By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — THE Presidency yesterday took a swipe at critics of President Goodluck Jonathan, describing the accusation of incompetence levelled against him by the opposition as mere political propaganda and untrue.
It stressed that no Nigerian expected the level of insurgency that the Jonathan Administration inherited on assumption of office.
The Presidency, however, dared the opposition and critics of Jonathan’s administration to come up with facts of his incompetence and lack of achievements.
In a statement signed, yesterday, by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Presidency urged critics to x-ray the challenges Nigeria had prior to the emergence of President Jonathan as the country’s leader, adding that achievements and competence cannot be judged by noise making, propaganda and deception which it argued were the hallmarks of the opposition.
Okupe said: “President Jonathan’s background does not fall into the mould of incompetence or cluelessness that the opposition tries too hard to sell to the Nigerian populace.
What is incompetence?
“By definition, Reference Dictionary says: “Incompetence is lacking qualification or ability”. Webster Dictionary defines it as “lacking the qualities needed for effective action”. Going by the above definitions, President Goodluck Jonathan is perhaps the most academically qualified Nigerian President ever.
“By cognate qualification, no President has had the experience, preparation and tutelage for the post of the President than Goodluck Jonathan. He was Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and elected President. Taking the Webster Dictionary definition, an incompetent person, lacks the qualities needed for effective action.
“We do not wish to assert the obvious fact that the President has the requisite qualification for effective action, rather we will examine the challenges that faced the nation before his election as President and state how he has tackled them. This will also probably disprove the Governor Fashola’s “Mechanic allegory”.
“Empirical evidence shows that President Goodluck Jonathan, has not only tackled the challenges he inherited, but has successfully solved many of them while those that remain are part of works in progress which, God willing, will be resolved before the end of 2014.
“The repeated false claims by the opposition that the President is incompetent is not only untrue and obviously cannot be supported by facts, but is also part of the opposition’s strategy to present the government as not being effective so as to advance their selfish cause. Nigerians should therefore ignore this wild and baseless comments and team up with the silent and effective achiever, in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
“We want to assure Nigerians that with the undoubted and continued effective implementations of the Transformation Agenda, Nigeria will never ever be the same again. Achievements and competence are always not judged by noise making, propaganda and deception which are the hallmarks of the activities of the Nigerian opposition.”
Challenges before Jonathan
Listing President Jonathan’s challenges on assumption of office, he said in power sector, “major challenges in the sector were: Low generating capacity (output less than 3000 MW); abandoned NIPP Projects, Unavailability of gas to service the NIPP projects, Transmission challenges, Protracted Inability to unbundle the PHCN and the eventual privatization of the sector.”
According to him, in infrastructure: “Roads were in states of disrepair nationwide. Railway Corporation was not functional. Airports were in state of total dilapidation, most of them without any maintenance for decades.
On what the Jonathan’s Administration has done so far, Okupe said:
*Benin-Sagamu Road has been awarded and presently, the commuting time has been reduced from 12 hours and above to four hours.
*The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway concession was decisively dealt with and immediate rehabilitative efforts were carried out by Julius Berger and RCC, which reduced the burden on commuters on that road during the Christmas holidays.
*Abuja-Lokoja Expressway is progressing steadily.
*Kano-Maiduguri Road is in progress;
*The East-West Road, despite the negative reports by detractors, has made significant progress with most of its concrete works and bridges nearly completed.
*Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage way, a distance of 1664km, is due for completion in 2013.
*2nd Niger Bridge – N5 billion has been set aside for commencement of works.
“The Lagos-Jebba-Kano Rail line which has been shut down for over 20 years has commenced successful operations since December 2012. The Abuja-Kaduna modern gauge rail line is over 35 per cent completion. Ajaokuta-Warri modern garage rail line has been completed. A new modern gauge rail line from Lagos to Ibadan was awarded towards the end of last year. The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri (Eastern Rail line) will start operation anytime from now.”
On Aviation, he said: “22 Airports were earmarked for re-modeling and rehabilitation. 11 have been completed and commissioned. Five new terminals in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Enugu as well as six Cargo Terminals will begin this year.
