Active Governance With Nothing To Show: Why Is It Here?

Good governance is the effective exercise of power and authority by government in a manner that serves to improve the quality of life of the populous. This includes using state power to create a society in which the full development of individuals and of their capacity to control their lives is possible. A ruling class that sees the state solely as a means of expropriating the nation’s limited resources is simply incapable of good governance. More specifically, such a class will by its character and mission abuse power.

An underlying cause of many of the manifestations of bad governance, including political repression, corruption and ethnic sectarianism, is the endeavour by the ruling classes to be and remain part of the global elite despite their nation’s poverty. The competition for national resources leads to conflict and repression. It is difficult to see how there can be good governance when the orientation of the elite is to stay in the running and be part of the fifth of the world’s population that forms the international consumer class. Bad governance is not a mainly problem of ignorance or lack of infrastructural capacity or even of individual dictators. States in Africa are incapacitated as instruments of development because ruling classes, including people in and outside government, are motivated by objectives that have little to do with the common good.

The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) were launched in May 2004 as Nigeria’s home-grown growth and poverty reduction strategy. Nigeria’s 36 states have also developed State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS). The NEEDS and SEEDS focus on achieving growth, better service delivery, reform of government institutions and the political system, and transformation of values to overcome corruption and inefficiency. DFID’s assistance in Nigeria is focused on supporting the Nigerian government’s efforts through NEEDS and SEEDS. DFID and the World Bank signed a joint four-year Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) in Nigeria in 2005. USAID have subsequently joined the partnership. The CPS is an important vehicle for improving aid effectiveness in Nigeria by: Enabling donors to speak with one voice, reducing transaction costs for the Government; and increasing donor impact through improved co-ordination of activities around NEEDS, Nigeria’s own plan for growth and poverty reduction.

The poverty becomes unabated because the States control their own public servants, because they recruit and pay them. Again the livelihoods of many citizens are taxed, public bureaucracies record a great deal of information about individual citizens; and individual public servants come regularly into contact with citizens. A taxation system is simultaneously a governance intelligence mechanism. It comprises two main elements: (a) sets of information on citizens – names, addresses, occupations, incomes, business turnover, wealth – that states might not otherwise collect and maintain; and (b) a network of public tax collection agents who use this information, collect a great deal more in an informal way, become repositories of knowledge about what is going on in the far-flung parts of polities where state elites may have little direct knowledge or influence.(iv) Because the material prosperity of citizens increases their taxability, there are large areas of public policy within which states and citizens have common interests. (v) There is scope for the emergence of representative government because (a) of these common interests between state and citizens (in the use of tax revenues to promote prosperity); (b) the process of tax collection can be made easier or less costly for both parties if tax payers are consulted about modes and levels of taxation; and (c)the fact of paying direct taxes is likely to motivate the payers to take an interest in how ‘their’ money is used:” Historically, states have become beholden to their citizens through reciprocal obligation. Impersonal, formal, arbitrary state extraction – taxes and conscription for example – was the first sign of government as penetration and control in the early modern nation state. It was soon followed by demands, particularly among property holders, for protection against such arbitrary exactions and for a role in deciding how state income was spent.

This development we now think of as the expansion of individual rights, democratic participation and class politics. In mineral producing states, wealth translates into the capacity to pay taxes to, and demand work on the revenues of such state .It has helped correct a widely-held misconception that the state was strong and effective in the absence of a dedicated state apparatus – and reliant largely on the part-time, voluntary administrative activities of the propertied classes.

Striking a deal from the government – that is, into political power” ,some greedy politicians pose temptations for the khaki-men to take over state power by force on the ground that the knowledge that the state’s income stream can only be kept flowing if the new regime either has the capacity to manage a complex revenue assessment and collection mechanism (possibly including an element of representation) or is able effectively to deploy more arrogant power to collect taxes. This image of the politics of a state dependent on earned income is necessarily idealized: we are dealing only with the fiscal dimensions of states, and that in an unusual way. That it does however point clearly to some of the implications of the obverse situation: dependence on unearned income. There are many variants of that case. It is sufficient if we deal with our two main types: oil and aid states. Oil first.

What happens when the government of our country is substantially or entirely dependent on this oil for its revenues? Leaving aside the historical specificities of each case, the general logic that emerges from the various sources cited above suggests seven distinct pressures toward political underdevelopment: Autonomy from citizens. The state apparatus, and the people who control it, have a ‘guaranteed’ source of income that makes them independent of their citizens (‘subjects’?). Why listen to citizens? Or give them any kind of democratic influence over the state? Or use scarce administrative resources to promote broad economic development when the state can feed itself from mineral revenues – or from using those revenues to establish ‘mega-projects’ under state control? It is more efficient to use some revenue to buy off those citizens likely to cause trouble, and more of it to support a powerful army and intelligence apparatus that will keep the others in line.

Those in power are reluctant to cede any influence to other groups, lest this become a foothold for a complete takeover of the state.(iii) Ineffective civil service. There is little incentive to establish an efficient civil service. The task of raising revenue from the mineral facilities requires few specialists, and these may be imported to make them more easily controllable. It isn’t necessary to establish the kind of efficient meritocratic civil service that is required to manage a complex tax system, or to establish the control mechanisms and public service values needed to protect against the worst abuses in tax collection. In the civil bureaucracy, jobs will be given mainly for patronage purposes, and for directly political reasons. Insofar as there are incentives to create an efficient public bureaucracy, these will be concentrated on the military and intelligence apparatuses. And it is to these apparatuses that able and ambitious young people are attracted.(iv) Vulnerability to subversion.

The failure to tax the bulk of the population – and thereby bring them into the ambit of a regular civilian bureaucracy – leaves the state vulnerable to the (armed) organizational challenge of competitors – guerrillas, private armies based on the narcotics and arms trades, and non-state movements of various kinds, including, in contemporary herein, autonomous Christian and Islamic movements. The key insight, shared inter alia by counter-insurgency specialists, is that active revenue rising may be an important means of keeping the state machinery alive and active at the grassroots. If the revenue raising function is permitted to decay, weak states leave themselves vulnerable to more committed unorganized predators:” In the course of an internal war, economic assistance tends to become an alternative source of revenue for the local regime, allowing it to neglect its domestic tax base and thus leave it to the insurgents to exploit. This is not to suggest that regimes facing an internal war ought to tax their populations more heavily, but it is to say that, in order to tax the countryside and the urban sectors, they have to rule those sectors. If they rule them, the insurgents do not”

Where public revenues come from a small number of concentrated sources, such as a few foreign oil companies or a public mining enterprise, it is relatively easy for revenue and expenditure to be hidden from view. If a legislature exists, it has limited capacity to exercise oversight over the state because it has very incomplete knowledge of – let alone control over – the myriad ways in which state and quasi-state agencies raise and spend money. The official’ budget’ may represent a mere shadow of the true fiscal situation. The NNPC, was a fiscal and political firm .Oil Producing states appear to appropriate an unusually low proportion of national income, but this may be because the flow of resources to the state is understated in the accounts .Absence of incentives for civic politics. Dependence on oil revenues affects the general tenor of civilian politics, and reduces, through two very different mechanisms, the likelihood that citizens will engage in politics in a ‘civic’ (deliberative, institutionalized, compromise-prone) fashion.

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
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