The recent fiat by President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in allocating two return tickets per state to serving PDP senators again demonstrates that governance in Nigeria is not directed at economic improvement of the our people but the improvement and sustenance of the few at the helm of affairs. Thus, a general election which is supposed to afford Nigerians the opportunity to decide who should lead them has been turned into you-rub-my-back-I-rub-your-back charade. To ensure that the will of the people is not only thwarted but buried, the PDP has surreptitiously rescheduled its congresses and primaries to accommodate and anoint striking PDP Senators. This is a shame and the international community must surely be marvelled at our brand of democracy.
It could be recalled that PDP senators not minding the onerous responsibility on the legislature in the face of insecurity, insurgency, economic and social instability last week refused to perform their legislative duties for which they were elected and being paid jumbo salaries and allowances. The work-to-rule by the PDP members in the red chamber was sequel to their Waterloo at the ward congresses of the PDP where a vote of no confidence was passed on the majority of them by their constituents. Nevertheless, what is supposed to be a wholly state affair was rolled over to the Upper Chambers in Abuja where the Senators successfully blackmailed Mr. President and the national leadership of the PDP to arm-twist their state governors and damn the wishes of the people.
The implication of this rape on democracy is that the President wants to be reelected and thereafter emasculate the Senate and use it as shield against any unfavourable political whirlwind in the National Assembly. The PDP is sold to the idea that it would be suicidal to allow ‘inexperienced’ aspirants to gain senatorial tickets now that the House of Representatives is sticking to its independence. So the behemoth fears that if greenhorns were to take over the seats of most PDP Senators during the coming elections, the President would be left at the mercy of the legislature if he wins the Presidential Election billed for February 14, 2015.
The granting of unearned automatic tickets to majority of PDP Senators and PDP members of the House of Representatives who are sure to demand their own share of the cake is both undemocratic and anti-people and must be condemned by all. The PDP legislators are being picked not because they promise to be more imaginative and creative in their legislative duties. They are being picked not because they will be more painstaking and thorough in their oversight functions this time around. They are not being picked because of any modicum of fresh ideas on how to free the country from the stranglehold of insurgents, insecurity, rising debt profile, economic doldrums, parlous power sector, increasing fuel price etc. They are being picked to protect Mr. President from being impeached should he continue his multiple constitutional breaches. Today, the opposition Republican Party controls both chambers of the United States’ Congress. President Barack Obama did not disrupt the process by handpicking who should get a return ticket or not. He has not also lost his cool because those who have done well need not fear even the fiercest of opposition.
It is now obvious that the present administration has since neglected to care for Nigerians. All they are after is the return ticket to continue to pillage the resources of the people. If all the calculations of the PDP ahead of the 2015 general election is that of individual political survival, where then lies the hope for the average Nigerian? As it is, no new strategies are being formulated on how to revive the economy, create new jobs, jump-start comatose industries, prevent paralyzing strikes in our educational institutions, fix our healthcare systems to prevent expensive foreign medical tourism by Nigerians, stimulate growth in the real sector of the economy and halt rising debt and ballooning unemployment. Take the rising national debt burden and unemployment for example. Nigerian’s external and domestic debts have continued to escalate under the present administration and God forbid that they leave the nation worse than the pre-1999 debt which ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo worked hard to get the Paris Club to write-off.
Even the acclaimed financial wizardry of the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has not been able to stop corruption and rising debt in the country. One of the major criteria for reappointing the Minister we were made to believe was the debt forgiveness the nation enjoyed during her tenure as finance minister under Obasanjo’s administration. But it could be said that her second coming have seen the debt profile of the country rise beyond imagination. If care is not taken, the present administration, under the supervision of the Minister will leave the country with the worst debt ever.
Okonjo-Iweala had last year following uproar over the nation’s astronomical debt profile defended the government saying she was committed to a Nigerian economy with very low debt among others. The Minister while clarifying the nation’s debt profile in June 2013, had said: “Let me say at the outset that no one in government is supportive of a Nigeria that returns to a high state of indebtedness. On a personal note, having gone through tremendous stress during the quest for Paris Club debt relief, I am committed to a Nigerian economy that is fiscally prudent, balances its books and remains at a low state of indebtedness.” For emphasis, she added that, “In 2004, prior to the Paris Club debt relief, Nigeria’s overall debt stock was very high. External debt stood at US$35.9 billion while the stock of the domestic debt amounted to US$10.3 billion resulting in a total of about US$46.2 billion or 64.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), excluding contractor and pension arrears. After the successful debt relief initiative, Nigeria’s stock of foreign debt declined dramatically.” “Indeed,” according to her, “in August 2006, when I left office, Nigeria’s foreign and domestic debts amounted to US$3.5 billion and US$13.8 billion respectively – a total of US$17.3 billion or 11.8% of GDP.” She however lamented that “by August 2011, when I resumed for the second time as Finance Minister, the domestic debt stock had grown substantially to US$42.23 billion, while the external debt was still a modest US$5.67 billion. This implied a total debt stock of US$47.9 billion or 21% of GDP.”
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last month disclosed that the national unemployment rate at the end of 2013 was 24 per cent up from 22 per cent when the President assumed office. The Statistician-General of the Federation and Chief Executive of the NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale who spoke at a workshop on the Review of Definition and Methodology for Computing Unemployment Statistics in Nigeria, said: “The unemployment rate for the year under review has relatively increased compared to last year’s statistics which stood at about 22 per cent.” He explained further that of the “over 177 million Nigerians with over 95 million workforce, only a little more than 22 million are gainfully employed.” The import of this is that the population dependency ratio have increased significantly as the remaining 150 million Nigerians are now totally dependent on the meagre 22 million working population.
To show the level of impunity in the land and the penchant to commandeer national resources by the PDP led government, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke was recently appointed as a member of the PDP fund raising Committee. This goes to buttress assertions in some quarters that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been converted to the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) of the ruling PDP. How do ministers who are handling critical sectors of the economy be unduly encumbered with the vainglorious task of raising funds for a political party by the solicitous PDP. Unapologetically, Alison-Madueke dons the NO 6 jersey of that fundraising team.
Views expressed are solely author’s