- A Review Of The APC Roadmap To A New Nigeria By Tony Osborg Ossai
I have waited patiently for weeks, hoping to come across a succinct criticism or perhaps an intense review of the exciting promises published by the All Progressive Peoples Party (APC) as the manifesto towards a new Nigeria. A brief critique, preferably from an academic rather than a politician or political party would have saved me the pleasure of carrying out my own review. However, since none is forthcoming, I have taken it upon myself as an undergraduate youth to write a brief review of this document called A ROADMAP TO A NEW NIGERIA.
APC, I believe, built its manifesto on certain hasty assumptions like most ordinary Nigerians would want to believe. One of such assumptions is that Nigeria has enough money and only needs the right party to spend it wisely. This is not exactly true. Nigeria does not have sufficient money to meet up with its dilapidated infrastructural needs and therefore need a pragmatic plan to double its present income. The manifesto fails to explain how the APC intends to boost up the revenue of the country from what it currently is. It only explains how money will be spent, nothing was said about how more money will be generated, especially from the non-oil sectors.
Well, it is arguable to say that Nigeria has sufficient funds to meet up its National needs. Whoever intends to argue on this path must be willing not only to admit that the current spending pattern is wasteful but that all that is required to prove this theory is to drastically slash down the cost of running government so as to pave way for the improvement and higher allocation to capital projects. APC, in its publication neither took a position whether to affirm that Nigeria has sufficient funds or requires a cut in government spending to save the required funding for its numerous ‘exciting’ projects. It also did not say anything about plans on increasing revenue to the federation account.
Secondly, I am of the school of thought that the Nigerian government is not a charitable organization and therefore cannot afford or perhaps should not continue to offer free roads, free health care, free education, subsidized pilgrimage trips, cheap petroleum products, etc at the detriment of our National Infrastructural Development! This is one position, many Nigerians will not agree with me, therefore I do not wish to go into further details of how this theory might work for Nigeria. However, I want to believe that APC, like many Nigerians, has found nothing wrong with the present pathetic approach been adopted in reaching out to poor Nigerians. In fact, there is no other way to reach the average Nigerian without offering them one free this or that as their statutory share of the National cake. APC’s resolution to provide ‘…free meal per day’ for basic students, ‘free tertiary education to students pursuing science and technology, engineering and math (STEM)’, etc.
This is an affirmation that its government intends to promote the idea of freebies even if it causes great harm to our National recurrent expenditure and economy. One would imagine why since basic education is on the concurrent list, why the present controlled APC states have not begun this free meal per day program if it is not a gimmick at getting the electorates attention? Feeding ten million kids per day at the rate of 150 Naira per meal will be at about 1.5 Billion Naira daily for per meal. I do not want to believe that any potential government will be willing to spend 1.5 Billion Naira daily in feeding primary school students. What end does this charitable sympathetic policy intend to achieve?
Another assumption, which stands as a sub-structure for the manifesto, is that nothing is structurally wrong with the present political setting. If APC takes control of the federal government, will Nigeria continue to have 360 lawmakers with the house of representative duplicating the functions of the senate at the expense of our economy? The few questions I will like the APC to answer are, can the Nigerian economy continue to accommodate the bogus style of present government? Do we need 360 lawmakers to make laws in Nigeria? Do we need both a Senate and a House of Representative in Nigeria?
If yes, why? Do we need 36 Ministers simply because the constitution says so? Do we need to continue funding these redundant ministries and MDAs? Has APC not found anything wrong in this federal government style of spending over 80% of its annual revenue funding unproductive civil servants? Does APC have plans to change the present structural settings of the federal government? If yes, how? What plans does APC have to neutralize the sacred nature of Nigeria’s tribalism and ethnicity?
Also, APC failed to explain how it intends to provide permanent peace when it assumes power. Neither did it proffer a solution to the present Northern Nigerian crisis nor did it provide a contingency plan for the uprising that might arise from the Niger Delta area if they smell a foul play and an attempted continuation of what they have longed termed a deliberate marginalization of not just their region but an alienation of their persons from political participation in a country whose survival depends on their resources (at least for now). One would envisage the return of militancy in the Niger Delta as their only way of active political participation since they have refused equity in participation in this new party called APC.
I want to believe that the APC is sincere in its promises in job creation even though I see those promises as unsustainable considering the danger that will follow if all of it is implemented.
