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Nigerian Democracy And Challenges Of Nation Building

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I Resigned In Order To Hold APC Accountable - Lukman

By

Salihu Moh. Lukman

In the book, King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership, the psychiatrist, Arnold M. Ludwig, observed that ‘One problem in judging the political genius of rulers is knowing what they should get credit for. The situation for rulers is a lot different than for other kinds of professionals. With creative artists, scientists, military commanders, athletes, or surgeons, you have no trouble telling who should get credit for what. Creative artists paint, sculpt, build, and compose works under their own signature. Scientists conduct experiments and publish their results. Athletes compete against others in contests. Military commanders win or lose wars. And surgeons operate on patients and take responsibility for their lives. In contrast, political rulers often rely on expert advisors to help them formulate foreign, domestic, and economic policies. They also may delegate responsibility to their cabinet members, diplomats, and staff to implement these policies or even to start programs of their own. Also, unlike other professionals, they may be credited with the long-term effects of initiatives launched by their predecessors and be blamed for events beyond their control.’

In the Nigerian context, like every other country, the politics of judging leaders is very attractive. Everybody, perhaps except the leader, is expert and know much better. Depending on disposition and affiliation, leaders are either condemned or celebrated. There is no middle ground. Once leaders are condemned, there is hardly anything good that can be associated with that leader. On the other hand, if the leader is celebrated, every decision and action is right and supported. This is a very elusive reality, which requires caution. No leader can be a complete write-off or perfect. The inability to recognise the reality that no leader is a complete write-off or perfect further thickens the wall that separates citizens and governments. If democracy is to produce governments, which affirms the power of the people, the gap between leaders and citizens should be very small, in fact, ideally, it shouldn’t exist.T

That is theory. Without any attempt to review theories of democracy, debate about performance of leaders are necessary realities, which needs to be engaged especially if the objective is to influence decisions made by leaders. Often, the issue of influencing the decisions of leaders is lost because the act of passing judgement on leaders is dominated by election mindset that narrows interest to whether leaders should remain in office or not. It is hardly about influencing decisions made by leaders. An important pillar of democracy is rule of law based on which the tenures of leaders are clearly provided in the constitution of every democratic nation. But such provisions in the constitution will not resolve the challenge of ensuring that leaders meet the expectations of citizens, however defined. The ability of leaders to meet citizens’ expectation is an important requirement for nationhood.

Successful nations should have common purpose and strong national bond especially when created out of multiple ethnic and religious identities. Visionary and purposeful leaderships are expected to facilitate the emergence of nations, leveraging on strong national institutions, good governance, equity and justice, which enable each group to fulfill its aspirations. After all, a nation is an imagined community of people who share a common aspiration, which is realisable through the principles of justice and the rule of law as enunciated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The major problem of leadership in Nigeria, at all levels, borders on skewed inclination to question of nation building. How can we manage our diversity and build confidence of citizens across every part of the country to have a sense of national belonging? Admittedly, this is one area, which all leaders in the country seems to have common approach largely because all leaders approach the matter very defensively. Everybody cries of marginalisation, unfairness and injustice, but only in relation to group interests, predominantly ethnic. Hardly, one finds any leader who is raising issues of marginalisation, unfairness and injustice not based on protecting the interests of groups they belong. Consequently, every problem of the country becomes interpreted based on such narrow group interests.

If the Nigerian nation is to be developed, there must be leaders who are broadminded enough to campaign for justice, equity and fairness beyond narrow group interests. Therefore, a major challenge of nation building in Nigeria revolves around how to produce truly national leaders. Is Nigerian democracy oriented to produce national leaders? It was the British Actress, Barbara Kellerman, in the book, Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters, who made the point that ‘political theorists have been more interested in the question of how to control proclivities of bad leaders than in the question of how to promote the virtues of good ones. Influenced by religious tradition that focused on good and evil, and often personally scarred by war and disorder, the best political thinkers have had rather a jaundiced view of human nature.’

Most debates or proposals about what to do to build the Nigerian nation is about what to do to control (proclivity) of leaders and hardly about promoting what they should do (good virtues). From all the public debates in Nigeria, leaders are already condemned, which weakened capacity of citizens to influence decisions they take. The conclusion therefore is that leaders are already bad. This is the reality. A nation cannot be built with negative attitude. Sadly, the preponderance of negative attitude further polarised the country. Even when problems of insecurity in the country reached the frightening reality whereby every part of the country is threatened, with grave danger to lives and property, public debate is reduced to passing negative judgements about actions or inactions of political leaders especially President Muhammadu Buhari and governing All Progressives Congress (APC), both real and imagined.

No doubt, both President Buhari and APC must be held accountable. But when issues of accountability are reduced to interpreting challenges to mean evidence of failure, it can only re-enforce the conclusion that leaders are bad, which may make it attractive for the campaign to remove leaders out of office. Most times, the debate about changing leaders is influenced largely by the frustration of getting leaders to meet expectations of citizens, often imaginatively constructed with hardly much clarity. So long as the determining factor in judging leaders is driven by the frustration that leaders are not meeting citizens’ expectations, prejudiced conclusions against leaders will be the case. What is it that needs to be done to ensure that leaders meet citizens’ expectations?

The gap between the theory and practice of democracy will always be determined by the extent to which democratic leaders meet the expectations of citizens. Part of the indicators of weak citizens capacity to influence decisions of leaders should include the issue of whether the debate about failure of leaders is oriented to produce options in terms of policy choices. Once debates about failure of leaders are not substantively about policy choices, it highlights manifest weaknesses of democracy. The fact that Nigerian democracy is not able to overcome the manifest weaknesses of inability to debate policy choices, is responsible for why, for instance, candidates for elections at all levels continue to campaign for the offices they contested even after results are declared, and notwithstanding that they may have lost the election. Immediately results are declared, electoral contest moved to courts and the media. Victorious candidates and their parties and INEC, at best become respondents. And defeated candidates and their parties become the appellants. In the circumstance, the judiciary is then made to pass judgements almost coloured in partisan robes.

As things are, Nigerian democracy is imperiled to the extent that even the routine issue of day-to-day management of political parties in Nigeria has moved to the courts. Conflicting court orders are flying all over the place given by court judges. This has made the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing the third quarterly meeting with political parties, on Monday, September 6, 2021, to exclaim that the situation of conflicting court orders ‘is compounded by cases on the leadership of political parties, thereby making the exercise of our (INEC) regulatory responsibilities difficult. It appears that in a number of electoral cases in Nigeria today, the settled law is now unsettled and the time-honoured principles of ‘Stare decisis’ does not seem to matter any longer.’ In other words, what Prof. Yakubu was drawing attention to is the apparent looming danger of judicial anarchy in the country with respect to management of political cases.

This is not a matter that should be taken lightly. The positive development is that the leadership of the judiciary in the country is already alert to this danger given that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad has given queries to many of the judges in the country involved in giving these conflicting orders. However, beyond these conflicting orders, the need to sanitise Nigerian judiciary should be broadened to cover issues of ensuring that judges with underlying political interests don’t preside over political cases in which their interest’s conflict with their judicial responsibility. Once judges with underlying political interests are allowed to preside over cases in which their interest is already in disagreement with their judicial responsibility, their decisions can be predictable. Just review most of the Supreme Court judgements on electoral matters since 2019, for instance, including minority judgements. There are judges whose political leanings can be confirmed by merely looking at the judgements. The need to insulate Nigerian judiciary from unethical influences of partisan commitment of individual judges is an important requirement for both the development of democracy and nation building.

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The challenge of nation building in Nigeria must be broadened beyond just the simplistic approach of merely passing negative judgements on political leaders in the country. It is important that citizens recognise the need to prioritise initiatives to influence the decisions of leaders at all levels. For instance, regarding the challenge of insecurity, what actions do Nigerians want the APC-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari to do? Is the security challenge facing the country persisting because the government is failing to initiate the required actions? The encouraging thing about both President Buhari and APC leaders is that they are not in denial about the security challenge facing the country. This wasn’t the case under PDP especially when the problem of Boko Haram came up around 2010.

It is public knowledge that former President Goodluck Jonathan and many PDP leaders, at the time, alleged that the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East was sponsored by opposition politicians. Recall that when the Chibok abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls happened in 2014, the position of former President Jonathan- led Federal Government was that it was a setup, based on which the PDP- led Federal Government refused to mobilise the needed security responses for the rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls. Also recall some of the recent wild goose allegations made by Commodore (Rtd) Kunle Olawunmi and Dr. Obadiah Mailafia to the effect that some people in government, including a Northern governor are the sponsors of Boko Haram and banditry. These were the dominant narratives officially adopted by the PDP-led Federal Government of former President Jonathan.

With all the lamentations about alleged inability of the APC-led government of President Buhari to mobilise response to end the security challenge in the country, around the second week of August 2021, the narrative is beginning to change. In line with the instructions of President Buhari, the security agencies are speaking the language best understood by the bandits and insurgents. All arms of the security agencies are fully mobilised and are working in a coordinated way to crush the bandits in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna forests. Interestingly however, there are Nigerian leaders who have dismissed the military campaign going on to crush the bandits. So-called media commentators, religious and other leaders have discredited decisions of government to shut down communication services, markets, etc. in the states where the military operations are taking place. A religious leader has already proclaimed that the military operations against the bandits will fail.

What a jaundiced view. May be Nigeria should return to the era when hundreds of millions meant for arms procurement to fight insurgency, banditry and other criminality will be diverted and given to religious leaders for prayers. Instead of mobilising security agencies to fight the criminals, resources being deployed to fight insecurity in the country should be given to religious leaders to pray for the bandits to come back to their senses. This is perhaps what Sheikh Ahmad Gumi is preaching when he insists that government should grant amnesty to bandits in the North just the way the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua handled Niger Delta militants. Anybody who argues this way is already part of Nigeria’s national security problem. Nigerians need to rise to the challenge of regulating the conduct of so-called leaders, including religious clerics. Being jaundiced makes most of these leaders to be antagonistic to initiatives towards nation building.

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Beyond religious clerics, there are other categories of leaders in the country with similarly jaundiced views. Individuals, who in their own rights count as elders and have paid their dues to this country have become very vocal almost virtually against every decision and action of government. Ideally, elders should speak with strong moral voice based on capacity to say more than the ordinary on account of their lived experiences. But when elders speak with the same voice as that of politicians, it weakens their authority and diminishes their influence in society. If the weakness of politicians is that they are unable to project a national identity, how different could elders whose mission only seeks to entrench divisive politics in the country? The hallmark of being elders should be to bring something completely different from what the political class is offering. In which case, instead of claiming to be speaking as elders, so-called elders who promote Nigeria’s fractured reality should just honestly disclose all their political objectives.

However one looks at it, there is no way a nation can be built with leaders and elders whose views are antithetical to national development. Nigerians cannot be facing the challenge of insecurity and some leaders are working to undermine the efforts of government to crush the criminal elements responsible for all the pains citizens are going through, including loss of lives of citizens. Anytime leaders dismiss actions of government against bandits and insurgents, they embolden these criminals to continue with their nefarious activities. Yes, Nigerians may be angry with government and our political leaders. On no account should anyone take advantage of the anger of Nigerians to furtively support criminal activities. There must be some defined boundaries to these debates, if at all the Nigerian nation is to have a common purpose and a strong national bond.

The good thing is that there are some inspiring exceptions that give hope that notwithstanding all our challenges, there is a good prospect for a Nigerian nation. One of such exceptions was demonstrated by Mr. Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace, who on Monday, September 6, 2021 addressed Super Eagles player onboard Air Peace to Cape Verde for their World Cup Qualifying match. Mr. Onyema told the players that ‘you are not just going to play a football match, you’re going to carry on your young shoulders the aspiration and the hope of a nation almost in distress.’ He appealed to them to do everything they can to win the match for the country. He pledged an award of N20 million once they win the match. Mr. Onyema’s inspiring words of encouragement to those young Nigerian players, among many other positive factors, must have contributed to the 2-1 victory of the Super Eagles against Cape Verde on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

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It is quite therapeutic hearing those words from Mr. Onyema. We need more leaders in this country like Mr. Onyema. In particular, we need more leaders like Mr. Onyema in politics. If Nigerian democracy is to develop the capacity to drive processes of nation building, our political parties must develop capacity to recruit leaders like Mr. Onyema. There are many leaders in Nigeria in the mold of Mr. Onyema from every part of the country. The big barrier against recruiting them into politics is that debates about expanding membership of political parties is limited to protecting the personal ambitions of political leaders. Largely because political debate is almost all about ambitions of political leaders, nationalists of the mode of Mr. Onyema may just be limited to being financiers and sponsors of candidates for elections, and in return get rewarded with contracts, etc.

It was the US Republican Party member and former Congressman, Edward Royce, in the book, Classical Social Theory and Modern Society, while recalling Emile Durkheim’s teachings of political sociology, who argued that ‘One reason democracy is the dominant political system in the modern world, …is that it fulfills a pressing societal need. Under the governance of pre-modern regimes, society’s affairs are carried out according to habit, tradition, and “blind routine.” But given the complexity of the modern world and the everpresent necessity to introduce changes and enact reforms, society can no longer function effectively without the heightened capacity for reflection, deliberation, and innovation that democratic government makes possible. In the simpler period of the past, “things go on happening in the same way.” But survival in the modern era depends on the state being able to make constant adjustments, respond thoughtfully to the flux of circumstances, and plan for the future with intelligence and foresight. Democracy is the government of choice in the modern world, … because of its superior capability as society’s brain.’

Our politics in Nigeria starts and ends with who will be the candidate for election. More clearly stated is which part of the country will the candidate come from? Promoted largely by Nigerian elites who most times position themselves to emerge as the main beneficiaries of such campaign, the major focus is reduced to which region of the country produces the president. Whether such president can respond to challenges of the region he/she comes from is another matter entirely. Champions of group interests then suggest that such candidates can ‘fulfill’ our pressing needs. Questions of justice, fairness and equity are confined to rationalising group interest even when for instance upholding the group interest means higher levels of injustice against other groups (blind routine). Nigerian democracy needs to evolve new political negotiating frameworks to guarantee that electoral contests facilitate constant adjustments to respond to the state of instability Nigeria finds itself.

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While it is true that ethnic politics will always be part of our national life, it is important that Nigerians are able to engage these issues based on the recognition for a superior commitment to building the Nigerian nation. The underlying issue is to ensure that beyond condemning or celebrating leaders, Nigerians should come up with specific governance and political reform proposals aimed at facilitating regional developments as part of leadership negotiations. A situation whereby regions or ethnic groups produce presidents and at the end of their tenure nothing in terms of physical development of the region to justify the emergence of president of Nigeria from such region is simply unacceptable. For instance, what was the benefit to the South-West throughout the eight years of former President Obasanjo? Or what was the benefit to the South-South to justify the six-year tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan?

May be the current anger against President Buhari is because development initiatives of APC government are skewed in favour of the North. If that is the case, then most of the 900 active road contracts, covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of federal roads and highways across the country must have favoured the North. Specifically, Loko-Oweto Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Sagamu-Benin Expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway, Obajana-Kabba Road, Ilorin-Jebba Road, Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Road, Bodo-Bonny Road in Rivers State, Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi Road, and several others should evidentially confirmed preference for the North.

Additional confirmation should include the 156km Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail, the first double-track Standard Gauge Rail project in West Africa (and the first Standard Gauge Rail project in Nigeria to be started and completed by the same administration). Also recall that the 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail was completed by the Buhari administration 33 years after construction began. The 168km Abuja-Kaduna Rail project, and the 42.5km Abuja Light Rail project, both inherited from previous administrations, were completed in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The second Niger Bridge, originally conceived decades ago, is now more than 50 percent completed, and scheduled for commissioning in 2022.

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The narrow focus on individual candidates and where they come from has so far created a situation whereby political parties are nothing more than platforms for contesting elections. Specific commitments of parties to issues of nation building are taken for granted. Consequently, the true substance or content of politicians and how they will handle the task of building the Nigerian nation when elected, which will determine policy choices may only be speculated based on estimation of past experiences of candidates. The truth, however, is that the dynamic of public life is completely different and no matter the level of experiences, factors that would influence decisions of political leaders when in office are far more complex than what their past suggests.

Part of the assumptions that democracy is founded on the logic that political parties should have manifestos, which should highlight ideological orientations and commitments of leaders and members, is just redundant in our context. Any close observer will recognise that although there is a document called party manifesto, party members, including leaders are hardly committed, in fact, many are hardly conversant with provisions of their party’s manifesto. To a large extent, this accounts for why initiating policies and programmes based on provisions of the party’s manifesto is weak. How many party members, including leaders have gone through the party manifesto? How many party leaders can develop perspectives, which will highlight policy choices in lines with provisions of the party’s manifesto?

The consequence is that the only political contest that takes place is personality contest. To go beyond personality contests means that debate on perspectives should highlight possible choices open to governments. To what extent are political parties able to project the demands of Nigerians especially in terms of regional representations? Beyond the personality of candidates and their ethnic or regional backgrounds, what are the other demands of Nigerians from the other six regions? How can any candidate from any of the regions reconcile all these demands and make Nigeria home to all ethnic groups in the country?

If Nigeria is to emerge as a nation with common purpose and strong national bond, Nigerian politics must be developed such that political parties prioritise interest negotiations beyond the narrow electoral contest focusing on regional and ethnic representations. Specific regional demands for developments should be integral parts of any demand for regional or ethnic representation in the leadership of the country. Clear policy choices reflected in commitments of political parties based on provisions in their manifestos should be the driving factors for leadership negotiations. Opposition to leadership should not be simply about opposing ethnic and religious identity. Once politics is oriented around ethnic and religious identity, it will undermine capacity of leaders to mobilise Nigerians to have common purpose and strong national bond.

It is necessary Nigerians recognise that political parties are the most important democratic bodies to facilitate processes of nation building. All political parties should be able to have clear positions in terms of how they intend to mobilse Nigerians to have common purpose and strong national bond. Specific details of how that can guarantee justice, equity and fairness should be clarified beyond the personalities of prospective political leaders. Frameworks should be developed within political parties to ensure that elected representatives are committed to implementing positions adopted by political parties. Eventually, Nigerian democracy should graduate from a situation whereby electoral contests is all about personalities, to the level that policy choices are integral parts of electoral contest.

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Accordingly, if the narrative is that APC has failed, what is the alternative being offered by the opposition, including PDP? As part of the introspection required to strengthen the capacity of our parties, our leaders, and governments, we need to engage the debate based on assessment of what we must do to rebuild the confidence of Nigerians and regain their trust. In doing that, we need to restrategise and more effectively present the objective scorecards of governments at all levels since 2015 in ways that can truly demonstrate to Nigerians what has been achieved, and why despite what has been achieved we are having the challenges facing us as a nation. Nigerians need to rise above cheap campaigns of ethnic politics, which is now being used to promote hatred in the country.

Any leader or elder – politician, religious, traditional, irrespective of gender, age, and social class, who is promoting politics of ethnicity or campaigning against initiatives of government to fight criminality, especially in cases where activities of criminals are destroying lives and property of innocent citizens, such a leader or elder is also a security risk. As part of Nigeria’s common purpose, strong national bond to eliminate criminal activities of bandits and insurgents is irreducible minimum. The act of judging leaders, however well intentioned, must not serve as a cover to protect criminality. On the other hand, leaders who inspire national hope should be celebrated in the country and political parties must take steps to recruit those leaders into politics. The only guarantee that Nigerian democracy can facilitate nation building is when political leaders are able to graduate from being champions of small group interests to being torchbearers of our common purpose and strong national bond.

Similarly, our common purpose as a nation must enthrone high ethical conducts, especially in our judicial institutions. The integrity of judges must be revered such that the Nigerian justice system is insulated from partisan meddling, which then undermines fairness in granting orders by Nigerian courts with respect to political cases. Once the Nigerian judiciary is compromised, the rule of law will be undermined, which can only further widen the gap between political leaders and government, on the one hand, and citizens, on the other. If political leaders and governments are disconnected from citizens, the potential for common purpose and strong national bond will be weak.

Dr. Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. However, this position does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.

 

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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

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Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished Business Of Reform In Nigeria

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Tunji Olaopa

In the annals of public administration scholarship in Nigeria, and most especially with regard to the specifics of the dynamics of institutional reforms in getting the Nigerian state into shape, the name of Professor Adedotun Phillips stands out as a gigantic institutional memory. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips—husband, father, academic, scholar, statesman—was a public servant par excellence. His entire life was defined around service. In the long line of the public service giants around whom the profile of the Nigerian public service is configured—Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imokhuede, Ali Akilu, Allison Ayida, and many more, the name of Dotun Phillips is a fundamental star. When mourning the passing of Prof. Phillips, on 13 December, 2020, President Buhari said pointedly: “The history of the Nigerian Civil Service cannot be complete without reference to the contributions of Prof. Phillips.” He is right. Phillips represents the best that a public servant could be and give the nation in terms of the best that her professionalism and credentials can afford. And Prof. Phillips’ contribution is even much more cogent because it is situated within the trajectory of public service reform in Nigeria. In other words, Prof. Phillips’ immense contributions to the public service in Nigeria tie into Nigeria’s effort to make sense of the state and future of her public service as a backstop to her development and progress.

Adedotun Phillips And The Unfinished  Business Of Reform In Nigeria

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips

Since the inauguration of the Nigerian public service in 1954, Nigeria had been experimenting with administrative and institutional reforms that were meant to put the civil service in shape for the challenge of nationhood. Starting with the reform of wages, remuneration and compensation that characterized the colonial service, it graduated to the need for the Nigerianisation of the core echelon of the public service especially after independence in 1960. The Phillipson-Adebo Commission of 1953 kickstarted the series of reform commissions that culminated in the emergence of the Nigerian public service system, and the other post-independence reform efforts that were meant to essentially complete the organizational development dynamics of the civil service, convert her structural frameworks into institutional frame, and strengthen its capability readiness for the task of national integration and development.

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However, independence brought with it its own unique sets of challenges that the public service system was not quite ready for. The first was the challenge of plurality. The Nigerianisation Policy confronted the thorny issue of how to recruit Nigerians of different ethnocultural orientations into the civil service. Representativeness became the criterion that most suited Nigeria’s ethnic composition. And then gradually, the over-bloatedness that was the consequence of the misuse of this principle led to not only a gradual debilitation of the system but also the overshadowing of its initial efficiency by a crippling bureaucratic culture. When the 1971 Adebo Commission was set up, the civil service was already caught up in the restructuration of the federal constitution under a unitary logic marked by increased centralisation of political authority, ascendancy of federating forces, greater structural differentiation of the constituent states, increases in the Federal Government largesse, and expansion of the policy-making and execution functions of the Federal Civil Service. The implication of this “new federalism” on the civil service was the gradual evolution of a structural pattern that consistently whittled down the capacities the civil service has to promote good governance. For instance, the allocation of functions to the ministries was influenced more by political factors than by the standard criteria for the allocation of such functions i.e. the functional principle, the process principle, the clientele principle, and the area principle.

The corruption of the governance and accountability framework of the public service was simultaneous with the emergence of the managerial revolution which Britain was already contending with, especially with the Fulton Report of 1968. Thus, the 1971 Adebo Second and Final Salaries and Wages Review Commission was caught in the larger managerial concern of transforming the civil service system in ways that transcended its original remit of wage. It however passed the buck of that concern to the Udoji Commission, constituted in 1972. The commission, under the full influence of the UK Fulton Report, argued that the civil service of a development-oriented society must be one that is suffused with change and reform if it must be able to effectively meet the challenges of its context. And the Nigerian public service system, in its bureaucratic conditions, was not that amenable to those changes. The Udoji Commission then recommended a new style public service infused with “new blood” working under a result-oriented management system operated by professionals and specialists in particular fields. The government of the time however made a mess of this commission’s report, and so forfeited a significant opportunity to set the civil service on a path of institutional transformation.

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Thereafter, successive Nigerian governments became embroiled in the contestations to make the system compliant with the managerial revolution, new public management (NPM) and its reform imperatives. By the time the Murtala/Obasanjo regime took over in 1975, the civil service was already too systemically dysfunctional to matter any longer in development consideration. Indeed, the purge of the service by Obasanjo in 1975 was long overdue even though it turned out to negatively undermine the little shred of professionalism remaining. The Second Republic was truncated by the Buhari-Idiagbon regime in 1983. And then, enter Professor Dotun Phillips. One of the fundamental legacies of the regime was the constitution of the Dotun Phillips Study Team in 1985, with the objective of undertaking an interrogation of the structure, mode of operation and strategy of the civil service in the light of contemporary administrative situation, as well as finding means by which the eroded professionalism of the system could be restored.

When the Babangida regime took over the reign of government, it inherited the study group and reconstructed its report into the foundation of the 1988 Civil Service Reforms through a Civil Service Re-organisation Decree No. 43 of 1988. The basis of the Decree is the establishment of a virile, dynamic and result-oriented civil service. The Babangida administration was also seriously concerned about the gains and benefits of managerialism and of a professionalised civil service. The added objective was the alignment of the service with the form and spirit of presidentialism.

Professionalism goes to the very heart of what it means to be a public servant; what it means to be public-spirited. It is the sum total of the competences, knowledge, attitude, spirituality and ethical sensibility that a public servant requires to perform her responsibility to the public with all accountability, transparency and commitment. A professional public service, in other words, is circumscribed by three actions-moulding value frameworks: ethical values (i.e. integrity, honesty, respect); democratic values (i.e. responsiveness, representativeness, rule of law); and professional values (i.e. excellence, innovation). To seek the restoration of professionalism is to attempt a restoration of the pride and ideals of the public service. It is to seek the reinvention of the public service as a noble calling, a vocation in the manner of the Levitical order of priesthood. This was the philosophical foundation of the Philips’ reform agenda. The re-professionalization strategy is meant to reposition the civil service through a rebranding of its critical ethos and virtue. Thus, if the civil service system in Nigeria must overcome its dysfunctional bureaucratic culture, the best way is for it to reconnect with its inherent value as a vocation that is spiritual and spirited. And managerialism was just the perfect structural mold within which to achieve this reconnection. The managerial revolution was founded on the urgency of re-articulating what makes a public servant accountable, effective and efficient. Since the old Weberian system has collapsed under the burden of administrative rules and regulations, a managerial reform becomes the next best thing to recreate the public service in the image of an efficient machine.

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In its attempt to lay the foundation of a professionalised civil service, the 1988 reform emphasized the need for specialization. Civil service officers were required to undergo regular training and retraining. This led to the creation of a new bureaucratic structure made up of assistants, officers and directors. The assistant does not require any university or professional qualification to function. The officer, on the other hand, requires a university degree or a professional qualification while the director was reserved for professionals who had been given general management functions as heads of a department, branch or division.

But then, the Dotun Phillips reform carried the professionalization mandate beyond the bound of administrative reason and necessity. It was rather too ambitious of the reform to attempt the professionalization of everybody in the civil service. In other words, it was a profound mistake to think that the service could be handled by professionals all alone, to the exclusion of other non-professionals and generalists. Unfortunately for the reform agenda, the professionalizing move turned into a politicizing one that, for instance, turned permanent secretaries into political appointees, contrary to the politics-administration dichotomy on which public service integrity depends. The idea of professionalism suffered a conceptual-reality deficit in the sense that it was seen as a function of how long a public servant spent in any particular ministry.

And yet, the Phillips reform was not in any sense a failure, despite its fundamental assumptions and reform errors. The reform agenda, apart from the Udoji Commission report, was the next fundamental advocacy for managerialism and performance management in Nigeria. Indeed, both reform agenda and their recommendations are still fundamental to achieving a world class public service in Nigeria. Prof. Philips’s recommendation of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system as a significant plank in the performance management system, and a decentralized HR are sine qua non for any functional public service. Management controls through organization, operations and management research (OOMR), critical for propelling policy implementation praxis, is a feature of the Phillips agenda we need to revisit. In revisiting the Phillips reform recommendations, we will be able to retrospect on two fundamental issues in Nigeria’s reform necessity. The first has to do with the imperative of creating and incentivizing professionalized planning, research and statistics departments in the MDAs that should take responsibility not only for sector plans, but also for monitoring and reporting on their implementation. The second issue derives from the first: the departments of planning, research and statistics serve as the institutional template for a structured and recurrent engagement between policy researchers and policy workers; a hub of policy intelligence and action research that the MDAs can strategically deploy.

Prof. Adedotun Oluwole Phillips’ engagement with the Nigerian public service system is not yet done. Even in death, he is still awaiting fulfilment that will derive from the government recognizing the deep reform fundamentals that remain untapped within his reform dynamics. In returning to the Phillips reform, Nigeria would have taken a significant managerial reform step forward. And we would have given Prof. Phillips a posthumous reason to rest in the knowledge that he served Nigeria well.

Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and  professor of public administration, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .  tolaopa2003@gmail.com

 

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The End Of Your Rule Is Near

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The End Of Your Rule Is Near

By

 Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

The end of your rule is near. Mr. President. Mr. Governor. Mr. Speaker. Mr. Chairman. Mr. Legislator. The end of your rule is here. It has been four, eight, sixteen years since you danced into State or Legislative House after election victory. Or after a dubious victory awarded by a dubious court after dubious monies dubiously exchanged hands. Your humility while you sought votes was legendary. You shook hands, hugged cripples, visited the bereaved, paid school fees, and ate with the sick. You built alliances across zones, across religious groups, economic groups, across social groups. You made promises. You raised hopes. You preached unity. Now that the end is here, let us ask you Mr. Chief Executive, what kind of ruler, what kind of leader, what kind of administrator have you been? Did you dash hopes? Are you leaving the people worse than they were when you came into office? Did you create a few super rich, from your ethnic group, from your religious group, from your family? Are the people beating their drums in joy on the imminence of your departure? Will they start to ignore you from June this year when you become a lame duck? Are you now worried about how freely you can walk after you leave office?

