Liberal democracy and good governance are two related phenomenon that have dominated the dairy of mainstream political development especially since the collapse of the cold war in 1990. The adoption or practice of liberal democracy and the promotion of good governance by many nation states today signifies its popularity and acceptance as the most preferred system of government. The nexus between democratic governance and development is also one that has continued to push the popularity of this system of government to a higher note across the international frontier. The democratization project is therefore regarded as the age of civilization that every society should strive to attain rather than a political option among many others.
While the effective practice of democracy and good governance has brought enormous socio-political and economic benefits to some regions of the world, especially the industrialized North, millions of people in Nigeria and the rest of the third world are either still learning how to ply the rope or groaning under the weight of bad governance and the misapplication or abuse of the tenets of democracy there by provoking development crisis around developing nations.
No doubt, some benefits have been recorded in Nigerias democratic journey especially since 1999 when the military left government. But since democracy is not an end in itself but a means to an end, which is towards national development, and the common good of the people, the lingering and emerging national development challenges since the country returned to democracy leaves much more to be desired. Despite its enormous human and material resources, and huge development potentialities, moribund industries, political instability, abject poverty, acute youth unemployment, heightened crime rates, poor health prospects, corruption, religious sect, militant activities, as well as widespread malnourishment has been the main features of Nigerias political economy since the return of democracy in 1999 till date.
Since governance is a process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented, an analysis of governance focuses on the formal and informal actors involved indecision making and implementing the decisions made and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and implement the decision. Government is one of the actors in governance. Other actorsinvolved in governance vary depending on the level of government that is under discussion.
For the purpose of this essay, the following four (4) points are presented or put forwardas the agenda that can leapfrog governance and transform Nigeria into an industrial and developed nation in 10 years along with the strategies for achieving the agenda.
LAUNCHING A COMPETITIVE AND SKILLED-BASED ECONOMY AROUND YOUNG PEOPLE WITH STRONG CAPACITY BUILDING BASE
Youths are the incubators and driving force for innovation, change and progress in all human collectivities; and no society can experience positive change and advancement if its youths are not strategically and constructively engaged. Thus , if Nigeria must attain a competitive level of industrialization and a robust economy, and to break into the status of a developed nation in 10 years, young peoples immense energy and drive must be tactically packaged and directed towards playing a constructive role in the process of governance and the development of the Nigerian society.
Meaningful youths inclusion in governance backed by legislation
It should be realized that political education and participation is essential to sustain any constitutional democracy and to enhance governance. The habits of the mind as well as the habits of the heart, the dispositions that informs the democratic ethos are not inherited. As Alexis de Tocquevillepointed out; each generation is a new people that must acquire the knowledge, learn the skills and the dispositions or traits of public and private character that undergird a constitutional democracy. The systematic exclusion of young people from occupying certain political offices and from championing meaningful public policy courses is a dangerous signal for Nigerias democratic future and governance.
Thus, firstly, for Nigeria to experience true change and dynamism in governance that will trigger development and industrialization in 10 years, young people must be included meaningfully in the process of governance and decision-making through legislations starting from the national assembly, the state houses of assembly, and legislation at the local government level. In other words, laws should be made to empower young people politically and economically by reserving some reasonable quota of politically elective seats or positions for them to contest for and fill.
Secondly, institutions that will guarantee the input, innovation and vibrancy of young people should be strengthened to ensure that their voices are heard in decision-making processes and in the public policy domain.
Youth-focused technical and vocational education with massive investment in information and communication technology (ICT)
Technical and vocational education as well as ICT has been an integral part of national development strategies in many societies because of its impact in productivity and economic development. Despite its contribution, the leaders of Nigeria have not given this aspect of education the attention it deserves. And that is one of the reasons for the nations underdevelopment.
To get it right, firstly, Nigerias education system and curriculum needs to be redesigned to give preference to technical and vocational education and ICT.
Secondly, there must be a national campaign and special budgetary support to rejuvenate and expand the nations technical schools and to equip them to international standard. Related to this, the transnational cooperations and other blue chip companies operating in Nigeria should be specially charged by the government to build and equip ICT centers across the country as part of their coorperate social responsibilities.
Thirdly, government, stakeholders and investors in the education sector should employ teachers with field experience in the subject areas and experienced professionals to run the technical schools and ICT centers.
GIVING VOICE TO THE PEOPLE IN PUBLIC DECISION MAKING DOMAIN
In a democracy, the right to govern is vested in the citizens at all levels, and this is thus exercised directly or indirectly through majority rule. Where good governance is involved, it means such system is participatory, accountable and consensus oriented among other things. Such situation or practices leads to national development. Unfortunately in Nigeria, the views of the minority are hardly being taken into account and the voices of the most vulnerable in the society are also not being heard. If governance must make meaning for Nigeria to move forward towards greater national development, the people must be given voices, they must also organize themselves to shape policies that affects them and the society while elite class-conspiracy against the led or the ordinary citizens must be eliminated.
Inclusive participation in governance and consensus orientation
Inclusive participation in governance and consensus orientation is a key corners stone to governance and development. This process will help Nigeria to mobilize ideas, opinions, grievances, strategies, alternative policy options and even innovations that can lead to political and socio-economic emancipationand entrench development if the process is tactically explored and directed.
Following this strategy, firstly, such participation could be either direct or through legitimate institutions or representatives.
Secondly, participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of association and expression on one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand. The said participation towards good governance and national development requires mediation of different interests in the society in other to reach abroad consensus on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how that can be achieved.
Promoting a robust civil society, political education and massive war against corruption
George Owell, the famed author of animal farm once said; in time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. Therefore, for all Nigerians, especially the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), it is time to rise up urgently with effective strategies and new orientation towards selfless service to Nigeria.
To make head way from this direction, firstly, a vibrant network of CSOs must be in place to work strongly aside the government in the campaign and fight against systemic corruption especially at the grass root levels.
Secondly, it is necessary for the CSOs to join hands with government and other stake holders in raising the bar of governance through political education that must be realistic in addressing the central truth of political life especially among young people and the less informed citizens in the rural areas.
BUILDING STRONG INSTITUTIONS NOT STRONG PEOPLE
Economic transformation and the boosting of developmental governance must go hand-in-hand with day-to-day institutional practices. The so called Nigerian factor reflects willingness to slide around the rules and deliberately construct inconveniences to favor certain persons or groups while killing the institutions and the mandate that they stand for it destroys the society as well by extension. However, conscious efforts can be made so that individuals are rewarded for institution-building conduct and also held for their actions.
Commitment to the principles of accountability and transparency
Strong institutions that foster industrialization and development in Nigeria can be built if the principles of accountability and transparency are upheld in institutional and public life. Accountability and transparency are key requirements for good governance and development.
Firstly, to achieve progress through this strategy, government, the private sector, and the CSOs must all ensure that they have proper frameworks of accountability to the public and their stakeholders.
Secondly, the institutions must ensure that information is freely available and directly accessible to those that will be affected by their decisions and their enforcement.
Demonstrating strong political will towards obeying the rule of law
Rule of law requires fair legal framework that are enforced impartially. The lack of political will towards obeying the rule of law has been a big problem in the political circle in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999 and it has really brought setbacks, dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in the current government and even the past ones. In other to build strong institutions and an enduring democratic culture that enhances development, obeying the rule of law is of paramount importance.
For this to work for Nigeria, firstly, government, CSOs, stakeholders and citizens at large must stand and ensure that all processes and institutions produce results that meets the needs of the society according to their mandate while making the best use of resource at their disposal.
Secondly, the institutions must perform their duties such that nobody is seen or treated as if above the law or victimized outside the rules and laws as the case may be.
OVERHAULING THE PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURAL DEFICIT
Infrastructural quality is a dominant explanatory factor of manufacturing performance. Therefore, for Nigeria to think of priding herself as an industrial giant, and as one of the developed nations in the world in 10 years, issues of physical infrastructural overhauling most top its development strategy list. Disappointingly, problems with energy and electricity, roads, rail, ports, and land transport and related infrastructures are cited as chief constraints to economic growth in Nigeria.
Efficient electric power development
To get it right, firstly, whether measured in terms of generation capacity, electricity consumption, or security of supply, the private electricity companies that took over from the publicly owned Power Holding Company of Nigeria must be given some bench mark to improve to some level, in their services, or have their licensees of business andoperation revoked after some time if their evaluations do not provide progressive report.
Secondly, government must provide a fair ground for all potential investors to ensure that only the most technically competent operator, investor, company or partner gets the deal to operate or offer services.
Thirdly, government should also provide an encouraging regulatory role and atmosphere to provoke the needed revolution in the power sector.
Eliminate transport constraints
At present, various researches and facts on ground revels thatNigeria contends with high transport transaction cost. For example, the cost and difficulty of moving goods in Nigeria either through the land boarders, sea, or air ports are far higher than that of neighboring countries like Togo and Benin. Therefore, transport related impediment makes it extremely difficult to deliver goods to the market at competitive prices. This problem extends beyond land transport into clearance and delay at the sea ports.
To overcome this challenge, firstly, Nigerias transport minister along with his counterparts in the neighboring countries should meet to consider the important role of transport in achieving the Social Development Goals (SDGs) and to take cognizance of the important role of transport infrastructure and services in facilitating access to market, economic opportunities, and social services.
Secondly, stakeholders should meet with the government to coordinate transport policies, strategies, standards as well as regulatory frameworks and programs to meet up with international best practices and to ease the bottleneck embedded in the sector.
Henry Abba Onyilo, M.Sc, PGDE
Director of Research & Evaluation,
Global Integrity Crusade Network, Abuja,