“By doubting we come to question, and by questioning, we perceive the truth.” (Peter Abelard, 1079-1142)-A Couple of Questions on … Vision 2020, 20:20, 2020 + 19, -Perceptor always tries to rise above mundane personal considerations, but sometimes, the personal and the public coincide in such a way that one feels justified in mentioning some otherwise private complaints in a forum such as this. Such an occasion is provided by Perceptor’s ninth straight day without any electricity at all, and – driving down Awolowo Road in Ikoyi – having to dodge water carts being dragged all over the streets of this (surely privileged?) part of Lagos by the sweat of human beings. Perceptor has tried to reconcile the non-availability of these basics – light and water – with the grandiose plan of President Umaru Yar’Adua to make Nigeria one of the world’s 20 leading economies by the year 2020. Frankly, after two years of presidential somnolence, Perceptor felt that the best way of preparing for the inevitable disappointment was to write the President’s words off as ... well, mere political posturing (i.e., lies.) But as Mr. President repeated his ambitions, insisting that Nigeria would be one of the leading 20 economies by 2020 and even expressing surprise that Nigeria hadn’t been invited as one of the G20, naturally, one or two questions arise …
1. From an alleged 3,000 megawatts of electricity to 700: is this current perpetual blackout in the PLAN?
Is this a case of réculer pour mieux sauter? Or as we say in Naija, drawing back to make a better jump? Agreed, that the 3,000 megawatts is only a story put out by the government and is nothing that Perceptor, in travels across Nigeria, can claim to have noticed in actual operation, even in Abuja. And with the massive vote for generators and their upkeep in this year’s budget, it’s apparently not something that the government expects to experience either. But even if it were really 3,000 megawatts, what is the strategy behind the fall to 700, and the closure of three power plants? Or, since the excuse given for the fall is that ‘militants’ have ‘disrupted’ the gas supplies to power plants, is the amnesty for Niger Delta rebels meant to persuade them to rupt the supplies? And what has happened to the water in Kainji Dam? Has it all DRIED UP?
2. Is the nosedive of the naira part of the PLAN?
Whenever the value of a country’s currency falls, such countries like to look for the silver lining, talking about how the reduced value of their currency will make their exports more attractive, that it will encourage citizens to buy locally produced items and improve their balance of payments etc. etc. etc. Now, while Perceptor would like to offer similar words of consolation in respect of a naira that a few months ago needed only N117 to buy a United States dollar, but now needs N175 to buy the self-same dollar, Perceptor can’t help wondering whether it wouldn’t have been a better idea to actually have something to export other than dollar denominated oil before the fall? That is to say, shouldn’t we have got a bit further along the road towards actually achieving the goals of 20 20 20 20 20 with some manufactured goods to export before chucking the currency down the drain? Just a thought.
On the one hand ...
We have a kite being flown that President Umaru Yar’Adua’s term in office should be extended to 2013 so that he can fully implement all his grandiose plans for electoral reform, uninterrupted power supply, chicken on Sunday for all etc. This is greeted across the country with shouts of suspicion and disapproval from Nigerians. It becomes clear that there aren’t likely to be many of our ‘elected’ representatives who are going to want to put their necks on the chopping block of ‘tenure elongation’. The proposal appears to fizzle out.
... but on the other
We have the Supreme Court sending the Hope Democratic Party’s petition against Yar’Adua’s election as President back to the Court of Appeal for hearing. The Supreme Court, which last December, by a 4-3 majority, ruled that it didn’t matter whether the ballot papers used in the presidential election were serially numbered, three months later decides that even though it didn’t say it clearly or coherently, the election petition of the Hope Democratic Party, deserved to be sent back to the Court of Appeal for hearing (said Court of Appeal being bound by the earlier decision of the Supreme Court ...)
Yes it is bound, but ... if the petition acquires not only coherence but a victory at the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court (a slight adjustment of the panel could so easily change that 4-3 to 3-4) ... if all that happens and Yar’Adua’s election is annulled, and a fresh election is held and he stands and wins it ... A fresh four year term starting in 2009 would end when exactly? Do the maths!
And While We’re on the Subject of Electoral Reform...
Like many other Naijas, Perceptor was THRILLED to see the headline reporting President Yar’Adua’s assertion that his government has already started implementing Electoral Reforms. (Well, obviously it wasn’t PYA himself in person, after all, this was just a bunch of newspaper editors meeting in Kaduna, and anyway, they might have asked awkward questions!)
One of the reforms PYA was referring to was one recommended by his own Electoral Reform Committee, the Uwais Panel, whose report is otherwise undergoing death by committee. This is the one that says that the ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission should have ‘independent’ funds, i.e. direct funding from the Federation Account.
But Perceptor has searched the Uwais Panel’s Report in vain for the other Electoral ‘Reforms’ announced by the Yar’Adua administration. These, it will be recalled, were unveiled during the course of a political rally attended by PYA (Well, obviously it was PYA himself in person, after all, this was a bunch of party goons who could be relied on not to ask any awkward questions!) in support of the Peoples Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate in the Ekiti State partial re-run. PYA himself announced only the tenure elongation ‘reform’, assuring the crowd that Segun Oni (who hadn’t won the first election at all, despite spending two years wasting the people’s money in office) would be getting another four years, making a first term of six years in all. (Perceptor must at this stage, draw the gentle reader’s attention back to the previous item and the possibility – remote, but still possible – that the presidential term too may be elongated to last six years). But it was left to the indefatigable Speaker of the House of Representatives to reveal the most far-reaching electoral ‘reform’: the deployment of soldiers by the ‘Commander-in-Chief’ to help PDP rig, sorry, wig, no, WIN elections. With the Commissioner of Police for Ekiti State, Chris Ola, calling on the citizens to come out ‘en masse’ to welcome the President, it isn’t surprising that Bankole couldn’t see any big deal in the fact that the PDP used mobile policemen to wring the last election in the state (er, that would be the one that was set aside) the police are clearly already in the bag!
What Perceptor does find surprising is that the alternative platform that the PDP appeared to be running on was that Oni was supposed to have achieved so much during the period he had spent in usurpation of office that the people of Ekiti would be ‘lucky’ that they would have him for a whole six years. Surprising, because at Yar’Adua’s first port of call in Ekiti, he was presented with a long list of ‘requests’ (i.e. complaints) by the royal fathers of Ekiti that they obviously felt that Oni had failed to attend to during his time at the helm of affairs ...
But this is digression. Although some have expressed surprise (as well as outrage and condemnation), Perceptor thinks that this particular electoral ‘reform’ – deployment of soldiers to assist in election winging – is a natural outgrowth of the overarching electoral ‘reform’ proposed by the PDP, namely that elections will be ‘reformed’ in such a way that it will always wig them for the next sixty years!
Shake, Rattle & Roll!
It was recently Perceptor’s misfortune to have to travel along the ‘expressway’ from Lagos to Ibadan. Can the condition of the ‘expressway’ be understood if when Perceptor reports that at one of the particularly bad spots (so that you have no choice but to slow down and look at it very well) it is decorated with a huge sign put up by FERMA which still bears the picture of President Olusegun Obasanjo! Certainly since the brief burst of enthusiasm by Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke when she first became Minister of Transport the condition of the ‘expressway’ has gone from bad to worse.
As if that were not annoying enough, in addition to the superannuated picture of Obasanjo, except in Lagos State, the road is also unnecessarily decorated with pictures of the governor of whichever state it passes through. Is it really fair to harass already traumatised travellers with images of the onion-nosed Alao? And given that the dirt and filth at the Ibadan end of the ‘expressway’ is so much worse than it is anywhere else (except perhaps the parts abandoned to trailers) does the Governor really want to be so closely associated with the chaos and mess?
Much Ado About … Terrorism Alerts
Dismissed! Dismissed, Perceptor notes, not simply ‘refuted’. That’s how our Naija media characterised the Federal Government of Nigeria (or in Americaspeak, the Government of Nigeria) response to the United States warning of possible attacks on its embassy and missions in the country. The response came not from our Inspector-General of Police, or the Minister of Internal or Police Affairs or anybody else with some actual responsibility for the security of this country, but from our irrepressible Minister of Information, St. Dora Akunyili. Well, the IGP might have been too busy drying his tears and packing his bags in the wake of the ‘no tenure extension for you!’ disappointment. Or he might have been organising policemen’s funerals, what with the killing of yet another in the Niger Delta during a kidnapping on the same day that Aunty Dora was assuring us that the kidnapping menace was reducing (bad timing, that). Or he and his men might have even been so busy catching terrorists, kidnappers and other assorted criminals (no, NOT the Coalition against Corruption activists in Osun State – they’ve been safely locked up for daring to hold a peaceful demonstration there) – that they had no time to waste answering the Americans who obviously don’t know what they are talking about. So that’s alright then.
Perceptor had been labouring under the belief that the image of a country shouldn’t be confused with the possibility that evil people might want to do evil things in that country, but obviously, Perceptor is mistaken.
As for the suggestion that Americans visiting their embassies and missions should report ‘any suspicious activity’ – in an environment bristling with Nigerians plotting the best way of fooling the visa officer into giving them the all-clear – Perceptor can only assume that that is an attempt to lighten the seriousness of the message with a dose of American-style humour ...
In the Spirit of ‘Aunty’ Dora
Er, our World Cup qualifier in Maputo. No, we didn’t sparkle. No, we didn’t win. But WE DIDN’T LOSE either!
OK, a more serious effort next time. Promise!