As We Wait for Governance to Commence,By Jibrin Ibrahim

Nigerians are increasingly conscious that they urgently need to be governed. The general feeling in the country is that we have not been governed for an extremely long time and the consequences are the spread on insecurity, growing poverty and misery and significant decline in social provisioning as education and health in particular are only available to Nigerians who can pay for them privately. For a long time, municipal services such as potable water and electricity have also been available only through self-help efforts by citizens.

The clearest evidence of non-governance has been the rapid growth of ungoverned spaces where police services have been absent for decades and outlaws, kidnappers and bandits are in almost complete control of the territory and do what they please while inhabitants have the terrible choice of abandoning their cherished homelands for the terrible life characterised by the misery and uncertainties of life as internally displaced persons or be brave, stay at home and suffer the travails of violence, rape, arson, abduction and scorched earth.  

The transition to the second term of President Buhari has obviously deepened the problem of non-governance. The President had announced with fanfare that he would not be a “Baba go-slow” in his second term and government business would be conducted with the required speed the seriousness of our challenges imposes on us. That was the time we all realised that Oga President was aware of what we had been saying – that he had been governing very lackadaisically as if he had  all the time in the world while the realty was we have had a myriad of problems that all required urgent responses. So, he knew and still refused to accelerate government responses to the problems confronting us. Some of us thought that this time, ministers would be appointed quickly so as not to repeat the problems of the first term when we went six months without ministers and above all with no governmental decisions taken.

Let us not forget that our Constitution places the power of the Executive in one person, the President. At the same time, the Constitution, conscious of the fact that the President cannot alone execute the vast array of governmental processes, requires that ministers, advisers and heads of parastatals be appointed to help the President carry out the huge responsibility of executing government policies. At the beginning of the Buhari Administration in 2015, there was a general expectation that he would hit the ground running. This was because we were told he had a blue print and he had used the two-months between his election and inauguration to consult extensively with his political allies. Having sought for power for over a decade, it was assumed that he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the power when he gets it. It turned out that he needed a long time to decide what he wanted to do with the power.

The second term is an opportunity to complete the vision enunciated with the first term and leave a legacy. Having been on the post for four years, the expectation was that he knew exactly what to do this time and he even announced he would move very fast. It did not happen. When the Ruga controversy emerged, there was no coherent response from government and different officials were talking at cross purposes doing great damage to the regime. Over the past few weeks, the killing of policemen in Taraba and the Tiv-Jukun revenge killings in the same Taraba, frequent changes in army commands, crisis in the anti-corruption agencies, investigation of the Head of Service for corruption, mishandling of the El-Zakzaky passage to India all indicate chaos in government. The Senate had to put pressure on the President to submit his list of ministers, which they treated with dispatch only for the President to announce he would take his time before assigning them to ministries. Whatever anyone says, the overriding attitude of Muhammadu Buhari is that the issues will wait until the President is ready to act on them.   

The obvious reality is that governing Nigeria is no easy task and our problems are so many and so deep that governance processes have to be pursued with urgency. The security situation in the country has continued to deteriorate and the security agencies are not only over-stretched, but appear to have lost the will to address the problems. The economy is in deep problem, we have a massive payments crisis, petroleum subsidies have mounted so high that they consume all our revenue and everything else is done on loans that we might not have the capacity to repay and yet the economic team is still not on its posts.

As the transition between the previous administration and the next one drags, we are once again seeing the problem of non-governance. If you do not make political appointments, civil servants make all the political decisions, including the most important decision of NOT TO MAKE DECISIONS. Sometimes, civil servants do not want to make decisions so that they do not get noticed or disturbed as they enjoy the perquisites of power, including the most harmful one of looting public funds. When therefore the president does not appoint people to govern, those at the head of governmental organisations create forms of governance linked to prolonging their temporary positions. Achieving policy goals of the government cannot be their priority because their logic is that they are there for a short time until the president decides on who should do the job on a full-time basis. As tenures of temporary heads extend from weeks to months and in many cases to years, governance crisis. There are today dozens of “temporary” heads of parastatals that expected to be out of office in June 2015 but are still on post. Some of them naturally realised they could envisage permanency on the jobs and above all start working towards it and succeeded.

Governance, as we all know, is a continuous process of decision-making and interaction in all organisations, governments, markets, families, non-governmental organisations and so on. Governance is therefore the rules, norms, power equations, actions and processes through which organisations achieve objectives that have been defined. It is for this reason that organisations give specific mandates to people they appoint to achieve the set objectives. When that is not done, those who find themselves in the position use the opportunity to achieve their own objectives. Governance is a normative concept that underscores whether expectations and objectives have been met or not. It is for this reason that we talk of fair, good and bad governance. The norms refer to respect to the interests and expectations of stakeholders and are therefore about accountability. When you do not appoint people that are responsible to you, those in position address other interests. It is for this reason that the permanent advice to presidents is to set up their teams quickly and make them understand their mandate. Let us hope that would happen in the coming days and weeks.

All eyes are on the President to see whether a new more effective security team would emerge. There is a general consensus that the current team has failed and leaving them in their positions would lead to a worsening of the security situation. During his first term, the President was unable to develop a legislative agenda because of the feud he had with the then leadership of the National Assembly. This time he has the leadership he wanted and could return to the missed agenda of 2015. The first is the reduction of the cost of governance through carrying out legislation that would enable the implementation of the Oronsanye Report of rationalising government agencies. This issue has become more complicated because the last National Assembly has created numerous agencies on their own they may want to retain. Closing down and/or merging numerous parastatals that are duplication governmental mandates and draining resources is a task that must be accomplished. The Second item on the President’s 2015 legislative agenda was the Petroleum Industry Bill, which he had announced would be prioritized within the first quarter of the Administration. The National Assembly towards the end of its tenure completed the Bill but it did not receive Presidential assent. The third was merging and/or strengthening the anti-corruption agencies to ease the anti-corruption commitments of the Government. The fourth item was the Electoral Act, which became a ping pong between the President and the National Assembly. Ministers should have been in place addressing all these issues.