Institutional Building for National Development

by Paul Ogwu Okwuchukwu

For us to get started in our quest for solid national development, we need to build sustainable and strong institutions. We need strong institutions for service delivery, government efficiency, strong policy and programme implementation. We also need to build capacity divorced from our individual, regional, religious and personal aggrandisement in order to encourage public and private sector sustenance. We cannot grow or achieve much if we depend on individual genius and personality cult and passion to run our public institutions.

Our infrastructural development, maintenance and delivery of other state services need viable and functional institutions. These institutions should be the driving force towards the maintenance of our dilapidated roads, unworkable railway service, outdated power infrastructure, dysfunctional health delivery and every other conceivable public sector services. If we had taken time to build our institutions we would not be facing death traps called roads because the governmental agencies would have taken the responsibility of not only supervising the construction of the roads but would also be able to maintain and repair our roads. Also we would be able to have a functional rail network and other government institutions like the old NEPA, NITEL,NRC and Hospitals ,NNPC, NNDC would have been able not only to provide their statutory functions but would have been successful global enterprise. Most of the institutions established the same time with some other countries are major players in their own right. Let’s a take look at Petrogas and the Brazilian defence corporation and the Malaysian Petronas oil company compare it with our own NNPC and NNDC. While the others are major international players and the others heavy manufacturing giants, ours are more or less a rent seeking enterprise and a corruption nest bed. Let us equally look at Eskom in South Africa and their power generation capacity. The government agencies failed because they failed to build an enduring institutional structure. If we had built sustainable institution or capacity building, most of the critical challenges we are facing now as a country would have been minimised. This cuts across all the sectors and sections of our national life. As we look at other institutions like EFCC, ICPC and other that have direct impact and bearing on our national life, we should be thinking of deepening the institutional responsiveness and capacity to be able to tackle the huge challenge as enshrined in their status book. We should have outgrown the idea of who heads what and build up a base that is capable of meeting up the challenges of governance with prompting from the leadership.

In essence, the person that heads an organisation should not decide the performance of such organisation. All governmental institutions should aim to attract and maintain a talent poll and dedicated workforce that would drive development. The civil service should aim to serve as a poll and catalyst that drives our national development. This critical aspect of not only the governmental function but also as the warehouse for policy formulation ,research ,implementation that drives the government vision ,mission and objectives. We actually do not need the frequent and constant change in policy. Our political appointees should desist from the changing of governmental policies and discontinuing of the policy of the previous occupant of the office.

Policy inconsistence may perhaps be the main bane of our lack of development. I cannot understand why an office holder comes in and the first thing they do is to rubbish the policy or programme initiated by their predecessor. They introduce a new and often not thought through polices that will take four years to start functioning and knowing that they may not last more than four years in the office. We have seen an example of policy continual in the performance of Fashola the governor of Lagos state. We should also be aware that if not for Yar ardua’s political game of the NIPP that the energy situation in the country would have improved a bit. The role and function of building strong institutions cannot be ignored. A thorough policy formulation and implementation follows up several stages and years for the change the initiators envisage. I would always advice our leaders to try to read Lee Kuan Yew ‘From the Third World to the first World. The Singapore story’ book on his experience in Singapore. Cultural change or mindset change at times may take generation to build. Some of the things we suffer now emanate from our experience during the military era and it would take the country another fifty years to liberate ourselves from the culture and values we acquired during the military era. We may start making progress if we depart from that culture, a sustained democratic and rule of law path over a period. This is also applicable if we can maintain and sustain the vision of top 20 economies in 2020.We should aim to entrench the concepts and mission in the mindset of the population and re-orientate the civil service and the private sectors towards the sustenance of the vision.

For the society to entrench these concepts over time, it needs a sustained approach that means we have to plan for the long run. We are daily witnessing the effect of short -sighted approach in our daily national life. Our state of underdevelopment can be attributed to the lop sided and visionless plan of our previous leaders. As a country, we are not short of ideas, polices and programmes but we are short of consistency in our programme and public policy. This is why it is always the agenda of any coming administration or government to discredit the one before them before even sitting down to think and reflect on their own programme.

We could also see the effect of this in the elephant and abandon programme and projects that litters everywhere in the country. If some of our leaders can concentrated in abandoned project, some of our cites and states would witness a major facelift. We should see governance as a continuous process. We should know that we should consistently add to the block to be able to finish the ongoing project of statehood. We should invest substantial part of our nation’s wealth in training and retraining of our workforce. This is because every nation’s strength is in her work force. If we have a group of well-dedicated and trained work force, we would have solved a substantial part of our problem.

We should look at the emerging trend among the developing countries with trained work force and even the so-called developed world and understand that they are where they are because of a well set up structure, institution, policy formulation and a well-trained work force.

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