Governance In Nigeria: Real Or Implied?

By Sherif Jimoh

Governance, according to Boeninger {1992}, is the capacities of a system to exercise authority, win legitimacy, adjudicate conflicts, as well as carry out as well as carry out programme implementation. In more generalized term, governance is conceived as a process of a political system which connotes exercise of power or authority by political leaders for the well-being of subjects of a society. In specific term, it incorporates certain conceptualized norms or principles associated with its practice. These include accountability, transparency, rule of law, bureaucracy, equity, effectiveness and efficiency etc. However, in modern day governance conceptualization, there are recognized three layers of governance which include the State, Private-sector and Organized Civil Societies.

According to political scientists, the mainstay of governance is decision-making {policy formulation} and implementation of such. They argue neither of this two-stage process is dispensable – there cannot be policy without implementation and there can be no implementation without policy to be implemented. However, it is a known and common social phenomenon that State and its institutions are by far the greatest layer of governance. And they are often technically referred to as government – which wield enormous political power of exercise of authoritarian control in the society. The other two layers of governance – business organizations and civil societies wield socio-economic powers which are accruable to private domains with consequent multiplier effects. As a result of accumulated private wealth {of business firms} and social influences {of charitable and non-charitable organizations}, they present a reckonable formidable force {authority} which is akin to that of government. Consequently, the current trend in modern political governance is movement away from traditional hierarchical political exercise of power to disperse and relational exercise of power. This strongly de-emphasizes verticalized monopoly of State power to the favour of horizontal structure of political authority which emphasizes cooperation among lead actors of all the three layers of governance.

Furthermore, the conceptualized term of ‘public administration’ is a generic notion denoting governance. According to Balogun {1983}, public administration has to do with ‘marshalling of human and material resources in order to achieve the objectives of public policy’. In the words of Wilson {1887} public administration is simply ‘government in action’. According to UNDP {2004}, public administration is ‘the aggregate machinery {policies, rules, procedures, systems, organizational structures, personnel etc.} funded by the state budget and in charge of the management and direction of the affairs of the executive government, and its interaction with other stakeholders in the state, society or environment’.

According to Tamayao {2014}, he identified eight {8} indicators of good governance which are as follows:

1} participation: this is measure of good governance through ‘active involvement of all affected and interested parties in the decision-making process’; this is further streamlined to comprise the twin-concepts of gender equality and decentralization of exercise of power.

2} rule of law: this is a measure of good governance through obeisance of rules and regulations by all concerned stake-holders {whether government or civil society]; it relies on the common mantra ‘government is of law and not of men’; it encompasses two major concepts which are social justice and judicial reforms which guarantee equal rights of all stakeholders {government and citizens} and changes in times.

3} effectiveness and efficiency: this is one of the foremost measure of good governance which pre-supposes that the actors, institutions and processes of governance ‘could deliver and meet the necessities of the society in a way that available resources are utilized’; it majorly relies on certain norms and values which unequivocally determines its actualization or lack thereof, which include professionalism, dynamism, elimination of redundant bureaucracy {red tape attitudes}; it canvasses on ‘a citizen-centred government’ and ‘an improved financial management system of the government’.

4} transparency: this is a measure of good governance through openness and clear and fair communication in governance; it buttresses sincere disclosure of information of public interests to concerned stakeholders to keep them informed and abreast of times.

5} responsiveness: this is another foremost measure of good governance which underlines promptness and timeliness in the delivery of public service by concerned officials; it is a fundamental governance principle which assures government of citizens’ appreciation and cooperation.

6} equity and inclusiveness: this is a measure of good governance which encapsulates inclusion of the under-privileged in the policies of government; it anchors on the social justice mantra ‘those who have less in life should have more in law’ which requires government to give preferential treatments to individuals and groups who belong to such category.

7} consensus orientation: this is a measure of good governance which emphasizes building of consensus among different segments of the society; it relies on the twin principles of public consultations and mechanism of conflict resolution arising from divergence of opinions.

8} accountability: this is about the final stage of measure of good governance where governance actors, especially public officials are expected to be answerable and accountable for their actions of commission and omission; it buttresses responsibility for consequences of actions and enjoins institution of reward and punishment systems for either compliant or errant officials.

