Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yar’Adua’s 2009 promises

The recent pledge by President Umaru Yar’Adua to renew the pace of governance and accelerate the delivery of critical infrastructure in 2009 is a welcome way to usher in the New Year. The president’s promises, which were contained in his Christmas/New Year message to the nation, were hinged primarily on the changes effected in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) during the recent cabinet reshuffle.

He told Nigerians: “ In the New Year, this administration … shall strive harder to meet the national aspiration. Long deferred, the promise of Nigeria shall not continue to remain just a potential. It will soon be redeemed. Our season of renewal has dawned. We remain fully committed to delivering on our promise of a better standard of living for Nigerians through our Seven-Point Agenda”.

The president promised a better standard of living for all Nigerians, through his Seven-point Agenda. He also pledged to fulfill all his outstanding electoral promises, including the long-awaited power emergency, electoral reforms, land laws, the police, and oil and gas reforms. In a nutshell, Yar’Adua promised to make 2009 “a momentous” year for all Nigerians.

These, indeed, are fine words from the president. The promises, which indicate a tacit acceptance of the charge of lacklustre performance of his administration, are welcome.
It is a good starting point that the president has publicly admitted the need to add some verve to his administration. The slow pace of administration in the country, in recent months, has been a source of concern to all well-meaning persons in the country. It is good, also, that he has noted the many critical areas in which this administration has been widely acknowledged to have failed to make an impact.

Many of these areas, which were well enunciated in the Seven-point Agenda, even before this administration was sworn into office, are well known to all Nigerians. What has been lacking in the past 18 months, unfortunately, is the will to bring them into reality. This led to the nation’s present state of inertia, with governance, more or less, at a standstill.

The challenge before the president at this time, therefore, is not that of enunciation of his plans. It is very good that the president is making promises to Nigerians but the question is: Will these promises be fulfilled? This question is critical because the new cabinet on which the president has hinged his optimism and promise of better performance in 2009 does not hold out much to cheer for Nigerians. The “new’ cabinet is uninspiring. The placement of the ministers in particular ministries is unimpressive. The cabinet does not give much cause for excitement or hope that things will change drastically for the better in 2009.

The cabinet, as it is, is drab. Persons with remarkable passion for success were not brought on board in the last reshuffle. Some bad performers in the former cabinet were simply moved to other ministries while some widely acknowledged good ones were sent out. A number of politicians with a track record of non-performance were brought in.

If the president is to carry Nigerians along in his optimism for 2009, he should demonstrate clear vision and set concrete targets with clear time lines. There should be timed, measurable targets in few identified sectors that the people can identify and assess.
The task of meeting Nigerians’ expectation for good governance is beyond presidential rhetoric and fine speeches. Time is running out for this government, which will mark its second year in power in less than five months. President Yar’Adua has to work very hard to convince the nation that some genuine change is coming to Nigeria this year.

All considered, however, it is imperative that Nigerians give the president the benefit of the doubt over his alluring promises, and hope for a better 2009.
We encourage the president to set up strategic initiatives to achieve concrete results. He should identify talented and passionate Nigerians that can help him to achieve his mission. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should show more interest and commitment to the fulfilment of the agenda that brought it to power. Transformation can only come with the right vision. Yar’Adua should properly chart the direction he wants the country to go in 2009 and follow it