for that is the true test of transformational leadership

I am indeed impressed with the midterm report. The midterm report in the in the Agricultural sector. The Report shows that there is a remarkable improvement in almost all the sectors of the economy.

ON AGRICULTURE, SO MUCH HAS BEEN ACHIEVED:
In 2012 14 new rice mills with capacity to process 240 metric tons of rice were set up by the private sector while in addition, a sum of 1.2 billion dollars was secured by the Federal Government to install 100 large scale rice processing mills to produce 2.1 million metric tons of rice annually.

This and other initiatives of government in 2012 resulted in the creation of about two million new jobs among rural dwellers. In 2013, the Federal Government will implement a Young Graduates Commercial Farmers Scheme, which will absorb 780,000 graduates in its first phase and provide an estimated four million jobs in the agricultural sector in the first year.

Today, Nigeria has reached an unprecedented 60 per cent sufficiency in rice production, a feat, which the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recently described as capable of raising world rice output to a record high in the next 12 next months.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has set a clear goal to make the country self-sufficient in rice production by 2015 and end the N 356 Billion currently spent on importing rice annually, as well as replace up to 40% of the wheat imports for which the country spends over N 635 Billion annually, by 2015.

The Nigeria Agricultural Bank is being restructured and recapitalized to provide loans to peasant farmers at single digit interest rates. This will be the most remarkable fund injection initiative ever undertaken by any government to empower rural peasant farmers and create wealth for rural dwellers.

Export of dried cassava chips began in July 2012 and this represented the first time that Nigeria will achieve commercial scale export of dried chips, which will earn the country $136 million annually in foreign exchange.

The Jonathan administration is resuscitating the production of Cotton particularly in the Northeast and Northwest zones of Nigeria through the provision of improved cotton seedlings, which have been given free of charge to farmers. This will definitely result in the resuscitation of the upstream and downstream cotton/textile subsector before the end of 2013.

Nigeria is the largest pro ducer of cassava in the world with 34 million MT produced per annum

In the last one year following the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture under the Agriculture Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan administration, around $8 billion in private investments have been attracted to agricbusiness, crop production, processing and other forms of value addition.

The Jonathan administration cleansed the rot in the fertilizer distribution system. Under the previous system, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development procured and distributed fertilizers to farmers. The system undermined the private sector and only about 11 percent of the farmers received fertilizers. The rest were sold to friends and `political farmers' whom exported them. President Jonathan's intervention dismantled in 60m days, this corrupt system, which had existed for over 40 years and fertilizers are now sold directly to farmers and not to government.

The Ministry launched a Growth Enhancement Scheme, where farmers receive 50% subsidy on fertilizers, for a maximum of two bags, through the use of their mobile phones or what we call Electronic-wallet system (or E-wallet). In 120 days, over 1.2 million farmers bought their subsidized fertilizers using the E-wallet system. Over 1.5 million farmers will be reached by the end of the dry season. A total of 138,802.7 metric tons of fertilizer and 10,974.78 metric tons of seeds in 517 active redemption centres out of all the 804 centres spread across all states of the federation. The E-wallet system is the first of its kind in Africa and already several African countries have indicated they want to implement the Nigerian system.

Multilateral and bilateral agencies are providing donor-related investment support and have shown enthusiasm for the major reforms on-going in Nigeria's agriculture by committing more $1 billion towards Nigeria's Agricultural Transformation Agenda.

The World Bank Group is providing $500 million. African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed $250 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have selected Nigeria as a priority country for its investment in agriculture. The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) has put up $80 million. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed $60 million. The UK Government, through DFID has committed £37 million. The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ford Foundation and UNDP are providing significant technical support facilities.

President Jonathan might have done certain common things in an uncommon manner. He has earned the respect of most Nigerians and for me he should assure Nigerians that he will do only a second tenure and not a third one even if Nigerians want him so to do.

To be Contd.

N/B: Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu is an economic opportunist whose only sworn affidavit is self-aggrandizement and empire building. He has already achieved that in Lagos. He hopes to achieve this on a national scale by fraternizing with past military leaders who raped the economy and now control a huge chunk of the oil blocks belonging to the people of the Niger Delta. People of such character can only mortgage the destiny of the children. This is what the youths of Nigeria will resist.

Idumange John - a political analyst writes from Yenagoa

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