Right From The Start: Tinubu/Shettima to Get it Right, by Shettima Aji Ali
I must begin by acknowledging Dan Ciampa and Michael Watkins whose title of their instructive book I decided to use for this piece of advice I consider critical to the incoming government of the Excellencies, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima and the 10th National Assembly.
I have no doubts that Messrs Tinubu and Shettima have quite an understanding of the myriad of challenges bedevilling Nigeria, which they vigorously tried to convince Nigerians that they have the knowledge to deal with.
As for the legislative arm, they have come a long way and appreciatively garnered experience to make good governance and the wellbeing of Nigerians their primary focus; indeed, it is the reason d’ētre for their existence.
It is a common belief in Nigeria that we do not lack good ideas and policies, but implementation is the problem. Given the experience in governance at both the executive and legislative levels of Tinubu and Shettima, I have no doubt there is no shortage of skills either or a knowing-doing gap for putting their ideas into practice. The challenge, however, is selecting a set of areas to focus critically on right from the start.
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The critical focus areas of good governance and development to my mind are citizens’ rights; corruption (multi-dimensional); effective Communication and connecting; and aligning competence and performance.
The expectation of Nigerians since the advent of the current democratic dispensation in 1999 is that they have a say in government. It turned out otherwise; the political class and the powerful, rich, and connected persons have effectively taken over the country, controlling access to resources, employment in the public sector, access to quality education and healthcare, and competitive political participation, among others.
Consequently, most citizens feel alienated; they are frustrated and angered and have lost faith in the government. The result of poor governance over the years is the unprecedented increase in multi-dimensional poverty, crime, rampant drug addiction, generally, and even suicide, especially among the youth.
Equally, we face an unparalleled loss of faith in the country, and hence, migration, even as most engaged do not know what awaits them in the journey and at their intended destinations. Any country that allows its citizens to feel so helpless, especially its most productive population, certainly faces catastrophic challenges sooner or later. Dealing with the fundamental causes of this development must, therefore, be prioritised.
The most significant challenge the country face today is undoubtedly corruption which incontrovertibly has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria as a nation. Apart from the financial/material corruption that has taken unimaginable proportions and transcended all levels of public service, we also face many other forms of corruption.
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These forms of corruption include nepotism, employment allocation to public and influential persons for their wards and chosen candidates, sales of employment in the public sector, and the conspiracy of public officials and business moguls in laundering stolen public funds, among many other craftily disguised ways of corruption.
The existence of the anticorruption agencies, unfortunately, has not had the desired effect. The operations of the anti-corruption and public stealing agencies are shrouded in the general lack of transparency and accountability and an unassailable degree of their independence detrimental to effective oversight of their activities.
Also, the laws of the land have failed to meet the dynamism and the growing sophistication of the perpetration of corruption and financial crimes. The way to deal with runaway corruption and financial crimes is to copy what is obtainable in minimum corrupt countries by limiting the space for corruption and placing the onus of proof of source of income on the citizens.
Citizens must account for their source of funds used for the acquisition of assets, (fixed and movable) and including investments in shares and securities. Approvals for new buildings, registration of vehicles, and investment in securities should all require evidence of the source of the funds and payment of appropriate taxes on the sources of the funds.
There should also be a maximum amount of gifts allowable to public officers (given individually or collectively) for whatever purpose and an open declaration of the value and purpose of the gift. As for the judicial processes, the need for reliance on judgments based on moral correctness than technical interpretations is critical for success in the fight against corruption.
Respecting the constitutional rights of citizens for equity, justice, fairness and access to equal opportunity is sacrosanct.
The promises made by the incoming leadership of operating on the mantra of servant leadership are most welcome if followed with a firm commitment as a principle for governance.
There has to be absolute transparency in access to resources and public services. Particularly, recruitment into public institutions must be transparent.
The system of allocation of slots of employment to influential public officers to be distributed to their wards and relations is a blatant moral injustice to the millions of qualified, hardworking, and hopeful youths across the country.
It is tantamount to deliberately creating a class distinction between the children of the connected and the general citizenry which is unacceptable. Leaving this system unchecked would undoubtedly lead to uncontrollable restiveness among the youths; it is an act of turning public service into the hands of mediocrity and uncommitted people with an unjustified sense of entitlement.
This could be a fundamental challenge to the expectation that this government will align competence with performance, working with people of capacity and competence, and not promoting brazen political and personal patronage. Respect for citizens’ rights for equity and fairness, equal opportunity, and aligning competence with performance is fundamental and must be the primary focus of a servant leader.
Successful servant leadership demands the use of effective communication, connecting, and empathy. Political campaigns in Nigeria use communication most effectively, rousing the populace into a frenzy. We expect the connecting cord between the leadership and the electorate taken to the level of a close family or next-door neighbour. The electorates vote for leaders based on the expectations of the leaders’ capacity to deliver on their promises; they expect the leaders to talk to them about why promises are not met.
The screaming of a leader about doing his best is arrogance in the ears of the governed; they elect people to deliver on the promises and perception the politician builds about himself in their minds about his/ her capacity and not on the “best” effort of the elected. The electorate expects to hear about the limitations of the leader and what is being done to surmount them.
That is effective communication in action and words delivered with empathy bridges the gap between the leaders and the led and hence, is highly recommended to the incoming government and the legislature.
In conclusion, it is a fervent prayer that the new administration gives urgent and quality time to crafting policies, standards, and implementation framework and programme and dedicating personal commitment to these brief recommendations for the success of this administration in furtherance of social, economic, and political development of our dear country.
Shettima Aji Ali, PhD
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