Friday, 2 September 2011


During campaigns, political parties and their candidates make obligatory pledges to the electorates concerning their policies if elected. At elections, voters have the onerous opportunity of selecting between substantive programmes and equally, bestowing winning parties/candidates with determinate policy mandates. Consequently, parties and their candidates are expected to honour their campaign promises when they assume political power.
For some of us scores of questions have arisen in our minds since President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua assumed office. The major questions revolve around electoral promises. First of all, were his campaign promises intended to be fulfilled or were they merely to entice the voting public? In fact, since President Yar’Adua assumed power there is this feeling that he has been treating his campaign promises with huge scorn, and as it usually occurs in our setting many Nigerians are carried way by some of his populist pronouncements which in most cases are completely bereft of substance and have not been appraising the government on its promises, policies and performance.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration undoubtedly recorded some successes especially during his second term when he brought some world-class technocrats and economic experts into his government. He succeeded in reducing the country's debt and implementing economic reforms and anticorruption measures. He established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which went after some high power figures, made some very historic unprecedented progress.

The continuation and strengthening of these reform policies of the Obasanjo administration were among President Yar'Adua's campaign promises which made many Nigerians to vote for him but today such Nigerians are alarmed that instead of fulfilling his campaign promise of policy continuation, all that Yar’Adua is doing is tantamount to what Christians would describe “as taking the nation back to Egypt”. For the benefit of those who do not understand the phrase, it means taking the country to where it was before the reforms.

A major policy of the Obasanjo administration that earned it wide acclaim was monetization of benefits of public servants. The goal of the policy was to reduce waste in government and remove the focus of public servants from perquisites of office to service. It must not also be forgotten that the policy was also initiated at a time when the Federal Government was plagued by backlog of unpaid allowances to public servants.

For most pro reform Nigerians the performance of the Secretary to the Federal Government, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe at the Senate Committee on the issue of monetization was scandalous.  His claim that if monetization policy is implemented, Ministers would have to be driving themselves to office is anything but factual.

For the information of the SGF, monetization policy is applied in multinational organizations like Shell, Coca-cola etc. What it means is that drivers are personal staff of managers. Their salaries and allowances are paid to the managers, who in turn pay their personal staff. The most unfortunate problem with President Yar’Adua is that he has surrounded himself with politicians who have been used to government providing everything (fleet of official cars and a retinue of official drivers) for them. These wasteful practices made it impossible for government to muster enough financial resources for developmental purposes

While campaigning the current president of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yaradua, intimated the country with his seven point agenda which included Power and energy, Food and security, Wealth creation, Transport sector, Land reforms, Security and Education.

If we take the seven points one after the other and juxtapose them with the performance of the government in the past seven months, one is bond to conclude that they were mere electoral gimmicks. Take the issue of Power and Energy, the then Candidate Yar’Adua told the nation that on assumption of office, he was going to declare emergency in the Power sector. He was very categorical about what he was going to do and spoke as someone who knew what the problems were and what to do.

It was therefore surprising that in his inaugurate meeting with top Executives of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) after assumption of office, what President Yar’Adua did was to warn them to sit-up or he would be compelled to declare a state of emergency in the sector. In the past seven months, instead of the situation improving, it is getting worse on a daily basis to the detriment of economic activities in the country. A lot of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) are out of businesses because of the deteriorating power situation in the country. The large scale enterprises are also feeling the pinch and yet the President hasn’t deemed it fit to declare the promised emergency. Instead what we are hearing from Government spokespeople are rehashed and untenable excuse of the existence of a “CABAL” that does not want things to work in the sector. The responsibility of government is to identify and destroy the so called “CABAL” and give Nigerians improved power supply. The solution to the power situation in the country is the unbundling of PHCN and the privatization of the different companies that will emerge.

But will the regional sentiments which swayed the President to reverse the privatization of the refineries and the removal of the Board of NICON Insurance allow him to do the right thing in the Energy sector? Did the Yar’Adua administration not assure the nation that the refineries will be working by December?  Are the refineries working now? Instead of reversing the privatization of the refineries, President Yar’Adua should have taken a dispassionate look at the factors which informed the decision to privatize. But sectional interest and populist desire did not allow him to do the right thing

Similarly if we look at the remaining six points in the agenda, it would be discovered that apart from re-stating them at every opportunity, there are no concrete direction from government on how to achieve them. Seven months in office is enough for President Yar’Adua to come up with a definite road-map on how to achieve his goals.

It is also very unfortunate that the belief that the Yar'adua administration has performed well in the area of observance of the rule of law is already beginning to crumble like a pack of cards. It is becoming very obvious that the so called faith in the role of law is nothing but a smokescreen to protect his corrupt ex-governor friends some of who incidentally bankrolled his campaign. If the government is truly concerned about the rule of law, it should take it to the grassroots. On a daily basis innocent Nigerians are being brutalized and detained unjustly in police stations across the country, the Attorney General of the Federation is not concerned about their plights. It is only when a former Governor is arrested by the EFCC that he talks about the rule of law.

A major bane of governance in Nigeria is that every new government tries to dismantle the policies of its predecessor. One thought that with the Yar’Adua administration things would be different because it is the first administration to take over from a civilian administration. The fact that it was taking over from a fellow PDP member gave one the assurance that there would be policy consistency. Instead of allowing the experience of his predecessor in office to guide him, President Yar’Adua wants to learn from the scratch at the expense of the nation’s progress.

Finally, if Nigerians are truly interested in the deepening of democracy and development, they must learn to hold political office holders accountable to their campaign promises. By so doing, it would not be easy for the politicians to escape fulfilling their electoral promises

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