By Bala Ibrahim
Last night on NTA, I watched Ajuri Ngelale, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs giving the 5-year report card of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
An excellent guy with exceptional fluency and fluidity in presentation. I salute him for being a man with good oral communication skills, good enough to market meat in a fish shop. Ajuri’s presentation of the President’s performance in five years is pleasantly palatable. Before the TV show of yesterday, I had also listened to him on the radio, where he eloquently elaborated similar achievements, and the blue print of the government in the years to come. Excellent. As a Buharist, I was elated.
Earlier on, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President’s media adviser, had advanced thus, “The economy, long dependent on a mono product – petroleum, is being retooled, refocused, with diversification as a task that must be accomplished. Agriculture has been given a fillip, manufacturing has got a shot in the arm, and solid minerals are contributing a large chunk to the Gross Domestic Product”. Mr. AJuri added flesh to Adesina’s position, by giving details of some of the positive things done to enhance and improve infrastructure in Nigeria.
While itemizing the government’s achievements, mention was made, with a high sense of satisfaction, of the transformation of the nation’s infrastructural landscape, by citing the Lagos-Ibadan Railway Modernization Project, the Lagos-Ibadan express road rehabilitation, the Coastal Railway Project, the Calabar-Port Harcourt-Onne Deep Sea Port Segment, the Second Niger Bridge, the Owerri Interchange, the Port Harcourt-Enugu Expressway, as well as the East-West Road Project, amongst others. In putting the icing on the cake, Ajuri spoke well on the giant strides in security, economy and corruption, the three areas of the regime’s priority. Excellent. As a Buharists, I felt delighted.
In the programme, which looked clearly like a promo designed to showcase the achievements of the government, the interviewer simply gave the microphone to Mr. Ajuri, without intermittent interjections, to enquire about the distribution of these developments. Even at that, in listing the achievements, when he came to mentioning the Abuja-Kano Expressway amongst the ongoing projects with progress, Ajuri’s conscience seemed to have pricked him a little, because he stammered there. And precisely that’s where as a Buharist, I felt unhappy. Knowingly or unknowingly, the north is being shortchanged.
Amongst the promises the President made to Nigerians were:
- To integrate the informal economy into the mainstream and prioritize the full implementation of the National Identification Scheme to generate the relevant data;
- Expand domestic demand and undertake associated public works programmes to achieve this goal;
- Embark on export and production diversification including investment in infrastructure; promote manufacturing, through Agro Based industries; and expand and promote sub-regional trade through ECOWAS and AU. And the president made it very clear to all, that in executing this mandate, he is for none, he is for all.
If we look at the pattern of project execution, the placement of priorities, alongside the time spent and what remains, one needs no glasses to see the imbalance in the distribution of infrastructural investments, particularly the infrastructure that would spur agriculture. This neglect was done to the evident disadvantage of the north. With the prevailing situation, vis a vis the balance of time for Mr. President, except by some miracle, the north cannot catch up. As a Buharist, I feel doleful.
Nigeria’s huge infrastructural deficit has long been a topical discourse and known to be the major hindrance to the growth of businesses and economic prosperity, with northern Nigeria being the most disadvantaged. With dilapidated transport networks, epileptic power supply, huge housing deficit, the north’s infrastructure gap cannot be overemphasized. Which is the reason why many insisted that, all projects that have two terminals, should be carried out concurrently from both ends. That way, even if things fall apart, the loss would be shared, while the centre holds. But as things stand, the north is destined to lose. Yet, it is the largest contributor in votes, when it comes to the success of any president, with PMB being the biggest beneficiary.
PMB clinched the presidential seat by garnering 15.2m votes, the bulk of which came from the North West, as against the 11.3m gotten by his closest rival, Mr. Atiku Abubakar. Yet, the under listed projects for the North West, are either abandoned, or running at a snail speed:
- Construction of Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Highway.
- Dualisation of Kano–Wudil–Shuarin section of the Kano–Maiduguri Road
- Dualisation of Kano–Katsina Road Phase.
- Sokoto–Tambuwal–Jega Road.
- Construction of Kano Western Bypass.
- Construction of Kaduna Eastern Bypass.
- Construction of Kaduna Modern Medical Diagnostic Centre.
- Sabke Water Supply Project, Katsina State.
- Shagari Irrigation Project, Sokoto State.
- Galma Dam, Kaduna State.
11.60MVA Transformer in Dan Agundi Substation, Kano.
- 2X60MVA Transformer in Kakuri Substation, Kaduna.
- 60MVA Transformer in Katsina Substation.
- 40MVA Mobile Substation at Zaria, Kaduna State.
- 2x40MVA 132/33KV Power Transformer at Daura, Katsina State.
- 60MVA 132/33KV Power Transformers at Hadejia, jigawa state.
- 60MVA 132/33KV Power Transformers at Funtua, Katsina State.
- 60MVA 132/33KV Power Transformers at Sokoto.
As if cursed, or destined for imprisonment through an unlucky accident, the projects that seem to be receiving priority attention in the north are those under the newly renamed correctional centre facilities arrangement, where, of the 86 earmarked in 16 states, the bulk is in the north, and almost all are completed.
There is no gainsaying agriculture is the main preoccupation of the north. Agriculture is the key to increase in per capita gross domestic product. Agriculture is the shortest solution to joblessness in Nigeria, which in the last five years has more than tripled. If efforts are not made to spur agriculture and other non-oil parts of the economy, the hope of getting any foreign direct investment, would only remain a mirage. It is also impossible to have a vibrant manufacturing sector in the face of agricultural neglect.
While people like Professor Ango Abdullahi are putting the blame of these neglects on the failure of the President to punish or take decisive action against people close to him that engage in wrong doings, insecurity and Covid-19, are collectively conniving in the region, to make the realization of that agricultural retooling and diversification ambition impossible.
As a Buharist, I feel sorrowful and mournful.
Mr. Ibrahim writes from Abuja