By Pini Jason
IT is not yet one year since President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as president, yet the nation is being dragged into a vulgar fight over who succeeds him in 2015! That is the nature of Nigerian politics that is very disgusting.

It often makes me wonder if the class of elite warlords we call politicians are ever embarrassed by this unacceptably tasteless political engagement. In this country, every odd behaviour is excused as politics!

And we fail to realise that for as long as we engage in politics of raw power, so long shall we remain impoverished. In order words, what goes on as politics is a mere distraction from the real issues that preoccupy serious politicians elsewhere and therefore cannot engender development.

What should preoccupy this country now is not who succeeds President Jonathan in 2015. The state of insecurity in the nation should be the topic of debate today.

The parlous state of our economy is what our politicians should be debating now. How many jobs will the 2012 budget create? What is the projection for jobs creation from now till 2015? The oversight duties of various committees in the National Assembly should focus on tracking the budget provisions to ensure that each head provides the projected dividend.

The political issue of the moment should be how to resolve the perennial power problem that now seems intractable. How many kilowatts will the 2012 budget put in our national power grid? What is our projection for the next three years? Are we doing things to realise it? How can we deal with any obstacle, like the clandestine activities of generator cabals and Joe Ajaero’s union, likely to militate against the realisation of our electricity projections?

What are the statistics? I don’t believe that our food security
problem is solved once we eat cassava bread or embark on the production of cassava chips. We have been on that since the last 12 years and it has not stopped us from importing food. All it has produced was cassava glut. The protein intake of Nigerians is one of the lowest in Africa.

As I have always said, we can be specific about certain projections in food production. Just as we can estimate how many litres of petrol we consume and as a result some Nigerians smiled to the banks via subsidy scam, we can also know, for example, how many eggs we consume; what is the shortfall? In order words, what is the size of the egg market for our farmers?

How many eggs, chicken, how much beef and mutton can we encourage our farmers to produce? Can we subsidise their production so that every Nigerian child can afford to have two eggs a day? Such targets can be worked out statistically and how to achieve them debated instead of vacuous generalisation.

Let us debate how to save ourselves from the result of the abuse of our environment, instead of which region or zone produces the president in 2015! Let us debate how many trees we must plant all over the country every year. If we don’t, many of us would be dead, swept away by flood or roasted by green house effect before 2015. It would not matter to a dead Nigerian who is the president by 2015!

For three years running, our children have recorded massive failure in the West African School Certificate Examinations and the National Examination Council, NECO examinations. Yet, once the woeful results are published we all turn the page to amala politics and move on! Yet, it is the future of this country that is being jeopardised. It is the human capital of the future that is being diminished today. Those failures and dropouts who inevitably get sidelined in the economic activities of this country will turn round to haunt us as armed robbers, kidnappers or couriers for political bombers!

It will not matter who would be the President then. Since the last WAEC results were released, I have not heard any debate about how to stem the rot in our education. What else should our politics be delivering for us?

Waste of tax payers’ money: Last week, the Senate President, David Mark returned to a rousing welcome from a medical tourism to Israel. That was tax payers money wasted. Yet, we have not been told what he was sick of. It is his private affair, I guess, but financed with public fund. How can we get our dignitaries to attend hospitals in Nigeria? Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as President, used to undergo medical check up at the Railways Clinic run by Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani!

It is quite disturbing to listen to our politicians and get the impression that matters that concern the ordinary people hardly count as important to them. This war about 2015 is an annoying distraction from the issues at hand. It appears that the earlier warning by the President against such distraction was not taken seriously. Decency should deter politicians from this vulgar detraction.

The aborted ban on BA and VAA: Who blinked?

ONE lesson they teach you in the military is: never give an impossible command! In civilian world it translates to: never give an ultimatum you cannot enforce! It was very obvious to me that the threat to ban British Airways and Virgin Atlantic airlines unless they reduced their fares to London was ridiculous and unenforceable. Now, the Federal Government was forced to eat its vomit as it backtracked from the ultimatum.

In the first place, it was playing to the gallery to have got involved in the so-called fare disparity brouhaha. To compare fares charged in Ghana to what is charged in Nigeria did not make economic sense. Those who raised the uproar were not comparing fares charged by airlines in Nigeria but fares charged in another country! It is just commonsense that the airlines accused would simply invoke the cost of doing business in Nigeria.

I thought that those who preached market forces should also have known that only competition can bring down the fares. It is laughable to engage on such wild goose chase given the sorry state of our airports and the tendency of Nigeria to constrict the business space by placing all manner of obstacles on the way of investors. We should remove xenophobia and extreme suspicion in our regulation of business in our country.

Boko Haram bombings and commonsense

LAST week Thursday, 26 April 2012, the Islamic terrorist gang, Boko Haram, bombed the Abuja offices of Thisday newspaper as well their Kaduna offices shared by Sun and Moment newspapers. The bombing came a few weeks after the US Embassy alerted US citizens in Nigeria of a possible bomb attack on Abuja by Boko Haram.

It is unfortunate that whenever Embassies who obviously have high contacts in the country give security alerts, our security agencies choose to engage them in an unnecessary war of words instead of taking the hint. I can appreciate the argument that such information could be discretely passed to our security agencies. But a former US Ambassador once complained to me that such information, especially regarding drugs barons, were compromised in the past.

Often, in times like this, the security agencies plead for supply of intelligence from the public. I always ask, what about commonsense? It is disturbing that it appears the security agencies have not developed a commonsense profiling of Boko Haram’s modus operandi and choice of targets to be able to preempt them. In an article last year, I agued that whereas the Niger Delta militants targeted oil installations to get the nation’s attention, there are no such targets in the North to get the nation’s reaction except government institutions.

Thus, Boko Haram targeted policemen, youth corpers, UN building, police and military installations. These did not get the Federal Government to the negotiating table. Then they upped the ante by bombing churches. It did not get them the expected result. They went for schools. It did not get them the amnesty deals. Now they target media houses!

The bombing of media houses and Thisday in particular is not mere coincidence. The attack came on a day the South-South economic Summit of the BRACED Commission began in Asaba. The sponsors of Boko Haram regard these regional economic integration efforts like Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN and BRACED as acts of “restructuring”, “secession” or “dividing the country” and “anti-North” and decided to hit one of the promoters of the BRACED Summit, Thisday newspaper on the day the SS Summit began! It is particularly provocative for Nasir el Rufai to pop up on television, as if on cue, seconds after the heinous bombings to make those thoughtless remarks about how the Federal Government should be blamed, because it has not been forced to negotiate amnesty deal for demented murderers. Remember, El Rufai belongs to the Congress for Progressive Change, a party suspected of sparking off the post-election violence in the North.

While our security agencies wait for supply of intelligence from the public, they should do the commonsense thing and think ahead about the probable next targets of the terrorists. They could include the stadia during football matches, cinemas, hospitals, conference venues, hotels, tank farms, and bridges. They should also take note of important calendars the terrorists could exploit for attention.

In other words, with commonsense, our security agencies can be one step ahead of the terrorists by thinking of those targets and dates that could give them more visibility. Secondly, the agencies must step up the interception of illegal arms and explosives. One of the elements of conflict resolution is to neutralise the powers behind the combatant(s), be it money or arms. The public will prefer to be inconvenienced than lose lives.

America took measures that inconvenienced the whole travelling world after 9/11. But it has saved not only Americans but also the travelling world. It is an empty boast anchored on perceived incompetence of our security agencies to say that the Federal Government cannot deal with the Boko Haram menace.


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