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Marking the President’s marking scheme

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During a nationwide broadcast to mark the Democracy Day, President Goodluck Jonathan appealed to Nigerians to judge his administration fairly and emphasised the strides his administration had made and ultimately gave himself pass mark.

For once, let’s be fair. President Jonathan should get credit for at least setting a stewardship report on his administration’s efforts and even developing a “marking scheme” for full measure, albeit, like all self-developed marking schemes or examinations, one tends to pass with flying colours! The question then is: If the administration has done so “well”, why is the President’s approval rating dropping?

But, here is a thought: Perhaps, the administration is using the wrong marking scheme or syllabus!

The frustration of officials of the Jonathan administration is very palpable for all to see. It showed during the President’s Democracy Day speech (he asked that people should judge him fairly), and in interviews with the cabinet members (notably the finance minister in the CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, justifying the country’s ills-power, corruption, etc by retorting (lamely) “Nigeria is not the only country with these issues, other countries have it too”).

So, it’s not surprising that they feel this way and yet the recent polls show a disturbing sign: The President’s approval rating is current at 44 per cent, according to NOI polls. It was well over 65 per cent just two years ago. This is a remarkable turn of fortune for a President that promised a breath of fresh air, but has come under withering criticism for poor performance! What this means is that if a presidential election is held today barring rigging, Jonathan might lose-especially if he has a worthy opponent.

The government promised a report full of data showing good performance. There was certainly plenty of data on show. A slew of data was rolled out to explain that the economy remained strong and on the right trajectory but critics thumb their noses. And for a good reason — Nigerians do not, simply, want to see the economy humming .The jobless issue is an itch that needs immediate scratching. Obviously, there are worse things that can happen to a nation, but there is little to admire from an economy that is not producing sufficient jobs.

The answer could be found in a single word: Priority. The government’s high priorities appear to have been on important, but ultimately lower priorities of Nigerians — aviation, agriculture, foreign investment and good economic fundamentals (mostly inherited from previous administrations). But in a poll conducted by the NOI (http://www.noi-polls.net), Nigerians’ expectation priorities are unemployment (24 per cent-up from 20 per cent in 2012); electricity supply (18 per cent); insecurity, and eradication of corruption (17 per cent); while insecurity is driving 10 per cent of Nigerians nut. The other issues are less weighty. This is the marking scheme of the Nigerian people.   On the job front: it appears to be getting worse (according to the latest survey of the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate is almost 24 per cent (38 million people) from about 21.1 per cent in 2010 when President Jonathan took over the reins of power as acting president. So it has worsened on his watch.

The second big issue is electricity supply. There seems to be improvement last year, but it has since sunk back. Nigerians are not satisfied even with the explanation of various works in progress in the sector.

On tackling insecurity, many believe the nation security crisis — kidnappings, Boko Haram etc — are worsening on the watch of this president. His recent actions such as amnesty and declaring a state of emergency, proscription of Boko Haram etc are security right steps. It would be interesting to see the impact of these actions on the nation in the coming days.

Finally, on the issue of corruption, the latest Transparency International report ranked Nigeria the 35th most corrupt nation in the world. When you add that to the President’s  failure to declare his asset publicly, saying that corruption is not our major problem but infrastructure, and the state pardon of his corrupt, bail-jumping former boss, then the perception seems set in stone that his anti-corruption creed is doubtful. Obviously, the Jonathan administration inherited these problems but it needs to solve them. But the picture painted by the government extolling Nigeria’s robust economy tells us more about it than it does about the economy which is that the administration is  unable to convert the ruddy health of the economy for benefit of the citizens.

Anyway, make no mistake about it. The marking scheme this government is running is flawed on many levels and is based on low bar of performance.

•Dele Ayoko is a Lagos based tax partner with David Cycle and Associates. [email protected]

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