7 Point Agenda: Is Yar’Adua overwhelmed?

In two years of President Yar’adua’s government, there has been an upsurge in crime, militancy and lawlessness. Whatever hopes that future elections in Nigeria were dashed by events during the re-run governorship election in Ekiti State. The question on the lips of Nigerians as Government looks overwhelmed are: Is our man still up for the job?

President Yar’Adua envisioned a Seven-point agenda as directive principles of his administrations policy. To what extent has he succeeded in carrying out this agenda? 

State Of Insecurity: When the House of Representatives brought together an array of defense and security chiefs, to examine the security status of the country and help proffer solution to the frightening prospects of a gradual and sure descent into a state of chaos and anarchy. The revelations was frightening.  

The Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Afakriya Gadzama expressed fears that if the current situation of lawlessness is allowed to continue the way it is into the volatile election year of 2011, the country could go up in flames. The frightening prospects of a gradual and sure descent into a state of chaos and anarchy.

That situation brought to the fore that after two years of romancing, Security of lives and property, rated number two in the President’s Seven-point agenda, with a promise to treat security as a critical infrastructure the security situation is still precarious. Just like the other items on Mr. President’s shopping list, security as a single item does not, and cannot just exist on its own, without a propping from other critical sectors. There are conditions that must be in place, for security to either thrive or suffer. The President promised to run a government that respects the rule of law; and to ensure that the country becomes a nation that respects law, order, established regulations and procedure. At every given opportunity, President Yar’Adua never forgets to mention his love for the Rule of Law. But so far, it seems he is alone and there are no disciples to carry his dreams to the streets, where there are daily reports of lawlessness and criminality.

The Boko Haram uprising that began in the Northeast geo-political zone had generated shock waves, to complement a plethora of security lapses being harvested in other zones, thus exposing the very lax nature of intelligence gathering, surveillance and enforcement of law and order in the country. It was by sheer luck that Boko Haram was tamed from spreading into more combustible zones of the Northwest.

Economy:  Under Yar’ Adua’s watch, the federal government has run an average deficit equivalent to 0.3 per cent of GDP, despite the fact that the average oil price has been 50 per cent higher. In effect Yar’Adua administration is saving less than the former Obasanjo administration, which ran an average federal budget surplus equivalent to 7.1 per cent of GDP in the three years to 2006. Lower oil revenues have further driven the fiscal accounts and balance of payments into deficit.

Nigeria’s oil industry has been crippled by a campaign of bombing and theft conducted by militants demanding, and increasingly taking, a greater share of oil wealth. Amidst uncertainty over broader policy, fresh exploration has ground to a halt.  Not since the late 1960s has onshore output fallen so low. Nigeria is exporting less than half the crude it did in 2008 by some estimates and selling at about half the price. Moreover, most production is now offshore where the state has far less lucrative terms. 

Education: Right now, members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities are on strike. Students are at home. Strikes have grounded education in public universities. Many schools are bound to alter their academic calendar by the time the strike is over. 

ENERGY: As things are today, the euphoria of achieving 6000 Megawatts of electricity even by the end of 2009 is unrealisable; the independent power projects nationwide are presently at a standstill.

On Dec 17, 2008, in Abuja at a business dialogue on Power and gas packaged by the Message Wise Limited supported by Accorn Petroleum Plc, the Executive Director [Power Projects] at Supertek Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ray Oguego disclosed that all the independent power projects in the country were yet to take off because the Power Purchase Agreement, a necessary requirement for the production of power was yet to be signed.

On what basis then, was President Yar’Adua swearing before the Guardian interviewers, that the nation MUST achieve 6000 Megawatts of electricity by December 2009?

For the long-suffering Nigerians, PHCN (aka NEPA), would still be a harbinger of darkness instead of light.

Commercial kidnapping was not a common feature of criminality in the country before May 29, 1999 when civilian governance was re-introduced. There used to be cases of loss of persons of unstable mental state, aged persons and young people, who were either unable to find their ways back home, or fell victims of ritual killers. Today, Nigeria is listed behind Somalia and Pakistan as countries where kidnapping for ransom has assumed global status.

