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PDP’s contribution to sustainable democracy

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Wadata Plaza... PDP’s National Secretariat in Abuja

Wadata Plaza… PDP’s National Secretariat in Abuja

HEAD or tail, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may turn out winner in tomorrow’s presidential polls. The party, which has been at the helm of affairs at the center, may have attracted considerable knocks form political watchers, but few would doubt the party’s contribution to deepening of the nation’s democracy and stabilizing the ship of nationhood in its years as the pilot of national affairs.

Ironically, the biggest achievement of the party may as well lie in its losing the power at center and handing over to the opposition without acrimony. Many of the alleged sins of the party would easily be forgiven by the people; especially given the fact that there is no perfect government in the world.

The party took over the saddle of leadership at a point when the nation’s unity was at its lowest ebb. It was a time when the country was largely divided into sectional, regional or tribal enclaves. President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged despite lack of support from his geo-political constituency, the Southwest, in such a manner suggesting that the PDP had ceded the presidential post to the zone. The Southwest was at the point battling to contain the activities of the tribal militant group, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) which was formed in direct reaction to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential, believed to have been won by business mogul, Chief MKO Abiola. In the north, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), as well as, pockets of northern-based militant groups were exercising their newfound democratic freedom expression by whatever means –– including violence. The Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) also just found its lost voice, even as the ever-restlessness in the Southsouth became heightened.

To all intent and purpose, including demilitarialisation of the polity and professionalizing the military, the nation could be said to be in a transition period requiring a firm and patriotic leadership. The PDP may have provided this by ensuring that the nation did not survive these hiccups, but foundation for sustainable democracy is entrenched.

Upon ascension to power, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, popular called the Oputa panel was inaugurated to bring the nation to terms with its challenges and heal frayed nerves. Setting the pace, President Obasanjo appeared personally to answer questions at the panel.

After surviving the initial teething problems and consolidating power, the party moved in closely to clean self of misdeeds within. Anti corruption agencies were put in place in the mould of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). A frontal attack was launched against corrupt practices both within the public and private sectors.

Despite allegations of political witch-hunting leveled against these agencies, especially the EFCC, it is instructive to note that no noticeable member of the opposition figures was prosecuted by the agencies. Majority of those who fell on the wrong end of financial sleaze were either from the private sector, mostly the banking industry, or members of the PDP.

Obasanjo’s vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, soon ran into trouble waters over his handling of the privatisation programme of the government. He was the chairman of the economic team, as well as, the Privatisation Programme.

While the vice president may have been able to wiggle out of the cobweb of alleged abuse of office and financial impropriety, same cannot be said of five of serving ministers. At least two of such ministers were close friends of President Obasanjo.

The most instructive battle against corruption may as well be the case of serving Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Tafa Balogun, who was prosecuted and jailed. Many state governors, including those of Plateau, Bayelsa and Delta States, also had their noses smeared in the anti-corruption crusade.

On the placing emphasis on competence, the party, despite the expected ethnic balancing required in the polity, the party has brought in a number of competent Nigerians to manage the affairs of the country, regardless of tribal affiliation. The case of emergence of the Managing Director of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Agency (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, could not be discountenanced. She emerged to head the agency at a time when the Minister of Health was from her state, Anambra. Akunyili went on to prove that a government agency could be trusted to wage a popular war on adulterated or fake foods and drugs. Her reign would also go down as one of the major achievements of the PDP.

The Economic front, in line with placing competence over and above filial sentiments, also enjoyed the emergence of Prof Charles Soludo as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Minster of Finance and Dr. Oby Ekwesillisi as the Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

EDUCATION

FOR the first time in many years, the education sector got the highest budgetary allocation in the 2013 budget, under the administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to address the challenges rocking the sector.

It was a right track to actualize the 26 per cent minimum allocation to education, a benchmark recommended by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The budget allotted N426.53 billion out of the total national budget of N4.9 trillion, to improve education in all areas in terms of infrastructure and welfare of teachers and workers in the sector.

This was also aimed at training and retraining of teachers, to help them acquire the right knowledge to teach their students.

It is unfortunate that on the average, Nigeria spends less than nine per cent of its annual budget on education when smaller African nations like Botswana spend 19.0 per cent; Swaziland, 24.6 per cent; Lesotho, 17.0 per cent; South Africa, 25.8 per cent; Cote d’Ivoire, 30.0 per cent; Burkina Faso, 16.8 per cent; Ghana, 31 per cent; Kenya, 23.0 per dent; Uganda, 27.0 per cent; Tunisia, 17.0 per cent; and Morocco, 17.7 per cent.

