The world as we know it is fast changing. As countries across the globe race to ensure that they are well positioned to maximise the opportunities that comes along with these realities and its attendant challenges, a significant portion of the global population are at risk of being left behind. These are the poor and vulnerable. Especially those in the Global South. In Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, the contradictions of such endowments are reflective in the economic hardship confronting its populace where over half of its population are living in multidimensional poverty. While several attempts have been made in explaining the reasons for these anomalies, some of which have been attributed to endemic corruption, weak institutions, poor governance, and the absence of elite consensus on issues of national development, little attention has been accorded to the subnational entities which make up the Nigerian state.
In Northern Nigeria, which constitutes 19 of the 36 states in Nigeria, socio-economic conditions such as high rates of poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and youth unemployment amongst others have contributed in no small measure to the plight of the region. Kaduna state, which is in the Northwest region is not spared from these challenges as well, which have had consequences on lives and livelihoods. Inspired by the need to address these, in addition to the urgency of delivering meaningful development to the state, the author of this refreshing, thought-provoking, and deeply researched book Disruption: Rethinking Governance to Work for the Poor, unpacks the reforms that were embarked upon by the Nasir El-Rufai administration from 2015 to 2023, where he played an active role, as the Commissioner of Budget and National Planning, Chief of Staff, amongst other senior leadership positions.
Divided into eleven chapters, with each chapter speaking to a specific subject, yet interconnected with the others, Muhammed takes readers on an insightful journey that offers lessons for what can be done to improve governance for development. The book begins with the very important subject of data, without which planning for development becomes practically effort in futility, given the need to manage scare resources. For development to work, it must be evidence driven. This is crucial to ensuring that policy makers are well informed in making the best decisions. In the case of Kaduna state, doing so entailed strengthening the capacity of the state’s data gathering and processing institutions.
Another very important subject which Muhammed highlights in the book is the importance of effective communication. Despite its importance in state society relations, minimal attention is often ascribed to this. As the author rightly notes, for if development policies are to have a meaningful impact on the lives of ordinary people they must be anchored on trust, transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. Demonstrating this is mostly achievable through effective communication.
Furthermore, the book discusses the necessity of building infrastructure in such a way that is reflective of the needs of society. Often, the impediments to attaining tangible prosperity in the lives of citizens particularly at the grassroots levels is the absence of basic infrastructure such as good roads which link communities together thereby fostering commercial activities. Other very significant issues which Muhammed speaks of include the need to ensure that budgeting is done right especially in a way that accounts prudency when managing limited resources. This pivotal to effectively executing development projects in a way that ensures that there are both timely and relevant.
As an insider with a front row seat, Muhammed clearly points to the fact that Kaduna state is confronted with its own fair share of development related challenges. These realities underpin the need to localise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for meaningful progress is to be attained. Doing so at the subnational level helps to feel the pulse of the most vulnerable especially those in local communities thereby drawing attention to the need to also design appropriate interventions. As Muhammed also notes addressing hunger which remains a major setback to achieving progress is central to delivering people-centred development. Without this, most of the gains made in the areas of human capital development stand to be reversed.
A rich and invaluable resource, Disruption: Rethinking Governance to Work for the Poor, is a must read for all who intend to delve into the world of public policy and governance, as well as current policymakers, academics, practitioners, donors, and development partners. This book demonstrates that with the right measures taken progress towards delivering development is attainable, despite existing challenges. While the ideas provided in this book are not intended to serve as a one-size-fits-all model to governance for development, they however rekindle hope and are grounded in evidence on what works in contrast to what does not, using Kaduna state as a case study.