It is one of the beauties of democracy, beginning and end of tenure. You give account to the people, to posterity, and to the Great Judge ultimately. Because there is end of tenure, there are marginalised persons who wait for the end to come. Those you may have locked up in time or physically or psychologically. These hope that once you are gone, freedom will come their way, there will be a restoration. Also, the wrong policies which you have enunciated will be thrown into the dustbin. Those who had barely tolerated your greed or your foolishness or your wicked, selfish ways will now openly despise you. The sycophants who had licked your boots with histrionic relish will now move on to the new power base, forgetting you, cursing you and blaming the woes of their ancestors on you. You will become history, bad history if you have been a bad ruler. It is the story of the world; it is the story of life and the iterative narrative of humanity. Yet, we, the rulers and the ruled, never learn. The tragedy of man, according to Nietzsche, is that he forgets.

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Memory is the strength of the wise. Memory is the strength of successful societies. Institutional memory. Memory is the strength of successful nations. That ability never to forget the circumstances of their existence, their history, and their identity. In great societies, there is no collective amnesia. Some individuals may forget. But the institution that is the State never forgets. Some facts may slip into amnesia. But they will crawl back in the day of reckoning.  Knowledge of the past is instructive and fundamental to building the future.  So, our philosophers teach us. I remember Ernest Hemingway when he says ‘a man is a sum of his memories’!

O mighty ruler, the bearded one with oil stains on his white robe, all the roads and projects which you concentrated in your own part of the land, all the appointments which you made to favour a section of the electorate, and/or your cronies will now haunt you. The viciousness with which you dealt with supposed enemies will haunt you. If you ignored the interest of the people to pursue your narrow selfish interests, it will be time to splash your acts of impunity on the pages of newspapers and social media. Did you think you were God when you kept people waiting for you, while you made older people kneel to you to make their requests? The people will soon say to you: ‘command no more, your rule is over’, as Creon tells the mighty Oedipus in Antigone in Sophocles’ classical play!

A fool can and could win elections in Nigeria. But a fool cannot govern like a wise man, because a fool can only do foolish things that could hurt the people. An idiot or a man with idiotic ideas could win elections anywhere in the world. Demagoguery often starts from idiotic ideas and sentiments couched in fanciful or pseudo nationalistic language. Argentinian singer and author once wrote: ‘my grandfather was a brave man; he was only afraid of idiots. I asked him why, and he answered: because there are too many of them, and by being a majority they could even elect a president’. So, we are also worried about the people, the mob that Shakespeare despised in his plays, describing them through one of his characters in Julius Caesar as ‘you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome’. Men and women who sell their soul for a mess of the proverbial pottage. They who would vote for the idiot who may not do much to improve their lot. These are the type the Prophet Hosea has in mind when he says ‘my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge!

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Real leadership is for the wise, the humble, and the visionary. A myopic man in office brings the office to his level. That is dangerous to our collective survival. Of such men we must beware. A fool should not go near the throne. He will endanger the empire. For this reason, blockheads were precluded from the throne in traditional African societies. Even the deformed were asked to go away from the road to the throne. In the modern age, thieves or crooks win elections all over the world. Crookedness could be hidden from the people. It is often in the dark. In saner climes, crooks get booted out. In our land, they seek and win elective positions because they carry a deep pocket.

It is true that some current leaders or elected officials have been misjudged. As we know, there are some who have made a difference, who have touched lives, who have sacrificed a lot for the people. But all state officials are judged harshly on account of prevailing situations. Hunger, real hunger, is real in the land. People are barely able to feed. Inflation is near the sun. Insecurity is real. So, the people are frustrated. They are angry. And their judgment will be harsh. It is possible that with the passing of time, opinions would be moderated. For that time, we must wait though not everyone will be exonerated, not everyone will be around for the beauty of reversals. It is the way of man, it is the way of life!

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Mr Elected or Appointed Official, your time is up, the end is here. Those you have alienated, some who did a kind thing for you in the past, some who supported your election and were subsequently ignored by your ‘Almighty Self’, some you gave contracts and refused to pay for work done, some who fell under the moving bus because you listened to gossip and gave them no chance to defend themselves, some who were shoved from the inner table because they are not brothers and sisters from your ethnic group, they await your exit. The time has come when you must rise from the level of the beast that was Nebuchadnezzar and come to your senses. They will see you in public and walk past you in scorn. Or bring down the statues you erected as it happened in Imo State after the last governor left office. There will be money in your deep pocket, but there will be no political power in your hands, there will only be infant gums without teeth to bite the sweets of the world. What have you wrought O Elected Official, what have you wrought in the land of the living?

 

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Opinion

Obasanjo As Our Newsmaker

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By  Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

By

Tony Afejuku

General Olusegun Obasanjo who has been a long-standing Chief of Owu Kingdom in Ogun State needs no introduction. He is too well known to us here to be introduced. In fact, the retired army general of our despicable army is popularly and deliciously known well and well outside our shores to be re-introduced to the imagination and consciousness of your compatriots my compatriots our compatriots and your citizens my citizens our citizens. Many citizens and compatriots will say, rightly or wrongly, that at the two different times he led this country people, the masses and all tribes of persons, that is, cried out in pain and in aguish.

We can always go back to our civil war years of 1967 to 1970 to recall the man and his exploits as the chief strategist and the numero uno of the Third Marine Commando he took over from the great – perhaps our greatest – civil war hero, the late Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle, the one and only Black Scorpion of his soldiery era of gallantry whose poisonous bullets muted the booming guns of thunder and artillery fire of Biafra. Before our troops and Biafra’s knew it what seemed impossible to everyone regarding the time the war would end became possible.

