The Eastern Narrow Guage Line now runs more frequently and efficiently from Port Harcourt to Gombe through Aba, Enugu, Makurdi, Lafia and Bauchi. The first phase of the Central Standard Guage Line, the first in West Africa, has been completed to run from Kaduna to Abuja. It will ultimately go all the way through Itakpe and Ajaokuta to Warri. In the roads sector, Nigeria has about 35,000 km of federal highways. As at 2011, only 5,000 km were in good condition. Today, an additional 20,000 km are now in good condition.
A drive across the country easily reveals that our cars are now more likely to be on a smooth road than on potholed and dilapidated ones across our interstate federal highways. Road transport users have reported a sharp drop in vehicle maintenance just as the Federal Road Safety Commission reports an equally sharp decline in road accidents. All these have helped in improving the quality of life of the average Nigerian. To strengthen these developments in rail and road transportation, the President has sent very important Bills that had been gathering dust in executive shelves before his presidency to the National Assembly.
They will ensure that the gains made will be institutionalised, especially in the areas of maintenance and new developments. Also by creating a Ministry for ICT, the government has paced up our linkage to the wired world and there is now wider and deeper internet penetration for the good of the economy.
Without good governance, positive developments in the economy will not be sustained and sustainable. Good governance is built on accountability, openness and the rule of law. These are, in turn, also built on institutions and not just the goodness of man. In a 2004 article, I wrote that building institutions require qualitative human capital, increased social capital, modern technologies as well as (competent and independent) leadership. In the last four years, President Jonathan has strengthened the institutions necessary to deepen good governance. He signed the Freedom of Information Bill into law, which his predecessors did not do. Just like in some other societies, this now gives Nigerians the power to interrogate the activities of their government. He appointed competent people to head the Independent National Electoral Commission, National Human Rights Commission and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to deepen electoral reforms, stop perennial human rights abuses by supposed agents of the state thereby opening up the public space and tackle that incubus called corruption. In doing these, he has invited the Nigerian people to join government in the task of building our nation, a task that is better achieved together. Take INEC, as an example, just a few years ago, we were witnesses to the frequent meddlesomeness by the presidency in the affairs of the Commission wherein the Chairman was seen to be taking orders from ‘the Villa’.
Today, Prof. Jega can attest that he has never gone ‘there’ to take any instructions from anybody whatsoever. The same goes for the NHRC that has consistently released statements and reports that may not sound good to government but which has had the effect of changing behaviours not removal from office as was the case with Mr. Bukhari Bello during Obasanjo’s presidency.
At the helm of affairs in EFCC today is a man that was seen to be the backbone of the Commission during the Ribadu days and so with the FoI Act in place the instruments of eviscerating corruption have long been aligned for a responsive citizenry and civil society to act.
However, there is still work ahead to be done and if the next set of reforms are carried out in the Nigeria Police and the Judiciary along with the cooperation of nongovernmental organisations like the Nigeria Bar Association wherein some (senior) lawyers apply legal gymnastics to diffuse corruption cases, Nigeria will be on track to winning the war on corruption. A good part of that work now lies with the citizens and the civil society. In addition, new technologies such as IPISS are constantly been deployed to block leakages and reduce waste in government spending.
Of course, the security of lives of every Nigerian must be the paramount purpose of government. While no government can guarantee total security of lives of all its citizens, every effort must be deployed towards ensuring that citizens feel safe and secure in their country. The insurgency in the North East part of Nigeria has been the major security challenge for this administration.
For long, the gory activities of these criminals have terrified our psyche and bled our hearts. As I write these lines, our Chibok girls are still in captivity. The Nigerian people have a right to expect their government to provide effective security, protect them from these criminals and bring back our girls alive.
Unfortunately, with the “clash of civilizations” predicted by Samuel Huntington, similar activities in differing degrees and colourations have been part of our globalized world since Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”. This literally began when 19 men beat the American security and intelligence apparatus to fly 4 airplanes into American cities on a fine September morning. Governments across the world are struggling to understand and confront this global phenomenon.
It has not been easy but one successful attack by these criminals captures our imaginations and rattles our minds. However, to understand a difficult topic like this takes patience and care.
More than ever before, the times demand it because the alternative—politicized, haphazard evaluation, without the benefit of time and facts—may well result in a country that is even more at risk.
According to the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, other nations that have been directly affected by terrorism have shown us how difficult it is to eradicate because the terrorists utilize their abundant imagination for evil, to inflict the maximum horror on communities conscious of the fact that states must be guided in their responses by rules, the law, their own values and respect for civilian lives and property.
I also agree with him that any response to terrorism must be long term, holistic and robust enough to address its root causes, which must be guided by a law and order approach that utilizes both hard and soft methods. The fact that they embed themselves within civilian populations helped to prolong the situation.
–Nnanna Ude is Deputy Director (Civil Society) in the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation