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Open letter to Yar’Adua on MDGs

DELE SOBOWALE

Nigeria needs N24 tn to meet MDG target in 2015. Nigeria needs to spend N24trn in the next six years to realize the Millennium Development Goals target by 2015. —Senior Special Adviser Assistant to the Presdient on MDGs, Mrs Fatima Ibrahim, disclosed this to journalists after presenting the second and third quarter reports to President Umaru Yar’Adua in Abuja on Thursday… An average annual requirement of N4trn till 2015 is needed in order to reach the MDGs.

The Punch, Friday, September 4, 2009.

ORDINARILY, I would not have bothered to write this open letter to you, Mr President, if not for the fact that you have not declared, like your predecessor, that you don’t read newspapers. If not you, perhaps Turai; in fact better Turai might read it. Of course you know the subject already – it is in connection with those intractable problems called Millennium Development Goals to which your predecessor, rashly committed Nigeria in 2000.
For quick reference, let me list them for you as well as our readers who might not realize what the palaver is all about.
Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty’
achieve universal primary education;
promote gender equality and empower women,
reduce child mortality;
improve maternal health;
combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases;
ensure environmental sustainability;
develop a global partnership for development.

Let me tell you, sir, that, I sincerely want to help you and our dear country Nigeria. This is not another “bash Yar’Adua” article. At any rate, you did not create the problems; you inherited them. That, at least, partly exonerates your government. However, neither you nor your administration will deserve pardon from posterity if you fail to act now.

The special adviser who made that announcement probably did not understand the implications of what was published. It is quite possible that she is neither an economist, nor a financial expert. She might not even be a mathematician. Those of us who studied the dismal science, called economics, at Jankara University, have one problem – drop a figure like N400 billion or N24 trillion and we immediately start to analyse its implications. Furthermore, in our faculty here our files are already bulging with information about MDGs. This is what we make of that figure.

As you must know, Mr President, this year’s total budget came to a little over N3 trillion – never mind that as we told you on this page, “it was dead on arrival.” Eight full months into the year, it is clear to all, but the most dim-witted, that the Federal Government will not generate that amount; the withdrawal of the $500 million bond denominated in naira took care of that very early in the year. And the militants in the Niger Delta did the rest. By the way, if you recollect after my trip to the place, you were told that the military option will not work.

If it did, you will not now be bribing the militants to let peace reign. Even if all N3 trillion budgeted for this year were in the bag, what the special adviser is asking the nation to do is to source for funds equivalent to eight years total budget in order to meet, in six years, goals which were unrealistic right from inception – as will be demonstrated presently.
Given other programmes including the seven-point agenda; delusion, sorry, Vision 20:2020, and annual budgets to be funded during the same six years, ordinary commonsense would have suggested that this is a mission impossible.

Moral courage and patriotism, which are obviously in short supply at Abuja, would have dictated that she sent you a short internal memo instead – perhaps stamped “For Your Eyes Only”. The memo should have read something like this.
Your Excellency, Given the facts at my disposal, it is now clear to me that Nigeria cannot meet most of the MDG goals in the year 2015. The United Nations, the World Bank, the African Peer Review agency as well as other knowledgeable entities are all aware of our predicament. Most important of all, Mr President, we know it too.

The only option left to us at this time is to opt out of this global race; apologise to the UN but repudiate the MDG agreement and start afresh to develop our own MDGs consistent with our human, financial and other capacities to implement successfully. I realize that this will come as disappointment to, Your Excellency, but I believe you will prefer the truth to the falsehood that has surrounded this programme from inception.

Mr President, that would have been the whole truth and nothing but the truth. At this point, you are probably asking for other evidence to support the call for Nigeria to reschedule its MDGs. Oddly enough, your staff provided some of them. I only need to add a few based on analysis of where we stand at the moment and our track record in the past. For a start, you were in the country when one of your military predecessors announced education, housing and health for all by 2000.

His ministers and special advisers, some of them eminent professors, actually went out to convince Nigerians that these goals were achievable. At least Professor Gana did. We at the Jankara university, told the man in khaki that houses and schools were not things you ordered “with immediate effect”. We were branded “prophets of doom.” This is 2009 and the education and housing problems are worse than at any time in our history. The ogapatapata even gave those who deceived him national awards!!!

Before Mrs Fatima Ibrahim announced the imminent failure of Nigeria in meeting the MDGs by 2015, others close to the scene have already made their pronouncements. On March 31, 2009, in a story in The Guardian. The minister of state for education, Mrs Aisha Jubril Dukku voiced out her “concern over the possibility of  Nigeria failing to meet the global targets set under Education For All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) initiatives by the year 2015”.

A day after, Thisday, writing under: “Meltdown:Nigeria, others to miss MDGs 2015 Target” had revealed the following: “The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has expressed fears that unless urgent steps are taken, by Nigeria and other African countries, they will not meet the 2015 target set for the attainment of the eight global Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”. This disclosure was made by a diplomat, the UN resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Albert Kacou, who did not want to hurt our feelings by pronouncing the battle lost.


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