Friday, October 22, 2010

Nigeria's Politics of Garbage: Efficiency vs Virtue and Grandstanding

"We have reached a moment in time when the national condition seems neither
lifeless nor deathless. It’s like the barren but sensuous serenity of the
natural world in late autumn, before Thanksgiving, containing the promise of
rebirth and the potential for resurrection." - Anon

I woke up this morning, sad but lifted. Saddened by the events going on in Nigeria but lifted and comforted by the promise of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria that currently only exist in my dreams. But dreams are good. For out of dreams come the seeds of liberation and progress. The news out of Nigeria is constantly filled with "stuffs" that is engineered to make you angry, despodents and give up on her. I have been there, but today I chose to believe in her and my dream for her.

Who could have "thunk" as one of my malaproprism proned friends quibbed that the same week Ekiti state received good news about their electoral freedom, Amos Adamu will get nabbed for bribery and corruption? It even get better, Adamu's defense according to the BBC is that he is innocent as he is merely asking for the money so he could build FIFA standard facility in Nigeria. Apparently he forgot that he had received more than the sum of money he was demanding from the fake US officials from Nigeria's coffer to build the charade of a stadium at Abuja for the commonwealth games.

Any way, Adamu was not the focus of my optimism on Nigeria and neither the people's democratic party stalwarts in southwest, Nigeria who had gathered at Ogun State government house to discuss how they lost Ekiti. In what seems like a macabre news story straight out of PDP mad as hell handling of everything Nigeria, PDP officials whines to Governor Daniels about how the erstwhile governor of Ekiti state had reached out to President Jonathan to help influence the outcome of the judicial decision out of Ilorin appellate court. Can you believe a public official discussing this watonly and openly before a crowd of journalist! It is apparent that PDP officials had no shame left with them anymore. So what do they expected the president to have done, call the presiding judge and offer to fly him and the members free of charge to Dubai for shopping? Kai! Na wah o! Again the story got murkier, the ex-governor of Ekiti state was quoted by Daniel to have wondered why President Jonathan would congratulate the new governor few minutes after the announcement of the appellate court decision. Is he president of Nigeria or president of PDP?

Any way, we digress again, that is not the source of my optimism, my hope this morning lies in the fact that I firmly believe Nigeria could be fixed. I have been working on a book on Nigeria political culture and the impact on the efficiency of our public administration. As I strongly subscribed to Wildavsky's theory that the political institutions that people construct are shaped in conformity with their political culture.

Where we are now as a nation is where the United States of America was before the progressive era reforms between 1893 to 1920. Before then corruption, nepotism, "spoils" system was rampant in the United States during this era. But what the progressive reformers did was not just to appeal to the emotional basic instinct in man and blame everything on corruption as we are doing in Nigeria presently trying to fix things through politicized anti-corruption hearings. The progressive reformers fuse the arguments regarding "the immorality of governments with arguments regarding its potential effectiveness by emphasising the doctrine of efficiency" to quote Larry Luton's book of the similar title.

In 1894, Theodore Roosevelt told the First National Conference for Good City Government: "There are two gospels I always want to preach to reformers.... The first is the gospel of morality; the next is the gospel of efficiency." I challenged any of the readers to look around our public administration landscape and tell me if they could find three efficient public organization. And yet, when you look at some administrations widely celebrated in Nigeria for good performance, the thing that sets them apart is efficiency. Be it, General Murtala Mohammed regime, Lateef Kayode Jakande (as governor of Lagos state), Mohammed Marwa, Donald Duke, and lately Governor Fashola.

They all won because they focused on politics of garbage: clean streets, paved roads, orderliness, efficient service, it is only after they accomplished this that they simultaneously focused on the anti-corruption issue. In the last few years, we have had presidents whose sole focus of his administration is anti-corruption even whilst his appointees are inept in delivery of demoractic dividends. Today most urban residents in the United States take for granted that some garbage collection and disposal service will be available, they may actually forgot the rapacious wait in the chaos of Ojuelegba for an accident-waiting-to happen molue, but that has not always been the case. Jakande focused on the provisio of affordable housing and created an housing revolution in Lagos. Marwa focused on clearing the streets of debris during the Abacha regime widely known for its rapacious stealing of public money and yet Lagos state citizens adore him till date. Before him, Lagos residents wallowed in filth and garbage under the regime of Olagunsoye Oyinlola who could not find bitumen to tarred the road to the governor's office at Alausa!

Here is where it gets interesting, Oyinlola is from the southwest, Marwa is from Adamawa. Marwa focused on efficiency without care to ethnicity, and performed in the midst of the most corrupt government Africa had ever known. Oyinlola despite it's lack of performance was rewarded by Osun state PDP with the mandate to govern Osun state. This is the politics of garbage that I am talking about. You can look at it and get optimistic or you can look at the negatives and get depressed. The battle ahead of Nigeria will be fought in the arena of garbage: between those who are trying to clean it up and those who are profiting from the filth. There is a need to make a scientific argument for efficiency in the governance of Nigeria and no one is doing that now.

Furious Frank

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