Good Governance In The Era Of Change; The Nigerian Perspective
The need for good governance has never been so strongly felt as in the present day Nigeria. While developed countries have to deal with immigrants’ crisis, the overbearing influence of terrorists’ organizations and a battle of supremacy for nuclear power, developing countries like Nigeria are still struggling to ward off economic downturn, inflation, corruption, unemployment and herdsmen so as to meet the growing aspirations of a demanding populace.
Only efficient and effective governance can meet these challenges. However, it has become evident that good governance is not tenable if transparency, probity and accountability are not sustained especially in this era of change in our nation’s democracy.
Good governance is not the sole responsibility of government. It is a requirement in the corporate sector, civil societies, non‐governmental organizations and citizen's groups. However, since government collects moneys from the public and spends on behalf of the public, such spending does place an element of higher accountability on the government. Such accountability requires that the actions and decisions taken by public officials are transparent and capable of withstanding public scrutiny.
Such accountability in government decisions and actions ensure that government policies meet their stated objectives and are indeed responsive to the needs of the people that they govern and this is the basic ingredient of a nascent democracy.If we look at our experience in the last five decades since independence, the need for greater probity, transparency and accountability in governance are needed to make our gains of democracy more significant. The present administration’s anti-corruption stance is quiet commendable although many see it as not being all inclusive but rather targeted at perceived political enemies of the ruling party.
Administrations have come and gone yet we have not made landmark achievements in all the sectors of the economy. Therefore, it may not be completely irrational to say that the dreams of our founding fathers are yet to be actualized. The unending blame game between successive administrations and personalities has to stop.
What Nigerians are interested in now is how the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration will deliver on her campaign promises to the electorate. No doubt, the rising cost of living in a retrogressive economy has been of great concern to the populace but like it is said, “there is always light at the end of the tunnel”. However, it is our wish that this saying will materialize in the Nigerian context sooner than later.
The conventional wisdom of good governance is premised on the basic tenet that democratically elected governments will conduct public affairs with probity and accountability. However, recent actions of government as it relates to the “Budget of Change” indicate that elements of ethics and integrity seem to be lacking and this makes one ponder on what lies ahead for our beloved country.
The situation has triggered the feeling among the vast majority of citizenry that it is time when the conventional architecture along which governments are expected to function, needs to be tempered such that there is an element of participation by the informed public.
The supremacy of the elected political executive in a parliamentary democracy cannot be denied. The administrative bureaucracy is meant to advise and facilitate policy parameters enunciated by the political executive, which is commonly understood to be the Federal Executive Council. However, whilst the political executive is superior to civil and uniformed bureaucracy, they owe their allegiance to the ultimate stakeholder on whose behalf they act.
Hence, my proposition is that public oversight of government policy is essential and if the benefits of economic growth are to be made inclusive and sustainable, the involvement and oversighting by the public to ensure transparency of decision making and accountability for actions will have to be ensured.
Accountability is the obligation, of those holding power, to take responsibility for their behavior and actions. It becomes even more important an issue when management of public funds is involved. The government spends a huge amount of money in creating infrastructure, providing services and running various schemes for the welfare of its people.
A large chunk of the government’s money comes from tax which is compulsorily collected from its citizens. The government is, therefore, obligated to work in the interest of its citizens and deliver the dividends of democracy to the masses. It is answerable to the public for its policies, decisions and performance. The action of the government has to be fair and equitable at all times.
Let us acknowledge that the country is at the inflexion point. If the heightened outrage of the citizenry and the urban middle class is moulded in a positive manner, it would translate into a tremendous synergy between government and its people. The second arm of this inflexion point, which the country can ill afford, is an insensitive and polarized government which turns a deaf ear to the outpouring of public opinions. It is the responsibility of citizen to be leaders of public opinion and help modulate policy formulations such that they incorporate the felt needs of the public.
We need to recognize that democracy is meant to empower the people and not emasculate them. Thus people should not feel a sense of betrayal. Empowerment will be felt only when the rule of law is allowed to prevail. Institutions have been created to protect the rule of law and these institutions must be given freedom and space to play their role.
Finally, I would like to state that economic prosperity for Nigerians is not an option – it is a necessity. Economic empowerment and thereby emerging a superpower can be possible if growth is founded on good governance. Such growth is sustainable only if it is premised on an ethical code of governance.
When the story of Nigeria is written, it should be written that governance was the solution and not the problem wherein the State was the facilitator and not the predator. These edicts in our governance structure have to be an essential ingredient as too much is at stake and for too many people.
Comrade Omaga Elachi Daniel is the Executive Director, Beyond Boundaries Legacy Leadership Initiative. Email: [email protected] .