21 years of civil rule: Gains, pains and prospects

Exactly a year ago, most of the 36 state governors were sworn in having secured the mandate of voters at the poll. In this special report, KUNLE ODEREMI, DAPO FALADE, BOLA BADMUS , BIOLA AZEEZ, YINKA OLUKOYA AND WALE AKINSELURE write on the high and low points of civil rule in the country, which was restored on May 29, 1999.

MOST Nigerians remain nostalgic about the epochal, extraordinary transformation that was heralded in the defunct Western Region of Nigeria in the First Republic under a visionary and dynamic leadership. In just eight years of the pragmatic and purposeful leadership, imbued with vision, the region shocked the world with pioneering feats in human capital development, infrastructure and industrialization. That giant stride was achieved in an era that agriculture was the economic mainstay of Nigeria.

The incredible feats of the Asian Tigers forms another instance where a focused leadership with political will made a quick difference and instant success in phenomenal economic growth and development. From the ruins of wars, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan emerged smoking with zeal and patriotism in their meteoric rise to the status of industrialised and advanced economies of the world.

Twenty one years after the return of civil rule, it appears Nigeria has fell short of using those template as starting blocks to rediscover itself and bring comfort to the citizens. It has held general election every four years, with many political leaders taking the driving seat as governors, lawmakers and so on. But campaign promises of those privileged few have largely been in the breach, otherwise in more than 20 years of democracy, the leaders should have collectively moved close to, if not surpass, the stellar transformation of the defunct western regional government or the four Asian tigers (aka) Asian Dragons as template for leadership with vision, mission and direction.

Sadly, the indices on ground are frightening. In every sector, there is a grim picture of unwholesome bleakness and uncertainty. Many cannot fathom why the affair of the country is silhouetted in opaqueness. The real sector is in shambles, with production capacity at the lowest ebb. In education, Nigeria holds the unenviable record of having the largest number of out-of school children. Whereas about four decades ago, Nigeria’s hospitals were described as mere clinics, today, the coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging the world has further exposed the underbelly of the nation’s health sector .

With the economy asphyxiated in all fronts, the political space is befuddled by all motion and no action by stakeholders that are long in promise but short in fulfilment. Despite an amalgam of fancied policies and programmes under colourful nomenclatures, the delivery of democracy dividends is substantially in a short supply. From the centre to states and local levels, the citizens are held spellbound about the confidence they reposed in rapacious political elite.

At both pre-and post-election speeches, the gladiators at the executive arm of government had promised better days ahead for the citizens. It is recalled that even in his post-election speech in February 2019,  President Muhammadu Buhari assured of new dawn since he had laid the foundation through his first four years in office.

One major issue that generated much controversy was the decision of the Federal Government to close all land borders with neighbouring countries. It was premised on the quest by the government to curb the smuggling of primarily food items through land borders into Nigeria. The president resisted all entreaties from the affected countries, including ECOWAS to have a rethink on the action because   it had caused distortions in the economies of the affected countries like Niger Republic, Chad and Benin Republic.

The most recent action of the president that seems to be generating ripples was his signing of the Executive Order 10  granting financial autonomy to state Houses of Assembly and the Judiciary. Though a preponderance of stakeholders, including the form of the speakers of state Assembly, lawyers and other professional bodies welcome the development, speculations are rife about the unfavourable disposition of state governors. Some legal luminaries also argue that the president should not be seen to encroaching on the legislative role of the parliament.

 

 

Politics and the Judiciary

The major political events of the last one year were the series of post-election petitions and the verdicts of the various election petition tribunals. The most pronounced was the petition of the candidate of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), AtikuAbubakar, which was technically won by Buhari. The Supreme Court  dismissed the appeal filed by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory of President Buhari in the February 23, 2019 presidential election. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, who led six other members of the Supreme Court’s panel, delivered a three-sentence judgment. The judgment, which was unanimously consented to by the other six members of the panel, came less than an hour after the court took arguments on the appeal.

Similar dramatic verdicts were recorded in the governorship battle in Zamfara and Imo states where the PDP became the main beneficiary in Zamfara while the APC was favoured in Imo.

Towards the end of 2019, there was furore on the governorship elections conducted in Bayelsa and Kogi states, which were full of uncommon intrigues and allegations of electoral fraud, security lapses, and other untoward tendencies. Confident of being sworn in having declared winner of the Bayelsa poll, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had engaged in rehearsal only for him to suffer a major setback less than 24 hours of his inauguration. The PDP candidate Douye Diri  triumphed having pleaded his case beyond a reasonable doubt before the tribunal.  A panel of justices led by Mary Odili, asked the INEC to withdraw the certificate of Return issued to Lyon and to re-issue another to the candidate with the second highest number of votes.

The verdict of the apex  court  was in affirmation of the verdict of a federal High Court disqualifying BiobarakumaDegi-Eremienyo, Lyon’s running mate, for submitting alleged forged credentials to INEC. It held that the action of Degi-Eremienyo affected Lyon because both men ran on a joint ticket.

However, the APC was able to overcome the threat and scare from the PDP over the poll in Kogi State. The tribunal affirmed the election of Governor Yahaya Bello even after the initial scare by the election tribunal.

 

National Assembly

One striking step taken by the National Assembly that elicited much enthusiasm was on constitution review/amendment. The promise by the leadership of the parliament that the committee would use the report of the 2014 National Conference received applause from, especially prominent persons and groups that have consistently declared that the document contains recommendations that can address majority of the political, structural and electoral challenges that tended to hold the country down and deprived it from attaining nationhood. Part of the promise of the leadership of the legislature was that the 1963 constitution and reports of other constitution conferences held over the years would form the working documents for the committee under the chairmanship of the deputy president of the Senate, Senator OvieOmo-Agege.

However, three bills initiated in the parliament triggered outrage. These include the recent one on Control of Infection Diseases Bill. There is also the Anti-Social Media Bill, which is meant to criminalise the use of the social media. This particular bill is entitled Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019. The other bill is the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech bill. The public fury over the bills is because they constitute an affront to the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country. Many contend that the existing Cyber Crimes Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act already cover many of the so-called offences the sponsors of the new bills have hinged their action. These moves became a blight on the parliament that had promised to bond with the people in the quest to ensure service delivery.

 

Makinde’s ardous task in Oyo 

Around the world, the first year anniversary of any president or governor offers an opportunity to measure the progress of the administration and determine whether such leader has set the tone for the duration of his or her term in office. On May 29, 2019, Mr Seyi Makinde emerged governor of Oyo State carrying a lot of expectations on his shoulder. Makinde got the mandate of residents of the state for four years promising to focus on education, agriculture and food security, health care, infrastructure, youth empowerment, job creation, economy, security, social inclusion and protection.

Suffice it to say that Makinde laid down markers right from his inauguration as governor at Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Liberty, Ibadan. Among others, he announced the immediate abolition of the N3,000 per session development levy that was paid by students of state secondary schools, the cancellation of N500 examination fee also in secondary schools. He hinged these decisions on the need to attract the over 400,000 out of school children in the state to school. He also vowed to increasing the yearly budgetary allocation to the sector to a minimum of 10 percent. In addressing the dicey issue of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Makinde announced a ban on the union’s activities.

Also at his inauguration, he ruled out the building of new healthcare centres, noting that he would rather focus on upgrading and renovating existing health care facilities and making the state health insurance scheme more accessible. In light of this, Makinde visited the state general hospital at Yemetu and Ring road, Ibadan, promising a revamp of facilities there.  In agriculture, he promised to look into issues of multiple taxation facing farmers, their inability of farmers to access credit facilities, poor feeder roads, lack of storage facilities and farmers’ difficulty in processing their harvest. Furthermore, Makinde assured resuscitating the abandoned 10,000 metric tonnes silo project in Awe. The silo project had been a subject of litigation between the former Governor AbiolaAjimobi led government and the contractor, Rahvet International Limited.

