THE BUHARI ADMINISTRATION AND CHANGE IN NIGERIA
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration was inaugurated on 29th May, 2015, a time of monumental changes across the world. There are a lot of changes taking place with increasing uncertainty, growing ambiguity, increasing complexity, access to massive information and new technology.
The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the economic sphere. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled. Yet, poverty has increased to record high levels. The major problem is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people while majority of the people live in abject poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 1998 report documented that the three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined Gross Domestic Product of the 48 least developed countries. In 2014, eighty five richest people in the world had the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.4 billion people). By 2015, only 80 richest people have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, income inequality is at its highest level in the last fifty years. The average income of the richest 10 percent of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10 percent. It has been documented that the drivers of inequalities include globalization, skilled biased technological change and changes in countries policy approaches (ascendancy of neo-liberalism).
In the last ten years, there has been a lot of changes in political leadership across the world. In 2008, the political leadership of the United States of America changed from the Conservative Party to the Democratic Party. In 2011, the political leadership in the United Kingdom changed from Labour Party to Conservative Party. In the last decade, there has been changes in many countries across the world including France, Italy, Greece, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cote D'Voire, and Senegal. One slogan that has reverberated across the world is change.
We have always argued that change will happen in any society when the conditions are ripe. In our view, for change to occur in any society requires the presence of objective and subjective conditions. Objective conditions exist when situations are evidently abnormal with huge contradictions which can only be resolved by change. The subjective conditions are the organizational preparations required to bring about change. There is no doubt that the objective conditions for change has been existing in Nigeria for a very long time. There is high level of poverty in the midst of plenty. Corruption is widespread, endemic and stifling progress. The wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of a few. There is social disintegration with high levels of promiscuity and divorce. Rape is on the increase. There are several cases of incest. There is high level of greed, selfishness and nepotism. The state of affairs is not sustainable. The challenge has been the absence of the subjective conditions with the requisite organization and platform to mobilize for social change. It was therefore easy for Nigerians to buy into the change agenda of the All Progressives Congress leading to the inauguration of the government on 29th May, 2015. The challenge before the government and the Nigerian people is the nature of change and how to actualize the change.
We have argued elsewhere that the kind of change required in Nigeria must be comprehensive affecting all facets of life. The change must affect the four key areas of economy, politics, social and technological. In the economic arena, there should be change in the structures and institutions of economic management; diversification of the economy; promotion of transparency and accountability and promotion of pro-poor policies. In politics, there should be change of the 1999 Constitution; institutions of horizontal accountability; the electoral system; democratic culture; party financing, campaign finance and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In the socio-cultural arena, there should be re-orientation on social values; re-orientation on work ethics and corporate Social responsibility and investment. Finally, there should be focus on acquisition and utilization of new technology. In addition, there should be change in the way public administration is organized.
In any case, it must be recognised that to bring about change in any country is a process that must be meticulously thought out and implemented. It should start with accessing the need for change. This assessment should affect all aspects of life of the country including structure, culture, strategies, human resources, organisational processes and leadership. It is on the basis of this assessment that the government can decide on the change to make. While deciding on the change to make, cognisance should be given to possible resistance. There are many reasons why people resist change. Some people are establishment or status-quo prone and will resist change. Others resist change because of self-interest or misunderstanding of the content or nature of change. Studies have shown that globally, about 70 percent of all change efforts have failed.
The challenge before the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is to put in place a strategy for change and a model for managing resistance to change. A strategy for change should recognise the three basic stages of unfreezing, moving and refreezing in the change process. Unfreezing is the stage where you conduct a diagnosis and then unfreeze the old organisational culture. This involves clear communication on the negative consequences of old ways while developing new modes of operation. Moving is when you produce a new strategy and initiate new ways of doing things to effect structural, cultural and individual change through effective leadership. Refreezing is a systematic way of strengthening new behaviours that support change and reinforcing the new behaviour continuously.
A model of managing resistance to change will include specific strategies to enlist co-operation of the people to support the change process. Several approaches can be used to enlist co-operation. The citizens should be educated about upcoming changes before they occur. The nature and logic of the change should be clearly communicated. As the change process is going on, the government should listen to the people affected by the change. Training and resources should be provided to the people who need to carry out the change and perform their roles under the new circumstances. Incentives should be offered for co-operation and punishment should be applied to those who resist change.
In addition, government should recruit change champions. These are people who are passionate about change, know the nature of change required and are prepared to lead the process of change. They should be able to develop a vision and strategy for the change process including a description of the state of affairs after the change has been implemented. The vision must be clearly communicated and the people mobilised to support it.
Nigeria was ripe for change. The Buhari Administration promised change. Nigerians are waiting for the change to manifest in every facet of life. The government and the people of Nigeria must understand that change is a process and must be prepared to go through the process to bring the required change to Nigerians. Nigeria and Nigerians do not deserve anything less. For the change process in Nigeria to succeed, the change leaders must live by example; constantly link the change process to the change vision, mission and values; build a sense of urgency and support for the change process; align every process, structure and system to the change agenda and build the capacity of the people to manage the change process. Finally, the change leaders must not only establish and monitor measurable goals, they must also empower the people and ensure accountability in all actions.
***Dr. Otive Igbuzor is a Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration.