Agunbiade: Imperative of continuity in government

THE concept of continuity of people-friendly public policies in governance is well known to us. Indeed it is a concept that is widely encouraged and recommended especially in a growing democracy like Nigeria.  Of late, the concept is being widely discussed by incumbents and citizenry alike, in recognition of the fickle nature of politicking in Nigeria.

    History has shown that in Nigeria, when a new government from a different political party replaces an incumbent, on-going projects, programmes and policies are ridiculed and terminated. It is common to see public policies regardless of their merits and positive impacts on society, needlessly reversed. Some argue that this approach is because the newcomers also want to have their own ideas implemented, regardless of credentials past policies may have. Continuity – for as long as the Constitution permits – has its advantages once the policies are working to improve the lives of the citizenry.

   But how realistic is the call for the re-election of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?  His ‘Transformation Agenda’ promised deep reforms in sectors such as agriculture, education, power and transportation to name a few.  What has he achieved so far?

   The provision of safe and reliable electricity to every Nigerian is one of the cardinal goals of the Transformation Agenda. Records show that Jonathan successfully mid-wifed the privatisation of the power sector in a courageous bid to put an end to the incessant blackouts the country has become known for. And while admittedly, the journey is still very far from complete, we cannot disregard the efforts into what is clearly going to be a long, arduous but successful power reform programme.  Key to the fulfilment of the goals of the policy is the successful unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to 18 successor companies – Ten distribution Companies and Five Generation Companies – and the establishment of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP). The latter has seen the constructing of 10 power generating plants across the country.  NIPP was first conceived in 2004, but had become moribund before the Federal Government commenced working on it. To date and in clear commitment to the Transformation Agenda to meet the country’s electricity needs, there has been a dogged pursuance of completion and commissioning of some of the plants. The Afam V and Geregu 1 plants have been completed.  In October 2013, the Geregu 11 power plant, one of the 10 medium-sized fired gas power plants scattered across the Niger Delta due to their proximity to gas, which is the primary source of the generation, was commissioned by President Jonathan.  During the ceremony, he reiterated the government’s commitment to the sector. 

  The vision for the sector is clear and it is being driven with sincerity of purpose. The Administration wants to put an end to the humiliating power outages and usher in a customer focused, private sector electricity supply industry. Sustained electricity supply is critical to employment generation and the overall industrialisation of the country.  There is no gain saying that we have come quite some distance from the rot and decadence that had plagued the sector over the past decades. While we are not there yet, there is everything to be gained from allowing the current power sector roadmap to continue.  All said, the audacious steps being taken by the Jonathan Administration to strengthen power supply will also enhance the manufacturing sector and in turn, generate much-needed employment.  The reforms in the power sector are well and truly on course and require a safe pair of hands to continue the process for the much-anticipated results to be delivered to Nigerians. Efforts must however be re-doubled to achieve the vision. Nigerians have waited long enough!   

  A similar success story is being recorded in the rail sub-sector, as part of a 25-year transport sector development plan.  After decades of being at a standstill, passenger and freight movement are gradually and steadily being brought back to life. With same degree of determination, the Jonathan Administration has pursued a firm line of action to rehabilitate the rail infrastructure sector because it clearly considers it crucial to the country’s economic development.  Speaking through Vice-President Namadi Sambo at the inauguration of two Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) train sets and six air-conditioned passengers’ coaches at the Nigeria Railway Corporation terminus, Lagos, last July, President Jonathan said: “We are fully resolved to make Nigeria to be at par with modern railway services available globally by constantly upgrading our rolling stock.”  Other on-going improvements to the rail include the revitalised Lagos-Jebba rail lines, the launch of the Mass Transit Train Service (MTTS) in Lagos, Kaduna- Abuja railway project, which is the first segment of the much-hailed revived Lagos-Kano standard gauge rail line.   Plans to fast-track the completion of the Abuja Rail Mass Transit Project are in top-gear too. Seven new standard gauge lines being proposed under the Public-Private Partnership initiative including the 322km Lagos-Benin City line, 500km Benin-Abakaliki line, 673 Benin-Obudu Cattle Ranch line, 615km Lagos-Abuja High Speed line; several terminus stations such as Iddo, Ebute-Metta, Ilorin, Kano, Port Harcourt and Jos are also being remodelled.

  Nigerians experienced the decay in the power sector and the railway services for nearly 30 years; and have suffered the consequences at both personal and societal levels. Nigerians still remember when in 1985 the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), as military head of state, scrapped the Lagos Metro Line project.  The laudable people-oriented policies, and steps being implemented by the Jonathan Administration to effect stability of the national grid and to modernise the railways ought not to be allowed to suffer any politically motivated disruptions. The successes recorded so far in these sectors, require continuity in order to bring the vision into full reality. 

• Agunbiade is a Lagos-based journalist.

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