At this juncture, Tamayao ascribed cause of bad governance to disruption and perversion of any one of the eight indicators mentioned above. In particular, he denounced greedy politicians and selfish powerful families as agents of organized crime syndicates who manipulate government agencies and officials in order to work at cross purposes to their primary mandates. According to him, ‘they bring about a controlled environment so that decisions must always favour them’ which ultimately go to reinforce culture of corruption and impunity.

Similarly, the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation presented an article digest titled Nature of Policy Change and Implementation on the authorship of Cerna {2013} on the essence of policy change and reform in governance. As adduced earlier, policy decision is the mainstay of governance which is amenable to change as circumstances demand. Policy change is an incremental shift in existing structures though innovations; while policy reform is the' process of improving performance of existing systems and of assuring their efficient and equitable response to future changes' {Berman 1995}. Cerna [2013] presented an array of theoretical approaches to public policy formulation and implementation as relates with the educational sector which include path dependence, advocacy coalition framework, policy learning, policy diffusion, institutional change, multi-level governance, top-down, bottom-up rational choice etc. She argued 'policy change may not lead to desired results if the process of implementation is omitted from consideration'.

Path dependence is a theory of policy formulation which buttresses policy continuity of an establishment, even if sub-optimal, once there are cost-benefit incentives. Among the weaknesses associated with theory, is the difficulty of identifying associated costs and benefits and how these affect decisions about future policy choices. In addition to this, policy makers often resort to taking advantage of critical moments of opportunity to formulate policies. This is otherwise known as 'conjuncture of events' as harbinger of policy change or reform.

Advocacy coalition framework is a theory of policy formulation which relies greatly on sub-system {external} coalitions who coalesce as actors from a variety of private and public organizations {such as elected officials, opinion leaders and researchers} and who are actively concerned with a public policy. They 'shape a particular belief system - a set of basic values, causal assumptions and problem perceptions - and exemplify a significant degree of coordinated activity over time'. A great merit of the theory is that it is focused on 'policy areas characterized by high goal conflict, high technical uncertainty about the nature and causes of the problem' such as energy, environmental and social policy issues.

Policy learning presupposes a popular cliché by the saying 'learning is the process that leads states to be called laboratories of democracies. According to Heclo, {1974} this refers to 'relatively enduring alterations of thought or behavioural intentions which result from experience and which are concerned with the attainment [or revision] of policy objectives'. Several aspects of policy learning have been identified such as social learning, political learning, policy-oriented learning, lesson drawing, instrumental learning etc. According to Hall {1993}, social learning occurs whenever 'policy makers adjust goals or techniques of policies in response to past experience or new information'. In his words, 'learning is indicated through changes by such a process'. A great merit of the theory is buttressing the fact that 'countries, regions and systems can change policies by learning from others and changing their belief systems'.

Policy diffusion is much similar to policy learning. According to Dolowitz and Marsh {1996}, knowledge about policies, administrative arrangements, institutions in one time and/or place is used in the development of policies, administrative arrangements, institutions in another time and /or place'. Shipan and Volden {2008} identified four {4} four mechanisms of policy diffusion which include learning from earlier adopters, economic competition, imitation and coercion. Learning from earlier adopters implies implementing successful experiences {policies and systems} of others; economic competition is diffusion of spill overs of economic policies. In this case, policies with positive economic spill overs are more likely to be adopted by competing states or governments; policy imitation is copying directly the action of another government in order to look like it; policy coercion presupposes imposition of policies such as trade practices or economic sanctions from one government to another. A great merit of policy diffusion is 'analysing policy change through a broader spectrum'.

