At the agenda-setting Seminar and Investiture of the new executive of the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria (CICAN) on May 25, 2023 at MAN House, Awolowo Way, Ikeja.
Power is shifting – from large, stable armies to loose bands of insurgents, from corporate leviathans to nimble start-ups and from presidential palaces to public squares. Power is also changing, becoming harder to use and easier to lose – Moises Naim, former Foreign Policy Editor.
From May 29, 2023, our nation’s eyes will once again turn toward public leadership for a new direction and meaning.
That is why it is very important to emphasise that as most governments, especially in the last 24 years have appeared to us as unprepared, we need to encourage the in-coming administration to manage priorities in the public sector as if it were in the private sector. Let me quickly clarify this: it is important to adopt the private sector approach and see citizens as customers to be satisfied. Marketers are always told in a customer-centric business that the customer is king. In this construct, the citizen should be seen by political leaders as a customer whose rebellion or boycott can destroy a business enterprise. When political leaders begin to see the citizen as a customer whose patronage is necessary to survive, they will begin to treat the people as potential electorate they will depend on to win elections next time.
When we talk of priority management in the organised private sector, it is straightforward. Let’s examine the fact file:
What is priority management?
Management of Priorities is the practice of focusing time and resources towards work, projects, and tasks that affect high-value projects, accounts, and long-term goals. Priority management is an essential part of time management and project management, where project managers adjust resources, schedules, and tasks to deliver projects on time and within scope.
Priority management can also mean organising your day according to the tasks you have and working out which are the most important to the least important. You can then see what your day looks like in terms of time management and how you can effectively get the high-priority tasks done in the time you have.
Having good time and priority management is important during projects and for management in general. Being able to organise, prioritise and change priorities when needed is an effective tool that managers should try to help their teams with.
Priority setting can be a painful and divisive process, but it is a necessary activity—particularly in times of resource scarcity.
Let’s examine this same issue – priority management from the perspective of planners in the public sector.
Prioritisation can be a device for policy-makers to realise political ambitions, or to signal policy shifts. However, prioritisation is also typically embedded in policy processes, either in a routinised fashion, or as responses to triggering events.
Key challenges in this regard can be how to translate broad priorities into programs and projects, how to govern the knowledge base, and how to handle organisational tensions during implementation.
Many of these challenges must be addressed by ‘street-level’ administrators and agency experts during implementation.
With limited resources and lower risk appetites, public sector organisations should put any available funds toward projects that will stimulate long-term growth, efficiency, and stability.
At the moment we see projects focused on infrastructure, sustainable development, and audit as financial policy imperatives.
Ahead of Monday’s inauguration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the 16th president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, experts and stakeholders in critical sectors have set agenda for the incoming administration. Across the country and beyond, Nigerians are awaiting the taking over by Tinubu, who has promised to address the myriad of challenges facing the country as encapsulated in his Renewed Hope agenda.
Top on the agenda is the issue of insecurity, which encompasses the raging banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, oil theft, secessionists’ agitations, cult clashes, farmers/herders’, communal clashes/killings and internet fraud as key problems confronting the sector.
Subsidy, power grid crashes dog energy sector
The removal of the petrol subsidy, the crashing or hike in the petrol price presently at over N190 per litre, as well as making petroleum products available are the immediate hurdles the incoming Tinubu administration must resolve after May 29.
So far, the government has spent over N6 trillion as petrol subsidy in less than 18 months but Nigerians have endured over a year of petrol scarcity amidst multiple hikes in the product’s price from N165 per litre to N195/l official rate in less than one year.
Nigerians have not had a national grid beyond 5,600MW so far and even at an average daily peak power of 4,000MW generation, there are complaints of multiple daily outages across states along with an increasing tariff.
There is also an over N3trn market shortfall with a worsening situation that has caused several DisCos to be given 60 days, ending in June 2023, to remedy their defaults in the remittance of energy revenue collections to the Market Operator (MO) of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
The Siemens Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), a brainchild of Buhari has not yielded the much expected results. So far, raising the grid to 7,000MW from the 5,000MW did not happen in 2022 and the target of reaching 11,000MW this year may be elusive with seven months left.
