The Servant-Leader

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Almost unquestionably, the labeling of outcomes and effects of performance of this government in the administration of emerging societies with the concept of “good governance” has become unacceptably incorrect in terms of keeping faith. Rather, it is the view of I, Mr. Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu, that assessment of this leadership effectiveness in execution of national policy initiatives based on an objective approach to end the evaluation of efficiency or inefficiency, as in “efficient governance”. This position bolsters the idea that the concept of “bad governance and good governance, as in remain purely subjective to the trappings of parochialism and idiosyncrasy.

When good governance translate into the measurement of outcomes and effects of public policy execution, as it should be, the ruling party; government of this nation, led by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, performed below optimal efficiency in the economic structure during the first year (June 2007 to July 2008) and not from the terminals of May 29, 2007, of its maiden term. It emerges from press reports (thanks to aggressive Nigerians ) that performance of the Yar’Adua administration in the economic sphere during its first year scored below average grade with the caveat that it had the opportunity to redeem itself during the second half of its maiden constitutional tenure.

In PDP 2000 Manifesto, the party promised to ensure good governance by implementing with commitment and competence appropriate policies and measures for solving the socio-economic, political and cultural problems of the country. It is in the light of that promise that policies and measures initiated or implemented by the Yar’Adua administration towards positive change in Nigeria has been critiqued. Thus, this article focuses on the Administration’s performance in the economic sphere during the period under consideration.

In the economic realm, the priority sectors selected by the PDP government included development of the private sector, provision of infrastructure needs, and delivery of social services and modernization of agriculture, abatement of the Niger-Delta restiveness in harmony with development of Nigeria’s rural areas.

As candidate for president, Yar’Adua promised also that the PDP would defend liberal democracy and free enterprise. Another promise made by Yar’Adua to Nigerian voters says, Victory for the PDP will provide the opportunity, once and for all, to resolve the deep, social and economic crises that have continued to plague our country.

However, within five months in office, President Yar’Adua started complaining about the state of Nigeria’s economy inherited by his government. The president assured Nigerians in Enugu rally. That he had assembled people with the capability of reconstructing the inherited decrepit economy of Nigeria. Senior cabinet appointees supported President Yar’Adua’s view about the nature of the economy their party inherited and the capacity of the new government to rescue it.

After a year in office, President Yar’Adua told Nigerians in his May 2008 “State of the Nation” address that, any objective observer will accept that the nation has made some gains. However, in the same speech the president equivocated on the perceived success story when he pointed out that Nigeria has to rely on oil-money and other multilateral loans for almost all the funds for the development of roads. He said, this year, a total amount of almost two billion Naira, the equivalent of about 250 million US dollars will be spent on road construction. Out of this amount, the Nigeria government component is about 422 billion naira. In other words, only about 22% will come from our own resources.

From purely economic standpoint, it is hard for one to accept that Nigeria had made gains during the first year under the PDP government when 78% of funding for road infrastructure construction in the country had come from oil-money and loans.

In effect, President Yar’Adua’s admission that 78% of funding for road construction in this nation had to come from foreign loans and sources was a clear affirmation of the dependent nature of the political-economy of the country.

Yar’Adua’s disclosure of the sources of funding for infrastructure provision confirms also that the free enterprise phenomenon that the PDP government cherishes, appears to be dependent on foreign resources; hardly an efficient approach towards development, self-sufficiency and “positive change” of this nation.

In the May 2008 “State of the Nation” address, President Yar’Adua complained that implementation of his administration’s programs has not been as fast as desired because the public sector has not yet adjusted enough to the speed at which the Administration wants to operate. In this instance, it is fair also for one to conclude that the statement on deficiency of our public sector indicated admission of poor performance of the Yar’Adua administration by default. Simply put, the nation’s national administration cannot perform efficiently with a maladjusted public sector.

