Awaiting Yar’Adua’s Last Laugh

Nwachukwu Egbunike

Mr. Musa Yar’Adua will soon confound critics of his seven-point agenda. Speaking through Mr Ojo Madueke, the president with magisterial authority of a classroom teacher told the audience at a self-incensing book launch that “our reluctance to join issues must not be interpreted to mean a yielding of the civic space to those who do not even know the names of their councils” (Guardian, Friday, July 17, 2009).

If the success of the seven-point menu now depends on the erudition of Nigerians about the names of their councils, then Mr President has failed. He has flunked because it shows the level of apathy of Nigerians towards government – local, state or national. The umbilical cord that should knot grass root governance is lost in the murky and putrid water of ineffectiveness. Mr Yar’Adua’s statement is therefore an admission of guilt. If the rope of darkness – that should have been illuminated and severed by local administration – still strangles Nigerians, whose fault is it? My gratitude for waking up to the reality that local governments don’t exist, or better still, they perch as volume fillers in our constitution.

Nonetheless, an appraisal of these bogus agenda is desirable in view of Mr Yar’Adua’s blustering speech. The seven issues are: power and energy; food security and agriculture; wealth creation and employment; mass transportation; land reform; security; and qualitative and functional education. By 2015, Nigeria’s power play will have ceased. I don’t intend to state the obvious; only a surreal imagination can fabricate such fantasy. Ghana and even Cameroon have solved their power crisis. Nigerians have long realized that it makes no sense connecting to the national grid; with I better pass my neighbour, power is assured.

Food security and agriculture is easier said than done. “Food security is closely connected with economic growth and social progress as well as with political stability and peace,” so says the G8 leaders that met recently in Italy. If farmers lack the relevant subsidies that are their due, how do we gain food security? If the fertilizers meant for rural farmers are diverted to the farms of the powerful then … Where information is a luxury, how will farmers keep abreast of innovation and market prices? So much for food sufficiency.

Wealth creation is as bogus as it is lousy. Oil remains the dominant source of income for the Nigerian economy. If the government decides to diversify its income, well and good. Nigerians need no tutorial on wealth creation, if our president is in doubt, he should go for an excursion to Alaba, Main Market Onitsha, Aba, Dugbe and Kano. Can Mr President tell us how he intends to have the last laugh on employment? Was it not in the recent past that a Minister of Employment admitted that millions of Nigerian youths are unemployed? Perhaps he has a magic wand that will vanquish unemployment in the next two years?

I suggest that Mr President takes a lesson from Lagos State BRT on transportation. It easier to make policy statements that cannot be fulfilled. The tears shed by the former transport minister on the Ore-Axis of the Lagos-Benin Road, has since dried up. In its place are treacherous gullies. The railways are yet to be revived from fatal slumber that the Chinese where supposed to spear-head. Rather than hold them to account, a special adviser deemed it right to give away hectares of land for a Chinese bank.

Are we secured? If there is any other area, where Mr Yar’Adua could have made any impact, it was precisely in the Niger Delta question. Had he had the courage to address the root cause of the crisis, not the symptoms, then he would certainly have a hearty laugh. As things stand, the delta is as inflammable as their oil and gas. It’s still early though, to appraise the effect of the amnesty granted the militants. Sincerely, I really pity Mr Yar’Adua, the creeks and swamps of the delta are not for the faint-hearted. ASUU, SANU and NASU are currently on strike and where does this fit into the menu of “qualitative and functional education?”

The seven-point agenda as magnificent as it is rather impractical. For this reason, many have advocated that this menu be trimmed down to one – either power or electoral reforms. It takes a lot of humility to realise that one cannot possibly achieve everything. While I await the last laugh of Mr Yar’Adua on the Seven-Point Agenda, I am certain he is already beaming in smiles as Mr Rule of Law.

Guardian, July 22, 2009

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