Transparency and Accountability E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq.
Public office is about service to the nation besides the fact that it has been seen as a source of income for many. Nigeria is a conglomeration of diverse people groups. Persons, both individual and corporate, have a stake in the administration of their country. We are purportedly practicing what is known as a Democratic Republic. The people elect persons to make decisions for them and on their behalf in a Democratic Republic. That is the very reason why the leaders must not only be accountable but also transparent in all things. In this manner, the people can monitor and determine what direction they want from the Representatives. The politician in a Republic is not ‘an absolute leader’ but an informed ‘public servant’ of the persons who elected him. Permit me to use Brain Ward’s management model, FACET, to dissect the Nigerian situation and suggest solutions.
Post election, the first hundred days is important, not because of the nice round figure. The first 100 days is used by the electorate to gauge the direction in which the administration is headed. Governments on their own, use this milestone to showcase what they want to do, to make an impression and to show focus. The caliber of persons in cabinet positions and the initial policy statements show direction as clear as any compass would. The immediate actions, especially of the President would show purpose, style and pace. In the special case of a second term, it is often easier on the returning incumbent who would normally be thinking of a legacy. We have previously made the case for a clear vision. This present government hit the nail on the head when it declared that it would not be ‘business as usual’. The talk was good; we need to see the pace.
How authentic the leadership appears is paramount. This is because all the others in the herd take their cue from leadership, more so, in the Presidential System where the President has executive powers. If the President for instance has no vision, it does not matter what advice is given to him, any plan at all would appear good so long as it seems like some motion. Some of the so-called leaders have had only one goal, to loot the treasury and lay-it-up for their families for generations after them. You cannot build on such a lousy foundation. Murtala Mohamed is surly missed today not because he was generous with OPM (Other People’s Money), but because he was seen by all, including his detractors, as authentic. If he displayed any excesses, he is forgiven because he was not seen as devious or double-minded as Head of State. His pace was also brisk. We all yearned to follow him even when we were not sure where he was leading. We kind of guessed by his actions where he was headed and gladly followed. He was authentic. The contrast was IBB, who kept swearing ‘Insha Allah‘ while playing a primitive version of chess with better-educated but greedy politicians as pawns and his Welfare Generals as rooks. The rest of us were mere spectators.
It would take courage to address the main issue of corruption in Government and to introduce a system of transparency. But it can be done. This is not a military government; therefore, government needs to not only listen but to also accede to the wishes of the electorate. The people are screaming loudly against corruption in public service represented by nepotism, bribery, kickbacks and sundry abuse of power. The electorate is demanding accountability. It behooves the government to re-assure the people at whose behest the government is run. No democratic government should be able to tell the people to ‘shut up’ or muzzle them by shutting their presses down. The recent firing of a minister is a step in the right direction and should lead to other investigations of graft. If the coterie of Advisers, Assistants and Senior Assistants are bereft of ideas on how to tackle the corruption monster, they should all be fired. If on the other hand, the President is getting the advice he does not use, then he does not need those Advisers, they should be laid off with a good severance and persuaded to go home. They may be useful elsewhere.
While it takes courage, corruption is the easiest thing to tackle. If you take a stance, lay out the rules clearly and make no exclusions, everyone would get the message and sit up. I read that the issue of the I.D. Card scandal came to the President’s attention when he asked for an explanation for the lack of progress on the matter commensurate to the monies expended. Do the same audit for the roads in the east, the so-called Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) at NNPC. The Nigeria Airways, Ports Authority, Ministry of Defense, Abuja Stadium Project and wherever huge government sums are dispensed starting with the Central Bank should all be scrutinized. Forex allocations should all come under scrutiny. Secret agents can pose as businessmen and record all their transactions with government officials in little cameras and microphones.
If there ever was a person, besides Murtala Mohammed, who has a chance to be in the good books of a cross-section of Nigerians at home and abroad for all time, President Obasanjo is that person. The President started on a very good note by trying genuinely to be people-oriented and goal-directed. The electricity goal was good, so was the anti-poverty program as well as the Universal Basic Education. Currently, it seems as if the government is losing both focus and momentum in the pursuit of its programs for the Chairman of his Party to cry out. This may be because another agenda introduced by the political jobbers may have interposed itself in the political realm. The time to take stock is now, while every well-meaning person, including Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is in agreement with Nigerians in crying ‘fire on the mountain’.
Every sane person wishes the President success, but not at the expense of the truth. In fairness to the President, the Legislators are not taking their fair share of the responsibilities. This is because Nigerians have not yet mentally embraced the notion of Representative Democracy. The Politicians are still revered as some ‘big men’ who do the people a favor when they are around. The President, his Advisers and the Representative from my political District should be interested in what I have to say and so should my Senator. Someone from the Legislature should be telling us when there is an attempt to buy his or her silence. A good working relationship does not equate to complicity in criminality.
One of John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, taken from his book of similar name, is the Law of Momentum, ‘The Great Mo’. Right on the heels of the CHOGM, with all the encouragement from our strategic partners, the President needs to ride the momentum by doing a cleansing of the Aegean Stable of the body politic. It would be striking when the iron is hot to request for not only the information but the repatriation of all ill-gotten wealth stowed away in western bank vaults by poli-looters. We expect the President to build on the momentum generated by the I.D. Card Scandal. The time to act is NOW.