Polscope with Eddy Odivwri; email@example.com, 08053069356
A year ago, the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) was inaugurated. It was one of the ad hoc measures introduced by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, supposedly to cushion the effect of the removal of the fuel subsidy. Much before the partial removal of the subsidy in January last year, the Ministry of Finance had printed and circulated a document it called Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme. It was meant to prepare the minds of Nigerians on the benefits of fuel subsidy removal. .
The 8-page document (on A4 size sheets) details the content, focus and gains of the programme. As I write this, the document is in my front. I have ferreted through the pages over and over, and I hardly can connect what the document had comprehensively proposed to what I am seeing or hearing of the programme now. For me, it re-iterates the fact that you cannot judge a book by its cover.
I have always been wary of Power Point experts, who often exploit the glamour of IT niche to dazzle audiences when presenting programmes. It is hardly as nice in real life as it seems on the slides. The SURE-P document is a perfect example.
During the week, Dr Christopher Kolade, the Chairman of the Sure-P scheme presented what can be described as its first year report. I must admit that Dr Kolade is one Nigerian with huge personality capital. He is well respected, and his views on many issues, considered an operation manual. With an ascetic and forthright disposition, it is difficult to abbreviate his integrity rating.
Yes, the programme has just done a year, and so it will be hasty to dismiss it as ineffectual, but the indications of where it is headed are not in the same direction of where its destination should be.
The few times news from the Sure-P had hit the public, it has often generated anger. I recall two months ago when it was revealed that the scheme had spent the sum of N75 million on travels; and worse still, N2.2 billion on secretariat services. I am not sure the United Nations Secretariat will need as much to get it set up, let alone an ad hoc committee meant to provide succor to economically-pummeled people.
And all of these were in five months, as Dr Kolade explained that real work did not begin until August, which was when money was released.
N2.2b! for secretariat services. It rankles my brain. And I dare say that it disfigures the image I have of Pa Kolade. So in five months, N75 million had been quaffed on travels. Hmmmmm !
But if all that did not daze me, the information, last Tuesday, that the Sure-P has spent N70 billion in the provision of employment opportunities is damn confounding. N70 billion spent on job opportunities! What are the job opportunities provided? It is different from saying jobs have been created. It is merely opportunities! The said opportunities may or may not be seized. Let us even believe the opportunities were seized. So what is the worth of the job for which the opportunities were so provided, if the opportunities alone will cost as much as N70 billion?
Mr Chairman sir, I am struggling to free myself from image shibboleth. And that is why I ask where those job opportunities were created. I have about three big files full of CVs of applicants. If I know where the opportunities are domesticated, I will direct them there as quickly as possible. So where are the N70 billion opportunities?
I hate to think the ubiquitous elite crooks running and ruining Nigeria have outwitted Kolade in the Sure-P scheme. I heard the chairman talk about reconstructing some broken bridges on the railway tracks so the rails can run unhindered. I heard him talk about vocational training programmes from the graduate scheme. Although I do not know where and when all these took place, I am still struggling to balance the N70billion account on these measly attempts.
Many have criticized the scheme of duplicating the works of the MDAs. I am not exactly bothered about that, if and only if, I can see where they have worked. In its claim, the SURE-P document talked about Urban Mass Transit scheme, to “alleviate the transportation challenges of Nigerians”. I can’t see the buses. The masses are still stranded and forsaken, although the rails are showing signs of return. It also talked about improving the lives of residents in the Niger Delta region by providing access to the refineries, sea ports as well as access to agricultural areas of the Niger Delta….” How? Niger Delta people are still groaning in aches and poverty. Even the two ports in Apapa, Lagos are accessible only in tears and sacrificial courage. So we can imagine how decrepit the access to the other ports can be.
All said, we expect the SURE-P to be conscious of the suffering of the masses and the reasons for its existence. It has proposed to spend N273.52 billion for the 2013 fiscal year. It cannot be on frivolities and intangible projects. We want to see and measure what has been done. Several years after, we still can see the vestiges of the Petroleum Tax Fund (PTF) projects of the late Sani Abacha. Pa Kolade must open his eyes, and know that his name is a brand that should not be despoiled in the twilight of a distinguished public service career.
Party Merger: Where’s LP, DPP?
Last Tuesday ten governors in the opposition parties met tofinetune the plan of forming a mega party. A day after, they announced the name of the new party –All Progressives Congress (APC)—the acronym of a staple tablet we took so much as children, which stood for “All Pains Crushed”. In latter years, APC has come to almost stand for Armoured Personnel Carrier aka Armoured Tank, usually rolled out when there is trouble in town. Both as old time drug and now as Grade A weapon of maximum offensive, the APC as a party promises to exert a strain on the mono-run of the PDP.