In addition to an unresponsive public sector, the absence of capable, viable, credible and efficient “free entrepreneurs” constituted another missing puzzle required by the PDP government to have a successful execution of its stated mission and agenda for this nation’s private sector. It emerged from review of news stories also that in this nation, corruption rules at the point of interaction between public servants and private sector personnel.

Whereas the government hardly has sufficient tax-revenue, somehow it exceeds tax collection targets. With a strong culture of bribery as a component of corruption inside my country of origin, it should not be difficult for one to understand the problem any government could have in trying to implement public policies, whatever their promise and value to society. However, this observation is hardly an excuse for the Yar’Adua government not to have accomplished what it promised voters because leading members of the party should have known all the negative conditions and difficulties associated with governance in this nation as they sought power.

There had been no question that President Yar’Adua and significant members of his cabinet demonstrated passion and enthusiasm for their desire to see the private sector in Nigeria pickup the job of powering the national economy. However, passion, enthusiasm and desire alone could not help the Yar’Adua administration fulfill its intent and program to transform Nigeria’s private sector. Historically, 70% of the private sector in Nigeria had been unproductive and dependent on largess of the state (in return for political patronage).

Given the recognition that the private sector in this nation, had been incapable of its promise as a machine for job creation, the Yar’Adua adm

inistration deviated from supporting the private sector to the creation of “Presidential Special Initiatives”, in disguise to the state-sponsored capitalist activity. In that regard, it was fair for one to deduce that the Yar’Adua administration had been on the march in support of the dominance of a state-sponsored capitalist regime in Nigeria.

Roads, railways, telephony and telecommunications, energy, water and housing had been the sectors designated by this government for focused provision of infrastructure. Unfortunately, inadequate national revenue appeared not to help Mr. President in the implementation of its anticipated programs for the provision of infrastructure during the period under consideration, in spite of expressed promises and useful intents of the Servant-Leader.

In addition to the reality of a weak tax revenue base, prudent decision-making was lacking in the Servant-Leader’s administration thereby turning priorities in policy actions for infrastructure provision upside down.

In the roads sector, for example, the Yar’Adua administration turned priority upside down when it spent available funds on roads linking urban centres as opposed to improving rural roads network connecting food and other agricultural commodities producing areas to markets. It emerged from the discussions also that the Servant-Leader’s administration abandoned PDP’s promise to tar all roads in favour of reshaping, “reasphalting” and spot improvements. This Administration’s method for rehabilitating exiting rural roads served as palliatives rather than cure for the ailing system.

There was not much practical activity in the railways sector yet .This government except repeated public announcement of intended policy actions by Mr. President’s .Primarily, the Administration promised to rehabilitate and extend the existing railway system through private capital. Can we now watch?

Not yet spanking, Yar’Adua administration promised in 2007 inauguration ceremony to increase the existing electricity wattage in Nigeria to considerable standard and to lower the cost of mobile communication is still a mirage. According to the Administration, the two-pronged strategy for telephony and telecommunications improvements could make information and communications technology a prime mover of economic activities in Nigeria. Sadly, intentions, plans and promises towards revamping Nigeria ’s telephony and telecommunications integrity hardly took-off after the first year of the Yar’Adua administration due to uncertainty of funding sources, lack of adequate local expertise, and government interest and whopping cost of operation including NCC’s arbitrary charges.

During the first year of the Yar’Adua administration there was no hint of the “Energy Policy” he promised would rescue Nigeria from that sputtering national sector. Meanwhile, the Administration abandoned such a promise to carry on construction of the “sham” gas-turbines needed to supplement generation of hydroelectric power in the country.

In trying to introduce efficiency into the overall output of the bleak electricity, the Yar’Adua administration broke a significant principle of his policy for fighting corruption when it stacked the PHCN (NEPA) Board of Directors with political patronage appointees.

Apparent inability or failure to transmit electricity to rural areas in Nigeria violated his promises in that matter with respect to the much heralded poverty alleviation program during the period under consideration. Rather than leaving rural dwellers to fend for themselves as under the “Self-Help Electrification Project”, they should have been provided assistance with the resources utilized for public subsidization of electricity consumed by urban dwellers of the country that tend to be relatively better off in the economic and social sense.

