Subscribing to Good Governance in Nigeria -By Kelechi Emmanuel-Ukwuoma

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |


We will begin this discussion by re-emphasising that politics is all about good governance; being able to allocate resources, whether abundant or scarce (you remember General Gowon as head of state saying Nigeria has so much money she doesn’t know what to do with it). Well, he was a military man and not a politician. Maybe we should pardon him for that statement, if he hasn’t already been pardoned. The object of this discourse is to identify what good governance entails and determine if we are truly ready for that or just merely yearning for who will do our bidding and distribute government resources for our selfish benefits. Good governance being firm by nature will be hard on the people initially but will not cause pain. The results will speak.

Ours has been a society that thrives on norms instituted sometimes by years of laxity, misrule, negligence, and these have become part of the acceptable system. The system in Nigeria therefore becomes a set-up for failure in governance, especially if you have to operate within the norms as they are. One absurd and somewhat acceptable norm in this part of the world is that employment and appointments into positions is for the purpose of ‘eating’. Do you also remember a chieftain of PDP once accused a Chief Bola Ige of being invited into the cabinet to come and eat? The appointees consciously and unconsciously don’t see it as a call to serve, to make impact, to transform lives and society. The Chief Executives who should correct these leave it as it is and the society suffers, the government performs below expectation and fails outright. This cuts across political offices, parastatals, institutions and whatever is named after the government as belonging to the government.

Let’s consider our Universities and how they ought to participate in nation building. We have several erudite scholars in those citadels of learning. They can be, and in fact ought to be put in charge of ground-breaking research in the country. We might have been contemplating alternative sources of energy in the country. The academics with training in this field could be given the responsibility to come up with alternative solutions, in partnership with relevant agencies and when this is not happening put their positions on vacancy. This way we make our universities highly productive and competitive. We can drive research within the country to cover all areas of need; military hardware, transportation, energy, etc. The ultimate here in good governance is productivity. Universities should then not just exist to teach students and dish out handouts. Government subvention strictly becomes a function of quality of research that shapes society, boosts the economy and gives the nation a place in the comity of nations.

If the governors will begin to see themselves as CEOs of multinationals maybe that will help. Productivity in line with stated targets and goals becomes the driving force of every administration. This will include employing or appointing the best hands into the cabinet and all other institutions, ensuing there is no place for redundancy in the system. Of course the CEO will have to provide the working tools and then ensure the job is done. Good governance here will entail being strict on what can be done and what cannot be done in the society; e.g. driving that can be permitted and driving that must not be tolerated. How would you like your vehicle being confiscated if you’re caught driving without a driver’s license? That’s good governance; hard but productive. How would you like to pass a driving test before you’re issued a drivers license. That’s part of good governance; ensuring road users are kept safe.

A tricky area in rendering good governance is in security. Governors are supposed to be the Chief Security Officers of their states, but with little or no control over the security apparatus of their states; Police, DSS, etc. In Rivers State alone we have seen the police SARS operatives harass and threaten the state governor, we have seen DSS do the same; threatening the governor while attempting to arrest a Judge. In Lagos State the FRSC had to announce to the governor he has no right to instruct them on where not to operate. In fact a governor only needs to fall out with a federal politician for his security apparatus to cave in on him. So how then are they supposed to render good governance in this area, seeing they might likely step on toes, including federal toes? This is part of the reason why I have stated that the system is a set up for failure in governance and rendering good stewardship.

I’m sure we can have the Nigerian Police Force, and State police Forces. Imagine having Lagos State Police Force, LSPF, Kano State Police Force, KSPF or Imo State Police Force, ISPF. If not then restructure the NPF and let each State Command and Commissioner be answerable wholly to the respective State governors, with the governors having powers to recommend a promotion, demotion and termination of appointment. Let the governors be fully in charge of security in their states and be ready to deliver good governance in this area. How would a governor be Chief Security Officer in his State when in time of peace the federal military forces invade his State without his consent?

Talk about the military, in Nigeria I have seen the government, by implication politicians buy vehicles and deliver to the military. Civilians who have no military training should not be in a position to give military hardware including vehicles to the military. This is neither good governance nor acceptable practice. The place of the government is to provide the funds within its budget, and allow the military decide on specs. We have an indigenous car manufacturing firm in Nigeria now, others will emerge too. The military can give them a design, with specs – this is what we want, can you produce it? Different vehicles for different terrains in a country like Nigeria. When every component in the system is functioning well, you’ll hardly notice the person at the centre. That’s good governance. We don’t need to be seeing media messages on governors presenting vehicles to security agencies, or ministers giving vehicles to the military. That’s poor governance. Just provide the finances and allow the system run, powered by internal research and adequate monitoring. In fact putting up a billboard to announce these is the worst of governance. If every component is functioning well, we will all be too busy complying and enjoying life to notice the man at the centre.

Back to where we started from, are we ready for good governance in Nigeria? A Nigeria where every regulatory board or agency, every parastatal, ministry, etc is functioning without fear or favour. Meaning the citizenry having to comply with every rule and regulation. It might hurt a bit, but these apply in the countries we travel to, and we are happy to comply there. By nature humans do not like being restrained. The agencies that are responsible for maintaining roads, should be able to come up with cheap ways of maintaining roads and reducing or eliminating potholes. We should expect to see vacancy announcements in the concerned agencies when roads are not adequately maintained. Incapable hands should be quickly replaced with capable ones when the need arises. For the agencies responsible for clearing garbage, can we also expect not to see garbage any day on our streets? If the man at the centre, the Chief Executive chooses to be the one doing all these, then he has signed up for failure and will fail. We still chase shadows most times in Nigeria and love unnecessary self-glory. And so they are not able to see any big picture and keep moving around in circles.

I believe any aspirant who promises to build you roads and maintain them, give water, clean the streets, give electricity, is a scam – contesting for elections under false pretences. All these things are supposed to run even without a governor. Just have a funded structure in place and this will run.

When every component is working as they should then we will know which aspect is moribund, redundant or a duplication of another. Good governance is not about the performance of the governors or President, but the functionality of public institutions, more so in serving the vison of an administration. However we will hold the Chief Executives accountable if the public institutions fail to function, but do we really want them to function as they should?

Kelechi Emmanuel-Ukwuoma