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Seven-Point Agenda: As public silence becomes noisy

NOBODY can write off the optimism that trailed Yar’Adua’s inaugural speech. It was inspirational, even as it raised the expectations of a people, used to mis- governance. Since then, promises made, are yet to translate to overwhelming prosperity. Not even the pledged generational shift, has been noticed in federal appointments-a reason why many have blamed absence of socio-economic prosperity on the president’s team.  Yar’Adua’s administration seems to be virtually off the radar, on how to achieve the seven-point agenda.  In this report, Charles Kumolu tells the story of how not and how best  to achieve the programmes

GIVEN that his emergence  was seen as part of what  many described as, lopsided style of appointment into Federal establishments by the presidency, criticism of the Seven-point agenda, perhaps, is the least that some may have expected from  Mr. Lamido Sanusi.

Apparently deviating from the Nigerian style of hailing unpopular government policies, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN, declared that the Seven-point agenda of President Musa Yar’Adua is not feasible.

He had suggested that the programmes be pruned to two or more, to create room for proper implementation.

“The seven-point agenda, if we could just focus on two or three things and finish them up in the next four years, we will be far more effective in contributing to this country than focusing on seven. This is a country where we do not have linkages.  And because of the absence of linkages, we don’t have economic growth.

We produce gas and export it, we do not have power plants. We produce crude oil, we import refined petroleum products. If we can set up power plants, set up our refineries, their multiplier effects on the economy and on growth (will be) amazing; and if we don’t do that we cannot grow,” Sanusi said to the admiration of Nigerians.

The remarks, sure meant different things to different folks.  Specifically, most analysts, believe that Sanusi attacked the obvious dilemma of this dispensation.

Although the presidency had dismissed popular perception on the remarks, saying that it was  just a suggestion that should not be seen as attack on the government’s focal policy.

President Yar' Adua
President Yar' Adua

“I didn’t see any area where he attacked President Yar’Adua’s Seven-point agenda as was imputed.  All the items on the Seven-point agenda are interrelated but if you check the 2009 Budget, those two areas highlighted account for more than 90 per cent of the spending. But even at that, paying more attention to power and infrastructure does not mean you have to neglect Niger Delta because if you do that, the power agenda would be dead on arrival”, Presidential Spokesman, Segun Adeniyi said.

Despite this defence, many believe that Sanusi spoke the mind of Nigerians, whose silence about the agenda is getting noisy.

The bottomline of Sanusi’s suggestion, observers argued, is harped, on the apparent failure of the promise. The multiplier effect, is clearly written on the faces of every Nigerian. Infact, it cuts across the rich and poor, as both have continued to pay dearly for the policy.

For instance, for low or no income families, that powers generator daily and the rich who spend heavily on diesel, the tale is the same, as they have become equals.

This artificial parity is evident from the eternal (?) darkness( incessant power failure) in every home.

For that reason, some think that the presidency does not need a Sanusi, to know how unpopular the cardinal point of this administration is becoming.

Rather, than seeing the policy as a roadmap to Nigeria’s prosperity, many have described it as a slogan.

With this failure to establish a connection  with the people, the popular expectation, is not far from the CBN governor’s remark.

Instead of winning back the confidence of the people on the issue, the government appear unrattled.  This, however is giving credence to arguments, that the policy was hurriedly put together in order to market candidate Yar’Adua.

And the popular verdict is: The question lies in the issue of performance, as the administration has done nothing in concrete terms to surmount  the challenges in the Seven point agenda.

The bottomline is a general feeling that the administration is weak in policy making and implementation .

Following the songs of sorrow on the lips of many, Vanguard Features sought the views of opinion leaders in the country on the subject.

Investigations  in the religious circle, confirmed public fears on its feasability.

“My take on the Seven-Point Agenda is very simple. Not all visions are real visions. Most visions are still dreams. There is no life in any vision. It’s faith that injects life into a vision. Do they really believe in it. There is no life in a good plan. It is timely and relevant actions that give life to a great plan. Do they really believe in the vision and do they have a plan to inject life into it? That is left to the formulators of the agenda to answer. In my view, it is another day’s dream,” said Bishop David Oyedepo.

The General Overseer of Living Faith Church’s description of the policy,  however may invoke the memories of “ five fingers of a leprous hand”–apologies to late Chief Bola Ige, who described the political parties under General Sani Abacha’s transition programmme as such.

“The question I want to ask you, journalists is: do you believe in the Seven-Point Agenda? If you believe, why did you believe?

It’s a great vision, but lifeless. Just like an anthem. For instance, the Covenant University anthem. Students just sing it like that,” he noted.

Oyedepo, whose church made it to the Guinness Book of Records, as world’s largest church, further said, “For the agenda to become reality, not only the President, but the people working with him must believe in it.”

