Home OPINION COMMENTARY General Agenda For The Buhari Administration, By Otive Igbuzor PhD

General Agenda For The Buhari Administration, By Otive Igbuzor PhD

President Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari
President Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari

The All Progressives Congress (APC) will form the new government in Nigeria as from 29th May, 2015. The party won the election with a campaign on a change agenda. Before the election of the APC, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in power for sixteen years. There are many lessons to learn from the failure of the PDP regime which led to the victory of APC. These lessons should be taken into cognisance by the APC from the beginning. The first is that the development of a country is a complex issue and is much more than a rendition of activities and projects of Ministry, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). There is also the need to focus on the big issues of political, social and cultural change. Secondly, the voice of the people is important. For instance, the majority of the people cannot be arguing that corruption is a major problem and the political leadership is insisting that corruption is not a problem. Thirdly, government must learn to put the people at the centre of development. The Nigerian economy has grown. The economic growth rate is high but poverty is increasing at the same time. There is the need for policy intervention to deal with this.  In addition, any party that operates and portrays itself for the sole purpose of patronage is digging its own grave. According to the former chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, Alh. Bamamga Tukur “PDP is all about patronage. We are going to dole out patronage to all our members who remain in the party….Let me inform you. We are going to give patronage to all our members who have contested elections and lost. There is enough in the party to go around everyone. There is no need to leave the party.” Political organising need to be a continuous process involving political education of party leaders and members. The think tank of the party is very important here. Furthermore, lack of engagement with critical stakeholders of the society is political suicide. There is the need to engage with critical sectors such as civil society, labour and the private sector. Moreover, poor co-ordination of government activities and poor monitoring and evaluation can lead to failure of a government.