Institutional change is a theory of policy formulation that affects an institution or social order. Institutions, according to Streeck and Thelen {2005} are formalized rules that may be enforced by calling upon a third party'. According to them, policies are institutions so far 'they constitute rules for actors other than policy makers themselves, rules that can and need to be implemented'. To their credit, they introduced five {5} institutional types of change which include displacement, layering, drift, conversion and exhaustion. Displacement institutional change is a natural change which occurs when existing or traditional structures give way to new or innovative structures; layering institutional change occurs through conscious and gradual introduction of reforms as preparation for systemic change; drift institutional change presupposes dying out or discontinuity if institutions fail to respond to changing environments; conversion institutional change is re-orientation and re-direction of goals for more purpose driven 'as a result of new environmental challenges or through changes in power relations'; exhaustion institutional change is a gradual process which leads to break-down or collapse and occurs 'when normal working of an institution undermines its external pre-conditions'. A great merit of the theory is that 'it is highly sophisticated as it distinguishes different kinds of change and impacts on the system'.

Multi-level governance and Policy Networks are theories of policy implementation in governance structure. In the political science realm, policy change is a multi-actor and multi-dimensional process because of complexity of actions and authority dispersed across multiple tiers - regional and local. Precisely, multi-level governance 'provides useful transition from policy change to policy implementation as top - down and bottom up approaches'. Top - down presupposes policy decisions are passed down from national {regional} to local; bottom - up implies policy formulations at local level with subsequent impact at the national level. According to Hooghe and Marks [2003], multi- level governance operates via two ways: Type I and Type II. Type I multi-level governance is institution - specific and ' composed of general-purpose jurisdictions which are bundled in a small number of packages'. The jurisdictions are of the popular trias politicas structure of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Operationally, Type I multi-level governance features 'non- intersecting membership'; 'limited number of levels of jurisdiction'; 'system-wide durable architecture'. Type II multi-level governance is task - specific jurisdictions which has intersecting membership and flexibility in the number of jurisdictional levels. Above all, it has been identified that a great demerit of multi-level governance is that it is formal institutions and actors centred with consequent high coordinating costs of multiple jurisdictions. Though, the jurisdictions occasionally have scale of flexibility like the Type II multi-level governance.

As a result of the limitation of scope of jurisdictions of multi-level governance, especially its failure to capture non-formal sectors; thus, policy networks exist to fill the vacuum. According to Rhodes and Marsh, {1992} a policy network 'is a cluster or complex of organizations connected to each other by resource dependencies and distinguished from other clusters and complexes by breaks in the structure of resource dependencies'. The main highlight of policy networks is it is a social movement of non-formal interest groups {both in the public and private sector} which metamorphose into complex networks {structures}through which actors {organized groups} can facilitate/negotiate implementation of policy changes and reforms.

In contemporary times, there is growing popularity of deploying information and communication technology in delivering governance {government services} since beginning of 21st century. Technically, this is known as electronic governance and is synonymous with the advent of ‘information age movement’ when the Internet was discovered. As a result, ‘governments across the globe sought to revitalize public administration to be customer-centred, cost-efficient and user- friendly delivery of services to citizens and businesses, thereby improving the quality of governmental services’. According to the World Bank {2001}, e -governance was still in nascent stage of implementation in both developing and developed countries. Schwester {2009} noted that e-governance initially began ‘as process where government entities developed websites and began populating these sites with information’. Electronic governance, according to the American Society for Public Administration {ASPA}, as ‘the pragmatic use of the most innovative information and communication technologies, like the Internet, to deliver efficient and cost-effective services, information and knowledge’. According to Wong and Welch {2004}, it is ‘an unequivocal commitment by decision-makers to strengthening the partnership between the private citizens and the public sector’. On the part of Brannen [2001], electronic governance ‘is to allow the public to initiate a request for a particular government service without going to a government office or having direct contact with a government employee’. Overall, the central idea about electronic governance is movement away from manual {paper and physical-contact based} procedures of existing governmental transactions to digitalized process involving the use of information and communications technology such as the Internet facility and the world wide web. According to the Council of Europe, ‘the concept of electronic governance covers the use of electronic technologies in three main areas of public action:

  • Relations between the public authorities and civil society
  • Functioning of the public authorities at all stages of the democratic process (electronic democracy)

    Provision of public services.
    Practically, electronic governance service is a seamless service provision which occurs in real time and is tailor-made, flexible and of high quality. It is deployed through a three-stage process which comprises:

    • electronic administration {E-administration},
    • electronic service (E-service) and electronic democracy
    • (E-democracy)

    E-administration involves restructuring administrative functions and processes in consonance with information and communication technology dictates; E-service involves the use of Internet, the Web and mobile technology in order to improve upon the delivery of public services; E-democracy involves the application of ICT in view of enhancing greater involvement of citizens in participating in the democratic process, for example, through electronic voting. In this regard, it has been suggested that the main rationale of electronic governance extends beyond ‘posting generally requested information on a website’. Rather, information processing is the key-word and this occurs electronically in real time. Furthermore, the successful adoption of electronic governance rests squarely on availability of adequate information and communications infrastructure and well-trained human capital public-sector personnel. Therefore, it has been argued that despite huge potentialities of electronic governance in the streamline of public sector service delivery; this may be greatly hampered if there is not adequate capital and human resource investments in the communications sector of a country. As a result, according to the World Public Sector Report, (2003) it validated that there is only justification for electronic governance ‘if it enhances the capacity of public administration to increase the supply of such needed public value’.

    Among the positive effects of electronic governance are openness and transparency in government, elimination and/or reduction in corruption, promptness in service, cost-effectiveness, inclusive participation etc.

    At this juncture, it need be reiterated that governance in Nigeria may be deemed implied or ‘quasi’ because there is no proper structure of delineation of governance in Nigeria. Whether it is governance by theoretical philosophy {moral values} such as the Indicators of Good Governance enumerated above or governance by technology, contemporary Nigeria is way off the track in identifying her distinct and real modality of governance. Whereas, governance by its basic etymology derived from the Greek word Kubernaein implies, according to the Wikipedia, ‘the manner of steering or governing or of directing or controlling, a group of people or a state’. Consequently, governance is based on two processes: it’s structure and actors. An actor is a sector, or a group or an institution that participates in the process of decision making and implementation. A structure refers to a mechanism that formally or informally guides the decision-making process and sets into motion the different actors and apparatuses in the implementation process. Of course, there are clear and manifest political actors and political structure in Nigeria; but there is no constructive and effective deployment of the civil service structure in Nigeria. The popular acronym of Nigerian civil service structure MDAS (ministries, departments and agencies) fall short of the symmetrical arrangement of political structure (horizontal approach of governance) which emphasizes cooperation amongst divergent segment of the society such as the organized private-sector and the civil society. Till date, MDAs in Nigeria are criticized of high centralization with consequential ineptitude and time-lag in the delivery of public sector services. The real evidence behind the recent proclamation of Executive Order 01 Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria in order to remove MDAs bureaucracy and associated bottlenecks. The same argument goes for the organized private sector and the civil society coalitions. The former is notorious, especially in the Nigerian setting, for so much profitability consciousness at the expense of other corporate social responsibility. This position is deeply rooted in the host communities of business organizations in Nigeria. A classic case is the Niger Delta region of Nigeria which has been clamouring for clean -up of the degraded environment of their communities (especially water basins) from decades of oil exploration activities. And their lack of provision of basic social amenities (schools and health centres) and the non-development (through appropriate training) of the teeming youth of their host communities. This scenario frequently leads to launch of peaceful demonstrations and occasional violent campaigns targeted at the deviant corporations by host communities.

    The deliberate over-sight of corporations at their corporate social responsibility in terms of direct tangible benefits has further been elaborated to include intangible benefits. According to the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) report, corporate long-term sustainability ensures ‘development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. In precise terms, they are informed that only ‘sustainable production and consumption of resources by corporations would lead to an improvement in the environment and also reduce its associated side effects’. Furthermore, corporations are severely criticized of their classical economic theory of maximization of shareholders’ returns of profitability as earlier propounded by classical economists such as Adam Smith. This view was later fine-tuned by the stake-holders theory as propounded by Edward Freeman (1984). It states that ‘the purpose of a business is to create value for stakeholders, not just shareholders. As such, companies have several stakeholders involving persons and groups who either benefit from, or are harmed by the actions or inactions of the corporations through the protection or violation of their rights. Accordingly, corporations are advised to adopt the Triple Bottom Line paradigm ‘by emphasizing and integrating the three key dimensions of sustainable development which include ‘profit, planet and people’.

