After a somewhat long silence, Yar'Adua speaks! Unfortunately, it wasn't to a local newspaper, but to the Financial Times of LONDON! Hopefully, a local 1-year anniversary interview will be granted to the Nigerian media so that those who can't get access to this prestigious London daily can hear what Baba Rule of Law has to say on his first year as President. Nonetheless, the FT interview touches on the issues on the mind of foreign investors and some of the Nigerian people's concerns. He seems to acknowledge that he really hasn't done anything this year besides preserve the rule of law in Aso Rock (if only this would extend to the police force country-wide, we would all shut up about his baba go slow-ness). He does however claim that Nigerians will reap the benefits of his inactivity in the 2nd year of his administration. About his frequent health visits to Germany, the President unashamedly admits:
I am not a super-human being, I don't know one yet, but certainly I'm not one. I am a normal human being who can fall sick, who can recover, who can die, who can have feelings, who can be angered, who can laugh…
FT: And who is fit enough to be president?
YAR'ADUA: Yes, and who is fit enough to be president, and who can have headaches, and can have fever. You see…all my medical records are in Germany, and I have been going to Germany since 1986, and I do my check-ups in Germany every year. In fact sometimes every six months, and this has been going since 1986…Now the fact that I'm president today, doesn't mean that when I feel there's something that I think is wrong and needs to checked I shouldn't go to my doctors, where all my records for the past 22 years are there. It is the most practical things to do…They know the background of everything about me medically.
FT: What else do you think we're going to see in terms of economic reforms going forward into your second year? What's next on your list of priorities?
YAR'ADUA: Power. We are working out, I have said we will declare a national emergency in the power sector, which we are working out the programmes to do that. The restructuring of NNPC, which is aimed at making NNPC a national oil company that will go out and compete with another oil companies like IOCs, use its assets to access funds from the capital market, it is going to be quite a major shift in policy and restructuring. This will mean that the national budget will be freed from the joint venture cash calls, which will make funds available to put into security, which is one of our key agendas, into providing adequate security, maintenance of law and order, education and health. The other thing that we are doing is ensuring that we bring in the private sector to invest in infrastructure. We are working out the regulatory framework so that major infrastructure, private sector can come in and provide infrastructure, railways, waterways, take over the running of airports, sea ports, major trunk roads, so that they provide services, they charge for these services, and that will relieve government from heavy investment.
FT: When do you think we will see these regulations?
YAR'ADUA: They are almost completed. Since we came we have been working on hem. And I think we are almost finished now. Next year will be really a very, very interesting year for this country, very interesting.
FT: It's interesting you say that. A lot of Nigerians I speak to say you have been very slow in your reform programme? What do you say when you hear Nigerians saying that you are moving slowly?
YAR'ADUA: I smile, because I know, I have been a governor for eight years, I have also had some challenges to sort out, some problems. Because I know the quality of what you can achieve depends on how you plan a programme. You cannot make major achievements by just trying to rush things. The quality of your planning, the quality of your programmes, determine the nature of their achievements…What we have to learn to know is that you cannot achieve anything without planning, and planning is a long-term process. That is why I am saying that we need to produce a national plan to the year 2020.
To be fair, I've spent most of my life hearing Nigerians complain about one of the root causes of Nigeria's infrastructure is LACK OF PLANNING. So shouldn't we be overjoyed that we finally have a President who's all about due process and planning? With the President's new 12-month reform plan (Which I trust he will be publishing soon), we shall finally have some milestones by which to judge his (in)actions. I hate to say it, but in this case (moreso than usual), ONLY TIME WILL TELL.