It gained notoriety in the Niger Delta, where militants and others pretending to be advocates of resource control had found another means to address their economic needs, through the demand for ransom from families and companies that are related to their victims. Gradually it spread to the Southeast, where it was repackaged as another revenue earner for idle hands. While principal targets in the Niger Delta used to be oil company workers and their dependants, it was spread to accommodate the political class, business community and students. The height of it was when a commissioner in Anambra State and her son were put out of circulation for many days, until they were rescued discreetly.

Today, kidnapping has spread to Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kaduna and is moving steadily to other parts. Sometimes, the perpetrators are some cheap, jobless street gangs who use common tricks to lure preys and use the same to extort moneys from victims’ families. At other times, very crude and lethal means are used to commit the crime. Whatever the means, kidnapping has become a major threat to the security of lives and property.

Armed robbery across the country has gone beyond the level of random and speculative neighbourhood attacks to well-planned, full-scale assault on communities and banking halls. Robbers now go in convoys, with a full complement of assault machinery and instruments to breakdown strong rooms. It is no longer news that robbers invest more than four hours on an expedition, after which law enforcement agents would arrive the scene after the robbers had made away with their loots. On a few occasions when gallantry is displayed, casualty is always high on the side of law agents, because of the superior arms of the robbers, arms that are usually smuggled through land borders and the high sea.

Violent crime is also rampant during elections. The re-run elections in Ekiti State displayed a high content of violent clashes and sever injuries to opposing camps of politicians. The culture of ‘do or die,’ during elections lead to chaos and disorder at campaigns, and at other electoral engagements. Between 2003 and 2006 when the Appeal Court, Enugu sent home former governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige for electoral malpractice, the state was a theatre of crime. The abduction of Ngige, the destruction of public property and the lawlessness of politicians became a major threat to security of lives and property. Again, tension is brewing in the state, ahead of the January 2010 governorship election and there seems to be no foot soldiers to carry the President’s pet dream of Rule of Law to the politicians. Those who committed heinous crime against the state were never investigated or punished; they are indeed rewarded for their crimes and given more responsibility on behalf of the President’s ruling party.

In two years of President Yar’Adua’s government, there has been an upsurge in crime and lawlessness and the government seems overwhelmed. In the archives of the Federal Government, there are series of reports and blueprints on how to reform the security sector. Donor organizations have also offered series of support on how to scale up on security matters. Government is simply overwhelmed.

Niger Delta: have enjoyed a gradual transformation on the part of the Federal Government from ignoring the Niger Delta issues to treating Niger Delta militancy as:

1. An irritant- which could be why Abacha zapped Ken Saro Wiwa the way you zap a bug.

2. A declaration of war – which might explain why ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo massacred the inhabitants of Odi, a war crime

3. A Game – to Yar’Adua, Niger Delta militancy appears to be a game. First declare a non-existent state of emergency in the Delta region, then announce an impossible-to-hold summit, next bombard the area with heavy artillery and then declare a 50billion Naira amnesty and finally invite the militants to a tête-à-tête and tea at Aso Rock.

Militancy in the Niger Delta as different from the non-violent advocacy and agitation for resource control; Some politicians were said to have armed some Niger Delta youths as political thugs, whom they used to unleash violence on their opponents. Having been exposed to cheap money, the thugs have grown to become advocates of resource control. The process degenerated into cult groups who later went to the creeks to take charge.

Yar’Adua inherited that chaos and promised to fix it through a stakeholders’ conference. The conference was abandoned and a technical group was put in place to articulate all that had been documented on how to fix the Niger Delta.

The ongoing amnesty programme of the Federal Government for militants is one tiny part of the recommendations of the technical group, which was headed by Ledum Mitee of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP).Within 48 hours of its implemenation, it looks dommed already.

Police Reforms: a major policy plank of the previous administration was a giant plan to re-engineer the Police infrastructure. Major General David Jemibewon as Minister of Police had an elaborate plan to fix the Police. But the more money was budgeted for the Police, the lower the Force sinks into lethargy and compromise. Very little attention is paid to intelligence gathering and preemptive policing.