    The same insensibility and insensitivity of the organized private sector is applicable to civil society coalitions in Nigeria. Civil Society Organizations, as implied in this writing, are the socio-cultural groups such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Arewa People’s Congress, Pan Niger Delta Forum etc; or socio-economic groups such as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); Centre for Women, Youth and Community Action etc; or socio-political groups such as Civic Duties Awareness Initiatives, Centre for Leadership Support and Social Progress, YIAGA Africa etc. In Nigeria, there is miscarriage of administration and organization in the running of civil society organizations. Firstly, civil societies are universally recognized as the third sector of the society and they function as a unified group for a common purpose of interests and will of citizens. In Nigeria, civil societies often portray themselves as sectionalized and are often with parochial interests. This is especially true for Nigerian socio-cultural rights group. Their major concern is to promote their regional motive or sectionalized interests as it affects only particular individuals belonging to their group. This counteracts the general citizens interests as the main objective behind civil rights advocacy. In the socio-economic and socio-political order, civil societies in Nigeria appear lackadaisical and ineffective in their advocacy of socio-economic and political rights. Their presence and existence are circumstantial in that they are only felt during particular moments and occasions such as electioneering process and incidental occurrence (news publicity of corruption incident around the corridors of power). They are hardly seen or heard or physically identifiably, if not only by their nominal names and addresses. For instance, most of them cannot be tracked to their websites for online verification about them. But only a very few of them can be excepted from the foregoing revelation about them such as SERAP and YIAGA Africa. This writing believes, these two, at least by a reasonable standard portray the true working of civil society coalitions.

    Conclusively, the asymmetrical relationship between government, the private-sector and the civil society coalitions is the bane of bad governance currently experienced in Nigeria. According to political scientists, government is the main actor and facilitator in a democratic political system. It is complemented by active and patriotic efforts of the organized private sectors and civil coalitions in plugging loop holes or oversights created by government. But here in Nigeria, all the three sectors are equally poor and nightmarish as imaginable. The Federal Government of Nigeria through its representatives {MDAs} is too profligate and scandalous in public finances with consequential effects in the whole sectors of the economy. Be it transportation {especially road transport}, energy, agriculture, education, health, security etc; it is tale of woe upon woe from abysmal and mediocre performance in the discharge of public-sector mandate. For instance, it is only in Nigeria Federal Executive Council approves humongous public finances without concomitant projects worthy of show for it. This is often recurrent and it is depleting hard-earned national resources and worsening almost all sectors of the economy. In this light, this writing would patriotically advise that the Federal Government of Nigeria adopts, really in practice, political-economic theories in governance such as the rational-choice theory, the game theory and in particular the agency theory. Adoption of these theories (especially agency theory) would add real value to governance in Nigeria. As afore-mentioned, the organized private sectors and civil coalitions which should correct the ills and wrongs of government of Nigeria are themselves worse off and egregious.

    Finally, this writing would like to make a passing critical comment about the state of governance in my home state (Kwara State). Currently, as opposed to the high expectations from our current regime of government in Kwara State, the situation is deplorable and intolerable and it would seem there is no governance in Kwara. This position is very true and verifiable and even defendable. This is because Kwara State has not changed in a single bit in the last two years as different from how it is in the last abhorrible dispensation. The change we need in Kwara is a total revolutionary change from abnormal unusual business. We want so called ‘business as usual’ to be business in Kwara, driven by innovative and illuminative progressive policy. For this writing to show pragmatism and proof of knowledge about its submission, the modern Kwara State requires improved and befitting public transportation medium in terms of local running in the city. Precisely, Kwara State is beset with rickety and worn out transport motor vehicles popularly known as Taxis. They give discomfort and inconvenience to sensitive commuters like this writer because they are mostly badly maintained, both in the engines and the interior seating space. They are grossly outdated and need to have been phased out totally. The big question is, what stops an innovative government from rolling out new mass transportation vehicles and lease these at subsidized rates to the local transporters? Government can be collecting agreed monthly instalment repayment. But a greater public service benefit this initiative will give is the commuting relief and comfort to the sensitive public.

    Sherif Jimoh wrote from Kwara State

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