13th February, 2012
The “Goodluck Charm” of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan which soared to over 75% among Nigerians before the April 2011 Presidential elections took a good bashing and dipped to less than 20% during the fuel subsidy protests in January 2012. To say that the president enjoyed so much goodwill among Nigerians before the fuel subsidy withdrawal is an understatement. This is resultant from the euphoria that greeted the President’s unprecedented victory at the 2011 presidential elections.
Even before President Jonathan’s electoral victory, some sections of the country have vowed to make the country ungovernable if Goodluck Jonathan won the presidential elections. And so it turned out to be really.
Since Jonathan came on board, he has taken some bold steps and made some very sound proposals but because of the sword of Damocles hanging over his head from the north, all the President’s proposals and actions have been washed aside as hogwash. His youth employment and empowerment programmes have been lampooned as being too weak and without foundation. His proposal for a 7-year single Tenure Term was thrown over board as being too hastily and single handedly conceived. His generous concessions to the academic staff union of Nigerian universities (ASUU) and to Nigerian educational sector in general are all scorned and scoffed at by those who wear the toga of Nigeria’s “born to rule elite” and believe that Nigeria is for a few tribes to govern. These regional and parchial elites will never see anything good in whatever President Goodluck Jonathan does.
And this is the prompter that should goad the President to greater heights of excellence. The President must set an agenda of action for the remaining years of his presidency. And he must take a cue or learn from President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s 6-point Agenda which finally came to naught.
President Goodluck Jonathan should embark on a 2-point agenda to convince Nigerians that he has very good intentions for this country. He should keep the various cabals submerging this country into swampy waters at bay and concentrate on the two most important areas of national development viz power and the petroleum sector.
This writer believes that Nigeria could become a very prosperous nation if we embark on a very audacious and ambitions plan to step-up our power generation and distribution. South Africa with a population of less that 50 million people has a very ambitious and revolutionary energy plan referred to as the pebble bed modular reactor. The PBMR is a modern revolution in nuclear technology and presently generates and distributes 50,000 megawatts of electricity for South African use only. South Africa also exports electricity to several African and non-African countries through the PBMR concept.
Ghana, our West African rival has also joined the big league of electricity users with the upgrading of facilities at the Akosombo Dam, the Black Volta River project in Bui and the KMR power IPP facility in Tema among others. Today Ghana generates and distributes between 1900-2000 megawatts for its population of about 24 million people while Nigeria with a population of 167 million (as at 30th Oct. 2011) still hovers dangerously around the jinxed 3000 megawatts figure.
In 1999, we were promised that facilities were on ground to achieve a target of 6000 megawatts and later 10000 but all these merely ended still as unfulfilled promises by 2007.
Also in a media chat in December 2007 President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua again promised to declare a state of national emergency 10 months into his residency. He also promised Nigerians a power rise from 3000mws to 10,000mws in December 2008, 30,000mws in 2010 and 50,000 in 2015. At the end of President Yar Adua’s tenure, our electricity generation did not go beyond 2,400mws.
In Nigeria electricity generation and distribution has become over politicised. The story of electricity is an epilogue of woes and rancid corruption perpetrated by a well known criminal cabal.
Nigeria’s losses in the power sector are mind boggling. A Nigerian former speaker confirmed in 2010 that between 1999-2007 Nigeria spent $15 billion on the power sector. A probe panel set up by the House to certify this figure did not see the light of day. The London-based “African Review of Business and Technology” in 2006 confirmed that Nigerians spend $152mn on generator importation alone annually. These generators are mainly from China with a maximum 6-months life span. That is Chinese technology for you.
One of Nigeria’s greatest patriots, Chief Bola Ige lost his life fighting the power cabal as the nation’s minister for power and energy.
The greatest energizer and catalyst for development all over the world is power. Generation and distribution of electricity determines the growth and development of any nation. The domino effect of adequate power generation in both developed and developing nations is the same. The world’s industrial giants today depend on electricity for sustenance and growth. The report on Nigeria’s economy is very gloomy as records from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics show that Nigeria’s Real Domestic Product grew at a very frustrating rate of 7.4% in the 3rd Quarter of 2011 as compared to 7.86% in the corresponding period of 2010. Inflation stretched up to 10.5% in October 2011 from 10.3 in September of the same year. Unemployment figures rose from 19.7% in 2009 to 21.1% in 2010 and to 23.9 in 2011. But these unemployment figures from the statistician-general’s office have been stoutly disputed by renowned economists who believe that Nigeria’s average unemployment figures for 2011 must have been about 30%.
Many of Nigeria’s industries have wholly relocated to Ghana because of the heavy toll of inadequate power generation which has always almost tripped overheard expenditures of industries. The few industries presently operating in Nigeria are faced with the option of either closing shop or operating at minimum capacity sometimes as low as 10%. The very high unattainable price of diesel which sells for between N160 and in some states N250 per litre does not help matters at all. These few Nigerian industries are struggling under a serious strain of frustration and hopelessness.
President Goodluck Jonathan must summon the political will to ensure the privatisation of the power sector to ensure the effective utilisation of other sources of energy like solar, hydro and coal.
Today India has reduced unemployment by training a large chunk of its rural population in the art of manufacturing solar energy. Nigeria can learn from India and reduce rural and even Urban unemployment.
If Nigeria gets its power act right the economy will outgrow its present contraction and there will be an industrial and economic boom that will even be bigger than the oil boom of the 70s
No matter how badly President GEJ performs thereafter, a stable power supply in Nigeria will make Nigerians love Jonathan for ever as they cannot easily forget President Olusegun Obasanjo’s privatisation of the Telecommunication sector and the ensuing liberalisation of the industry.
With a robust economy, there will be enough money for infrastructure development, improving the health sector, revamping the agricultural sector and a rise in social welfare for the citizens of this great country.
Building more refineries for cheaper petroleum products will then be a fait accompli.
President Jonathan should therefore focus his greatest attention on the power and petroleum sector and every other piece will fall in place.
•Nanaghan writes in from Lagos.E-mail: [email protected]