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Monday, 10 June 2013

Assessing President Jonathan

By: Sam Nda-Isaiah 
President Jonathan’s mid-term report in which he scored himself A+ is still causing outrage across the country. This has further been compounded by the ministerial briefings/assessments that followed. It is only in Jonathan’s strange school that students set their own examinations, mark their own scripts, announce the result and expect the job market to take them seriously.
Jonathan should allow Nigerians to assess him. The president and his minions cannot be clapping for themselves when the entire country is in total disorder and disarray. And Nigerians cannot clap for the president because, as the late Chief MKO Abiola would have put it, “you cannot clap with one hand.” Many Nigerians have lost their limbs or their shirts or both under President Jonathan. The only people clapping today are Jonathan himself and the small coterie around him who import their beef from Harrods in London. Since the president covets praises, he can still get commendation within his remaining two years if he starts becoming president. I am going to help him by giving him an idea of how.
The chief responsibility of any government is the protection of its citizens. Indeed, the Nigerian constitution declares that the security and welfare of the people is the responsibility of government. So far, the president has scored a resounding F9 here. His F9 is actually with a distinction. He can start working on this right away by ensuring that the police and other security agencies get the funds that are budgeted for them and ensuring that such budgeted funds are actually deployed as appropriated. The president should find out what percentage of their budgets the police have been receiving since he came to power. He must also vote enough funds for the training and retraining of the nation’s police officers and other security agents if we are to overcome the current challenges that we face. The police as we have them today are bereft.
Nigeria currently boasts 370,000 police personnel. This is scandalous for a nation of 170 million people. It simply shows that President Jonathan has not given a serious thought to security matters. The ubiquitous JTF we see in several states, which by the way has become an avenue for unbridled corruption, is certainly not the answer to the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves today. Every serious country needs a strong police force. For a population of 170 million, Nigeria should have no fewer than one million policemen. Let us start by recruiting the so many unemployed able-bodied graduates that roam aimlessly across the country today into the police force and give them first-class training. In any case, we had better quickly recruit them into the nation’s forces before they are recruited into the sundry criminal forces that abound in the country. The nation needs to invest heavily in security because security should be the first order of business of any country that desires progress.
The second priority I recommend for President Jonathan is massive job creation – not the joke that his ministers shared last week. One of Jonathan’s funny ministers spoke about creating 350,000 jobs. Does the president know what is at issue here? As I write this piece, we have about 80 per cent unemployment rate among Nigerian graduates. If this is not urgently tackled, Boko Haram will be a child’s play in Nigeria within the decade. A drive to create 350,000 jobs? They can’t be serious.
Job creation for all governments of the world, whether it is the government of the United States or China or Singapore or Togo, is always a very serious business and therefore given very serious attention and focus. It is always a national security matter. Nigeria must create at the very minimum 10 million new jobs in the next five years if we are to avoid a catastrophic implosion. And, as I said, this is the barest minimum. To therefore promise to create 350,000 jobs clearly shows that the Jonathan people do not know what they are doing. Creating 10 million jobs in five years means creating an average of two million jobs annually. There is only one major way to achieve this, which is to put in place entrepreneurial policies that will boost the creation of at least five million new small businesses. A small business creates between two and five new jobs, which means that by enforcing policies that would create five million new small businesses, we will be creating between 10 million and 25 million new jobs in five years. This requires serious commitment to achieve and it is very possible. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is creating jobs by developing policies that promote entrepreneurship just like Bill Clinton did during his presidency in the United States. It is because of the 22 million new jobs President Clinton created during his eight years as president that he has become the most popular former president alive, in spite of his numerous scandals.
A serious president can easily create 25 million new jobs in Nigeria in only five years. It should be much easier in Nigeria than in developed societies like the US. Apart from the massive recruitment of graduates into the police that I suggested, the place to start would be from the education sector: change the mindset of the average Nigerian graduate. The usual thing is for students to graduate and wait for good-paying jobs. The thing to do to achieve this drastic goal would be to change graduates from seekers of good-paying jobs to job creators themselves – turning them into entrepreneurs. The chief business of an average Nigerian is business, so it would be good to work on the entrepreneurial instinct of our youths; and there is nothing hard here. We now live in an IT-driven world. The world has changed in the last 15 years and the kinds of jobs available have also changed. Therefore, our education system must change accordingly. IT makes entrepreneurship easier. South Korea has succeeded hugely in this area.
