Jonathan’s Economic Team: Co-opting Fashola and Oshiomhole

In the March 20, 2011 edition of this column, I tried to establish a providential purpose between President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, having predicted that they would both be returned to power on May 29, 2011; and urged that both men should collaborate as statesmen, regardless of party affiliations, to make Nigerians witness in their life time what is meant by transformative development and effective service delivery.
As an unrepentant optimist who fervently believes that President Jonathan would perform creditably, after preliminary difficulties, I was a trifle disappointed to find that Governor Fashola was conspicuously omitted in the newly constituted Economic Management Team envisaged by Mr. President to drive the locomotive of his transformative agenda. In this business of selecting a crack team to drive the engine of development which may make or mar the President’s administration, the buck cannot be passed to anyone else. It definitely stops on his table. It is therefore imperative that the President should co-opt anybody, regardless of party affiliation, with track record of performance, of discernible pedigree, that can assist to fast-track his economic recovery programme for the country.
In the business of infrastructural development, an area with a huge deficit, Governor Fashola looms larger than life and stands out clearly amongst the 36 governors of the federal republic. What he can bring to bear in the Economic Management Team in terms of the development of road and rail infrastructure, if co-opted, is unquantifiable. But the benefit would not be one-sided. It would be mutual. His ability to assist the team to coordinate infrastructural development will also rob off on Lagos State that he is working so tirelessly to transform into a 21st century mega city. There are several federal roads criss-crossing Lagos State, that have virtually collapsed. Accepting to work whole-heartedly with the team if and when he is co-opted will eventually fast-track federal intervention in road and rail infrastructure in Lagos. Governor Fashola can use this argument to win his party’s support and cooperation in joining the President’s Economic Management Team. The third group of people to benefit from co-opting Governor Fashola into the President’s team is the generality of Nigerians whose life and economic activities would be buoyed by well developed infrastructure. That is why Nigerians should join me in suing for the co-opting of Governor Fashola into the President’s team.
Another public spirited Nigerian that can positively add value to the Economic Management Team of Mr. President is Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. His recent role in mediating government-labour impasse and his track record of organized labour leadership have been recognized and commended by many Nigerians. Organized labour needs to be carried along in the transformative agenda of the Jonathan dispensation. Co-opting Adams Oshiomhole into the Economic Management Team is not only symbolic for organized labour; it will also re-assure workers’ that their interest cannot easily be shortchanged in the implementation of government programmes and policies. Such a development would have the capacity to reduce confrontation between government and organized labour.
Apart from co-opting the two governors, it is important that the team be specifically instructed to deliver and avoid any kind of intrigue and politicking that might encumber effective service delivery; and the President should not fight shy to remove any member of the team that might be a hindrance to concrete achievement or that might prove to be an agent of some destructive cabals masquerading as an apostle of change. The time for propaganda and media display of single digit inflation and sundry economic indices of growth that are totally disconnected from the quality of life of the people is definitely over. What Nigerians want, more than economic theories and principles that underpin development in other regions of the world, are concrete policy actions (implementation) that result in good roads to link producers and consumers of both agricultural and industrial goods and services and regular, uninterrupted, supply of electricity that would stimulate job creation.
I welcome Professor Barth Nnaji, the Robotics Engineer, whose ministry is charged with the actualization of the power sector reforms. The Nigerian people will hold you and Mr. President responsible if they do not have efficient supply of electricity nation-wide in the next couple of years. There will be cabals and cartels lurking around to frustrate your efforts. You cannot be excused on that basis. If I were in your shoes, I would ask for armored, bullet-proof, trucks to supervise power projects all over the country to ensure that I get the job done first before I get killed.
My joy knew no bounds when I learnt that the World Bank icon, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been brought back to co-ordinate the economic team of the Presidency. But I do not know how she plans to co-ordinate the activities of the Central Bank Governor who seem to show little respect for the sensibilities of local investors. There should be an ingenious way of compensating small scale investors of the nationalized banks who genuinely invested in bank stocks totally oblivious of the manipulations of the big players. Likewise, I am at a loss how she intends to handle the state governors who make budgetary allocations for specified projects, award contracts and pay upfront, and leave the projects not executed. I and Professor Omolulu Soyombo have had cause to tell her, in one of the economic summits of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, during her first term as Minister of Finance, that her style of publishing monthly allocations to states does not prevent the governors from awarding and paying for contracts that are not executed. This time around, she has to put a crack monitoring team in place to chase funds from the point of allocation to the point of disbursement on completed projects.
Other members of the team are welcome as Nigerians expect from them actual implementation and completion of projects.


© Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved. Prof. Jim Unah. >By Wolab Resources