Biafra surrendered and Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu to the pleasure and displeasure at the same time of Biafrans and Nigerians was in his surrender- flight to Ivory Coast. Obasanjo took the credit for what the Black Scorpion started and systematically pursued gallantly and strategically. What tales were not told and retold several times over about the Black Scorpion! Within three years the torture, torpor, stagnation and degradation of our Igbo brothers ended. That was the beginning of the ascent of Obasanjo’s superfluous popularity as a newsmaker. The obscure army engineer who succeeded the authentic commander of the Third Marine Commando was honeyed as our worthy war officer and commander and military newsmaker by the honeyed pens and voices of our war journalizers and broadcast seeds of our broadcasters.
Let me hop-step-and-jump to our patriotic present.

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About more than three weeks ago, our one and only Obasanjo, former military head of state and civilian but dictatorial president of this dear land – your country my country our country under the Peoples’ Democratic Party became a frontline newsmaker when he said what he should not have said at a gathering of what I wish to refer to as what have you or what not compatriots and citizens. What did he say that he should not have said? The wily warrior who whaled the super-patriotic and outstandingly clever and sensible Chief Obafemi Awolowo out of the presidency in 1979 caused despair in the Niger Delta when he gushed with unpatriotic or inhuman ignominy that the natural oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria and not to the region. In the voice of almost a traitor who is worse than a traitor who belongs to the godless variety of tormentors our ex-head of state and ex-president and occupier of Aso Rock for eight years held back nothing when his rain of words thrummed on the roof of the Niger Delta. “The oil in the Niger Delta belongs to Nigeria,” he thrummed, thrusted and thundered. Of course, he was giving vent to a constitution which the standing army he once commanded put in place to torment and terrorize us.

I had been thinking deeply since our newshounds put the acclaimed letter-writer in the news once again. And I have been of the opinion that the great General is not a true patriot because a true patriot in our part of the world must have a crystal clear conscience that underlines his humanity that should consolidate the whole of our humanity.

Of course, some frontline denizens and citizens of the Niger Delta pointedly spear-headed by E.K.Clark, a former commissioner of information at the federal level when General Yakubu Gowon held sway in the land from the middle of the nineteen sixties to the mid-nineteen seventies, have since attacked Obasanjo the maker of news. E.K. Clark and company’s attacks were not devoid of great gusto. I, in particular, regarded E.K. Clark’s gusto as the gustation of gustation. It was rightly meant to prick and press the conscience, the guilty conscience, of Obasanjo who certainly must have a guilty one especially after E.K. Clark’s salvo.

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I remember the ex-president’s follow-up response that he has no hatred in his heart or conscience for the Niger Delta region. His guilty conscience surely elicited his response. But anyone like the General and erstwhile commander of our armed forces who is possessed of a guilty conscience must always be seen and regarded as a defeatist – as Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher, activist, humanist and writer who rejected the Nobel Prize for Literature in his hey days, informed us a long, long time ago.

Obasanjo does not love our Niger Delta more than our Niger Delta people and citizens. What does not go around does not go around. If Nigeria does not give Niger Delta justice, fairness and equity Nigeria should not expect the Niger Delta to take the trouble to give or guarantee peace and to “live and remain patriotic” in Nigeria. Nigerian people everywhere should know this: If our Niger Delta people are afraid of injustice that either terrorizes them or forces them to die unjustly, why should they unjustly obey their tormentors who all the time have been immoral force-mongers and cruel power-mongers? Obasanjo and his co-travellers could take the position they have been taken with reference to the Niger Delta because the majority of the region’s indigenes in government at whatever level have been compromising themselves and the region. Their selfishness and greed have tormented the people and the region without qualms over the years.

But this must be viewed as political, economic and moral sins of the past that must no more be tolerated. Now let me add as follows: our silence over the decades was not a “sign of assent”: it originated from nightmares which have been intentionally birthed, nurtured and controlled by our decisioners. But all this must end now.

All tribes in the Niger Delta must perish, must die and re-born themselves along the line of unity that is unity for all; along the line of justice that is justice for all; along the line of the rule of law that is the rule of law for all; along the line of fairness that is farness for all; along the line of what is good for the goose must be good for the gander. Torture by exploitation and oppression and degradation must stop and be hated and halted. Water torture, the result of pollution of the streams, rivers, mangroves, farms and the land by oil excavators and their political and greedy backers, must be ejected completely and permanently – now.

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All negative newsmakers and grandstanders profiting from our region by stirring us to torture one another must be shunned and shamed out of our anguish in darkness and in broad daylight. I hope our highly respected fabulous newsmaker of news and grandstander of grandstanders is going to profit himself a great deal from this column today by fighting patriotically for us henceforth. Our heroes lying in their graves will turn and turn and smile the smiles of the new times when he does this genuinely and sincerely. In his column of last Tuesday, January 18, 2022 on the back page of this newspaper Ray Ekpu ended as follows: “Nigeria abhors change, the right kind of change.” Niger Delta, I underline, is ready for the right kind of change. Their living heroes will enforce it in their land. They will do this without grandstanding and grandstanders.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

 

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