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Disagreeing On The Fortunes Of The Country, By Ifeanyi Uddin

To be reminded of previous such dates set by previous such governments (2000, 2010, 2015, 2020, etc.), again betrays the same faith deficit arising from the “opposition’s” inebriation.

What do we make of the tremendous progress the administration has notched up in the power sector? Distribution companies have been sold. Generation companies privatised. We even have a “bulk trader”. Finally, we have an administration that has walked the talk in the sector: completing the transition from public provision to a private sector-led business model. And when push came to shove, we found it prepared to stomach the transition costs, especially the legacy ones from personnel pensions.

Could we, however, agree that after 14 years as a democracy, Nigeria is nowhere near realising the vision that inspired many of our nationals to lay life and property on the line in a herculean effort that saw the military retreat tail between hind quarters from the public space?

Yes.

Its boosters point to a succession of stellar achievements in support of their claim that the larger portion of “opposition” griping over the Goodluck Jonathan administration is poorly distilled “bad belle”. Like improperly prepared moonshine, the opposition is high on dangerous stuff according to this sense.

All of this argument, sophisticated though it may seem, betoken the extent of the “opposition’s” addiction to “bathtub gin”. Nowhere, though, is this substance-dependence more evident than when the “opposition” strains nerve and sinew to prove that the government is not “winning” the local war against Boko Haram insurgents. How dare any sane Nigerian hold up evidence of localised attacks on public infrastructure (and the attendant, but no less inevitable, loss of civilian life) against the more weighty evidence of the destruction of the insurgents’ training camps, supply infrastructure, and bases? We have deployed munitions internally on a scale that was last seen when we prosecuted the Biafran war; and we won that war, too.

And power? Well, daily national electricity generation may remain below 3,000Mw. We may currently be doing less than a Johannesburg borough. And a large number of the independent power producing companies may not have the gas supply infrastructure necessary to bring them on stream. But do we not betray here a tunnel vision, when we fail to see progress? The government has set sometime in the next decade for its reforms to yield dividends. Patience, compatriots! Do not arise, yet!

Are there doubts about the record of the current federal government?

Look at agriculture. To hear the minister in charge speak, it is immediately evident that the reforms to the sector, including the dismantling of the fertiliser mafia, has driven mind-boggling production increases in the sector. If the “opposition” prefers instead to insist that the problem with the sector was never a supply one. That the sector has always laboured under demand constraints (poor roads into and out of the farms, the absence of post-farm processing and storage that should ordinarily help remove the production volatility associated with the sector, etc.). How do you help such obstreperousness?

Inflation numbers have held below 10% all year as agricultural produce prices fell. On the consumer price index (CPI) evidence alone, the argument (again an “opposition” one) that the low-intensity warfare in the sections of the North that used to be the country’s food belt has affected agricultural supplies, falls flat on its face.

We may, however, argue that the CPI numbers do not mean that domestic prices fell all through the first 9 months of this year. That a proper reading of the numbers only indicate that they have risen a lot more slowly this year than they did last year. And that two key explanations shed light on this. First is the fact that owing to several tariff adjustments last year prices rose a lot faster over the 12 months to end-December 2012. Consequently a year-on-year reading of prices this year was always going to result in lower numbers than last year’s. Second, even the government’s own number crunchers admit that output growth is slower this year than last year. Of course, a poorer people are never going to buy enough of anything to drive prices up.

These evidence and counter-evidence only mean that any claim to the effect that our current republic is worse than the Second Republic would require for one to state all the assumptions implicit in this claim, and to run them one-by-one against the assumptions that inform the counter-claim that we may have in the Jonathan administration the best government ever to run this purblind country of ours. This will always be a highly subjective exercise and never likely to lead to much illumination. It will be prone, instead, to the falling outs and verbal cannonades that currently pass for domestic debate.

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