APC’s plan on page four of the manifesto which reads ‘Direct conditional monthly cash transfer of N5,000 to 25 million poorest…citizens’, ‘create 20,000 jobs per state…for those with a minimum qualification’, ‘provide allowances to discharged but unemployed Youth Corp’, etc. I believe all these promises are unsustainable and suspicious and also show that the APC, like the present PDP, will continue to mistake welfare for job creation. Paying people to sit at home and do nothing is not job creation but welfare. A synonymous move like the ongoing SURE-P community job scheme claimed to be a job creation my Madam Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. I understand the term job to mean ‘a specific piece of productive work required to be done as a duty or for a specific fee’. By this definition, how does a group of unproductive persons earning a monthly income and practically doing nothing productive to justify their earnings be classified as employment?
Is this not another civil service style of increasing our recurrent expenditure without any commensurate input from the said workers? Is it not wise to spend such savings in expanding manufacturing firms which will in turn create few but real productive jobs, improve GDP and strengthen the Naira, rather than spend such money on a whole a thousand of persons and getting nothing in return?
On fighting corruption, the ROADMAP TO A NEW NIGERIA failed to question the most notorious corrupt foundation of Nigeria’s weakness – the procurement process. The Public Procurement Act of 2007 is without doubt a huge success in terms of its experimentation on government savings, transparency and accountability in the public procurement process by the Nigerian government. However, this is not without its shortcomings. The existing procurement law and process does not have sufficient mechanism to checkmate the numerous frauds ongoing in the system. Without doubt, over eighty percent of Nigeria’s corruption case arises from the award of contracts and therefore begins with the procurement process. I see no reason why State Governors, Commissioners, LGA Chairmen and Ministers should have power over who gets whatever contracts in their various parastatal! A specific agency should be set up to handle all contract issues.
With this kind of arrangement, every government owned institution; ministry, corporation, MDA, state government, etc. should be stripped of their powers to award contracts. Only then will you see how much is been wasted in the name of percentage and also how the procurement act is currently been smartly manipulated. With an effective procurement system in place, at least five of every ten qualified Nigerian contractor should at least have a project to execute once annually without necessarily having any Abuja connection or loyalty to any Minister or Commissioner. With an effective process, the time in which a contractor will have twenty ongoing projects at a stretch while his fellow qualified contractors are yet to receive even an invitation to tender will be long gone. There is need to review the procurement act and establish a sole department to handle the award of every government contracts in Nigeria and I have not seen any sign of this in APC’s roadmap to a new Nigeria.
Has APC not found anything wrong in the present procurement process? For example, why should INEC have the power to award contracts for the supply of electoral materials? Will this not lead to a compromise of duty as to who gets what rather than how and well will elections be conducted? Was INEC by law mandated to award contracts or conduct elections? Will, giving INEC the power to award its own contract not compromise its duties especially when not just Billions of Naira but also politics and controversies are involved in most processes of contract award? Why can there not be a specific agency whose sole objective will be to manage a database of contractors and determine the award-of-contract for every government agency, ministry, etc that spends tax payers money? A common practice and model, like it is practiced by the multinationals is quite simple to adopt.
If any arm of government, be it ministry of works or even Mr. President’s office wishes to purchase a set of computer or construct a kilometer of road. All it needs do is to raise an internal request with specifics to the sole procurement department or agency and it ends there. The manner in which the contractors are selected, pre qualified, shortlisted and contracts awarded should be of no concern to whatever ministry that needs this set of computer or kilometer of road. In as much as the procurement department or agency ensures that the end user department gets its demands (goods or services) in due time, all becomes a perfect practice. If APC must fight corruption, it must begin by reviewing the Nigerian Procurement process.
While I am optimistic that the APC, like the present PDP will bring progress to Nigeria if elected, I am not certain of any structural change which can only lead to the desired development. Nigeria needs not just progress but a structural change and overhaul in both orientation and policies and I am hoping the APC will return to their drawing board to do this in a pragmatic manner.
Let me close up this review with the words of José Maria and James Freeman Clark ‘Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason. A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.’
I look forward to further improvement on this ROADMAP TO A NEW NIGERIA so that it will at the end not just be a party’s manifesto but a pragmatic and working document for future governments. We must look beyond the outcome of the 2015 general election if we truly have the interest of our dear country and not just our party, at heart. I am limited by space to go further on this review, hence I would have loved to say a thing or two about the APC’s plan on power generation, housing plan, education, health, etc.
By: OSSAI, TONY OSBORG
300 Level Philosophy Student,
University of Port Harcourt,
Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Tel: +234 81 34941730