An overview of this sector shows that the total federal allocation to education had been on the decline from 11.13 in 1999 to 7.0 percent in 2001, meaning that the share of both the Gross Domestic Product and total government spending have fallen over time.

The most severe of the problems retarding the growth of the sector is poor funding-which directly or indirectly leads to other perennial setbacks like shortage of quality staff, dearth of infrastructure, inadequate classrooms and offices, proliferation, insufficient admission spaces, examination malpractice, cultism, brain drain, inadequate laboratories for teaching and research, shortage of books and journals, indiscipline, low remuneration, inconsistent and ill-conceived policies.

POWER

The collapse of Nigeria’s industrial base today, can easily be linked with the rolling blackouts and inefficiencies of power generation and distribution across the country.

The country’s power grid is ancient, the Kainji dam and its outdated turbines look like relics from an old civilization while thermal stations like Egbin are in a precarious state.

Last year, Nigeria recorded what could be described as milestone in power sector process as the Federal Government sold the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to 14 Power Distribution Companies (DISCOS) and Generation Companies (GENCOS) to succeeded the PHCN.

Though the electricity companies have performed below expectation, the step, described, as monopoly to oligopoly was indeed a major step forward in the government’s concerted efforts at ensuring efficiency, competitiveness and best practices in the country’s electricity sector.

INFRASTRUCTURE

It is obvious that this administration inherited what many described as a dilapidated state of a country’s infrastructure, when it came into power in 1999.

At the time, Nigeria has no infrastructure; the sparse ones it was managing were in advanced stages of decay, as most of them were held together by rusted iron, crumbling concrete and more.

The roads are a disgrace; the few bridges were feeble, the airports were monuments of shame and symbols of decay, the seaports were clogged with traffic and congestion, inefficiencies of power generation and distribution, neglected of game reserve, national parks and recreation areas and terrible state of railroads, among others.

Though, the country might not have recorded 100 per cent success in the provision of critical infrastructure, it has, however, took drastic step at rejuvenating most of the already moribund infrastructural facilities.

Most of the International Airports are now wearing new looks as new ones are being built in some states across the country. Despite the handful of plane crashes recorded in the country in recent years, Nigeria Aviation sector remains one of the best in the world in terms of air safety.

Majority of the federal roads have been rehabilitated, while others are well maintained through the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P).

One area which the party deserves accolades is the area ICT infrastructure. The emergence of the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM), introduced during the reign of Obasanjo has really boosted the country economy.

DEBT RECOVERY

As at December 31, 2004 Nigeria owed a total of USUS$35.994 billion. At the official exchange rate of N134 to US$1.00, this is equal to N4.82 trillion.

As at the time, the largest proportion of Nigeria’s debt is owed to the Paris Club, an informal group of official moneylenders formed in 1956 with its Secretariat in Paris.

Nigeria has rescheduled its debts on four different occasions: 1986, 1989, 1991 and 2000.The intended effects of rescheduling include extending the period of repayment, and improving the means with which payments are made.

However, despite these rescheduling agreements, Nigeria’s Paris Club debt still continued to increase because of the country’s inability to fully pay what was due each year.

Nigeria owes the highest amounts to the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan. But Nigeria needs the consent of even the smallest creditors like Spain and Finland to be able to secure debt relief.

Owing to Nigeria’s huge debt burden, resources, which could have been used to tackle poverty and support economic growth, were diverted to servicing external debts.

Accordingly, the quest for debt relief was declared a priority by Obasanjo administration upon his assumption of office in May 1999, who set up a Debt Management Office (DMO) in October 2000 as the sole agency responsible for the management of the country’s debt.

With the concerted efforts of President Obasanjo, the Ministry of Finance, National Assembly, DMO, the Economic Management Team, NGOs and other stakeholders, the credible implementation of the country’s National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), as well as the securing of an IDA only status for Nigeria, (a factor very supportive for debt relief), thus making Nigeria eligible to borrow on very soft and favourable terms, the creditors and multilateral financial institutions began to positively consider Nigeria for debt relief.

President Obasanjo’s debt diplomacy finally paid off. In 2005 the campaign for debt relief reached a climax when Great Britain, acting as chair of the G8 (the eight most developed countries of the world), brought to the fore Third World, and particularly, African debt issues. The G-8 communiqué, in recognition of the progress made by Nigeria in the implementation of economic and governance reforms, agreed to support a sustainable debt treatment for the country within the framework of the Paris Club. At their meeting on Wednesday June 29, the Paris Club creditors announced the decision in principle, to grant a debt relief package amounting to about US$18 billion out of the US$30.84 billion outstanding as at December 31, 2004.



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