Making Nigeria’s Oil Refineries fully functional by 2009 had been a prudent decision for the Yar’Adua administration to reckon. The reason here is that whereas the fuel importation policy had been in place since 1998, it was not fully implemented by the past administration in spite of collection of N75 per litre of petrol at the pump. However, the Yar’Adua administration erred in decision-making when it failed or refused to resolve promptly a dispute between two state agencies, TRANSCORP and NITEL with respect to control over a loan facility for rehabilitating Nigeria’s trunk communication networks. By not intervening to resolve the conflict between TRANSCORP and NITEL, the Administration did not help both agencies to serve Nigeria better.

The Yar’Adua administration scored points for baring problems at Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Administration’s actions saved us from the absurdity of open gross mismanagement, inefficiency and apparent corruption orchestrated by an individual with connections to those who wielded the political power of the state of this nation.

Dragging Funso Kupoloku, former managing director of NNPC to court for the opportunity to exculpate himself from accusations of wanton waste of public funds and alleged actions bordering on naked corruption was the appropriate thing to do by the Yar’Adua administration. The Administration has to receive credit also for restructuring NNPC to force it to focus on transparency in exploration of hydrocarbons in Nigeria .

In addition to the positive actions by the Yar’Adua administration in the case of NNPC, introduction of Petroleum Products Pricing Policy (PPPP) could be considered useful since it had the promise of letting Nigerians know in advance when to expect price increase of petroleum products. However, the Administration had not seen to let PPPP henceforth, work.

The government’s promise to create an “Energy Economy” had remained a non-starter for the past decade. Of course, given the fluctuations in the world price of crude oil and acute absence of effective co-ordination of energy-related agencies and resources, Nigerians should have received this regime promises in that area with skepticism. However, in the light of the anemic state of Nigeria ’s energy resources, the Yar’Adua administration gets credit for pursuing access to the promise of the West Africa Gas Pipeline project, despite the fact that the government’s share of funding comes from a foreign source.

This Regime promise to provide low-income housing, urban renewal and rural housing under “Low-Cost Housing Scheme” had also been a non-starter during the first year of the Yar’Adua administration typified by existence of slum enclaves in Nigeria ’s urban centres and shanty housing in the rural areas.

The most troubling aspect of this regime’s economic program for us had been the dominance of its dependency on foreign assistance, grants, loans and Foreign Direct I

nvestment (FDI) capital, as significant component of the national budget. Whereas all previous governments had resorted to oil resource amenities, and to seeking injection of foreign capital as important segment of the country’s development needs, it appeared as if the Yar’Adua administration treated the country to a new and elevated round of the craft of soliciting and attempting to access or penetrate the world of junketed parley for foreign-partnered offensive against the Niger-Deltans, as well as economic dependency popular with most post-colonial West African societies, no visible changes on the ground.

In general terms, the political economy of dependent societies tends to be characterized by persistent unemployment and poverty, as populations become more consumption-oriented as opposed to production, with appetite for foreign commodities. Imagine for example this government prefers to plunge huge sum of our scarce money into expensive imported rice to locally grown produce thereby placing the country in a comparative disadvantage in the context of world trade and market relations. Logically, it is defensible for one to assume that persistence of dependency would reinforce a cycle of unemployment and generalized poverty just as this nation has been experiencing.

By placing a lot of faith in economic dependency as the basis for development needs of Nigerians, key members of this government demonstrated that whereas they have fixation to capitalist aspirations they had not shown ability and capacity to fashion and execute policy-decisions that could sustain the level of progress the country should be capable of.

In the light of the discussions above, it is important to acknowledge that in governance, political goodwill and useful intents cannot be substitutes for efficiency because it impacts directly on the safety of the individual in society and thereby on national security.

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