 The APC has come to power to implement a change agenda.  Nigerians are anxiously waiting for that change. It is necessary to carefully craft the change agenda in the four key areas of economy, politics, social and technological. The economic agenda should address the issues of structures and institutions of economic management; diversification of the economy; promotion of transparency and accountability and promotion of pro-poor policies (Policies that will lead to good macroeconomic environment, improve access to financial services, improve governance and increase access of the poor to basic infrastructures and social services). The political agenda should address the building of institutions and mechanisms; review of the 1999 Constitution; institutions of horizontal accountability; reform of the Electoral system; building of democratic culture; regulation of party financing and campaign finance and reform of INEC. There should also be a social agenda because over the years the social fabric of the Nigerian society has been destroyed. A lot of people become wealthy overnight without questions about the sources of the wealth. People who embezzle public funds are rewarded by their communities with chieftaincy titles. There is brazen display of wealth in the midst of widespread poverty. The extended family system is being destroyed. The get rich quick syndrome has caught up with a great number of the population. The social agenda should focus on re-orientation on social values; re-orientation on work ethics and corporate Social responsibility and investment. The technological agenda should focus on building of technology infrastructure and use of technology to promote transparency and accountability.
In order to implement the above change agenda, there are certain immediate issues that the new administration must focus upon. They include the immediate production of a strategic plan to replace the vision 20:2020 document. It will also be a process to engage Nigerians in the change process. There is also the need to train the elected party officials on party philosophy and programmes. In addition, the regime must have an immediate plan for co-ordination.  In the past, some form of co-ordination only took place in the economic sector. There is the need to divide the whole governance structures into four co-ordinating units: Finance and Economy; Social Services; Infrastructure, Science and Technology and Governance. Luckily, the public service has already been divided along those four lines. Finance and Economy will encompass Finance, Industry, Trade and Investment, Budget Office, Office of Accountant General, Office of Auditor General. Social services will include Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Education, Health, Sports, Women Affairs and Social Development, Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Police, Youth. Infrastructure, Science and Technology will be made up of Communication, Science and Technology, Environment, Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Power, Water, Transport, Niger Delta, Petroleum and Agriculture. Governance will include the State House, SGF, HOS, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Information, Interior, Justice, Labour and Productivity.
Another important area to focus upon is monitoring and evaluation. The vision 20:2020 demanded that all tiers of government and MDAs should have a robust M & E system. This needs to be operationalized. Finally is the very important issue of public administration reform. There are several issues that require reform in the Public Service. A few of them is examined below:
·      Cost of governance: It is well known that the cost of governance in Nigeria is very high. Over 70 percent of the federal budget is devoted to recurrent expenditure. The political and bureaucratic classes are over bloated. Cost of doing business with government is high. Most of the procurement in the public sector is inflated.
·      Effective Budgeting: The budget is perhaps the most important instrument in any modern state apart from the constitution. The focus on budget has assumed greater prominence in recent years with increasing democratization, civil society participation and the desire to respond to the development challenge of poverty.  Budgeting is very crucial for the economic development of any nation. Good budgeting can lead to economic growth and development. But to prepare a good budget requires a responsible leadership, special staff assistance, broad, accurate and reliable information, complete plan, a financial calendar and effective monitoring and control over the execution of the budget plan. Meanwhile, the budget has been described as the most important document for the development of any country. It is the most powerful way that a government can meet the needs and priorities of the citizens. The budget process is crucial to good development outcomes. Corruption in any country starts from the budgetary process. In very corrupt countries, the budget is done in secret. Releases are done without the knowledge of citizens. Procurement information is not made available to citizens and corruption is guarded and protected.  Effective budgeting requires an open budget system.  A budget is regarded as open if citizens have access to the key budget documents; have high level of involvement in the budgetary process and have access to procurement information. The Open Budget Index 2012 scores Nigeria 16 out of 100 which is a poor rating of the quality of budgeting in Nigeria.
·      Public Finance Management: There is still opacity and lack of transparency in the oil and gas sector. Oil theft continues unabated despite the effort of government and security agencies. According to NEITI Audit report 2009-2011, Nigeria losses N578.990 billion annually to oil theft and NNPC owes government $5.8 billion from Liquefied Natural Gas which has not been paid into the federation account since 2006. There is still late releases of funds to ministries, departments and agencies. There is improper project design, costing, monitoring and audit. The end result is low capital budget implementation and unsatisfactory public expenditure outcomes.
·      Civil Service Reform: In the civil service today, there is the culture of self-interest and patronage. The recruitment process does not supply the right people in the right numbers to the right places to meet the service needs of citizens. The civil servants are not managed, promoted or rewarded based on objective measures of performance. The end result is that the civil service functions as an employment mechanism and not a service delivery mechanism with the with over 70 percent recurrent expenditure. Consequently, there is poor delivery of public goods and services.
·      Planning: There is no systematic planning framework for the country that ensures that adequate data and research, good information system, monitoring and evaluation and tracking of results. In addition, there is no integration of planning and budgeting. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor plan implementation and poor service delivery. For instance, it has been documented by the Presidential Assessment Committee report that 11, 886 projects worth N7.7 trillion have been abandoned across the country denying citizens of the benefits. Also, the Ajaokuta steel plant was planned in 1978/79 to be completed in 1986 at US$650m but government has spent over US$5 billion and it is not completed as a result of poor planning and corruption.
·      Policy: There is no process or criteria or mechanism for filtering policy ideas in the country. Policy proposals are often not evidence based because ideas that enter into the policy agenda are based on the private interest behind them. The result is that the policy ideas are not strategic and implementation do not give the desired result leading to wastage of resources due to duplication and failed programmes and projects. The World Bank Resource Allocation Index and Global Competitive Index rate Nigeria very poorly in terms of policy.
·      Sectoral Issues: The ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) in the different sectors such as Trade, agriculture, education, health, and security are expected to deliver government services to meet the needs of Nigerians. But the poor recruitment and posting, lack of motivation, poor allocation of resources and poor management has resulted in weak capacity, weak accountability and poor performance of the MDAs.
·      Constituency projects: Constituency projects constitute a huge challenge to organizational effectiveness in the public sector. Most of the projects are put in the budget without proper design and costing. The nature, location and choice of contractors for the projects are determined solely by political considerations. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor execution and poor service delivery to citizens.
·      Corruption: As noted above, corruption is widespread and endemic in Nigeria. But we know that the problem of corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our times leading to underdevelopment and poor service delivery in Nigeria. Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development whether social, economic or political. Corruption not only leads to poor service delivery but loss of lives. Corruption is pervasive in Nigeria with serious negative consequences. Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies fighting corruption in the country, corruption has remained widespread and pervasive because of failure to utilize universally accepted and tested strategies; disconnect between posturing of leaders and their conduct; lack of concrete sustainable anti-corruption programming and failure to locate the anti-corruption struggle within a broader struggle to transform society.  Some scholars have recommended that the anti-corruption fight must be guided by legislative framework for transparent and accountable government; political will and commitment to fight corruption; comprehensive strategy that is systematic, comprehensive, consistent, focused, publicized, non-selective and non-partisan; protection of Whistle blowers; political reform to curb political corruption especially election rigging; reform of substantive programmes and administrative procedures; mobilisation for social re-orientation; independent media; adequate remuneration for workers to reflect the responsibilities of their post and a living wage; code of ethics for Political office holders, business people and CSOs; independent institutions especially electoral, human rights and gender commissions and a movement for Anti-corruption.
The Buhari Administration will be starting on a firm footing if these issues are taken seriously and implemented with efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism. The administration should have a clear change agenda that is incorporated into a strategic plan with clear plan for monitoring and evaluation and public administration reform. In particular, the administration should focus on the challenges of implementation by addressing the issues of strategy, operations and people.
The writer is the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD). otiveigbuzor@yahoo.co.uk

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