GOOD GOVERNANCE: THE YENAGOA PARADIGM
For the past 11 years, all the efforts made by the Federal Government about major policy shifts such as the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, NEEDS, the Seven-Point Agenda, electoral reforms, police sector reforms and power sector reforms are all geared towards good governance. The concept of good governance and democracy and inseparable and Nigeria has been striving at good governance.
As a concept, good governance has no capsule definition, but it describes how well and inclusive public institutions are governed. Most of the successful governments in the contemporary world are liberal democratic States, who set standards for others to follow. According to the United Nations, there are eight pillars of good governance. A brief analysis of them will shed some light as to whether the Yenagoa Paradigm fulfills the criteria of good governance. There is a saying that ‘it is better for a society to be governed by good men than by good laws, and this is why good governance is a medley of good laws operated by good men.
The first criterion is participation in which people are given the opportunity to have a voice in decision-making either directly or through legitimate avenues and institutions that represent them. Good Governance assumes that the mandate principle provides for a participation that is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capacities to participate constructively in policy formulation. The second pillar is the Rule of law of law, which implies supremacy of the Constitution, respect and enforcement of the law with built-in impartiality and fundamental human rights.
The third pillar is transparency, which is built on the free flow of information sustained by processes and institutions concerning government transactions. Transparency is important because it enables all stakeholders to make their input into the process of decision making. While transparency makes information accessible to people, responsiveness defines the level of stakeholders participation in government.
A principal criterion of good governance is consensus building. In any polity, there are centrifugal forces of pull and tear that tend to divide a people. When such tendencies are combined with primordial sentiments, the essence of democracy is negative. There are policies that that may be targeted at maximizing the interest of the people but their spillover effects may alienate sections of society. Thus the essence of consensus building is to mediate between people with conflictual interests so that government will be run on the basis of broad consensus in the best interest of all people.
An essential building block of good governance is accountability, which emphasizes record keeping for stakeholders, investors and financial institutions. In pursuance of the accountability principle, a State government can open her books to the prying eyes of third public scrutiny. An accountable government provides the veritable windows for stakeholder’s buy-in including Civil Society Organizations, the organized private sector and the promotion of Foreign Direct Investment, FDI. Accountability requires the building of enduring institutions in the spirit of continuity. Good governance also implies equity in the implementation of policies and programmes. It also applies to the distribution of allocatable values and delivery of social services. This is also done with efficiency and effectiveness considerations. Above all, good governance must be piloted by a leader with strategic vision, which is necessary for evolving broad and long-term perspective on good governance.
If we zero down these characteristics to Bayelsa State or what may call the Yenagoa paradigm of good governance, it leaves no one in doubt that the Sylva administration has erected at least 85% of the aforementioned pillars of good governance.
In the area of transparency and accountability, the Sylva administration has scored above average. The administration established the Due Process Unit and conducted a staff audit to ascertain the right number of staff on its pay roll; you did so with the full conviction to weed out the “Ghost Worker Syndrome”. Bayelsa is the first State that opened her books to third Party scrutiny. The Finance and budget Ministry went the extra-mile to establish the Debt Management Office, having institutionalized the bottom-top budgetary procedure. A measure are being taken to ensure that Ministry, Departments and Agencies MDAs’ spending are kept within projected limits and is consistent with its fiscal objectives of transparency and accountability of government.
The administration has put in place an enduring legal framework for promoting transparency and accountability in government transactions. Two of such legal instruments - the Public Procurement Law and Fiscal Responsibility Law were passed by the State House of Assembly with a view to promoting good governance. Like Lagos and Rivers State, Bayelsa State has maintained the B + Fitch rating in the medium term. Bayelsa is also a member of the Bayelsa Expenditure and Income Transparency Initiative, BEITI which provides a platform for multi-stakeholder involvement in evaluating the impact of budget implementation. Today, Bayelsa partners with the United States of America working through USAID, the World Bank and other international consortia to open windows of investment for global players in the State. These partnerships shall yield maximum benefits in the nearest future. The administration has placed Bayelsa State on the map of States with robust transparency records.
In terms of responsiveness and consensus building, the administration has done more than enough to build the confidence of people. Perhaps, Governor Sylva is one of the administrators who has not reshuffled his cabinet, neither has the House of Assembly witnessed any major crisis – a reason most of the members won back their seats in the PDP primaries. He had organized programmes such as “Relax with Sylva” and “Community Development Fora” all in an attempt to feel the pulse of the average Bayelsan.
As man who is serious with his call to duty, he has never neglected grassroots development. When Bayelsans lamented the educational backwardness of the State, he shifted attention to human capacity building. His visionary leadership has created an enabling environment for attracting Federal presence. Today, Bayelsa State is home to the Bayelsa Campus of the Nigerian Law School; the Federal Government Polytechnic, Ekeowei; the Federal University in Otueke and the Headquarters of the Nigerian Local Content Board.
The establishment of the Bayelsa State College of Education in Okpoama was a master stroke. Government under Sylva has also increased funding the Niger Delta University has received increased funding as is evident in the accreditation of programmes, while other Universities in Nigeria are experiencing acute crisis and industrial disharmony. On this score, does Governor Sylva need to campaign so hard to clinch his second term?
So many spectators had the impression that not much has been achieved by the Sylva administration in terms of infrastructural development. The erroneous impression that he merely became Governor complete the projects initiated by his predecessor are a legacy of continuity. In what sense is it wrong to complete the projects initiated by President Jonathan? While most people commend his efforts in completing such multi-billion Naira projects such as the multibillion naira Peace Park, the New Government House Lodge; Banquet Hall, the State Secretariat Complex the Okpoama police Barracks, Eight Government House Duplexes and three canalization projects, even the ardent critic of the Sylva administration is happy with the construction of 51 internal Roads in Yenagoa. These are legacies he has donated to posterity.
Government is pursuing the completion of the Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital popularly called the 500-bed hospital in Yenagoa which has attained 80% completion rate. the end of this year in your second term. Other programmes in this category include the Ijaw National Congress (INC), Building and the Silverbird Galleria off the ox-bow lake area. Whereas the INC building will give a sense of identity to the Ijaw nation, the Galleria would boost the tourism potentials of Bayelsa State. The completion of these projects would be indelible landmarks of the Sylva administration. The Public-Private Partnership drive has enabled Bayelsa State to commence the building of the New Commissioners Quarters as well as the New House of Assembly Quarters.
As an elder statesman aptly described him “Governor Sylva is a tomorrow’s man who came today to put certain record straight and to give the people a voice. Governor Sylva has also given a voice to the opposition. Most people believe he is so tolerant of the opposition that some of them have started to deface his campaign bill boards. But that is the beauty of democracy. As the Chief Executive officer of the State, he has resisted the temptation of deploying force to pursue his ambition. He abides by the rule of Law and constitutionalism - these are fundamental ingredients of democracy.
In the last analysis, Governor Timipre Sylva administration has broadened the political space for increased participation, but sadly, the political space still under-subscribed. He adheres to the efficiency in managing resources and for that reason, put the basic legal-cum institutional framework for a new transparency and accountability regime. He is a consensus builder and team player par excellence. These are the attributes of a true democrat whose heart and soul seek after good governance. This rising political star in the firmament shall continue to shine.