The need for discernible transformation in all aspects of a nation’s economy that is futuristic in carefully marshalling plans and faithfully executing same cannot be over-emphasised in this era of new global economic order. There is, indeed, no gainsaying the fact that the age-long aphorism, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” becomes much relevant considering the observably untoward socio-economic realities cum apparent confusion in the workings of the leadership in Nigeria as of now.
Recall that on assumption of office as the new President and Commander-in-Chief May 29, 2011, Goodluck Jonathan had reeled out what his Administration tagged seven-point areas of focus, as Transformation Agenda, to enable his Administration to catapult Nigeria’s gasping economy from its extant prostrate state into a uniquely prosperous one bubbling with rewarding economic activities, thereby making it the toast of other climes in the comity of nations.
Such areas of concern for immediate redress, as contained in the Agenda, include Critical Infrastructure; Niger Delta; Food Security; Human Capital; Land Tenure Changes and Home Ownership, National Security and Intelligence; and Wealth Creation. Against the backdrop of the massive support the President received at the presidential poll then, many had expected the Government, months after, ought to have started taking steady and result-oriented measures while blocking avenues of corruption and waste in the system, formulating favourable policies, re-engineering processes and procedures, and mobilising the citizenry towards supporting the successful actualisation of the agenda.
However, when the Administration seemed not forthcoming with any concrete plans or realistic templates on the achievement of the stated deliverables in the said Transformation Agenda, the Nigerian populace, over 112 million of whom, according to National Bureau of Statistics’ latest figures, are impoverished and are seriously yearning for improved quality of life and good governance became agitated. Surviving a new day is usually regarded by many as a plus from the Almighty!
Even with a retinue of the so-called “technocrats” with world-class exposure in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), instead of taking time to think through the expediency of its policies, projects and programmes and planning well ahead with the substantial input of key stakeholders in the relevant sectors of the economy, the Government has only succeeded in toeing the confusing line of doing things, resulting in embarrassing policy somersaults, a leadership distaste that characterised a number of past administrations.
A recent example was the disingenuous manner the Government handled the highly controversial subsidy removal which suddenly, culminated in untold paralysis of the nation’s economy in January 2012. The unprecedented mass action against the petrol subsidy removal was declared by the country’s leading Labour unions, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), over an startling increase in petrol price from initial N65 to N141 on January 1, 2012, the controversial price which was later reduced to current N97 per litre of petrol, otherwise known as Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
Disappointingly, aside from a number of human lives, several property and hundreds of billions of Naira lost to the one-weeklong strike and mass, sustained protests at the time, the Government recently dropped a bombshell: the seemingly lofty items outlined in the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment (SURE) programme, which was hurriedly and unrealistically compiled and published as a face-saving measure to sway scores of Nigerians to support the unpopular decision, according to the Presidency, are no longer achievable despite its published N16.3billion subsidy savings for January this year.
Some of the details of the abandoned SURE programme, initially slated for implementation in the next three to four years hitherto included Maternal and Child Health Services; Public Works/Women and Youth Employment; Urban Mass Transit Scheme; Vocational Training; Niger Delta Development Project; Road Infrastructure, Rail Transport, Water and Agriculture Projects as well as selected Petroleum/NNPC, ICT and selected Power Projects among others.
Therefore, having experienced a substantial shortfall in the accruals to the Government at all levels, following the latest reduction in the price of petrol per litre from previous N141 to current N97, the Federal Government certainly, must take responsibility for the great gamble and goof it committed on the projected subsidy reinvestible funds, supposedly meant to prosecute the SURE programme. A classic case of ineffective planning and lack of foresight, one might say.
While contending with a budget deficit of about N1trillion in the yet-to-be-passed 2012 Budget currently before the National Assembly, in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, it will be an understatement to state that the Government is, indeed, under self-inflicted, unwarranted pressure to address some of the debilitating challenges retarding the economic progress of the country the available resources. Nonetheless, it necessarily has to fulfil its social contract made with the masses of Nigerians at the polls.
More so, the thorny issue of power generation, transmission, distribution and supply should be addressed as soon as possible. It is quite unimaginable and ludicrous to understand how any serious-minded country as Nigeria with about 167 million people can really transform the economy remarkably, with a meagre power output reportedly hovering between 3,600 and 3,800 megawatts of electricity.
As businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that have the potential to rev up economic activities and revitalise the entire socio-economic system are dying in droves, yet, amid pervading darkness, the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in cahoots with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) are warming up to implement the new, unjustified electricity tariffs in June 2012.
With the committed assistance of National Orientation Agency (NOA) and related bodies both in public and private sectors as well as, building of strong leadership institutions, it is equally consequential that the current Administration tackles the nagging challenges of greed and corruption that have pervaded virtually all aspects of the nation’s national life with catastrophic consequences. The mindless culture of resource wastage and outright theft of people’s commonwealth amid collapsed infrastructure is unacceptable, and must be stopped forthwith if the leadership must be taken seriously by the generality of the people.
Instead of giving feeble excuses for its continual non-performance on largely shabby, not-well-thought-through programmes as SURE virtually all the time, a clear-cut, practical national development roadmap or template detailing the transformation plan ought to be developed now. Only this can ensure any sustainable advancement in major sectors of the nation’s economy, particularly in connection with the realisation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Vision 20:2020 respectively.