To create jobs, Nigeria must also invest heavily in infrastructure. Nigeria currently has a housing deficit of 17 million units. The Jonathan government has declared through Ms Ammal Pepple, the minister of housing, that it intends to build one million housing units annually. That sounds good except that nothing is happening at the moment. Even if they started tomorrow, the government’s strategy would require the banks to fund the construction in a private sector-driven scheme. With the current interest rates, if the banks fund the construction of the houses, only millionaires will buy them. Actually, building one million houses annually by the government will create approximately 30 million new jobs annually because architects, quantity surveyors, engineers, estate agents, insurance companies, banks, labourers, food sellers, facility managers, block moulders, etc, will be involved across the country. So that’s a good proposition. But the honest way any government can do this is not ask the banks to fund it as Jonathan intends to. According to Audu Ogbeh, Nigeria has N2.9 trillion stuck in the pension funds account. He should know because he was one of the pundits that created the pension funds when he and others helped President Obasanjo with the pension reforms. This N2.9 trillion could be loaned to this housing scheme project and paid back to the pension fund after the sale of the houses with minimal interest. That way, the houses can be sold at affordable rates to Nigerians and the pension funds would also be boosted because the money would be repaid with some interest. It is about time in any case to put the pension funds to good use instead of the current massive theft that we see.
If we do not do something urgent about the current 17 million housing deficit, we will be heading towards a catastrophe. If truth be told, the one million housing units annually is even grossly insufficient for a country with a 17 million housing deficit and population growth like ours. Because what that means is that it will take 17 years to wipe out the current deficit, by which time Nigeria’s population would be approximately 290 million as against the current 170 million, according to our current population growth rate estimates. That means that the current deficit figures would have more than tripled by the time we get there. The target should be between three million and five million housing units annually, and this is possible. The problem with the Jonathan government is that it is not spending enough time to do the hard work of thinking. In 50 years, Nigeria’s population would be approximately 400 million and this is not funny.
We can go on and on. The policy of massive investment in infrastructure should also include road networks, ports, and airports expansion. If we are the biggest country in Africa, then, we should work to have the biggest airports that would make Nigeria the hub of Africa especially as we are strategically located in the middle of the continent. We should also have the biggest ports and not cede revenues to the Cotonou port because of corruption. To achieve any of these, the current corruption levels must stop. We will achieve nothing with the current level of looting of the nation. The current theft of crude oil – both official and unofficial – must also be stopped by all means and at all costs. Angola has overtaken Nigeria in oil production even though we are still officially called Africa’s biggest oil producer simply because we cannot manage ourselves well. Nigeria’s oil production dropped from 2.6 million barrels per day to less than 1.7 million barrels per day this year due to oil theft and “peace” in the Niger Delta. Angola has, on the other hand, inched upwards to almost two million barrels per day. That nonsense must also stop and it is squarely the responsibility of President Jonathan to stop the thieves. With a very serious government, Nigeria has the capacity to produce four million barrels per day. And we better do that quickly and get the full benefits because, in a decade, there will be a glut in the oil market. The shale revolution in the United States which will turn the US into a net exporter of crude will ensure this. A few weeks ago, it was also revealed that China has more shale gas potential than even the United States. And what is more, in 10 years, there will be 19 African countries producing oil. In Africa, we would effectively have Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Angola, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Ghana, Chad, Niger, Gabon, Congo, Cameroun, Tunisia, Equitorial Guinea, DRC and Cote d’ Ivoire as the continent’s oil producers. Many more will join in Asia and South America. When that time comes, we would be lucky if oil sold for $20 a barrel.
With all these facts, Jonathan needs to start doing his work as president. At the moment, he is not. And he should stop clapping for himself.

EARSHOT
FG’s Confused Policies On Boko Haram
Boko Haram and other terrorist groups flourish in Nigeria because President Jonathan is totally confused about what to do. First, it was that he would not grant amnesty to ghosts, as he called the insurgents. That could be an appropriate position if you had a strong reason for it and pursued your goals decisively to defeat the insurgents. But that’s not what Jonathan is doing. He simply said no dialogue because he thought it sounded cute to say so. Then, when he was forced to recant, he decided to set up a dialogue committee with a couple of people in his government as members. And just when the dialogue committee was beginning to record preliminary successes, he suddenly declared that he had proscribed Boko Haram simply because it appeared that the United States had done so. Now, there is confusion. Can anyone negotiate or dialogue with a banned organisation without running foul of the law? You cannot dialogue with a proscribed organisation without becoming guilty of a crime against the nation. Therein lies the total confusion that President Jonathan has created all by himself.
 Leadership

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