Thursday, May 25, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fw: prof's column

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From: Ayo Olukotun <>
Sent: Thursday, 25 May 2017 13:09
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Subject: prof's column

                 BUHARI: A MID TERM REPORT 
                        AYO OLUKOTUN
"If you have eaten, don't talk, if you are eating, don't talk, if you are hoping to be invited to eat, don't talk. Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano got into trouble because he broke the elite protocol of silence while eating" Comrade Adeola Soetan, Human Rights and Political Activist Tuesday, 23rd May,2017.
Earlier this week, newspapers reported that, as a result of the intervention of, among others, the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki, the Kano State House of Assembly has dropped its probe into allegations of misappropriating 6billion naira, levelled against the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II. Even when we grant that the 8-man probe set up by the Assembly, barely disguised its intentions, there is still a whiff of contradiction in a reformist government intervening publicly to bail out someone facing corruption charges. That contradiction points up bigger ones, in our system, namely, the political folklore that anyone well connected enough to the powers that be, can be let off the hook .In other words, it reinforces the essentially political character of anti corruption and probes, in a context where the rule of big men and big money rather than the rule of law prevail. 
The drama also reminds us, as Soetan bantered in the opening quote, that the problem in this and other several cases, is not so much corruption, as the urge to hit at critics and those who happen to be on the wrong side of the political divide. As this columnist has repeatedly narrated, Buhari is to be thanked for placing political reform and anti corruption squarely on the national agenda. Two years into his administration, the results are mixed, as too many untouchables flourish because of the selective application of what is essentially a noble programme. That apart, there is this uncomfortable feeling of one-upmanship, in which Buhari is more like a lone General, often acting without troops or elite buy-in into his flagship programme. Time will tell however, whether the anti corruption programme as currently configured will endure or will be seen as a flash in the pan of governmental rot and political decay . 
On the economy, we cannot assess Buhari fairly without taking into account the traumatic backdrop of a sharp drop in the price of oil in the world market and the looting spree by politicians across parties, in the years preceding his inauguration in 2015. That granted, we must bring up to the table that there was too much bumbling, guess work, hit and miss in the way the economy was managed until recently. Several lawyers such as Mr Udo Udoma, Minister for Budget and National Planning, are handling tough economic issues, while an air of incompetence lingers around the administration, when it comes to the economy. Behind the lines however, light has begun to shine through the launch of the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan and the modest, though reversible foothold into recovery. In the area of security, Buhari deserves kudos for purposeful interventions, especially the beating back of the Boko Haram challenge, and the release of close to half of the captured Chibok girls. Yawning gaps remain however, regarding the ceaseless flow of light arms through porous border to the country, the rampages of Fulani herdsmen, the upsurge of kidnapping and attacks on cities like Lagos through the creeks and waterways . We also need a security architecture in which the ordinary citizen, is sufficiently mobilized and satisfied to act as support pillars for law enforcement agencies. 
On social welfare, it is interesting that the government under a Social Investment Programme, has commenced the payment of 5,000 naira to poor Nigerians and the reduction of unemployment through the N-power job scheme.Laudable as these are, they merely scratch the surface of a deepening social crisis, symptomised by sprawling urban ghettoes, with a growing army of underclass, mounting graduate unemployment, and desperate poverty. Add to these, run away inflation regarding essential goods and services, and you begin to fathom the extent of misery in the land. Of course, this is not a problem that can be addressed fully within the life span of a particular administration; but much more than is currently on offer is needed to make a clear dent. As far as the power sector is concerned, the many promises and rounds of meetings held by the minister, Mr.Babatunde Fashola, have failed turn the tide of powerlessness. It is a crying shame that a nation whose estimated power needs are in the neighbourhood of 150,000megawats does not generate up to 40,000megawats. Most Nigerians, depend on private sources to make up the power deficit, with its attendant risks. Nothing illustrates the ineffectiveness of successive governments more. than the failure to arrest the electrical power jinx. Even if this is all that Buhari achieves in the two years remaining for his administration, Nigerians will be eternally grateful. 
Still on social welfare, it is to be regretted that despite repeated promises to prioritise education, this government has continuously and tragically under funded it. The 2017 budget which allocates 7% of the total budget to education, follows a familiar pattern of talking big but acting little. Last year, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, cried foul concerning the paltry allocation of resources to education. That outcry has not made any difference as the same percentage for 2016 is retained this year. It is unclear how government intends to oil the wheels of a far flung clientele, which includes over fifty Federal Universities, not to talk about colleges of education, polytechnics and basic institutions. As it is, this is another case of Utopia postponed. True, there is an emergent private sector in the educational industry, but can they, in their current underdeveloped form, replace public sector education? That is doubtful, just like hopes are dimming that the exodus of young Nigerians abroad, with its drain on scarce foreign exchange, is about to be reduced. Health and the related scarcity of facilities such as portable water, waste disposal among others , consitute endangered areas. As far as this writer is aware,there has been no noticeable improvement in health facilities in the last two years, a deficiency which comes to light during the ravages of epidemics.The adequate funding of health institutions speaks to the quality of lives of the citizen, as well as markups in life expectancy. As matters stand, there is little or no respite in sight for the hard pressed common man and woman. Overall, more talk and posturing about change , had been more evident than policy deliverables and mold breaking steps. It is true that alot can still happen between now and the end of the administration's tenure, but the omens are not so bright. This is more so, if you take into account the lame-duck character of the presidency, in which the helmsman is incapacitated by prolonged illness, of which the exact nature remains a mystery to Nigerians.
As far as the states are concerned, with a few honourable exceptions, they can be written off as settings of low productive governance activity. To end on an optimistic note, there is the good fortune that in spite of all, democracy however tattered, survives.

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