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What is Nigeria’s standard for good governance?

When I started my Master’s in Leadership Studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy in January 2020, I envisaged great insights, conversations and research on how effective leadership, good governance, good policies, active citizens, and functional institutions can positively impact Nigeria’s sustainable development. During our first class with Professor C.C.C Kwasau, he started his class with a poser “what is governance? What is good governance? How do we measure good governance?” Our answers were reflective of our different backgrounds. My colleagues from the corporate and private sector insisted that the process of decision-making and the process by which such decisions are implemented to influence corporate management, employee standards, performance, and corporate culture of productivity, profitability and sustainability is what define good corporate governance. My colleagues from the public sector opined that the World Bank is right with the six dimensions of voices and accountability, political stability and lack of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption is good governance. As we prepare for examination this week, I have decided to share my note with you on measuring the standard of governance in Nigeria.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has organized eleven general elections, witnessed six successful military coups, four failed coups, thirty years of military rule, and nearly thirty-one years of democratic leadership. The governors, all claimed to have the best interest of the people in managing public resources and in conduct of public affairs, with the promise of providing direction for achieving Nigeria’s fundamental state objectives and goals. Sixty years after, the factors that affected us as a people under colonial rule are still as much with us under self-rule with worsening weight on Nigeria’s development. To achieve the nexus between good governance and accelerated development, there must be a minimum web of standards that we must set for ourselves in ensuring that we deploy effective leadership in solving our existential, developmental, security, and policy problems. At the same time, institutionalizing measures to monitor and assess the degree of compliance of such standard in governance through good management, good performance, good stewardship, good public engagement, and sustainable results.

If the citizens are at the centre of governance and public activity, then governments at all levels have a solemn duty to be responsive in attending to the legitimate expectations and needs of the people; to be efficient and effective; to be open to change and innovate creative solutions for complex social challenges; to abide by the rule of law, duty to place public good above personal interest. Furthermore, duty to discharge their duties competently in order to positively influence output and social impact, duty to respect human rights, duty to take responsibility for their actions and inactions, duty to ensure social inclusion, and duty to sincerely serve the people. Whenever a leadership and good governance award is given to a politician in Nigeria, one question that readily comes to the critical mind of a student of leadership is “did the awardee meet the above demands of the duties of good governance? How is the awardee’s leadership style impacting the quality of lives of the Nigerian citizens? Do we mean to say that the leader is productive, efficient and result driven? Do we mean that the leader is sincerely serving people or is he being served by the people?

If governance does not directly, significantly, and sustainably impact our constituencies, country and the citizens therein, then it sufficiently falls on all fours of failed and bad governance. Building the blocks of good governance starts with our electoral process. The kind of a nation’s political process determines the outcome and impact of governance on the nation’s development. Since politics and political parties are the vehicle for mobilizing the people, resources, leadership and policies around a nation’s shared aspirations, goals, and state objectives, it is important to ensure that only competent hands are entrusted to drive the wheels of social vehicle, through a free, fair, and credible elections that reflect the will of the people. Credible political process curtails the proclivity of leaders for corruption, ineptitude and nepotism.

Since human beings are prone to the corruptibility of power, the role of the people in ensuring good governance becomes inevitable. The people as the beneficiaries of good governance have a duty to promote social accountability through active participation in the democratic and development processes. Governments must begin to see the people more as partners that must be engaged in enriching policymaking and policy implementation. The government cannot adequately engage the people without providing relevant information in an open and transparent manner. These efforts and commitments of the government notwithstanding, the people, particularly Nigerians, need a new culture of citizenship that recognizes getting involved, taking responsibility and ownership of the development process of our communities and country as a sacrosanct duty of the citizens.

Political parties on the other hand have a duty to shun politics of profiteering that has been the bane of our social progress for decades. There is no reason why Nigeria should only be known for negative political practices. All political parties in Nigeria have a role of ensuring that their members and candidates in every election are well versed with the ideals of democracy, development practice and the art of good governance and statecraft. Party members and the citizens must be educated to avoid the temporary trap of selling their votes during elections, they must be engaged to support and own their candidates in elections by contributing their time, resources, energy, and intellect for the victory of credible candidates that can work for the best interest of their constituencies after the election. The people in partnership with civil society organization must continue to leverage on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, and section 51 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The Act guarantees every Nigerian the legal capacity to obtain prerogative orders or other remedies at a Federal High Court, particularly the enforcement of section 48 (1) of the Act which provides that the Federal Government shall ensure the fiscal and financial affairs are conducted in a transparent manner and accordingly ensure full and timely disclosure and wide publication of all transactions and decisions involving public revenues and expenditures and their implications for its finances. No free society can survive without the critical stakeholders conspiring to promote good governance at all levels of governance.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Ekpa Stanley Ekpa, Principal Partner, Plan Partners writes from Kaduna.

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