Wednesday, March 31, 2010

God Help Nigeria? Running a Country on Prayers, Club Rules, Bow and Go without any Accountability

“You have our prayers; we also hope that when you get there as you represent us, you represent us well. There are traditions that we follow, and if you belong to this club, you must also obey the rules and regulations of this club. You can take a bow and go.”
–Senate President David Mark

I was stunned when I read the above quote made by Nigeria senate president David Mark during the ministerial screening of Senator Sanusi Daggash. Much of what we have in Nigeria as governance is often a smokescreen for “old boys club.” There is no transparency in the governance of the country. Decisions are made perfunctorily; administrators and politicians are often reactive instead of proactive. Little or no attempt is made to engage in forward-looking, rational decision making. Accountability counts for nothing, it is all about membership in an exclusive governing class called PDP!

Public policies in Nigeria are not grounded in sound decision making. Someone once said that public policy is a type of decision, a decision not about what is, but about what ought to be and what ought to be done to get us there. When analytical thought process are not involved in public policy decision making, the result is the current “mess” the whole country has found itself. Lewis Irwin defined public policy analysis as “the systematic consideration and selection of logical alternatives in light of carefully applied evaluative criteria.”

In Nigeria, the acting president nominated ministers to serve in the federal cabinet, one of whom had accused the National Assembly of financial mismanagement, specifically he alleged that some senators “inflated budgets for personal gains.” Before the hearing the senators had threatened to grill Senator Daggash. He in turn simply deflated their over bloated ego by throwing down an olive branch, saying he was misled in making such accusations. He then appealed to the senators’ sense of camaraderie. Following which they all kissed up and make up, all is forgiven, all is well. Nothing was said about the initial allegations other than the claim that he was misled. No attempt was made to get to the root of the allegation. And this is happening in a government avowed to root out corruption and mismanagement.

Larry Luton defined policy analysis as “an attempt to bring into policy making, good reasons, better information, thoughtful consideration, conscientious framing of the problem, informative/persuasive evidence, plausible consequences.” No one forced this regime and their political party, Peoples Democratic Party, to make anti-corruption and energy generation, the fundamental plank of their party platform and public policy. But having adopted that platform, the citizens of Nigeria at least do deserve that they put serious thought to tackling the hydra headed problem of corruption and energy generation in Nigeria.

The acting president also re-nominated Architect Nuhu Somo Way, former Minister of State for Power. The Yar’Adua regime abysmally failed to meet the 6,000 MW set by the government. You would expect the senate to take the re-nominated minister to task for this monumental failure, here is what the minister said at the screening, “I met a program of 6000 megawatts project and we were assigned to pursue this program to ensure that it is executed. By the grace of God, we were able to improve the power situation in the country to a level which is not commensurable to the mandate.” This is an admission of failure, but what did the senate do, they reward the minister with another mandate. The question is to go do what?

Here is the minister excuse for failure “We were faced with a challenge of what we could not control, that is the source of fuel and this source of fuel is gas. I am not trying to put a blame to anybody, I am just trying to say that we did rehabilitate our plants and got up to 5200 available generation capacity as at the end of December, last year. But we had stranded facility of 1500 megawatts due to inadequacy of gas. This inadequacy of gas cannot be blamed on a single source. We know the challenges we went through, they are challenges of security, vandalism, challenges of inadequate funding contributed to some of the issues that militated against our achievement of 6000 megawatts.”

My beef with the minister’s explanation is this, “how in the world can you claim with a bold face that you did not know that you will face the challenges of security, vandalism and funding when you rolled out the energy policy?” Where is the requisite policy analysis expected from such an exalted office of the minister of federal republic of Nigeria? We are not talking of “force majeur” or an act of God for crying out loud! Before the announcement of the policy, everyone in Nigeria knew about the problem of vandalism, inadequacy of gas and security except the minister!
This to me is the real problem with Nigeria, the problem of values-based directionality! Ideas are bandied around, public policy are announced with fanfare, with no one putting any thought to a serious analysis of the public policy just announced. Our journalists are often “participe criminis” in this enterprise. No one called out anyone? As long as palms are greased, things go on. Like the National Assembly, it is all bow and go!

The most disgusting part of the charade is watching this government officials put everything down to prayer. Sometimes I feel like screaming at my television, pray for what? God gave you brain and intelligence for a reason. God had already performed his part by blessing Nigeria with unlimited resources in minerals and some of the best brains out of Africa! Just put to use what you have! Analyse your policy and look at all alternatives, think before you roll out the next drum and for crying out loud, sack ministers who failed and stop rewarding them with new appointment!

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