What however worries me is the absence of the Labour Party (LP) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in the merger scheme. Why did the two parties not participate? Both parties have a lone governor (Olusegun Mimiko—Ondo) and a lone senator (Pius Akpor Ehwerido—Delta central) respectively.
The LP in explaining its absence claimed that it stayed away because of its ideology. That it is not interested in displacing the ruling party for the mere sake of grabbing power; stressing that it is rooted in the “left of the centre”.
I do not believe the claim of the LP. What ideology is it talking about? Why is the LP pretending to be more Catholic than the Pope? Gov Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State is a burnished Labour leader. He is a member of the ACN which is the brain box of the merger. So what sanctified ideology is LP known for that is making it not merge? I can hazard two guesses: Mimiko is still bitter and uncomfortable with the fight Bola Tinubu launched at him under the ACN platform last year during his re-election bid. And so will not want to associate with the same antagonists so soon. And two, Mimiko, as is publicly believed, is still nursing the plan of returning to the PDP, from whence he came. The aim of every and any political party is to seize power democratically.
On its part, I do not know if the DPP is facing slow extinction. Its borders have been shrinking. With no other elected officer other than Senator Ehwerido, the numeric and financial fortunes of the DPP are unsure, the more reason it should have seized the opportunity of an easy-made alignment by joining the merger plan.
In all, the PDP, although claims to be unthreatened, will know that there is an alternative platform through which Nigerians can express their democratic quest, and thus not take them for granted. Some PDP governors may even join the APC and thus buoy its electoral chances. We may ultimately end up with a two-party structure, which I have always cherished.
Cabinet Reshuffle: Waiting for a New Lease
For the first time in a long while, the Federal Executive Council meeting did not hold last Wednesday.
Yes. It is not unusual. The President was not on ground.
So why did the Vice President not preside over the FEC?
I don’t know. Go and ask President Jonathan.
I hear it is because there is a neo-liberal cold war between the President and his Vice over some presidential ambition of certain persons.
I have always warned you against rumour, powered by the social media. The logistic of holding the meeting could not be tidied up. Simple. Stop imputing political reason to every action of government.
No, no, no. With this government, I must exercise my acumen of circumspection. I don’t trust them. They tell you one thing and mean another. So you must learn to pace-up with their stunts.
It’s up to you. I know that the government is honest, open and means well for all Nigerians, including even its blind critics.
But what about the rumour that the President went to London to free himself from pressure as he draws the final list of a fire-brand cabinet which will be announced anytime from now? Or did you not hear that the ministers have been panicking and lobbying to be retained?
(clapping his hands on his face) Bush R-a-d-i-o!!! Radio without wire! Where did you hear that now? Tweeters or Face book?
Put your ear on the ground. And you will hear what others aint hearing and see what others aint seeing. That is the way to decode this government. Don’t you remember that about four months ago, that the ministers signed an assessment form where they will be adjudged in accordance with their performance? Now, all the assessment sheets are on the Headmaster’s table, he has marked and graded them. He is now determined to use it to weed away the heavy weights cumbering his government and giving it a bad name. So the inclination now is to rouse up the government from acute inertia and get it to roar and roll, especially as the drumbeats of 2015 are echoing from the fields.
So Mr. Informant, who is being appointed and who is going where?
You want me to leak official secret? Jamais! All I can tell you is that certain persons in the cabinet, no matter how poorly they have performed or publicly indicted they may be, are not moving an inch from the cabinet. I can also tell you that the cabinet reshuffle is the reason why the newly-appointed ministers have not been assigned portfolios.
Hmmmm, you seem to know what the President is even thinking?
Well, you can say what you like. What is clear to the discerning reader of the polity is that Mr President wants to re-contest in 2015. So the cabinet will be the engine room where the ambition will be galvanized. It is about his last chance to impress Nigerians. And he is not being pretencious about it. Pandering to political sentiments is over. He wants to bring on board young, articulate and crack technocrats who will give his administration a new lease of life. That much I can tell you.
Well, I have always told you that the President is often under-prized. That he has the capacity to surprise those who under-estimate him.
He too should stop strengthening the impression that he is confused or overwhelmed. Let him hit the ground running. Nigeria is in a hurry to catch up with the rest of the world. The time to mean one thing and do another is not now at all. Tell him that Nigerians are waiting for ministers with pentecostal zeal to develop and grow the Nigerian economy in every sector. Tell him that this is his chance to prove his capacity.
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is neither fazed nor persuaded by such snide innuendoes. He will be himself and do what is considered right and in the best interest of the Nigerian masses. QED!