2023: Public officials should not abandon governance


THE President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), recently spotlighted the imperative of sustained governance as a demanding endeavour during a political transition. Aptly, he admonished ministers, permanent secretaries, and heads of government agencies to shun the distractions of electioneering and “ensure proper documentation of all the policies, programmes and projects of government with up-to-date status of implementation.” This is a timely call as already, many public office holders at the federal, state, and local levels have abandoned service delivery and plunged headlong in politicking ahead of the 2023 election cycle.

Buhari should enforce compliance at the federal level, and state governors should follow suit in their respective jurisdictions.

Addressing public servants at the closing ceremony of the 2022 Ministerial Performance Review Retreat in Abuja, Buhari said their collective goal is “to map out a transition plan” that would aid the take-off of the next administration.

Several issues are thrown up by the charge, particularly about the many uncompleted and abandoned programmes and projects. Officials should focus on their primary responsibilities as a slowdown in the tempo of activities in some ministries, departments and agencies became observable with the commencement of party primaries and later, of political campaigns. Sustained attention to implementation of policies and projects is required to achieve targets in service delivery at a time that public confidence in the capacity of the government to fulfil its promises and other legitimate expectations has waned significantly.

Buhari isolated the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for special mention and directives. He wants to see all large-scale integrated rice processing mills completed before the end of the regime. He should ensure the instructions are carried out.

But many more MDAs deserve similar mandates; from privatisation of key sectors like electricity and the petroleum downstream (notably the refineries) and rail projects, to internal security, fight against corruption, food security, clean-up of Ogoniland and dualisation of the East-West Road.

In the short time left, the regime can redeem part of its battered image by completing several projects as its legacy. These include the Second Niger Bridge, the tortuous Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Kano-Kaduna-Abuja Expressway for which three foreign countries released $311 million of the funds stolen by the brutal former head of state, the late Sani Abacha. This should be devoid of chicanery or false declarations of completion.

The concession of the four airports it promised seven years ago should also be concluded and undertaken transparently. It is not too late for Buhari to sell off most of the eight aircraft-strong Presidential Air Fleet, another unfulfilled promise.

The regime, beyond annual and invariably unfulfilled promises of assets sales to raise funds and partly fund the budget, virtually abandoned privatisation in its over seven years in office. It should do so before leaving office. In this, Buhari should not allow officials to short-change Nigerians yet again by manipulating the sales to transfer assets to incompetent investors, or bind the country to legal agreements tilted heavily in favour of cronies and skewed against Nigeria’s interests.

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He should see through his promise to improve power supply by 2025 through the Power Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, and to raise power generation to 25,000 megawatts in partnership with Germany’s Siemens AG. He should not leave the power situation in the same sorry state he met it.

The regime’s report card on the four refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna is scandalous. Since taking office in 2015, it has wasted N1.3 trillion on the moribund refineries. But being comatose, the country spends billions of dollars importing refined products, and trillions of naira more subsidising the price of imported petrol. So far, Buhari has spent N6.88 trillion on the subsidy, according to NEITI, and is on track at current trends to raise this to N10.97 trillion on exiting office.

The inaction on the refineries is replicated in the abandonment of the Abuja-Kano and Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail projects, among others.

There should be no laxity in the onslaught against insecurity in the transition period. Similarly, in the flagging war against graft, the law enforcement agencies cannot afford a pause or distraction. They should strive to present the incoming administration with a better ranking than the 154th out of 180 countries that Nigeria placed in the Corruption Perception Index 2021. The country should be made safer than the current turmoil.

At the state level, governors are most guilty; most have practically abandoned their official duties to pursue re-election, many completing two terms are distracted contesting Senate seats. Nyesom Wike of Rivers is embroiled in a time-consuming supremacy struggle in his party, and junketing around Nigeria and beyond, and Kayode Fayemi, who just bowed out as governor of Ekiti, spent the greater part of his last year in office criss-crossing the country engrossed in party affairs.  Politicians will play politics, but it should not be at the expense of governance. 

Governance suffers when governors abandon their duty posts for the politics of transition. Irresponsibly, some whose states that are epicentres of insecurity still find time to strut on the national stage while their people are being murdered in droves. Governor Mala Buni spent over one year as interim national chair of the ruling party while terrorists ransacked Yobe.  

Governors playing political ‘kingmaker’ are endlessly engaged in meetings and consultations away from their posts, in some cases, even in European capitals. That also borders on irresponsibility.

Democratic practice in Nigeria, from 1999 to date, has yielded very little of its promise, whether at the level of representation, mass participation, people-centred planning, allocation and utilisation of resources, security of life and property, or preservation of fundamental freedoms and liberties. Politicians disdain the people and their concerns. There should be a change in this attitude. The people themselves should hold office holders to account through lawful civic activism.

The transition period signalled by Buhari should be a time for rededication to service to deliver on policies, programmes and projects. ,

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