N77trn debt amid rising inflation
The first glimpse of the Nigerian economy Tinubu will catch will be a portfolio of an inherited N77 trillion federal and state debt along a rising inflation highway at 22 per cent.
Although President Buhari, who is leaving office on Monday along with state governors, is leaving a N77trn debt portfolio, the federal government is seeking fresh permission to borrow $800 million (about N330 billion) from the World Bank after securing approval for $800m as palliatives for previously planned petrol subsidy removal.
Buhari’s government had gathered N23trn local debt through the CBN W&M which the national assembly approved to be integrated into the debt profile and dragged it to N77trn. DMO’s breakdown shows that the CBN debt was N23.7trn, adding to Nigeria’s total debt stock of N44.06tr, which DMO said largely reflected the weakness of the local unit, the naira.
Nigeria’s health sector is bedevilled with a lot of challenges and the incoming administration has a lot to do in improving the health system, as well as making healthcare affordable and accessible to millions of Nigerians who cannot access the care they require.
The education sector is one of the critical areas where Nigerians’ expectations are high considering that it has been challenged by inadequate funding, incessant strikes at the tertiary level, a high number of out-of-school children and inadequate qualified teachers among others.
The feud between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government due to the failure of the latter to meet the demands of the union on welfare, infrastructure, among others has always led to strike action grounding activities of both federal and state universities in the country.
The strike always affects students learning who in most cases stayed at home for months. The new government should find ways to put this to permanent rest, the stakeholders said.
Buhari’s uncompleted projects
One of the uncompelled projects of the outgoing administration is the $1.96bn Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi Rail Line for which a virtual ground-breaking ceremony was performed by President Buhari on February 9, 2021.
The plan for the construction of the 284km Kano-Maradi rail line linking Nigeria to neighbouring Niger Republic is to boost the Lagos-Kano-Jibiya (LAKAJI) economic corridor, which both the World Bank and the US have been highlighting.
$3.02bn Port Harcourt/Maiduguri rail line
Another project which requires the attention of the incoming government is the $3.02bn Port Harcourt/Maiduguri rail line.
Ground-breaking was done by President Buhari for a complete revamp of the Port Harcourt–Maiduguri Narrow Gauge Rail. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a factsheet released on the seventh anniversary of the Buhari administration, said work kicked off in 2022.On October 7, 2020, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of $3.02 billion for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge railway project.
Kaduna-Kano standard gauge rail line
Another important project expected to be of priority for the incoming Tinubu administration is the Kaduna-Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line. Construction commenced on the Kaduna-Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line following the ground-breaking by the president in July 2021. Also, some segments of the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road are yet to be completed.
SOME PRIORITY AREAS THAT SHOULD HELP IN STABILISING THE DEEPLY DIVIDED COUNTRY
CIVIL/PUBLIC SERVICE REFORMS TO DEAL WITH CORRUPTION/AUDIT OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE DEVELOPMENT
This should be on top of the agenda of the administration by focusing on using existing institutions such as Federal Character clause in the constitution supported by the federal character commission (FCC) and strong presidential/gubernatorial bureaucracy to share values, power, infrastructure, top positions fairly and equitably…
There shouldn’t be perception after the national assembly election next week or thereabouts that the five top positions in he country are occupied by people from one section or faith in the country.
Is it also true that it has been impossible to find Leah Sharibu The Guardian calls the ‘goddess of resistance’, in 2019 among other missing school girls in Chibok, Borno State?
Public Service Reform:
To deal with corruption with legal institutions of governance such as office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; Fiscal Responsibility Act/Commission; Public Procurement Act/National Public Procurement Council; Freedom of Information Act/Open Government Partnership; etc
This will reduce attention to EFCC, ICPC and CCB…
The Bureau of Public Service Reform (BPSR) can be revived to deal with audit of public servants to deal with management of waste/redundancies and ghost workers. How much does the FG spend monthly on civil servants and what percentage of that of Nigeria’s controversial population? Can the presidency have the political will to merge ministries and scrap those ones that 21st century doesn’t need such as ministries of information? Do we need agriculture and Water Resources separately? Do we need Interior and Police Affairs Ministry separately? What about Transport and Aviation in two ministries? What do we do with the many protocol SUVs?
Government should tackle bureaucratic delays and reduce opportunities for corruption as these are essential elements for setting the business environment for success
There is need to keep governance costs and overheads low and match ambition with pragmatism and growth will follow, as has been shown in the case of airlines such as Ethiopian and Emirates airlines…
It is urgent that the critical reform initiatives begin now because it will be too late once the large population of young people with smartphones and high expectations arrive in the cities…
Ruling APC and Parliamentary Reform:
This is the most important arm of government. Without it there is no democracy. This is where people are represented for the purpose of solving federal and federation problems. How much does each member earn monthly? Why is it opaque? Can we have an independent national assembly that won’t be a rubberstamp of the executive arm? When should we have state assemblies that can curb executive excesses in the 36 states and Abuja (federal legislature)? When do we have organic investigations that will shake tables? When do we have national and state assemblies that will equip good and world-class libraries where they can research for development? When do they use the parliament to dignify the majesty of democracy through debates on public policies that will attract attention of the people they represent?
Education, Health And Knowledge Development
This should be on top priority. The Ministers of Education and Special Advisers of Education should not be just political figures. They should be resourceful enough to assist the president on more than mere audit of the quality of public education generally: Do we need more or better universities? How do governments recruit and sustain first class brains to teach the STEM/STEAM subjects? This is the component of reform that will also affect medical science education and revival of health sector. What happened to Nigerian Teaching Hospitals? Why do our leaders fly over our hospitals to the U.K to see their dentists?
It has been discovered that we talk so much about Singapore and South Korea without looking at the roots of their competitive advantage. It is education quality. Just as the United States where the quest for excellence and exceptionalism once led to discovery that there was once a ‘Genius Factory’; This is through a 2005 ground breaking research by David Plotz, a professor who ‘unravels the mysteries of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, which led to production of many geniuses and Nobel laureates in the United States.
Our new leaders should develop their own tactics to put across the sense of urgency and prove that they are materially attentive to the needs of their citizens.
President Alvaro Uribe’s performance in Colombia bears study, as he was instrumental in turning that country around within a decade from a failing to a functioning state.
Presented with a huge security challenge, he nonetheless refused to stay in Bogota, opting instead to go out every weekend to visit municipalities and talk to local people. He often gave them his personal phone number and encouraged them to call him if they had a security-related problem. Uribe used these visits to understand the challenges and drive change. African leaders will have to give similar thought to what kinds of profiles they should adopt in order to change the prevailing political culture.
Central to the turnaround of many countries, enabling them to implement pro-growth policies was creating a sense of urgency, a realization that business as usual would lead to disaster.
Several Asian countries, including our case studies of Singapore and Indonesia, and also South Korea and Taiwan, were able to use their crises to create a narrative that allowed leaders to implement difficult policies and to explain why changes were needed.
Leaders were able to show first that the state itself, protector of the current population, would be threatened if difficult decisions were not made immediately.
There has to be a focus on what the state must do and what it should not do. Case studies have revealed that there is a vital role for the state in setting up a business environment that promotes confidence and growth, and in developing robust institutions. Given the limited human and material capacity of African governments, it is also important to understand what states should not do, so that they can focus on the initiatives that they are required to lead. In this country excessive bureaucracy is serving to constrict economic growth by adding a huge administrative burden to businesses. The onus should be on government to reduce bureaucracy by, for example, cutting the number of permits required by businesses to operate and by making it straightforward to obtain them…
Fourth, tremendous energy and attention must be devoted to developing a healthy private sector. Businesses in many African countries are currently incentivised to live off the patronage that the state provides because there are few other ways to make money. If jobs are to be created, businesses must assume their proper role of generating investment and creating employment.
Let’s round off with this word of hope by Warren G. Bennis, Robert J.Thomas to our new leaders:
‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and…those ripples build a current, which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance’.