However, as the number of days of the current government has counted, so have people began to take keen interest in each action of government. Going by Makinde’s myriad of promises during the last electioneering campaign, observers point to the fact that the euphoria with which he became governor must be matched with record-breaking performance in the next three years.

The state education sector is also faced with huge deficit in school infrastructure. A visit to most schools across the state shows damaged toilets, blown off ceilings and roofs, broken windows, damaged doors, damaged floors of classrooms, caved in roofs, decrepit classroom blocks, broken and insufficient furniture in classrooms. However, Governor Makinde has shown his resolve to revamp the education sector by allocating 22.37 percent in the 2020 budget to education, releasing the sum of N526million as running grants for the first term of the 2019/2020 academic session, ensuring free education and promising to distribute 64,000 school furniture.

The health sector was given a next priority with 5.18 percent allocated to the sector. Though what was allocated is an improved sum as compared to previous years, the sector needs more than 10 percent funding from the budget to begin to take the desired shape. Currently, a visit to hospitals shows huge infrastructural deficit. From primary health centres to general hospitals to tertiary hospitals, the need to fix facilities is palpable. Across the state are over a hundred government owned health facilities that need attention hence Makinde’s decision to focus on upgrading and renovating existing health centres as against building new ones is way to go. The COVID-19 necessity did prompt the state government to transform the former maternal and pediatric centre into an infectious diseases centre, Olodo, Ibadan. Residents of the state will hope that similar Olodocentre transformation happens in other primary health care centres and hospitals in the state. Meanwhile, stakeholders in the health sector of the state have argued that the needed revamp of the health sector will only be a wild dream except the state government substantially increases funding to the sector.

In agriculture, farmers in rural areas will hope that dilapidated access feeder roads to and fro their farms are rehabilitated by the state government and that the World Bank-assisted Rural Access and Agricultural Mobility Project (RAAMP) is strictly implemented. Showing intention to fix rural roads, Makinde had recently said that his government had paid counterpart fund of N350million for RAAMP to fix roads that would open up rural areas for business.

 

The repositioning agenda in Ogun

Prince Dapo Abiodun, since his assumption of office on May 29, 2019, as the fifth democratically elected governor, has provided good governance to the best of his ability to the people of the state.  He has taken a number of measured steps in his bid to reposition the Gateway State. The government has touched the infrastructure; health: education; security; agriculture and housing more importantly than some other areas which are yet or received little attention.  His government has focused on the critical needs of the people, just as it is reengineering all structures necessary for economic growth and development.

The expectations from both the educated and non-educated in the state are relatively different. Nonetheless, the government has a lot more to do in the next couple of years.  On education, the government renovated about 100 schools against its promise to renovate 236 schools.  This development had generated criticism from some quarters, especially the opposition group, who were of the opinion that the exercise was rather to slow. But, the government employed 1.500 teachers to address shortage of teaching staff in the public schools and equally paid promotion arrears to them. It equally introduced “Digiclasses” for both primary and secondary public schools in the state, since it gave the sit-at-home directive order to keep students busy while at home.

The burden of Sanwo-Olu with Lagos State being the epicenter of COVID-19, the governor of the state, Mr. BabajideSanwo-Olu remains the cynosure of eyes. The pandemic has kept the governor virtually on his toes. But in the midst of the challenge, he has tried to strike a delicate balance. He has lined up a number of projects for inauguration to commemorate his first 365 days in office.

It would be recalled that Sanwo-Olu came into office with the mantra the T.H.E.M.E. Agenda, the basis of which he fashioned the 2020 Budget of his administration. T.H.E.M.E.S. is the acronym for Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making Lagos a 21st Century state; Security and Governance.

It will be recalled that Sanwo-Olu had during the campaign promised to run an open government by carrying everybody along, saying this informed the consultative forum to allow citizens’ participation in governance. Egube said Lagos, by 2030, was expected to be the largest consumer market in the world with Tokyo and India coming next respectively. According to him, this growth will have to come with up-scaling of infrastructure, which meant that Lagos would have to embrace the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement to drive infrastructural renewal as government alone could not do it.

