By Salihu Moh. Lukman
The need to be honest, whether as politicians or intellectuals is a minimum requirement that should confer legitimacy to conclusions being presented to Nigerians. If APC led Federal Government has initiated the kind of ambitious National Social Investment Programme in the country, which no other government in the past has undertaken, including PDP governments, isn’t that a confirmation of the difference between PDP and APC? If APC led Federal Government has successfully revived Nigerian Railways, actively implementing around 900 road contracts, covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of Federal roads and highways across the country, out of a total of 35,000km of Federal roads in existence, how many kilometers of road contracts were constructed, reconstructed or rehabilitated throughout PDP’s sixteen years rule?
What was the specific agricultural initiatives of all the PDP led Federal Governments between 1999 and 2015? In the context of these three achievements, and in other areas, the APC led Federal Government was able to succeed where other administrations, including the PDP have failed. Take the case of the 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail, completed by the President Buhari led APC administration 33 years after construction began. There was the evidential case of the second Niger Bridge, originally conceived decades ago, which is now more than 50 percent completed, and scheduled for commissioning in 2022. There was the case of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which has defied every PDP administration since 1999.
There is the case of the new Petroleum Industry Act assented to by President Buhari on Monday, August 16, 2021, which is going to restructure the operations and management of the Nigerian oil and gas industry. The initiative to put in place a new legal framework for the oil and gas sector started under the PDP government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, more than two decades ago. It was shrouded in endless national debates and stalemate but was eventually passed by the two Chambers of the National Assembly under APC leadership with a six-month transition for the emergence of new institutional framework for the operations of oil and gas industry in the country.
If with all these, it means that PDP and APC are the same and have all failed, then failure must be defined in a way that invalidates APC’s achievements since taking over the reigns of Federal Government in 2015. However, recognising that the issues of insecurity inherited by the APC led government of President Buhari remained a major national challenge, it is important that assessment of performance of APC government is not reduced to opinions of individual politicians. The reality is that both President Buhari and all APC leaders acknowledged the enormity of the challenges of insecurity in the country, which is why Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser was reported after the meeting of National Security Council of August 19, 2021, to have declared that President Buhari ‘would not leave office a failure.’ This is in recognition of the fact notwithstanding all the achievements of the APC administration, once the problem of insecurity persists, it means the government has failed.
Noting also that APC administration is taking steps to equip the security agencies and build morale, promote community-led solutions, develop new security infrastructure and operations across land and maritime environments, and address the underlying drivers of insecurity (poverty and youth unemployment), encouraging reports are emerging from the various theatres of operation. Although serious challenges still exist, and there is still a long way to go in restoring a robust sense of security in the country, it is also very important to continually acknowledge the victories and successes being recorded by the military and law enforcement agencies, in the various theatres of operation across the country.
For instance, the tide has turned against Boko Haram and ISWAP in the North-East and is turning against the bandits and criminals in the North-West. In the South East, relative calm has returned, and efforts are ongoing to fully neutralise the militant networks that have been troubling the region. In the Coastal Areas, the full rollout of the Deep Blue and Falcon Eye surveillance and security projects is certain to deal a strong blow on the activities of pirates and militants in the weeks and months ahead.
Certainly, all these measures can be strengthened, and the government can do more especially in relation to getting our security agencies to be more accountable. Everything considered, the current security structure in the country needs to be radically reformed. Issues of amending the laws to enable state governments establish state police
are clearly unavoidable. However, there are conditions that must be met before any decision to establish state police can serve as a good response to Nigeria’s security challenges. This include the requirement that processes of regulating the operations of the state police should be centralised as part of the functions of the Federal Police. Under that, for instance, issues of recruitment, qualification, background checks for those to be recruited, enforcement of disciplinary requirement, arms procurement and training for weapon handling, etc. should be handled at Federal level so that there are uniform standards across the country. It should be like the case of universities with National University Commission (NUC) serving as the regulatory body enforcing standards across all Nigerian universities.
Outside regulations, there are issues of funding. Most time, Nigerians make proposals in terms of how government should address challenges with the assumption that funding is given, which means that government can always mobilise the resources. This is mostly exaggerated. To address Nigerian security challenges, especially if the establishment of state police is to be considered, there must be a new funding arrangement, which should insulate the operations of Nigeria Police including the new state police to be established from all the uncertainties surrounding public financial management.
Conclusion – Facts Should Define the Boundaries of Politics
If the narrative is that PDP and APC have failed, what is the evidence based on the performances of both the PDP during its sixteen years tenure between 1999 and 2015, on the one hand, and that of the APC since 2015, on the other? If the disposition of politicians is one-dimensional politics, which is limited to opinions, why should scholars endorse opinions without evaluating them based on what the facts are? Could it be that the field of politics is truly different from the intellectual environment? May be that is so. However, it will be important to recognise that ability of individuals to contribute to changing Nigerian politics will depend a lot on the extent to which facts are recognised and respected. Whether political conclusions are oriented based on unsubstantiated opinions or facts, depend a lot on the degree to which evidence rather than opinion is the reference. Once conclusions are about opinions, propensity to ignore facts and become intolerant will be high.
The contours of the difference between the PDP and APC should be defined by the records of their experiences managing governments. The commitment to move Nigerian politics forward should be constructed based honest recognition of the realities, which the facts of performances of political parties when entrusted to manage governments represents.
This position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum