AGENDA FOR THE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION
Otive Igbuzor, PhD
Founding Executive Director,
African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD)
8th April, 2023
The sixth circle of elections was held in Nigeria on the 25th February and 18th March, 2023 indicating about 24 years of unbroken civil rule since return to civil rule in 1999. This is significant because since independence in 1960, the only other times of civil rule was six years (1960-1966) and four years (1979-1983).
AGENDA FOR THE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION
The agenda of an administration is normally encapsulated in its manifesto. During the 2023 elections, most of the political parties rolled out their agenda. Our analysis indicated that most of the political parties focused on eight issues:
- National Security promising to deal with crime and criminality, terrorism, kidnapping and banditry.
- Economy promising to improve budget, infrastructure, industrial policy to promote production and encourage private sector participation.
- Agriculture promising to increase the percentage of cultivated arable land, rural infrastructure and commercial agriculture.
- Power to increase generation and transmission.
- Oil and Gas to boost production, increase transparency and accountability in the use of oil resources.
- Transportation including road, air and water.
- Education to reform and improve quality, access, funding, management and competitiveness.
- Health to improve infrastructure, personnel and services.
There is no doubt that these are the challenges facing Nigeria over the years. These are also the same issues that previous administrations have tried to address. These are the issues that all the political parties have promised to address. So, the challenge has never been identification of these problems. The challenge has been that there are other issues which must be addressed before the eight issues above can be addressed. These are the issues which prevented successive administrations from addressing eight issues effectively. The problems of insecurity, mismanagement of the economy, decline in agriculture, inadequate power in spite of humongous resources pumped into the sector over the years, corruption in the oil and gas sector, poor transport system, falling standards of education and poor health care are symptoms caused by the underlying issues that have led to progressive degeneration of governance and public services. Therefore, the real issues that should be the priority agenda of the incoming administration are what should be focused upon to reverse the trend and tackle the symptoms. The incoming administration must address the issues if it wants to change the narrative. In our view, there are eight issues that the incoming administration must prioritise. The issues are:
i. Ethical re-orientation: The problems facing Nigeria are known. What needs to be done to address these challenges including free, fair and credible elections, strategic leadership and accountable and responsive governance are known. But lack of ethics and corruption prevents the right action to be taken. The incoming administration must set the tone at the top that the administration will implement an anti-corruption agenda and create environment of justice, fairness and equity. Setting the tone at the top must go beyond declarations and speeches that the administration will have zero tolerance for corruption. The behaviour and actions of the President and Senior government officials must indicate that the administration will not tolerate corruption. Setting the tone at the top should include redressing some perceived injustice by sections of the country such as those from the eastern region and Christians who felt excluded by the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the incoming administration. In addition, the incoming administration should launch a new anti-corruption agenda taking into cognisance lessons from the past and addressing the issues of sanctions, systems and society. From the beginning of the administration, the President must set the tone of zero tolerance for corruption at the top. This must be followed with political will to implement the agenda. As the South African National Anti-Corruption Strategy clearly stated, the realisation of anti-corruption strategy depends on the resolute political will of those who serve in public office and ethical leadership in all sectors of society. In addition, the agenda must be a whole-of-society approach. Corruption in Nigeria can only be dealt with if the whole of society is involved in the fight against it. The agenda must be comprehensive and integrated and combine elements of sanctions, systems and society.
ii. Leadership: Leadership has been recognised as one of the most important variables that affect the performance of any organisation, institution or nation. Study after study, superior financial and organisational performance, as well as other forms of success, have been linked to leadership. Scholars have opined that the success or failure of organisations and nations depends on leadership excellence and not managerial acumen. The importance of leadership for the success of organizations and nations cannot be overemphasized. Some scholars have pointed out that everything rises and falls on leadership. Meanwhile, it has been documented that all great nations were blessed with leaders who harnessed the potentialities of their people and moulded them into the envy of others because as Maxwell argued, the leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. There are many ways that the incoming leadership can bring about national rebirth. The first thing is to develop a strong vision, mission and values for the country specifying strategic imperatives and critical success factors. The second is to set a long-term direction for the country. Rebirth requires long term perspectives which must be managed with short term political demands. Nigeria is suffering from short-termism and at the moment, there is no long-term strategic development plan for the country. The only national development plan that we have today will end in 2025. The third is to create democratically transparent, open and fair processes and systems in all sectors in government, private sector and civil society. The fourth is to initiate a comprehensive change agenda affecting all facets of life: security, economy, politics, social and technology and manage the change effectively through education and communication, participation and involvement, facilitation and support, negotiation and rewards and recruiting strategic change champions. Finally, leadership can bring about rebirth by promoting performance. Leadership can play a big role in engendering a high-performance organizational culture. Leaders can do three things to create a high-performance organisation. The first is to lead from the centre of the group, team, unit or organisation to engage team members to unleash their desire and abilities and achieve extra ordinary results. The leader must clarify values of the nation and share a common vision and enable others to act to unleash their desires and abilities. Second, the leader must create effective systems and processes by developing a performance enhancing organizational culture through challenging the processes and ensuring continuous improvement. Third, the leader must establish a direction for the nation that is clear, concise and compelling.
