The achievement of a Nigerian national consciousness of unity requires an urgent imperative of national value deconstruction and reorientation. One just needs a bird’s eye view of Nigeria’s current political dispensation to know how deeply seated the normlessness of the Nigeria value space is. Almost all the political contestants, at all levels, are embroiled in one allegation of moral turpitude or the other.
Indeed, the perception of politics and politicians by Nigerians is way down the trajectory of possibilities. And so, if those contesting for some of the exalted posts in the land are very low in the perception of millions of Nigerians, does that not mean that those millions are already resigned to the usual political business of misrepresentation and political corruption in an electoral dynamic they have no control over?
Thus, the next administration cannot afford to toe the line of “business as usual.” Or else, Nigeria will keep unraveling out of joint. Building a better Nigeria must be constructed around the praxis of learning to live together without foregoing what makes us different from one another. The incoming administration must therefore ensure that it is not encumbered in any way that will compromise the political will to push forward series of political and administrative decisions that
will initiate the reconstruction of Nigeria’s federal profile.
Federalism is Nigeria’s best bet for learning to live and develop together.
Only a truly developmental federalism has the capacity to give all ethnic nationalities, major and minor, a sense of belonging to a nation that cares about their ethnic autonomy, rather than being subject to a centre that is always subject to ethnic and political capture. Changing the mind of Nigeria’s national constituents requires fundamental constitutional and structural reconstruction that signal the goodwill and determination of the administration’s willingness to push through mighty transformations. This goes beyond political rhetoric and sham manifestoes. Nigerians can no longer be fooled. A constitutional reordering of the place of the rule of law in Nigeria’s social and political order is a sine qua non for national progress.
Nigerians want to see a level playing field that allows them the full and rewarding exploration of their capabilities as humans. They also want to have equal access to all that could make their lives qualitatively better. This already imposes a public service reform imperative on the new administration. This is a demand for a meritocratic public service founded on a competency-based human resources function and an appointment and hiring metric properly gate kept and monitored
in tune with performance agreement or contract to ensure performance that influence Nigeria’s productivity profile. The restructuring of the public sector must be oriented towards achieving two survivalist objectives: bring cost of governance to the barest minimum and to offload people in order to create space for talents that will bring core skills to beef up public service organisational IQ and policy intelligence. The same goes for a revamping of the federal character principle that complements the restructuring of Nigeria’s federal dynamic. Playing by the federal character frame does not exclude a meritocratic consideration. Federal character does not imply pushing ethnic incompetence into critical posts and positions. Nigeria’s productivity revolution cannot be served when meritocracy suffers in Nigeria’s institutional dynamics. And the credibility profile of the new administration will immediately take a dive once this institutional imperative is allowed to slide into the usual political lack of vision for the future of the Nigerian state.
Institutional integrity and performance; indeed, the whole gamut of national development and the emergence of a governance philosophy and national consciousness, hang precariously around the capacity of the new administration to facilitate a solid policymaking dynamics around the business of government, as well as programme and project management praxis underpinned by corporate governance principles and practices that take the trajectory from policy design to implementation very seriously. There is an urgent need for the restoration of value-based institutional parameters, and performance management practices activated by performance measures that include incentives, rewards and sanctions.
Being the change agent for the transformation of the Nigerian state post-2023 is an endeavour that I suspect most aspirants for all these exalted positions might not be fully apprised of. Of course, there is always the fall back excuse of “things are actually beyond what we expected” or “the preceding government laid the foundation for our failure.” No one should take up this challenge if he or she is not prepared either for the true state of governance or for what the predecessor has done. And this is why reforming the Nigerian state is not only an urgent imperative; it is a sacred responsibility.
• Prof. Tunji Olaopa is a Retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS), Kuru, Plateau State.