Choosing between APC and PDP (2)
ALL that APC has told Nigerians is a rehearse of what we hear at election campaign rallies by other political parties, inclusive of the PDP’s: perfunctory if routine pledges to solve the existing problems – an undertaking of sorts to learn on the job. Much like previous political rallies, the 2015 electioneering rallies are utterly devoid of thought-provoking innovations. Quite frankly, the on-going rallies are at once offensive to our collective sensibilities and intelligence. After over 50 years of political independence, Nigerians surely deserve better.
If one pondered long enough the unwavering confidence with which APC promises to solve Nigeria’s recurring problems when voted into office, it is plausible to wonder whether the reason the main opposition party has not told Nigerians how it proposes to achieve that feat is because the party has strategically chosen to play its prized card close to the chest. But APC’s chieftains’ performances in office since the Fourth Republic give a decisive lie to that plausibility. One example would make the point. Lagos State is an APC stronghold. The masterminds and strategists of the party have been at the helms of the state affairs since 1999. Yet, Lagos State most desperate infrastructural challenge, its gridlocked traffic remains as constant as the northern star. This a serious lapse for which Lagos State governments should apologise to Nigerians for obvious reasons. Lagos State is the commercial nerve-centre of the nation; the pace of economic activities therein significantly impacts on Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP. The country’s largest seaports and airports are in domiciled in Lagos State. A tardy-gaited Lagos State is therefore inimical to Nigeria’s economic growth. Lagos State possibly holds the record for tardy-gaited cities in the world. On aggregate, motorists require one hour or thereabouts to cover 10 kilometres on weekdays; the cumulative loss in man-hours cannot be imagined. A then sitting president had likened the chaotic situation in Lagos State to jungle – a presidential admission that Lagos State is dysfunctional. APC’s minders’ best response to the existing dysfunctional state of Lagos State is to embark on dedicated lanes for mass transit buses. Expectedly, the Lagos State’s dedicated bus lanes traffic scheme has failed to make any impact, Lagos State is as gridlocked as ever. In Europe, where the concept originated, years of studies have since conclusively shown that so long as vehicular density and length of road networks remain the same, traffic net flow rate will remain constant. The studies thus confirmed that dedicated bus lanes do not result in a net reduction in cumulative man-hour loss arising from gridlocked traffics. The scheme merely gives an illusion of solving gridlocked vehicular traffic by shifting the problem from one part of a city to another. Ultimately, the particular city’s net loss in man-hours remains the same. Europe commenced dismantling the scheme years back!
One feasible solution to gridlocked traffics is: expand existing roads and construct more network of roads; of course, everyone knows that. But how do you find the spare land to achieve this in a fully built-up metropolis like Lagos? Not everyone has a ready cost-effective answer to this question. But every Lagosian knows that over 25 per cent of Lagos land space is occupied by structures that could hardly pass as dwellings for human beings. Most of these structures are as old as Lagos itself. They constitute a nuisance to safety; economics; and aesthetics; they ought to have been removed decades back, thus creating space to rethink and expand Lagos State network of roads and rails, and erect highrise buildings for mass housing. (Lagos lags far behind other mega cities in highrise buildings density). Expand housing vertically to release land horizontally for road and rail transportation networks. That is the path to an efficient and Greater Lagos State.
If, in 16 years, APC’s suave masterminds have not glimpsed a vision of a Greater Lagos State, surely, the leading opposition party could not pretend to have a latent magic wand to go the extra mile that is required to do the extraordinary.
Nigeria has an unflattering history of political parties amalgamations. None has worked. Late Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa had likened parties amalgamation in Nigeria as “a union of incompatible bedfellows that is bound to break before dawn”. APC is the largest political amalgamation ever in the history of Nigeria; four parties have had to pull together. Will it work? Empirical evidence does not give it much of a chance. Large amalgamation means unduly large if unwieldy governments; local; state; and federal. Can Nigeria pay for a quadrupled governments expenditure in an era of downward trending crude oil prices? Hardly. Huge governments would require much longer time to familiarize themselves with the nuts and bolts of office. Clearly, Nigeria’s dwindling revenue base can ill-afford the aforesaid scenario.
Now, it cannot be gainsaid that the Jonathan-led PDP government has failed to pull a rabbit from the hat as Nigerians had been led to believe. Candidate Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Mainasara Jonathan had been an impressive campaigner in 2011, and his well-advertised humble beginnings had endeared him to the masses. Nigerians thus turned out in their thousands to listen to him. He, in his turn, worked his fingers to the bone to convince his eager audiences that he was the “fresh air” that the nation needed to “breath” to change its fortunes for the better. The electorate believed him, and voted massively for the PDP candidate. But the much expected superlative performance was not to be. Time proved the voluble presidential candidate was a better campaigner for office than he is an office holder.
The PDP Federal Government performance thus far certainly leaves a lot to be desired in a number of critical areas of the economy, but it is uncharitable not to acknowledge that the Jonathan Administration has performed marginally better than previous Administrations. For example, the nightmarish queues at fuel-refill stations that had assumed a permanent feature in Nigeria have disappeared since 2011. But as we observed earlier, marginal differences do not impress; this is why Nigerians contemplate the 2015 presidential election with mixed feelings. It is hugely embarrassing that Nigeria still imports petroleum products, when the country should be exporting same. It is equally embarrassing that Nigeria is struggling to attain 10,000MW in power generation, when the country should be targeting 50,000MW at the very least. Nigeria’s current status as Africa’s largest economy ought to enjoin her political leadership to dream and plan big for the country. It goes without saying that Nigeria has had more than her fair share of political leaders, whom Mokwugo Okoye, the late prolific author, aptly referred to as “…political time-servers and piddling little men whose fear and greed exceeded their faith and vision.” Nigeria now stands in need of visionary leaders who have glimpsed the visions of heaven, and are possessed of the requisite will and intellect to translate these visions into earthly reality. More is the pity to observe that such selfless leaders have not appeared on the horizon in the 2015 elections. Nigeria has to tarry a while yet for such men while she makes the most of her third Eleven.
So the question, which an enlightened Nigerian electorate should endeavour to answer on March 28, as it chooses between APC and PDP is: Which is the more cost-effective choice?
Afam Nkemdiche, an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.