BETWEEN AIR MARSHAL ALEX BADEH, DR NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA AND PROF ATTAHIRU JEGA
During the week I was confused, then depressed and then elated thankfully.This changing moods of mine were caused by the three key Public officers listed above.
First was the coordinating minister for the economy and the minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala who made a brilliant presentation of the details of the 2014 budget proposals, but ended up confusing me. She tried to explain or will I say justify the fact that Recurrent expenditure will consume 74% of the National Budget( the highest ever to my knowledge), leaving a paltry 26% or so for Capital expenditure. For me,this is a touchy issue and on which I have spoken about on many occasions and in many fora.In my book- Nigeria @50: Time for the evolution of a New Nation published in 2010, I drew copious attention to this phenomenon and its debilitating effect on national development and made several suggestions on how to tame this tiger that is consuming all the new borns and leaving the land ' infantile'.At our deliberations in the Presidential advisory committee in 2010/2011, my colleagues and I in the Economy subcommittee made this subject a major issue to offer advice to President Goodluck Jonathan. He promised he would do something.
I was therefore very pleased when the President and his team began to talk about this problem.When the Oronsaye Committee was set up, I literally danced that this Government was taking good advice and then doing something about halting this unsustainable trend which I had likened to a farmer eating up his seed, and having little left for replanting next farming season. But after the report was submitted by the committee, we were told that a white paper would be written. And since then no action that has been visible to many of us was taken except the story that many of the redundant agencies that gulp our money were created by law. As if we have any lawless or unlawful agency or department! So when the CME says " In 2013, we reviewed the recommendations of the Oronsaye report. However we had difficulty in streamlining redundant Agencies because law underpins most. We are therefore looking to the National Assembly to assist us in reviewing and repealing these laws to enable us to rationalise some of these duplicating agencies" .And so in my confusion, I ask three questions: how many of those agencies not underpinned by law( or unlawful) have been rationalised?, have we sent the bills for the repealing to the National Assembly and if yes, when, considering that the committee submitted it's report over a year go; and how many new agencies( lawful and unlawful) have been created in the last three years?.
Indeed my confusion was heightened when the CME further stated " we worked hard to reduce this ratio from 74.4% in 2011 to 71.5% in 2012 and further to 67.5% in 2013 but it has risen back to 74% in 2014" and I am wondering whether she expected us to clap or applaud her or what and then I ask, is it our fault?. Are we responsible for the retrogression? What are managers of the economy expected to do?. Is it not to turn the economy to the desired direction with the desired policies and programs that will yield the desired result in a sustainable manner. Who is to be blamed, the managers or the people or both? I will be pleased to have my confusion cleared by the CME.
As I was still dealing with this confusion, INEC chairman-Prof ATTAHIRU JEGA spoke and threw me into depression. He was reported to have told Nigerians through Ambassador James Enwhistle of the United States of America," we are not promising a perfect election in 2015 but we are confident that we will do our best". What was that for? To lower expectations or to excuse planned inefficiency. Why would INEC not promise perfect elections. If the word 'perfect' exists, then why can we not aim at it. But that really is begging the question.Who asked INEC to deliver perfect elections in the first place? How can any one who witnessed the INEC mess in Anambra recently ask it to conduct a perfect election?.How can an Agency that can not deliver correct pooling materials to the pooling stations at the correct time be expected to be perfect? For every election that INEC has conducted, the same complaints of materials arriving very late to some pooling Stations and People's names missing on voters list have been repeated. How come it is impossible to sort out these logistic failures?
Prof JEGA can speak good English,but let him be told point black that this is not about good English or posturing, 2015 elections will make or mar this Nation. Many irredentist political cavaliers are firming up plans to visit mayhem on Nigeria if their wishes are not granted in 2015 and INEC had better not give them the excuse. We expect JEGA to give us FREE and FAIR Elections that will compare with the best in the World, perfect or not. And he must be careful what he says. For every statement, he makes, let him be reminded that People may interpret differently. If he must speak, then let him focus on saying things that will build confidence and not what will detract from it. The issues with our elections are well known and what is required is integrity driven creative management and early preparations and dry runs using modern technology and logistics.Nigerians have paid very heavy price for poor election conduct and management in the past and will not be prepared to pay more. If JEGA is preparing us for long stories and heartache in 2015, let him simply do the needful now and return to the classroom. 2015 elections must be Perfect,if perfection is ever attainable.
I have written so much and spoken so much about our Lamentations on every national issue, giving the impression sometimes that we are helpless. We lament on armed robbery,on kidnapping, we lament on terrorism and psyche ourselves that it a global phenomenon,we lament on oil theft and pipeline vandalism. And I have wondered aloud why we spend so much money on our security forces, if thieves can come into our waters, anchor their vessels, load our crude oil and depart, one after another and to a scale that our ability to fund our National budgets is now imperilled, and all I hear everyday is lamentation. A group of miscreants threatens national economy or National security, then,we begin to lament until they force us into a corner and then we begin to negotiate amnesty.
I thank God that all that changed for me this week. A true General came to power. I have always wondered about the quality of military officers who become Generals without fighting any wars, because when I was growing up, I was told by my father who himself was a distinguished ex serviceman, a Sergent who was part of the West African frontier force that helped win the 2nd World war for the allied forces in Burma, that Generals are made in the battle field. Air Vice Marshal Alex BADEH, the newly appointed chief of Defence staff(CDS)to my mind redeemed the image of the Nigerian military and security officers this week. He did what I had prayed and hoped that the President would do- which was give the military and security chiefs specific marching orders to rout the boko haram and take out the oil thieves within a given time or have them changed. I do not know if that was part of the reasons the President made the recent changes in the military leadership because we were not told.
Hear the words of the Generals' General, a true Marshal Alex BADEH " Iam aware of the security challenges the nation is facing and I shall do my best to guide the Armed Forces of Nigeria towards achieving the DESIRED SUCCESSES.The security situation in the North East must be brought to COMPLETE STOP before April 2014". That is it! We must stand up to evil or evil will consume us. What is anybody's best effort worth if it can not achieve the desired result? I salute Air Marshal BADEH and his new team- Major General Kenneth Minimah(Army), Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin(Navy) and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu( Airforce) for this declaration and intent. When People, for whatever reason decide to make Nigeria unsafe for its citizens, then they must be treated as aggressors and maximum force must be deployed to deal with them. Nigerians are free to express their grievances against the government or anybody using legitimate means but when they decide to kill other Nigerians and destroy property including, National Assets, then they must be stopped by all means.
For me and all those Patriots who are genuinely concerned about the peace and orderly development of Nigeria, the declaration by the new Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) must be sweet music and mood elevating. I will be unceasing in my prayers that the CDS and his team succeed in halting the carnage in the North East of Nigeria and routing the oil thieves in the Niger Delta and I am confident that they will. Let me appeal to all Nigerians especially those resident in the troubled areas to cooperate with the Security forces to accomplish their task. Those who will be offended or are planning to go to the ICC had better advised the miscreants to leave Nigerians alone to live, work and worship in peace .I am looking forward to the day other agencies of Government will stand up and confront the various problems confronting the Nation, rather than lamenting or acting as if we are inferior human beings and patently incapable of solving our problems.That day, the real transformation will have started in earnest. Those whose best efforts are not yielding the desired results must be asked to go do other things, if they are unable or unwilling to do the needful while the capable are brought in to deliver desired results. This to my mind is the fastest way to drive development. We must no longer tolerate ' the more you look, the less you see', 'plenty of talk and little action', 'high security budget every year and the people continue to die like chicken'
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR