By Femi Aribisala
WHERE two or three Nigerians are gathered, you can be sure we are busy running down our country. Nigerians like to bad-mouth Nigeria. This has played well into the narrative of the APC, which has used the social media to promote a false and prejudicial perspective of Nigeria under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
It is necessary to set the records straight. While the current PDP government is not without its shortcomings, there can be no doubt that it has achieved a lot in the last five years. Indeed, it is arguable that no government in the modern history of Nigeria has been as successful in transforming Nigeria for the better as the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
Economic milestones under GEJ
Thanks to Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria has been growing at an average of between 6 and 7 per cent a year. As a matter of fact, CNN Money projects that, after China and Qatar, Nigeria will be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2015. Under Jonathan, Nigeria has emerged as by far the largest economy in Africa. When Jonathan became president in 2010, Nigeria’s GDP was $369: today, it is $510.Nigeria’s President Jonathan speaks during an interview with ThomsonReuters in New York
Nigeria is now the 23rd largest economy in the world; which means we have overtaken such European countries as Austria and Belgium. It is not surprising therefore that, in 2012, President Barack Obama of the United States declared that Jonathan’s Nigeria is “the world’s next economic giant.”
Under Jonathan, the UNCTAD has ranked Nigeria as the number one country for foreign investments in Africa. According to the U.N., Nigeria now has the fourth highest rate of returns on investments in the world. It is a testament to Goodluck Jonathan’s adroit management of the economy that the richest African is now a Nigerian. In 2010, when Jonathan came to power, Aliko Dangote was worth $2.1 billion. This grew under Jonathan to $25 billion.
Jonathan has also gone a long way to diversify the Nigerian economy. Under his stewardship, the non-oil sector has grown at a tremendous rate of up to 8 percent a year. Thanks to Jonathan, agriculture now accounts for 22% of Nigeria’s GDP, more than oil and gas which only account for 15.9%. Visionary GEJ gave a 3 billion naira grant to Nollywood in 2014; cementing Nigeria firmly as the third largest producer of films in the world. As a matter of fact, Nollywood now accounts for 1.4% of Nigeria’s GDP.
Transformation of agriculture
Agriculture has been remarkably transformed from subsistence to commercial farming under Jonathan’s administration. Prior to Jonathan’s presidency, we had a food import bill of 1.4 trillion naira. This has gone down by more than 50% to less than 700 billion. With the innovation of dry-season rice-farming, Nigeria has reached 60% self-sufficiency in rice production. Indeed, we now expect to be completely self-sufficient by the end of this year.
With continuity in government, Nigeria should soon become self-sufficient in food production. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Nigeria is already the largest producer of cassava in the world, thanks to Jonathan’s policies. It is significant that Northern farmers donated 5 billion naira worth of yams to Buhari’s presidential election campaign. They would not have been able to do this if it were not for Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation of agriculture.
Through the innovative electronic-wallet system of the Jonathan administration, 10.5 million Nigerian farmers were given cell-phones at a cost of over 60 billion naira. This gives them direct access to the government for fertilizer, chemicals and seedlings. The Jonathan government has also built six strategically-located perishable cargo airports in close proximity to the nation’s food-baskets in Ilorin, Jalingo, Jos, Lagos, Makurdi and Yola.
APC propaganda deceives Nigerians into believing that the Jonathan government condones corruption. However, there are far more reliable determinants of Nigeria’s level of corruption than APC talking-points. Transparency International publishes annually an internationally-recognised corruption index of most of the countries in the world. According to Transparency, Nigeria has become increasingly less corrupt under Goodluck Jonathan. In 2001, Nigeria was the 2nd most corrupt country after Bangladesh. By 2010, it had become the 43rd most corrupt country. By 2014 still, our position had improved to 38th.
No government in Nigeria has been as successful in tackling corruption structurally as that of Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan fought the petroleum subsidy scam by identifying 370 billion naira of fraudulent claims. Between 1980 and 2010, 776 billion naira was lost to corrupt fertilizer racketeering in Nigeria. This came to an end in one fell swoop under Jonathan. Fertilizer distribution to farmers was dramatically sanitized by the e-payment system. Today, the corrupt fertilizer middlemen have all disappeared. By also instituting e-payment systems in the civil-service, over 60,000 ghost-workers were removed from the salary register; saving over 200 billion naira.
Jonathan has also sanitized the Nigerian banking system. He introduced the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMS) which reduced physical movement of cash and curbed corruption and money-laundering. Under Jonathan, dinosaur bank Managing Directors who had largely privatized the banking system were removed and a considerable amount of indigent loans recovered. Jonathan also stabilized the banking system by launching the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCOM) which mopped up trillions of naira of bad loans and re-established confidence in the Nigerian economy.
One of the major challenges encountered by the Jonathan administration has been in the area of youth employment. Nigeria is a young country, throwing up some 1.8 million job-seekers into the employment market every year. The government has achieved more in this area than most people seem to realise. For example, in 2013, the Jonathan administration created 1.6 million jobs.
The establishment of such innovative programs like Nagropreneurs and Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) has gone a long way to empower Nigerian youth farmers and entrepreneurs with grants, training and mentorship. Jonathan has instituted internship schemes to enhance the capacity of university graduates to secure gainful employment. Government innovation has also led to a number of Community Service Schemes (CSS) under the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P).
A 220 billion naira Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund has been instituted to empower graduates and other young people to own their own businesses. The government has also been promoting access to capital for SMEs with government bank guarantees and micro-finance. The National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), and the National Enterprise Development Program (NEDEP) are all expected to generate millions of jobs to accommodate Nigeria’s teeming job-seekers.
One of the unsung success stories of the Jonathan administration has been in the area of manufacturing. All indications point to the revival of the industrial sectors and the Small- and Medium-scale Enterprises under Goodluck Jonathan. FBN Capital, a leading financial services group, confirms there has been “a dramatic increase in manufacturing growth” in Nigeria under Goodluck Jonathan.
Indeed, under his administration, the manufacturing sector has been the major driver of economic growth in Nigeria. The sector has been growing faster than tele-communications and oil and gas. For example, it grew from 14% in 2012 to 22% in 2013.
Jonathan reactivated the textile industry with an investment of 150 billion naira. In 2014, Olam Rice Farm, the biggest rice processing mill in Africa, was commissioned in Rukubi, Nasarawa State. Nigeria is now self-sufficient in cement and is, in fact, a net exporter. Jonathan energized private sector-led industrialization by launching the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), a scheme which strengthened over 500 manufacturing industries.
An industrial revolution has been re-ignited with the revival of automobile assembling plants in Nigeria under Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria has now become a major destination for multinational investment in car manufacturing. Under GEJ, big auto giants, such as Peugeot, Nissan and Hyundai, now assemble or manufacture their cars, SUVs, trucks and buses in Nigeria. Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, our flagship indigenous auto-maker, began the sale of made-in-Nigeria cars and SUVs within the framework of the Jonathan administration.
In 2010, when Jonathan became acting president, Nigerian life expectancy was 47 years. Today, it is 54 years; an improvement of 7 years. Under Jonathan, adroit application of SURE-P funds has reduced the maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria by 26%.
Thanks to Jonathan, Nigeria has become Guinea Worm free; a disease previously affecting 800,000 Nigerians yearly. For the past nine months, Nigeria has become free of the scourge of polio. Under Jonathan, Nigeria has also remained Ebola free. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates notes that: “The infrastructure Nigeria has built to fight polio actually made it easier for them to swiftly contain Ebola.”
Advancement of education
Under Jonathan, Nigeria’s education budget has more than doubled. There has been a 10 million increase in school enrolment, with every Nigerian child now having the opportunity to go to school. There has also been a 75% increase in O Level credit passes in Maths and English in Nigeria since Goodluck Jonathan came to power.
Jonathan established 14 new federal universities; an unprecedented feat in Nigeria. There is now a federal university in every state of the federation. Jonathan also built 150 Almajiri Schools in 13 states in the North; something Northern rulers like Buhari failed to do. The kidnapping of the Chibok girls itself reflects the annoyance of the Boko Haram that, under Jonathan, many Northern girls are now going to school.
Development of infrastructure
At the inception of the Jonathan administration, only 5,000 kilometers of federal roads in Nigeria were motorable. However, in five years, the administration has built over 20,000 kilometers of roads. It has rehabilitated 22 airports nationwide. 5 new international airport terminals have been built in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Enugu. Akanu Ibiam airport in Enugu has been upgraded to international status.
3,500 kilometers of rail lines have been constructed. You can now travel today by rail from Lagos to Kano; Enugu to Port-Harcourt to Makurdi, to Jos, to Bauchi and Gombe. Before Jonathan, only I million passengers were carried by rail. This has now grown to 5 million. Recently, KPMG proclaimed Nigeria’s proposed high speed rail project as one of the global top 100 world-class infrastructures, expected to connect major cities at a cost of $13 billion.
These achievements and more show conclusively that Jonathan deserves a second-term in office. He should be supported by all well-meaning Nigerians.
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