Apparently suggesting how the policy can win back public confidence, he submitted that life should be ingested into the programme.

“The Seven-Pont agenda is a great plan. I wish we could inject life into it. It’s a powerful poem, put life into it.We’ve never been short of such visions in this country. The past government promised improved power supply. Rather than improving the power supply, it worsened.

“Until education is given priority place, we’re just messing up. Politicians in developing world thrive on illiteracy. It is their joy to keep the population illiterate.

I’ve just visited seven African countries. Education is of the least concern. The underdevelopment of Africa is rooted in mass illiteracy. You cannot come out of Harvard and be fighting in Niger Delta. You will be too refined for it.”

While harping on Nigeria’s woes on misplaced priorities, he declared that the Seven point agenda lacks foundation.

“There is no way to come out of the rot without giving education a priority. I strongly believe that the Seven-Point Agenda has no foundation, until education has a place.

The lecturers are on strike. Educational infrastructures are broken down. Until our priorities are put alright, there is no way. We have to rebuild our priorities if we are to succeed. Our priorities have been going down ever since,” he added.

For Chief Friedrich Fasheun, the administration must drop the policy, hence two years of its existence appears to have made little or no difference.

The prosperous, medical doctor, who is the founder of Odua Peoples Congress,OPC, regretted that Nigerians have lost faith in what appeared promising on May 29, 2007.

“This is two years since the administration came on board. If they have gone half way in the life of the administration, and  they have not done anything about it, then what is the need of having it.  I think they should drop it and find other alternatives.”

Singing what many would call his usual tune, Fasheun, who was incarcerated in the last dispensation, on civil disturbance related allegations, further called for a sovereign national conference.

“The answer to all these problems, I believe, is the convocation of a sovereign national conference. It will provide us opportunities to know  where we are going as a nation and people. We cannot continue like this,” he argued.

On the part of a chieftain of the ruling party, PDP, who pleaded anonymity, the Seven-point agenda can only work with a good team of advisers and ministers.

He regretted that the President is yet to have competent hands, who can drive the cardinal points of the administration, adding that there may be more to lose in terms of prosperity, by May 29, 2011.

“This country is lying prostrate and the cabal holding us hostage are not disturbed. They are using the agenda as a slogan. But I am I am happy that every body is aware that it a charade. There is no leadership and direction,” the source added, while still pleading anonymity.

The roadmap as pledged and broken

Power and energy
The infrastructural reforms in this critical sector through the development of sufficient and adequate power supply will be to ensure Nigeria’s ability to develop as a modern economy and an industrial nation by the year 2015.
Despite the expectations that trialed this pledge, the administration has not translated the dream to reality. In fact, power generation is reported to be at less than 1,000 megawatts. Other  attending effects of the collapse of the power sector, tells it all.

Food security
This reform is primarily agrarian based. It is expected to revolutionalise the agricultural sector leading to a 5 – 10 fold increase in yield and production. This will result in massive domestic and commercial outputs and technological knowledge transfer to farmers.

Though the two billion naira loan for farmers, is seen as a good step by some experts, many still think the government is far from tackling hunger.  Nigeria still import food and cash crops which can be produced locally.

Wealth creation
By virtue of its reliance on revenue from non-renewal oil, Nigeria has yet to develop industrially.
This reform is focused on wealth creation through diversified production especially in the agricultural and solid mineral sector.

Transport sector
The transportation sector in Nigeria with its poor roads networks is an inefficient means of mass transit of people and goods. With a goal of a modernised industrialised Nigeria, it is mandatory that Nigeria develops its transport sector. The PDP government has already started this process by the ongoing rehabilitation and modernisation of the railway.
So far, observers have described the efforts at fixing the railway as feeble, given the result it is yet to yield.  The deadly state of the nation’s highways, says much on how far the government has gone in this sector.

Land reforms
While hundreds of billions of dollars have been lost through unused government-owned landed asset, changes in the land laws and the emergence of land reforms will optimise Nigeria’s growth through the release of lands for commercialised farming and other large scale business by the private sector.

Security
An unfriendly security climate precludes both external and internal investment into the nation. Thus, security will be seen as not only a constitutional requirement but also as a necessary infrastructure for the development of a modern Nigerian economy. With its particular needs, the Niger Delta security issue will be the primary focus, marshalled not with physical policing or military security, but through honest and accurate dialogue between the people and the Federal Government.

Education
The two-fold reforms in the educational sector  will ensure firstly the minimum acceptable international standards of education for all. With that achieved, a strategic educational development plan will ensure excellence in both the tutoring and learning of skills in science and technology by students who will be seen as the future innovators and industrialists of Nigeria.

This reform will be achieved through massive injection into the Education sector.
As at the time of filling in this report, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASSU are on strike.  And the result is that academic activities in the universities, have been grounded.


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