Right now, Sanwo-Olu has rolled up his sleeves to commission a number of projects listed by his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso. According to Omotoso, the projects, which will be commissioned through “virtual and on-site commissioning,” in a week-long period, are in areas of housing, education, transportation, roads, among others. , asserting that Governor Sanwo-Olu considered it essential to render an account of his service to Lagosians since he was voted into office a year ago.

Perhaps, Lagos State,   the Centre of Excellence, would have done far more on projects execution as conceived in Governor Sanwo-Olu’s promises to Lagosians, were it not because of the ravaging pandemic, among others and the depletion of resources it brought about on the state, which had made targets in areas of rehabilitation of schools and hospitals and sustaining the ‘Light-up initiative of the state government, among others suffer. For instance on the downward review of 2020 Budget, the State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Sam Egube, said the process, which was approved by the State Executive Council, aimed to reduce the N1,168.6billion budget approved by the Lagos State House of Assembly to N920.5billion. With the review, the total budget size of N1, 168.562billin now comes to N920.469bn with the financing deficit increasing slightly by 11per cent from N97.533bn to N108.005billion.

 

  Kwara and the ‘o to ge’ mantra

People of Kwara State expect a lot from the present All Progressives Congress (APC) administration in the state, and even more, especially, from Governor AbdulrahmanAbdulrazaq. With all poltical intrigues  against the Saraki political dynasty dished out by the APC prior to 2019 general elections, culminating into ‘O to ge’ (it’s enough) Movement, political analysts held the view that chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winning that elections were slim. The PDP could not match the opposition and the defeat came.

With the eventual victory of the APC, one year after, reactions of the residents are varied on what l their expectations had been vis a vis performance of the administration so far. The PDP in the state claimed the APC administration lacks direction. In a recent statement, Kwara State chapter of the PDP advised Governor Abdulrazaq to concentrate his efforts on fulfilling his electioneering promises.

However, the administration said its achievements in one year in such areas as education, agriculture, health, among others cannot be wished away, stressing that the achievements has had  impactful governance in the state. Speaking with the TRIBUNE, the chief press secretary to the governor, RafiuAjakaye, said that, “Kwara, for the record, is not yet an El dorado. No such state exists. But the administration inherited and has rescued a state that once tottered on the brink of collapse — at least in the area of human capital development indices. Basic healthcare was comatose. Children were no longer getting vaccination to curb deadly diseases, including polio, because the state was not fulfilling its obligation in the national campaign. The state held the trophy in children malnutrition in the north central. Kwara had also been blacklisted from the universal basic education commission (UBEC) after funds meant for primary education were mismanaged, coming last in the UBEC ratings. The Colleges of Education (COEs) had been run aground, with their workers owed several months in salary arrears. The schools of nursing and midwifery had lost their accreditation. Access to potable water was majorly through rickety tankers.” According to the media aide, the state-owned broadcast stations were off the air as at the time the governor took office, just as he noted that, Kwara ticked all the wrong boxes in the World Bank ease of doing business ratings, while pensioners could hardly recall the last time they were paid. Another mark of its pitiable condition was the fact that no college graduate — having been told of the horrible state of its orientation camp — wanted to have their national youth service in Kwara. Just 12 months down the road, the Otoge leader has successfully changed the Kwara narrative. From instant payment of relevant counterpart funds, which have brought back development partners, and taking the state off the UBEC blacklist, AbdulRazaq is taking steps to stabilise and reposition the state for growth”.

Confronted by years of prebendal politics and governance hinged on grandstanding and propaganda, the administration is indeed punching above its weight in making Kwara to work again. But much more important is the fact that Abdul Razaq is redefining governance, giving hope to the disadvantaged, empowering local artisans, redistributing wealth, and calling global attention to Kwara with his bold enlistment of women in the decision-making process in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 — a practical way to inspire the girl-child to a new height. His female cabinet pick is the highest ever on the African continent. With just one year gone in a four-year mandate, it is clear that the people of the state made the right choice and are better off sticking with a man who walks his talk about restoring the glory of Kwara State and making the masses the centre-piece of his administration.

 

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