Others have asked for a decentralization of the Police, to allow states and local governments raise their own formations. All that debate is befuddled in arguments of appropriate federalism; while the current demand is for alternative policing, whatever that means.

THE issue of electoral reform has never been in the front burner of national politics in the past as it has become of late, especially following the experiences of the Ekiti State governorship election rerun.

Whatever hopes that future elections in Nigeria, even without reformation of the electoral system and process, were dashed by events during the rerun governorship election in Ekiti State, just as the possibility of a one-party state dawns with the continuous defection of elected governors and legislators to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

And that Nigeria is sliding into a one-party dominant polity is becoming a reality with the gale of defection of elected governors and lawmakers of other political parties to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where it appears even a goat will win an election against even acclaimed politicians of other parties, due largely to a skewed system and process in a winner-takes-all scenario.

Aside the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, all elections in Nigeria had been fraught with irregularities and allegations of manipulation, particularly that of April 21, 2007 conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that brought forth President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

So, when the President in his inaugural speech admitted the irregularities in the poll that brought him to power, with a promise to reform the country’s electoral process to improve on future elections, the ‘sins’ of his emergence were forgiven and he was given the benefit of the doubt to ‘sin’ no more.

His inauguration of the Justice Muhammadu Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) later on was seen as an opportunity to ‘atone’ for his ‘sins.’ The outcome of the committee’s nation-wide tour embedded in its recommendations provided a ray of hope that there would be light at the end of the country’s electoral tunnel.

But the bastardisation of the committee’s report by another ministerial committee set up to review initial report and the rejection of the critical aspects of its recommendations threw spanners in the works and exposed Nigerian office holders disdain for free and fair elections.

Ostensibly realising the futility of winning re-election on the platform of other political parties, when the ruling PDP had declared its intention to rule for 60 years, politicians from other creed are fast jumping into the bandwagon, as the 2011 general election draws near.

Recently, Uwais had cause to call for urgent implementation of his committee’s recommendations.

At a one-day national conference on Consensus Building for Electoral Reform organised by International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Uwais blamed the President and National Assembly, who he said might not be interested in electoral reform, for the delay in implementing the reform.

The President had come under severe criticism for watering down the Uwais panel report in the six bills he rushed to the National Assembly, some of them unimaginable.

But even in the National Assembly, it is more knocks than kudos for the President and his bills. One of the bills seeks to establish the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission (PPRRC).


President Yar’Adua envisioned that for his Seven-point agenda to work, his government must critically engage the Issue of planning. This is critical to the survival of the item of security. He said, “we must have a plan that is clear, unambiguous, sincerely and genuinely drawn up and that has the real potential of taking us to the objective.” The objective is to lift the country from its failure position, to that level where it would be reckoned with as a successful and healthy member of the international community. Here, leadership is critical; and the President seemed to agree when he said: “We must have the commitment to work hard and provide leadership. We need to provide the correct leadership and we need to ensure the correct conduct and the correct attitude and we need to plan well towards our objectives … to lay a solid foundation for building a modern industrialized nation that will meet the developmental needs of our people, their educational needs, their health needs and their psychological needs … and develop the environment for them to grow and develop their potentials.

TALL dream! The Boko Haram experience betrays a perennial failure of government to confront challenges of social security even before they become translated into full-scale problems. Observers note that the key to addressing the security challenges as well as other serious national blunders lies in the reformation of the political systems, thereby empowering the people to put their sovereignty to effective use in determining the leadership they want. The failure of government, they claim stems from the yawning gap between the people and development. Government therefore, exists for a tiny population of the political class who are serviced by more than 60 percent of the annual national budget. The rest are left to cater for themselves, through menial jobs or criminality.

Seeing the frightening looks of President Yar’Adua as he came back from Brazil, the question on the lips of Nigerians are: Is our man still up for the job?

The majority has since concluded that Government is simply overwhelmed.

Sources: The Guardian and