iii. Law and Order: Law and order is very important to provide appropriate standards and regulations for everyone’s behaviour. The challenge of law and order is huge in Nigeria. Modern society requires the strict enforcement of law and order. The security and criminal justice system exist to enforce law and order. But it requires the support of all others in society to effectively enforce law and order and punish those who breach the laws to serve as deterrence to others. The incoming administration must prioritise law and order. Those who break the laws should be brought to book without selective justice. The administration should avoid the situation where the Federal Government will ignore its own laws as it has done with the Public Procurement Act by the Yaradua, Goodluck and Buhari administrations since 2007 by refusing to inaugurate the Public Procurement Council. It should ensure that the relevant authorities (Police, Federal Road Safety etc) bring order to our roads and anyone without exemption that commits traffic offence is fined in a transparent and accountable manner as it is done in other countries. There must be order in policy making, project execution, recruitment of personnel etc. Indeed, there must be law and order in all sectors. The incoming administration must deal with increasing cases of executive lawlessness and impunity.
iv. Execution capacity: Nigeria is today experiencing arrested development characterised by low economic growth, criminality, corruption, poverty and poor governance. It has been established that for many developing countries especially in Africa, decision making and policy formulation appears to be the easier job and moving from policy making to policy execution and providing public goods and services is the tougher task. It has been pointed out that the factors that are significant in policy execution include characteristics of implementing agencies, predisposition of implementers, level of interest, commitment and support by principal actors. Scholars have identified the challenges of policy implementation in developing countries to include unrealistic goal setting, lack of clear definition of goals, political patronage, neglect of target beneficiaries, lack of consideration of policy environment, lack of continuity in government policies, lack of appropriate technology for implementation, lack of synergy and co-ordination. In order to improve execution, the incoming administration must appoint capable people into various positions, prioritise strategy and planning in order to have clinical execution.
v. Public Service Reform: The Public service represents the machinery of government through which public policies are formulated and implemented. Public Service achieves this by converting government policies and programmes into tangible goods and services for the consumption of the citizenry. The normal process of doing this is for a country to develop a national vision which encapsulates a long-term national development plan (usually about 20-30 years) to guide the political, social and economic development of the country. From the national vision, a country is then expected to draw a National Development Plan usually medium term of about five years to give expression to the national vision. The National development plan will contain strategic direction for sectoral plans (e.g. Education, Health, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Security etc). Every sector is then expected to develop a medium-term sector strategy usually 3-5 years to link planning, policy and budgets. Similarly, every sector is expected to produce a Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) usually 3 years to contain the estimate of the current and medium term costs of existing policy and ultimately matching of these costs with available resources. Finally, the country now prepares annual budget drawing from all these documents. The public service provides the system and process through which the machinery of government operates. But there is a dysfunction in the public service in Nigeria necessitating reform in the last thirty-five years. The problems include poor ethical orientation, poor communication, bloated staff, poor planning, unstable polity, lack of institutional integrity, archaic infrastructures, lack of an efficient capacity and readiness, erosion of public confidence in government, and the all too pervasive problem of endemic bureaucratic corruption. Unfortunately, most of the reforms to address these problems have failed because they were undermined by vested interests. There is therefore the need for a fresh attempt to overhaul and reform all public service institutions of government reconsidering purpose, mandate, organisation, capacity, performance and endemic bureaucratic corruption.
vi. Open Government Partnership (OGP): One of the challenges facing governments all over the world is to make governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens. This is what led to the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011. As at today, 77 countries have signed unto the OGP. Nigeria signed in 2016 and have completed two National Action Plans focused on the issues of fiscal transparency, extractive transparency, access to information, citizens engagement and empowerment, inclusiveness and service delivery. Nigeria has an approved third national action plan. But the government is not giving the OGP process the priority and commitment that it deserves. The incoming administration should give priority and commitment to OGP.
vii. Restructuring: One of the recurrent underlying issues in Nigeria is the need for restructuring. Right from the first republic, scholars and commentators have pointed out the challenge of the unbalanced nature of the federation and the asymmetry in size and power among the constituent units of Nigeria. There is therefore the need to restructure the structure of Nigeria and redefine the roles, responsibilities and resources available to the Federal Government, States and Local Government Areas. But in addition, there is the need for restructuring of leadership and the selection process, restructuring of institutions, restructuring of plans, policies and budgets, restructuring of the mindset and restructuring of politics and the economy to ensure free and fair elections, production of goods and services and incentives for hard work and elimination of trading on influence.
viii. Promotion of Justice, Equity and Fairness: The institutions of government for the distribution of wealth and opportunities in Nigeria such as taxation, social insurance, social protection (including conditional cash transfers), public health, public school, public services, labour laws and regulation of markets have been unfair and skewed against the poor, youth and women. Deliberate policies and concrete programmes should be put in place by the incoming administration to address these issues.
Nigeria is at a critical juncture. The way that the incoming administration will address the challenges facing the country will determine the development trajectory of the country. The challenges facing the country are known. What needs to be done is known. We expect and hope that the incoming administration will address the challenges and change the narrative of our country and produce a just, peaceful and prosperous country.