CREATING NECESSARY LINKAGES FOR ENHANCING THE IMPACT OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY BRIGADIER GENERAL SK USMAN (RTD) mni FNIPR fapra mnarc DFIOARM AT A THREE-DAY WORKSHOP FOR STAFF OF MINISTRIES, DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES HELD AT GLOBAL VILLAGE HOTEL AND SUITES, KM 20 ABUJA-KEFFI EXPRESSWAY, ONE MAN VILLAGE, NASARAWA STATE ON 24TH MARCH 2021
1. It is an honour and privilege to be with this esteemed gathering to present the keynote address at this important occasion, which is a three-day workshop on “Creating Necessary Linkages for Enhancing the Impact of Government Policies on National Development.” I want to thank the organisers of this workshop, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Avant-Garde Interbiz Projects Limited, for their patriotic zeal in enhancing democracy in Nigeria as manifested in their continued partnership and concerted efforts as exemplified in this workshop and several other similar seminars and workshops. I am pleased that this workshop aims to address value orientation and citizens’ engagement to promote democratic values, principles and ethos in Nigeria. Indeed, this could not have come at a better time than now, when the country’s democratic dispensation and experience is in its third decade. The participants’ choice is also quite commendable, as they are critical to developing and sustaining democratic governance, creating and maintaining the necessary linkages that would enhance government policies for national development. Often we tend to ignore the fact that governance and policy-making at the grand strategic level, are interwoven as they impact on national development.
2. Nigeria with the huge population of about 200 million people and over 250 tribal or ethnic entities, is indeed a complex country. It is therefore crucial to create linkages, collaboration, and cooperation across all sectors and segments of the country, for effective policymaking. It is such linkages that will enhance the impact of government policies on national development and the well-being of the citizenry. Regrettably, whenever the practitioners and even citizenry talk about policy-making and national development, we tend to ignore the interconnectedness between the various institutions and agencies involved, as well as the impact of such government policies on national development. An essential point, the much-needed critical linkages between the multiple components that interface with government agencies in the process of policymaking to impact national development is missed. We tend to ignore the saying that a system is only as strong as its weakest link, or most vulnerable point, which is quite true in this instance. Therefore, all the necessary linkages should be created with all the various stakeholders to enhance or derive maximum benefits, for national development. Additionally, a better understanding of the linkages required will contribute in no small measure to the enhanced impact of government policies.
3. The topic is therefore apt, as effective linkages with and among the several Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria is very important. In a resource-rich country like ours, we often wait for a robust governance framework to promote the required linkages and strengthen sustainable and diverse economic development. However, it is important to realise that the benefits from resource-led growth would be minimal in the absence of appropriate and necessary linkages and collaboration. On the other hand, government policy inconsistencies or summersaults, could make the attainment of the desired goals and development impossible.
4. There is no doubt that good and effective governance and strong institutions are essential for government’s success in Nigeria. Success in policymaking, and leadership effectiveness, depend on policymakers’ capacity to develop and implement programmes that enhance national development. Therefore, an integrated, coordinated and comprehensive policy-making process with inputs across various MDAs would enhance the polity and engender national development. However, to enhance national development, we need to critically examine the country’s various socio-economic sectors, commensurate to their role for accelerated national growth and development. Scholars have indicated that for national growth and development, there is need for infrastructural upgrade and, in particular, power. Another important sector is security, as there will be no any meaningful development where an atmosphere of insecurity prevails. Therefore, we must tackle the general insecurity that pervades the nation, by coming out with policies and practicable implementation strategies that would address the myriads of security challenges.
5. Most tiers of government have acted in relative isolation when implementing policies that require the participation of all MDAs. The conflicting expectations of diverse interest groups depend on, coordination and collaboration of government’s policies. Such policies affects and national development and they involve intricate relationships between the MDAs which must be taken into account. Consequently, we need to evolve new approaches for sustainable development that place greater emphasis on the integrating of all sectors in the policy-making process.
6. The first step towards implementing government policies for the necessary national development is to understand and work to improve the existing linkages between the various government agencies, both at the goals and targets levels. Several tools and approaches may be adopted, in order to foster better understanding and cooperation. This means that relationships of this nature often model the network of inter-linkages and analysis of clusters issues. However, creating the much-needed model with visible impact on national development, requires that MDAs must be actively engaged and practice the following:
a. Be clear about the problem: High-level policy goals need to be matched with analysis of what problem the government is trying to tackle and make sound judgments on where to focus attention.
b. Work with the broader system: Government policies are never implemented on a blank canvas; they compete for resources and attention with other national issues and local priorities – and can draw upon some of the assets that already exist.
c. Staying close to implementers: Creating the necessary linkages require the government to bring others into the policy-making process. However, this rarely happens in the country. At times it is when implementation begins that the government institutions begin to strive for strong linkages with stakeholders. This is why it is necessary to understand how policies work in the real world, to achieve desired objectives.
d. The dire need to remain focused: Continuity is an essential ingredient for effective implementation of government policies for national development.
e. Use ministers to drive progress: While politics can add many complications to implementation, ministers play a crucial role in setting milestones and using regular stock takes to keep up the momentum.
7. Whereas linkages are not tangible channels, they help explain how the various government agencies and private sector can supplement each other to produce additional benefits beyond the direct impacts expected from a single sector. In practical terms, MDAs must lead the interventions to strengthen a particular linkage, often with the facilitation and cross-cutting support from other agencies. Therefore, for us to have national development, we must strengthen institutions and create linkages that enhance the impact of government policies and there is no better time to start than now.
8. Thank you for listening.