Signposts of political and economic progress
By Adisa Adeleye
LAST week, I wrote on political and economic necessities for ensuring national stability and progress. I touched briefly on the success of the completion of the Ondo gubernatorial contest.
The reaction of the President after that election was great in forestalling the recriminations which often followed elections in the past, and also, the acceptance of the defeat of his party (PDP) in those enlightened states (Edo and Ondo). One is not suggesting that any election conducted fairly and freely would always result in the defeat of the ruling PDP in other areas.
The lesson to be drawn from our local elections is far greater than the defeat of the ruling party or the triumph of the opposition. As I have noted before, the cardinal element in previous elections has always been a poor attitude, or rather the apathy of the voters.
It might be that the voters would not see any difference in the programs of the contesting parties or that the party candidates themselves could not advocate eloquently the difference in their manifestos.
In Nigeria, as usual, all parties want political stability and economic growth without stating clearly how these objectives could be achieved in a peaceful atmosphere.
It could not be ascertained to what extent the heavy presence of security agents could contribute to voters‘ decent behaviours or could lead to voters not coming out in large numbers to exercise their civic responsibilities. It could, one day, be a glory to democracy if voters would troop out in great number to vote for the party of their choice (on the basis of what each party stands for).
If voters could cast their votes unmolested, and their votes counted at the designated centers (without any incidence of stuffed or missing ballot boxes), then democracy would at last have arrived in the country. This is based on an assumption that security forces are placed at such distance that their faces are not seen to cause fear and their actions are not interpreted to intimidate voters.
It is being suggested, if the wise people of INEC would approve, that immediate voting should take place after accreditation. This means that after an eligible voter is accredited; such voter should go directly to cast his vote, there is no reason why accredited voters should be allowed to go home first and return later to cast their votes. The intervening period between accreditation and voting (proper) could induce apathy. Voting in many democratic states is straight-forward and ours should not be subject to encumbrances.
Voting should be direct and easy, and the result, crystal clear.
A fair and just electoral system is an important ingredient in the theory and practice of democracy. The political parties should help INEC to function impartially while INEC officials are expected to be above board in the discharge of their responsibilities. The National Assembly, either by itself or through a Bill by the President should provide the missing link for the nation to have a reformed and credible electoral system. My conviction is that President Goodluck Jonathan should have another look at the recommendations of Uwais Commission on Electoral Reforms.
Since Independence, the Federal Government (either Civilian or Military) had always stated its goals to be- prosperity through macro-economic stability without inflation. The aim had been to pursue a policy of economic growth with less unemployment.
However, Nigeria of today has achieved neither economic growth without inflation nor enduring prosperity. In fact, the country has been described as two nations of the very rich and the very poor.
The incidence of mass unemployment of (21 percent – 30 per cent) has created a dangerous class of armed robbers and kidnappers (rampant in the South) and the bloody insurgence of Boko Haram represented in the North with its terrible traits of killing innocent people.
Worried by the political and economic implications of mass unemployment, the Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan has embarked on a formidable economic reforms programme which would result in a better Nigeria with progress and prosperity.
The economy is put in the hands of an able and progressive looking Minister of Finance and Coordinator for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (and her top economists) and also the conservative Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and his Policy Advisory Committee. Unhappily, the mixture of modern and conservative factors has failed to produce a satisfactory growth rate with less unemployment.
What looks like a promising over 6% growth rate last year left the unemployment rate of about 30% untouched. The problem is that the country has been operating a “tight money” policy in an atmosphere of depression (with weak demand and idle plants).
In recent months, the Federal Government (with its array of brilliant economists), has been under severe criticisms for being unable to manage the economy effectively and efficiently.
It is the conviction of many that a government which embarks on the plan of expansion would be prepared to intervene directly, by threats, by incentives or by whichever methods appear to be appropriate technique in the private sector of the economy.
The private sector had to be convinced that increase in money supply would be for entrepreneurs ready to engage in certain activities for which the demand is currently insatiable. This means extra funds would lead to extra investments in idle plants and other new businesses.
However, the tight monetary policy embarked upon by the Central Bank to curb inflation or to stabilize prices is a way of reducing demand by increasing interest rates and thereby reducing the supply of funds for lending and for investment funding.
The high interest regime distorts the market system which depends heavily on borrowed funds.