In line with the long-established tradition of this column, this week we review the half-term performance of President Goodluck Jonathan. This is an exercise I have carried out both on this page and through our policy advisory firm for his two predecessors, and is in line with Jonathan’s challenge to critics to appraise his administration based on a clear “marking scheme.”
I agree with the President that rating a government ought to be based on clearly defined criteria and measurements, as I did for both ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and late Umaru Yar’Adua. In the case of Jonathan, I have established seven criteria on which to rate his first two years – corruption; economic management; social sector; security; infrastructure; international relations, and democracy and institutions.
The government’s performance in relation to anti-corruption efforts has generally been unimpressive! There is a general perception that corruption has been tolerated under this government, especially from persons close to the President’s political and regional constituency. If there was any doubt about the regime’s lack of antipathy towards corruption when it is committed by its “friends,” the notorious pardon of D. S. P Alamieyeseigha and Alhaji Bulama who had been convicted for stealing state and banking funds, respectively, made the situation more glaring.
The ease with which oil subsidy totals rose in the early days of the Jonathan Presidency by over N1 trillion was part of what seemed like a culture of graft and easy money. The government’s grade would have been a straight F, but for some redeeming considerations – the clean-up of the fertiliser scam by the Ministry of Agriculture and its replacement by a more transparent e-wallet scheme; the budgetary reforms and fiscal consolidation, which is restoring some credibility to fiscal policy, and the fact that investigations and trials are ongoing for (some of!) those who abused oil subsidy resources. On the whole, the government earns an E, and has a chance in its second half to “re-sit” the corruption exam by taking stronger action against it.
The government’s macro-economic management has been evidently above average. I have referred to fiscal reforms which have begun to shift the balance in favour of capital expenditure; reduced the budget deficit; increased reserves to almost $50 billion, and ensured higher spending for education and health sectors. In addition, the inauguration of a sovereign wealth fund and sustained GDP growth around 6-7 percent are positive. In my rating, the regime would have earned at least a B+ for economic management, but for a significant minus- the divergence between GDP and other macro indices and the welfare of the people, expressed in poor Human Development Indices (HDI). The government has also blown the chance to reform the downstream petroleum sector and pass an urgently-needed Petroleum Industry Bill. In the event, I score Jonathan a B in this sector, and government must now focus on inclusive growth and petroleum sector reforms to better this grade in the remaining two years.
Nigeria’s social sector outlook remains alarming poverty over 60 percent nationwide; unemployment at 23.9 percent; youth unemployment around 40 percent, and dismal conditions in education, health and urban transportation! The government has taken some token actions at generating employment – the YOU-WIN programme and SURE-P, but they have not gone far enough.
Spending on education and health has gone up, but value-for-money is not visible and performance hugely lags the required. What is needed is not a “part-time” attention to the social time-bomb we have, but concerted action towards generating jobs, redressing poverty and improving our schools and hospitals. I score the regime a D, even though one could in fact argue that is a generous grade!
On security, I believe Jonathan dithered over the decision to impose a state of emergency on the regions consumed by Boko Haram terrorism with the consequence that 4,200 persons were killed. Rather than, perhaps, if the emergency was imposed after only 500 deaths, or less! The refusal to reform policing in the direction of more efficient policing at sub-national levels has created a situation of pervasive breakdown of law and order across the nation characterised by armed robberies, kidnapping and other crimes. The authority of the state has been eroded as insurgents, militias and “Fulani herdsmen” take on the state and kill people in large numbers. The government has redeemed itself with the emergency and Malian intervention, but still scores a C- in this regard.
Jonathan has made some modest action to improve the state of infrastructure – power privatisation is almost complete, promising a better outlook in the medium to long term; some railway services are being restored; airports are being re-modelled (though probably at a questionable cost!) and many road contracts are ongoing. However, the overall infrastructure position remains abject and value-for-money in procurement is doubtful. Here we also score Jonathan a C+.
The government has done fairly well in foreign policy with a respectable position within ECOWAS, AU, Commonwealth and the UN, and with sensible interventions in Mali and Guinea-Bissau earning a strong B+.
Finally, Jonathan has conducted a series of reasonably-fair elections in Anambra, Edo and Ondo states, all of which were won by the opposition, and allowed free expression and some level of institutional development. Recent intolerance is yet to rise to alarming levels and I would still rate a B. The overall average would thus be a C, which would be downgraded to C- based on our negative score on the bonus criteria-leadership!