President’s admission and new challenges

Speaking off the cuff during a pre-centenary national praise and thanksgiving service at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja  last Sunday, President Jonathan chose to part ways with some of his combative advisers and ministers who are also known to be confirmed government contractors. The tendency up to last Sunday was for the president and his advisers to blame everyone else except government for the state of insecurity in our nation and the inability of government with its awesome security apparatus which gobbles about N1trillion, a quarter of our annual budget, to crush the Boko Haram insurgency. Displaying an uncharacteristic deep sense of remorse, the president for the first time admitted our security forces were not just ill-prepared but merely idling away prior to the outbreak of hostilities. But for the challenge the insurgency poses, the nation’s security apparatus would have remained ‘obsolete and its security agents idle and static’. The internal insurrection according to him has exposed our lack of preparedness to contain external aggression. But now “Everyday, security chiefs now think of how to continue to improve on capacity building’ while his administration has been compelled ‘to boost the capacity and infrastructure of the security agencies, especially by enhancing adequate training of security operatives’.

For the first time, the president in my view spoke like a statesman not through the jaundiced lenses of PDP. By his carriage and sober mien, he has demonstrated his deep commitment to the ongoing crusade to face our challenges which he said may be daunting but not insurmountable. And I also think by that single stroke, the president has succeeded in separating himself from PDP dirty politics of blaming others for their continued sabotage of the aspirations of Nigerians.

But I think the new strategy of appealing to the resilience of Nigerians to overcome her challenges as distinct from a president with an image of buck passing through unpresidential utterances such as “I did not create all the problems bedevilling Nigeria’, ‘I am not Pharaoh, General or Nebuchadnezzar’, was a further admission that the president critics are no less committed to the well-being of Nigerians as himself.  It is therefore hoped this will encourage the president to also critically assess what is going on in other areas of our national life where we are currently facing serious challenges.


He can start with the Ministry of Works where successive ministers  have shown more commitment to awarding new road contracts that were never implemented after mobilization had been paid, while paying scant attention to maintenance culture which is today responsible for the virtual collapse of the whole network of our road infrastructure, our embattled aviation sector  where our ill-equipped minister whose major selling point is said to be her capacity to raise presidential campaign funds  attribute frequent plane crashes to ‘an act of God’ and of course the agricultural  sector whose failure poses more danger to our survival than  Boko Haram insurgency or PDP  intra-party gang wars over sharing of our resources.

Dr. Tony Marinho like many concerned Nigerians has continued to point to our lack of maintenance culture as the bane of our roads. He has in the last one year constituted himself into a one-man crusade to persuade government to mend pot holes infested federal roads spread across the country. Only last week he alerted Nigerians about the danger posed by what he described as ‘‘the imminent collapse and closure of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway with 15 kilometres of traffic five lane wide, 10,000 vehicles long with one million people, daily desperately struggling down that obstacle course… Nigerians are suffering maximally, stranded for seven hours daily in 2013 while RCC and Julius Berger warm up’. Marinho’s lamentation about the travails of motorists on Lagos-Ibadan collapsed express road can be said of other federal high ways all over the country.

A few government interventions here and there were carried out in the typical PDP manner. A little over a year back, following incessant cries of agony of motorists who were spending hours because of the pot-holes located almost directly opposite the Redeemed Church, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) intervened. As at two weeks ago when I passed through that corridor of the express road, motorist were still subjected to about five hours of agony crawling through the same spot to Lagos. We can say the same of the perennial trouble spot opposite OPIC building on your way out of Lagos where many illustrious Nigerians including Dr. Ajayi of the famous Ajayi Memorial Hospital Apapa road, Ebute Metta and Rufus Giwa, a former Managing Director of Levers Brothers at different periods in the past

lost their lives.  That big pot hole had been mended about three times this year with each attempt enduring for less than two weeks. Of course the bad portion out of Murtala Mohammed International Airport has been a source of nightmare to Nigerians motorists and a source of embarrassment to Nigerians and visiting foreign dignitaries since 1999 in spite of seasonal mending by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA}.

The president should also be interested in what goes on in the aviation sector. Beside her lost war against international airlines, her much criticised jamboree abroad ostensibly to woo investors, the borrowing of $500m to build new airports while existing ones are poorly maintained and underutilized, the minister has been accused of being more interested in revenue generation rather than safety of the nation’s airspace.

And lastly, the president in spite of the agriculture minister‘s flawless English can subject the sector to the same security sector’s treatment because as the minister has himself averred, “a nation that does not feed itself becomes a threat to its own sovereign existence”.

The public for instance  need to know the specific irrigations sites we were told consumed  N62 billion of the World Bank’s N139 billion loan, and the specific infrastructure staple crop processing zones in the country supported with the N77,5 billion African Development Bank (AfDB) loan, and possibly the gestation period.

Besides, in spite of rosy pictures of the agricultural sector painted by the minister, non-government experts are raising vital questions that require answers.  For instance it has been said that the minister now often refer to by his critics as ‘minister for fertilizer and cassava’ has not adequately addressed the situation where the whole of Nigeria can boast of not more than 34 functional tractors, where Bombay, in Punjab, India that is not up to Zaria or Kaduna, has got 34,000 functional tractors’. That government still gives waivers to their cronies to import rice from Taiwan and Cambodia where agriculture is heavily subsidized resulting in Nigerian spending N4billion every day on importation of rice.

And as Shedrack Madlion  of Kaduna-based Admiral Environmental Care Limited, asked : Did the minister’s farm census  of farmers  gulping billions cover  farmers from such places like  ‘Saminaka, in Kaduna, where 29,000 metric tons of maize are grown’ or  Giroro, Sokoto, where 37,000 metric tons of onion are grown and 60 percent do not get to the market place’ or  producers of Ose Nsukka,  the sweetest peppers in the world located  between Opi, Ihealumona and Udi ?

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