New Economic Agenda And Public Administration Reform For Nigeria

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It is a settled matter that every society can develop as people expand their capacity to confront the environment and solve their problems through a variety of means including science, technology, innovation and development knowledge. Nigeria as a nation has faced a lot of challenges from pre-colonial times. The country has faced huge challenges in all spheres of life-political, economic, social, security, environment and technological. The leadership selection process has ensured that it is difficult for competent, dynamic and visionary persons with integrity to emerge as leaders. Over the years, there has been degeneration in every sector compounded by monumental corruption. It was therefore very easy for Nigerians to buy into the change agenda of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the April 2015 general elections. After winning the elections at the federal level, Nigerians expected the new administration to implement a change agenda in all sectors and bring the succour to citizens.

One area where great changes are needed is in the economy. In the last one and a half decade, the Nigerian economy has been reported to have grown enormously that Nigeria has become the largest economy in Africa. In fact, from 1990-1999, the growth rate was between 2-3 percent but from 1999-2015, the growth rate more than doubled. One of the major problems is that economic growth in Nigeria has not created meaningful employment as many of the country's youth including those with university degrees are currently unemployed.# The problem is that Nigeria's economic growth is driven, in part, by rising global oil prices.# The manufacturing sector in Nigeria represents only 4 percent of GDP compared to 20 percent in Brazil, 34 percent in China, 30 percent in Malaysia, 35 percent in Thailand and 28 percent in Indonesia.# Meanwhile, it has been shown that “no country can banish mass poverty unless it creates millions of new jobs a year in manufacturing and services.”# There is therefore a compelling imperative for inclusive growth in Nigeria given increasing economic growth (rising per capita output of material goods and services) over the past one and half decade along with increasing poverty, high unemployment rate and the recent free fall in the global price of oil. But since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the economic growth rate has plummeted that the growth rate in the last quarter is a mere 2.11 percent. This is a culmination of many factors including fall in the price of oil, lack of diversification of the economy and monumental corruption.

It is therefore clear that there is the need for a new economic agenda for Nigeria. Over the years, Nigerian political leaders have parroted what needs to be done to the economy- diversification, change in the structures and institutions of economic management, industrialisation, creation of jobs, building of infrastructure, improvement of power and support to small scale enterprises. But the reality is that the economy is becoming worse on a daily basis. It is obvious that Nigeria is faced with a fundamental knowledge problem. The Fix Nigeria Movement led by Mr. Emmanuel Aneliofo has made this point forcefully in the last five years or so but he has not be taken seriously by the political leaders. It was Albert Einstein who pointed out that knowledge problems cannot be addressed at the same level of knowledge that created them. The point is that Nigerian economic development model has been fashioned along the neo-liberal development concept in its most outdated form. Even when those that formulated the theories have abandoned them given the realities of the time, Nigerian economic managers hold on to them. A good example is the concept that government has no business in business. This led the Nigerian government to sell all government houses and the Ministry of Housing is reduced at all tiers of government to giving land at give-away prices to private developers who now allocate the land to those who can pay at exorbitant prices. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom for instance, there are still council houses owned by government. Meanwhile, there is no form of social housing in Nigeria where the poor can own houses. The average Nigerian worker cannot afford the current going rate of owning houses through mortgage financing.

The point is that when a country is locked in a vicious cycle as we have in Nigeria, only new ideas can get it out. The new economic agenda for Nigeria must prioritise state intervention in the economy. Our experience with the private sector in Nigeria shows that a good number of them are parasitic and have corrupting influence on the public sector. Since PMB came into office, many people have been complaining that business is no longer moving. When you enquire, what goods and services they were producing before PMB that is no longer moving, they will look at you with a blank face. Many of the business people were just fleecing the state in connivance with the bureaucrats without providing any tangible goods and services. This is why most of the wealthy people in Nigeria today are government contractors. The new economic agenda must tackle diversification in a serious manner. It is well known that whenever the population of a country outgrows the capacity of its primary resources, then diversification is imperative. Diversification in Nigeria must target agriculture, solid minerals, culture and tourism and infrastructure. The focus must be to improve domestic capacity. Increasing domestic capacity should involve a lot of things including improvement of knowledge, promotion of research and development, promotion of innovation, talent tracking and development of local content. In addition, there is the need to strengthen institutions to prevent systemic abuse. There is a tendency in Nigeria for public officials to run away from solving problems. If there is corruption in Public Enterprises, the easiest way out is to privatise public enterprises. If there is problem of government failing to effectively supervise contractors building government houses, then the solution is that government should no longer be building houses. That is an escapist approach to problems. If there is corruption, there are time tested ways of dealing with corruption. Deal with the corruption and provide services to citizens. Moreover, there is the need to improve capacity. It is clear that many public officers are appointed without preparation for leadership. They have no clue on what to do. Simple and well known processes such as having a strategic plan for any organisation is like Greek to many of them. This is why after nine months of the new administration, you hardly hear of a development strategy for the entire country or even for the different ministries, departments or agencies. Many state governments are operating on a 3 point, 5 point or 10 point agenda. It is amusing that this is happening in the 21st century.

Moreover, the government of Muhammadu Buhari must take the change agenda more seriously. The government must recognise 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.

In our view, the challenge before the administration is to put in place a strategy for change in all sectors including the economy 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. 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. Furthermore, the change leaders must not only establish and monitor measurable goals, they must also empower the people and ensure accountability in all actions.

Finally, there is the need to change the mindset of Nigerians. We know that values are deep seated beliefs that influence people's actions and the rules by which they make decisions within their society. Values determine attitudes which in turn influence behaviour. Every society defines its values and engages in activities that will sustain those set of values. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) provides for the motto, social order and national ethics which underpin the values of Nigeria. The Constitution provides that the motto of the country shall be unity and faith, peace and progress. The Constitution also provides that the state social order is founded on the ideals of freedom, equality and justice. Section 23 provides that the national ethics shall be discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance and patriotism. Section 24 further prescribes duties for citizens of Nigeria to abide by the constitution, respect its ideals and its institutions, the national flag, the national anthem and legitimate authorities; help to ensure the good name of Nigeria, defend the country and render national service and respect the dignity of other citizens.

However, the lived experience of Nigerians is quite different from the constitutional provisions on ethics and values for the country. There is a lot of indiscipline in every facet of life in the country. Integrity is no longer cherished by many people. The get rich quick syndrome and pursuit of easy money has reduced the dignity of labour. There is high level of religious intolerance and the love for the country is waning. Many Nigerians have no respect for our institutions and national symbols. There is therefore the need for a comprehensive re-orientation through well thought out research; the creation of new compelling stories of Nigeria, the Nigerian dream and with publications, documentaries and slogans that resonate with the Nigerian people while building institutions based on values. The mindset of Nigerians must change on how to make money. People must understand that you can only make money by selling products or services and not by peddling influence.

There is a nexus between effective public administration and development of societies. Scholars have argued that Public Administration is a strategic factor in economic and social development of any country.# The inadequacy of administration in many countries have been identified as an obstacle to development hence the need for Public Administration Reform. The need for Public Administration Reform is widespread across the world such that the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) supports 380 projects in 112 countries covering various aspects of Public Administration Reform. Indeed, it has been estimated that 80 percent of the plans of the world are incapable of being fulfilled because of poor administration.# Scholars are in agreement that for public administration to deliver on development, it should live up to the Weberian image of efficiency, rationality, specialization, non-partisanship and non-political bureaucratic hierarchy. Unfortunately, the image that we see in Nigeria is that of corruption, irrationality and incompetence.

The implementation of a new economic agenda for Nigeria will require comprehensive public administration reform. It is no longer news that there is dysfunction in Public Administration in Nigeria leading to failures in service delivery, a lack of accountability and poor performance of the machinery of government. The cost of governance is very high with the federal government spending about 70 percent of its total budget on recurrent expenditure. There are huge challenges of policy planning and co-ordination. The structures and systems in the public sector are not delivering services efficiently and effectively to the citizens of Nigeria. There is a huge capacity gap in the public sector and the ministries, department and agencies are not working optimally. The budgetary process is marked with a lot of challenges including padding. By 21st March, the budget has not been passed by parliament.

For any new economic agenda to succeed, there is a great need for Public Administration reform in Nigeria. There is the need for concrete strategies and plans for improved policy and planning co-ordination, improved human resource management structures, systems and skills and improved budget transparency, consultation, oversight and credibility. In this regard, it is important to give priority to economic planning. Indeed, no plan should be made without consideration of its public administration implications. Any plan too ambitious for its administration context will fail. It is clear that plans do not implement themselves. The condition of public administration determines what kind of plan will work.

It is clear that the economy of Nigeria is going through challenges. Old knowledge and old way of doing things cannot bail out Nigeria. The first thing is to recognise the obvious and that the present knowledge and way of doing things cannot move the country forward. Then all those that are interested in economic and developmental revival of Nigeria should come together to form a developmental coalition to drive an alternative development agenda for the country. As this is going on, the government should have a new policy architecture that will get creative and innovative ideas into public policy. Then popularise the alternative development agenda through public education. Finally, reform the public service to be able to deliver on the new economic agenda. If all of these are done, then we would have laid a solid foundation for the economic take off of Nigeria.

Written by Dr. Otive Igbuzor, Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD). Pharmacist, Human Rights Activist, Policy Analyst, Development Expert and Strategist. He holds a doctorate degree in Public Administration.

​iOgbu, O (2012), Toward Inclusive Growth in Nigeria. Washington, The Brookings Institution.

ii ibid
iii Ibid
ivRajadhyaksha, N (2012), “India's New Industrial Policy” & The Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2012.

Quoted in Ogbu, O (2012) Op cit
v Rodman, W. Peter (1968), Development Administration: Obstacles, Theories and Implications for Planning.

UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning Occasional Papers No. 2.

vi Ibid

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