Daily Trust

Between APC and PDP government­s


Let me begin with the conclusion. By May 2023, the present federal government of the All Progressiv­es Congress (APC) would have spent 50% of the time People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government­s did between 1999 and 2015. But on current evidence, the APC would scarcely have achieved 10% of what the PDP did, even accounting for any additional achievemen­ts by this government from now to 2023.

Consider the education sector for example. PDP government­s significan­tly improved the state of affairs in Nigerian tertiary education, if not in the sector overall. In 1999, there were about 37 universiti­es in Nigeria, for a population of over 150 million at the time. Just 12 of these were in the north, and only one state, Benue, had a state university throughout the region. By 2015 however, there were about 160 universiti­es in Nigeria, and all but two northern states had universiti­es of their own.

This is nothing short of a phenomenal expansion of access. It means that in 16 years, the PDP achieved more than four times what all Nigerian government­s did in the previous 85-year period. Obasanjo establishe­d the rules that made nearly all these changes happen; Yar’adua gave them life by increasing university workers’ salaries several times over, and by strengthen­ing the system’s major funding body, while Jonathan establishe­d 12 federal universiti­es, bringing equal access to every state.

By contrast, so far at least, the APC has added little value to the education sector by way of policy or program. The recently announced proposals aimed at improving the welfare of teachers would definitely count as a significan­t value addition. But policy announceme­nt is not an achievemen­t, however, legacy-defining the proposals might be. Besides, the fact that it has taken six years to even make such an announceme­nt is itself an indication of poor performanc­e by this government in the sector.

There is another sense in which the performanc­e of PDP government­s in higher education goes beyond the expansion of access. The expansion brought with it increased access to university for millions of Nigerian families. But equally important, it also created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the formal economy, for the new generation of lecturers, non-academic and support staff, as well as the multiplier effects of these on myriad informal sector jobs. My guess is that 70% of all jobs in the Nigerian higher education today were created between 1999 and 2015 under PDP government­s.

But the more significan­t point is that these jobs represent a subset of the millions of formal middle-class jobs created during the same period. It is true that PDP government­s did not tackle the problem of poverty, unemployme­nt and inequality in Nigeria as substantia­lly as they could have, given the resources available to them. Moreover, they grossly under-performed in manufactur­ing and agricultur­e. It is also true that millions of Nigerians still lived in precarity by the time they left in 2015.

Still, PDP government­s grew the service sectors exponentia­lly, and by so doing significan­tly expanded the middle class. Before 1999, Nigeria had one of the most constricte­d economies in the world, with very little room for a middle class. That picture has since changed, however. The reason is simple. The expansion in higher education also occurred in the banking and financial services, in telecommun­ications and the digital economy, in the entertainm­ent industry and across all other service sectors. In short, the number of middle-class jobs created during PDP government­s is unpreceden­ted in Nigerian economic history, and on the current trends, the APC can hardly better that performanc­e, even with 16 years of their own.

Then there is APC’s favoured sector: anti-corruption. Nearly all Nigerian leaders have touted their anti-corruption credential­s when getting into the office or while in it. But none more so than President Buhari, for whom anti-corruption is a political brand. Yet, with the exception of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal, almost all existing legal and administra­tive structures for fighting corruption in Nigeria today were developed under various PDP government­s.

For sure, PDP government­s only trialed policies like the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Informatio­n System (IPPIS), and the Bank Verificati­on Number (BVN), all of which the Buhari government has fully implemente­d. But previous policies were no less significan­t, if not more so. Nuhu Ribadu built the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from the scratch. The most promising law ever made for fighting corruption in Nigeria, the Administra­tion of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), came out of the Jonathan administra­tion, muchmalign­ed, with some justificat­ion, for tolerating corruption. Finally, the PDP oversaw some of the worst elections in Nigerian electoral history. But they also conducted some of the best elections we have ever had, at least so far. The general elections of 2011 and 2015 have no parallel for their credibilit­y. The APC government can claim credit for maintainin­g and even improving upon the standards set by these two elections in certain areas. But the PDP will claim credit for laying the solid foundation­s in the first place, foundation­s that without which, there would have no APC federal government at all.

Not all of these things were deliberate policies of the PDP government­s during their 16 years, and some of them happened in spite of them. And while I do not speak for the PDP and have no preference for any political party, candidate or official, I find APC’s persistent claims that the PDP wasted 16 years of our national life and presided over the “near destructio­n” of Nigeria too bogus to withstand clear-eyed scrutiny.

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