By DAPO AKINREFON
MR Manijar Seigha is chairman of the Niger Delta Nationalities Forum. In this interview, he disagrees with critics who say President Goodluck Jonathan is not sincere in fighting corruption. Seigha argues that though corruption has grown to become an unwritten culture in Nigeria, the president is doing his best to combat it. Excerpts:
Your group canvassed for President Goodluck Jonathan’s election in 2011. How do you evaluate his performance so far?
First of all, to evaluate performance, one must compare. If I am to compare President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to other leaders in Africa, he has done well in keeping the country together despite provocations that could have brought unexpected results. On that note I score him 80%. Secondly, if I am to compare him to other Nigerian leaders, let us say from 1999 to date. I will score him 75%, the late Yar’Adua 65% and OBJ 50% using the first two years in office as a basis.
Thirdly, if I am to measure his performance based on electoral promises, for example, short term promises like – electoral reform, respect for the rule of law, press freedom, legislative autonomy, judicial freedom etc., I will score him 80%. But on long term promises like, security, power supply, road rehabilitation, unemployment, development of the most critical economic area like the Niger Delta, corruption etc, I will score him 30%. I believe the foundation he is laying will determine the elasticity of growth and development in the long term. The average score for his promises is 55% while the mean for all the input of 80%, 75% and 55% gives him 70%.
However, Nigerians whose idea of Jonathan becoming president is for him to put food on their family table may score him zero, especially if the quantity on the table has remained the same since he assumed office. Of course these Nigerians are not bothered whether their immediate LGA chairman or governor is delivering on electoral promises or not. The thinking that Nigeria is such a super rich country where Jonathan is expected to sort out all our problems in a jiffy is the Nollywood story of the year, Take a look at the 2013 annual federal budget as approved by the National Assembly. It is 4.9 trillion Naira.
Mr. President is expected to fix power, agriculture, health, transport, security, housing, and employment, then bring food to every home including those who are not prepared to work…with just 4.9trillion Naira. I have taken time to divide that amount, say 5 trillion Naira by the 160million population of Nigeria. Interestingly, every Nigerian is entitled to thirty one thousand, two hundred and fifty Naira only (N31, 250) per year. Maybe the president should give some people their own share so that they can let him be.
Let us take power for example; when OBJ came in 1999, he was anxious to fix the poor power situation and he truly meant it. He therefore invited Chief Bola Ige, his friend to handle it. Ige in turn promised to fix electricity in six months. However, a year after the promise, there were still major challenges with power. By the end of OBJ’s eight-year tenure, power was still not available as promised. It was not because he was unwilling but because the process lacked strategic planning.
Money was released but the result was negative. Yar‘Adua came in, used two years to ascertain why the huge amounts spent could not fix the power problem. Now Jonathan is here and, as usual, we are rushing him. Power generation and distribution in a country like ours that is already lagging behind is a huge technical project that requires clinical and strategic planning. Because Jonathan has learnt from previous mistakes, he is taking his time to ensure that we get the desired results cost effectively. These are the facts unknown to most of us.
It will require about 32billion US Dollars to get us uninterrupted, 24hour power supply and this will also take not les than 18months to accomplish. Remember 32 billion US Dollars converted to Naira is over 5trillion Naira which is just about the same as our annual Federal budget for 2013. We know that our annual budget cannot be used to sort out only the problem of power because there are other areas of critical need. This is why the government of Jonathan is unbundling and privatizing the power sector.
In other words, breaking the PHCN into companies and selling them means the companies can go anywhere, be it America, Canada, Oyingbo, to raise the huge sums with the technical expertise and partnership to get us light in record time. This way, it will not put unbearable pressure on our annual Federal budget. The point being made here is that our annual budget alone cannot be enough to fix the power demand even in the next 10 years. Performance should therefore be measured in terms of strategic planning and not just political expediency. At any rate, power supply is definitely more stable than it was before Goodluck Jonathan came into office.
Your rating of the president appears high, but some people seem to disagree with you…?
We canvassed for votes for Mr. President in Lagos during the 2011 elections and he got 68% of the votes in Lagos. In October 2012, I met eight of the families that voted for him and we discussed current happenings around the president. Six families said they would not vote for him again because the information at their disposal indicated that he has not delivered.
One family said they would make their mind up at the end of his four-year tenure. The last family said, given the same opportunity, they would vote for him again. After spending some time with the six families who said they wouldn’t vote for him again, five changed their minds because they had fresh information that enlightened them on how government works in terms of strategic planning and the limited resources at the disposal of the president.
Do you think he is sincere in fighting corruption?
The truth is that corruption has grown to become something of an unwritten culture in Nigeria, believed by many, practiced by almost all and denied by all. Therefore, compelling President Jonathan to go and fight corruption the way we want him to do it is equal to telling him to put his neck on the guillotine. No single man can fight an element of culture except the society in which that culture is practised decides wholesomely to do away with that element. At best, Jonathan can only strengthen the appropriate institutions and motivate the personnel therein to do their job.
However, what is most important and urgently desirable is for the legislature to legislate precise and unambiguous laws regarding corruption and for the judiciary to interpret these laws like a sharp knife. To me, if the legislature and the judiciary can put their acts together, the executive will have no choice but to follow the rules of the law. The strength of the lion is in precision, no leakages no ambiguities; otherwise you can imagine the result. A case study on my argument is the Cynthia Osukogu murder case. The executive through the Nigeria Police has done its bit