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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Special assistant responds to Guardian UK piece on Pres. Jonanthan


Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media and  response is his response to Remi Adekoya's article in the UK Guardian

I just read Mr. Remi Adekoya's piece in the Guardian of the U.K. entitled ‘Goodluck Jonathan's report card for Nigeria? Must try harder’ in which he praised President Jonathan for a booming economy but came down hard on him for failing to help Nigeria's poor.

When Adekoya says "Infrastructure also remains a problem. Without a modern road network, doing business in Nigeria will remain prohibitively expensive and logistically challenging", he betrays a surface understanding of recent events in Nigeria.

For example, before the Jonathan administration if you wanted to travel from Lagos to Kano you had two choices, you either went by road or by air. Today, under President Jonathan’s direction, Nigeria's railways have been revived and a traveler planning the same journey has a third alternative. He can travel from Lagos to Kano by rail at a cost of 1500 Naira which is less than $10. It is rather surprising that Mr. Adekoya did not reflect this major development in his piece especially when you consider that Nigeria's rail revival miracle has received praise from some of the major newspapers and magazines in the West. Jon Gambrell of the Associated Press had a string of highly syndicated photos recording this feat. But when you think of it, it is hard for someone reviewing Nigeria's progress from the United Kingdom to have first hand information.

Besides, what does Mr. Adekoya consider a "modern road network"? Under this administration, previously abandoned road projects have been completed. The previously notorious Lagos-Ore-Benin motorway has been repaired and I personally supplied photographic evidence of that feat on Social Media as well as highlighted testimonials from Nigerians testifying to a reduced travel time from Lagos to Benin since the repairs.

In the Federal Capital Territory, Nigerians are now calling the new Kubwa Expressway our own version of Germany'sautobahn! I lived in England for a while and I know the state of its roads and I dare say that Mr. Adekoya would wish he had a fast car when he sees this new road that connects the business and commercial districts of Abuja to some of its satellite towns.
In his budget speech, the President listed major roads that have been completed and many that are ongoing. Some major road projects that have been rehabilitated and completed include the Vom-Machom road in Plateau State, the Gombe-Numan-Yoka road, Kano-Daura-Mai Adua road, Aba-Owerri road, Dualization of the Access road to Onne Port in River state and the Ijebu Igbo-Ajegunle-Araromi-Ife-Sekona road in Ogun state. But perhaps the greatest testimonial to the administration’s efforts in roads comes from an advert from the privately owned luxury bus operator, ABC Transport, which reads 'The Roads are Getting Better’. This is from an end user of the product. Those words carry more weight than the words of a pundit who writes about Nigeria from the comforts of London.

Still on infrastructure, Mr. Adekoya forgot to tell his British audience that while it may be true that Nigeria still does not generate enough electricity for its population, the Jonathan administration has nonetheless increased generation from the 2800 MWs it met on ground to the present 4500 MWs Nigeria generates today a 35% improvement. But that is not even the main story. This administration has kept faith with the Roadmap to Power Sector Reforms that the President launched on August 22nd 2010 which in summary charted a course for the privatization of the nation's power sector.

In keeping with that Roadmap, Nigeria has successfully privatized many of her power generation stations and on April 22nd this year a Presidential Power Reform Transactions Signing Ceremony was held at the Presidential Villa where the five power generation companies that emerged successful in the bidding process of the privatization of the sector received their certificates. But certainly Mr. Adekoya could not have failed to take note of the praises the power privatization process received worldwide. It was remarkably transparent which is a departure from the past and signals that Nigeria is a safe place to invest which is no surprise given that even the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom, David Cameron, himself led a trade delegation of some of Britain's top businesses to Nigeria and on return said "We've been hearing about China and India for years but it’s hard to believe what’s happening in Brazil, in Indonesia, in Nigeria". Mr. Cameron certainly knows a great deal more about Nigeria under President Jonathan than Mr. Adekoya does!

And then Mr. Adekoya goes on to say "Education is particularly problematic: tens of millions of Nigerians are illiterate. Most cannot afford an education: without government assistance, thus far feeble, they will remain intellectual invalids."Really Mr. Adekoya! Are you talking about the same Nigeria where President Jonathan initiated a programme to provide 400 schools for itinerant scholars in Northern Nigeria known as Almajiri? The President commissioned the first of these schools on the 10th of April 2012 with almost a 100 completed in 2012. The administration has also increased the number of Federal universities in Nigeria by 12 as well as completed hundreds of blocks of classrooms in 15 states as part of efforts to meet her Millennium Development Goals.

But the cherry on the education cake is that there has been a 15% increase in pass rates in School Leaving examinations in Nigeria in 2012 when compared to the 2011 season an indication that the government's efforts are succeeding.

And then Mr. Adekoya thoroughly pooh-poohed our health sector which I will admit still needs a lot of improvement, but he did not note the improvements which the Jonathan administration made to what it met on the ground. For instance, this administration established a National Trauma Center in the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital and the National Hospital Abuja. Mr. Adekoya failed to note recent feats in Nigeria's health sector such as the commencement of Stem Cell Transplant for sickle cell patients at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and the Introduction of Laser Treatment of Kidney Stones at Chivar Urological Center, Abuja.

Adekoya may wish to note that Nigeria’s Life Expectancy increased from 47 years to 51 years according to the 2011 Human Development Index of the United Nations. That represented the highest increase for Nigeria since records were kept. If anything puts to lie Adekoya’s assertions on minimal improvements in Nigeria’s health sector under President Jonathan certainly it is this fact.

And then Adekoya’s poison pen wrote that “On security, Jonathan has dithered. Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group, has killed thousands on his watch, while he seems unsure whether to use crushing force or grant "amnesty". It may interest Mr. Adekoya to get the recent statement released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,(OHCHR), which praised President Jonathan for considering amnesty for Boko Haram. Yes, it is easy for Adekoya to sit down in London and pontificate, but if he were to see firsthand the sufferings our brothers and sisters in the North face as a result of this sect he would understand that discretion is the better part of valour. After all, the government of the United Kingdom which almost lost its entire cabinet to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Brighton Bomb incidence of 1984 eventually chose to negotiate with them and today there is peace. All the guns and bombs of the British Army could not defeat the IRA as much as diplomacy and negotiation. Is Adekoya saying that it is good for the U.K. but not for Nigeria?
What I will just say to Mr. Adekoya is that nation's progress over time and not over night and it betrays a lack of understanding of Nigeria's past and how far we have come to score President Jonathan poorly in meeting the needs of the poor. It is not for nothing that Henry Bellingham, a Member of Parliament as well as a member of Mr. Cameron's administration said "Nigeria is the world's fourth fastest growing economy". You don't achieve that level of economic progress if you have not made reasonable efforts to better the lot of the masses whose productivity is the reason for such a phenomenal growth! Thankfully David Cameron gets it and I for one am so glad that he is in charge of affairs in the United Kingdom and certainly won't fall for the very pedestrian analysis that Mr. Adekoya Adekoya tries to pass off to his British audience as in-depth.

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