Friday, April 22, 2011

Four Steps To Avoid a Failed Jonathan Presidency

By Kamar Bakrin

Truth be told, a failed Jonathan presidency will simply be a continuation of a long tradition in Nigerian governance. Despite all the noise about how “this time, it is different”, the brutal truth is that it is not. The elements which supposedly make it different have been present in equal or higher doses in previous administrations: a clear mandate, a president from a minority ethnic group, huge amount of public goodwill, a majority in the national assembly etc.

As for the qualities that make Jonathan unique: a good heart, calm disposition, listening ear and love for Nigeria; well, I hate to break it to you but we have had all of that before and it didn’t take us very far, at least not in the right direction.

Along with the fact that we have never lacked for blue-prints, development plans, several-point agendas, etc., you quickly realise that the prognosis isn’t looking so great.

But it doesn’t have to be like that; especially because the world is moving on with or without a Nigeria that gets its act together. However, if you study Nigeria’s leadership history, you will find that the times we have shown a semblance of progress have been when the incumbent administration has addressed one or more of certain elements. Jonathan can vastly improve his chances of success by working this handful of levers at the same time. So, following are things he can do to truly buck the dismal trend:

(1)Pick a stellar team
The problems of Nigeria do not require further articulation. Even an average product of our lousy educational system can do a decent job of identifying the problems and proffering solutions. Rather, we need the most competent people to take charge of the ministries, departments and agencies, both the ‘juicy’ and ‘sahara’ types and actually execute at world-class levels. Spend the time between now and May 29 to search for the most capable Nigerians at home and abroad. Go through a rigorous process of matching them to the positions especially keeping in mind the priorities in each sector.

Do not make the fatal mistake of distributing executive MDA appointments as ‘settlement’. If you must reward people, then perhaps, use some of the Board positions at the various agencies, but please do even these sparingly.

(2) Focus on the most important things
It is critical to concentrate on infrastructure, food, human capital development, security and improving public service efficiency. Yes, I know it is in the manifesto, but we know how manifestos work in Nigeria. So, please, actually focus on them. The word Focus does not even begin to address the importance. Make it an obsession: dedicate the best of our best resources to them, beg for more resources from richer nations, spend the bulk of your time supervising initiatives in these areas!

This also requires that they be well managed, with clear deliverables and timelines for hitting relevant milestones. Avoid blandishments about improving the quality of life of the people, delivering the dividends of democracy or crowing about how many billions have been spent on projects. Think, talk and act in terms of specific, measurable outcomes that impact the people on a sustainable basis.

There are so many non-priority areas that take up time and resources. Please minimise the distraction from these areas. Anyway, just fill your to-do list with the most important things and these others will find their rightful place at the back of the queue.

(3) Fight corruption
You will not succeed at anything else if you fail to tackle this. To bring it home, even if we judiciously deploy 100% of our resources, it will not be sufficient to make us one of the 20 leading economies in the time frame we have been bandying about. Now consider that a hefty chunk of these resources is frittered away on unnecessary recurrent expenditure or stolen outright. The paradox is that a lot of the stolen money goes towards 2 things: to rig elections, which will not be necessary if governance is good; and to provide private infrastructure at a higher unit cost than would have been incurred on spending it on what it was intended for in the first place.

Therefore, strengthen the existing organs to plug the leakages and making it extremely unattractive to steal. How? The same way you delivered on your promise of free and fair elections: appoint the right persons, fund them adequately and stay out of their way.

The common refrain, though I wonder why people feel compelled to state it, is that ‘I voted for Goodluck not PDP’. Well, it is payback time sir! If we are to believe the election results, it was you people overwhelmingly voted for: not Buhari, not PDP, not MEND, not OBJ, certainly not Madam Patience but YOU!

So, step forward and take charge. This means many things. First, you must be take responsibility: for the future direction of Nigeria, for resolving crises whenever, wherever and in whatever form they occur, for the misdeeds of your officials, for the safety and security of your citizens. In short sir, you are responsible for Nigeria.

Also, you must actively manage the country’s affairs: develop the roadmap, organise the resources required to deliver and manage the daily task of delivering it. Oh, I almost forgot, it would be nice to occasionally let us know how things are going.

All the best, or should I say Good luck?

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