“In the last 50 years, the Nigerian economy has suffered stagnation due to inability of successive governments to diversify the economy and steer it away from the mono cultural dependence on oil to the detriment of other critical economic sectors. Specifically, this administration has re invented the wheels of the Agricultural sector and it now accounts for 75 per cent of non oil exports.
“The cassava component of the Agricultural transformation programme has attracted N600 billion (about 380 million dollars) into the Nigerian economy from the substitution of bread wheat flour with cassava flour. Nigeria will, before the end of this year, earn an additional 136 million dollars from export of cassava chips.
“Nigeria is today producing 3.5 million tons of rice locally and will by 2015 meet its total local demand of five million tons of the staple. This will save about 300 billion dollars in foreign exchange and create jobs for our local farmers and entrepreneurs.
“Similarly, Nigeria produced about 10 million tons of maize in 2012 while four high yielding hybrid of sorghum were provided for farmers free of charge to revolutionize sorghum production nation wide. The same method is being adopted to bring back the lost glory of cocoa production with a view to increasing the current production volume from 250, 000 metric tons to 500, 000 metric tons in the next two years. High yielding, early maturing hybrid cocoa seedlings are being distributed free of charge across cocoa producing states.
“Cotton farmers, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria have been provided 1,500 tons of improved seedlings and are currently cultivating 17,319 hectares of cotton.
“The value chain approach for intervention in Agriculture as an alternative revenue earner is being successfully implemented by the Federal Government. The ultimate goal is to turn Nigeria from being a major importer of food to a net exporter by 2015.”
On economic stability, Okupe said: “Economic stability is a necessary foundation for economic growth. This is why the Jonathan administration through the implementation of sound monetary and fiscal policies has been able to provide macro economic stability for the country in the last two years.
“It is noteworthy that while other major economies including that of South Africa and the United States of America are being downgraded, Nigerian economy is being upgraded by global rating agencies including Fitch, S&P, JP MORGAN. While the overall global projection for economic growth in 2013 is 3.5 to 5. 5 per cent, projected growth for Nigeria has been put at 6.5 per cent and above.
“Nigerians rightly observe that in spite of this favourable macro-economic indicators such as increased GDP, reduced inflation, and increased foreign reserve, the population is yet to benefit by having food on their tables. It should however be realized that achieving macro-economic stability is the foundation upon which other economic reforms such as the investment in power sector, infrastructure and development of skilled manpower will be built.
“However, government, in realization of the need to make the transition period less stressful has initiated socio-economic programmes such as the various youth empowerment, wealth creation initiatives under the SURE-P, NAPEP and other agencies.”
On insecurity, he said: “No Nigerian expected the level of insurgency that the Jonathan Administration inherited on assumption of office. But this Government re-tooled its security apparatus, introduced modern technology to information gathering, retrained its Military and Police Officers in the art of combating terrorism, and in less than two years, obvious decline has become noticeable in the frequency of bombing attacks. From January to November 2012, going by the figures supplied by the Intelligence Reports and Independence Survey, the incidence of bombing has gone down by about 50 per cent.”
“In view of the fact that the security agencies have severely weakened the insurgents’ capacity to do damage, a call for ceasefire has emanated from them. It is clearly untrue therefore to say that government is not on top of security issues in this country.”
On corruption, Okupe stressed: “There is probably no better proof of a leader’s commitment to a corruption free Nigeria than what this president has done in the area of exposing corrupt practices and ensuring that culprits are brought to book. The various reforms carried out in the last two years in the area of pension administration, management of the nation’s ports, Oil and gas, fertilizer management, electoral process as well as the strengthening of institutional framework for fighting corruption are certainly the most courageous moves ever undertaken by any Nigerian President.
“The sleaze uncovered in these processes are in consonance with the spirit and letters of the Freedom of Information Act which was the first bill signed into law by president Goodluck Jonathan on assumption of office.
“Today, the presidents foresight as contained in the bill on reform of the Criminal justice system which he initiated ,is underscored by the outrage which followed a light sentence given to one of the suspects in the widely reported police pension fraud. The import of this is that the president’s work in fighting corruption only needs to be complemented by the Legislative and Judicial Arms of government to have the desired effects.”