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‘Why Buhari can’t deliver on lean bureaucracy’

By John Akubo (Abuja), Ibrahim Obansa (Lokoja) and Emeka Nwachukwu
11 September 2019   |   3:16 am
The need to reward party loyalty and pander to political considerations are unarguably the main reasons why it has been impossible for President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on the promise of a lean bureaucracy.


The need to reward party loyalty and pander to political considerations are unarguably the main reasons why it has been impossible for President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on the promise of a lean bureaucracy.

According to the Executive Director of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Frank Tietie, who made the assertion in a chat with The Guardian, the idea of small government canvassed by All Progressives Congress (APC) government remains a ruse because the country runs a government with a culture of reward.

Tietie, who is a lawyer by profession, contended that the creation of an additional five new federal ministries and recent plan by the Senate to expend N5.5billion on the procurement of operational vehicles for 109 Senators rubs off negatively on the government.

The legal practitioner’s views come on the heels of a recent declaration by the Kogi State governorship candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Mr. Emmanuel Orugun, that he would not fight corruption with mere words if elected governor in the November 16, 2019, gubernatorial election in the state.

Orugun, an engineer, said he would avoid the mistakes of APC by showing publicly and practically that he is opposed to corruption, noting that since “corruption and development are two extreme entities, the more you have of one, the less you will definitely have of the other.”

He disclosed that 100 per cent development from a given value of financial resources means that we have zero corruption and vice versa. The ANRP candidate assured that if given the chance to govern Kogi State, corruption would be one of the greatest problems the party will solve by adopting some methods such as transparency, open accountability, removal of cash transactions, proper accounting for project spending and use of software in managing governance processes and payments. 

He stated: “In ANRP, we will not fight corruption bluntly, but will make use of smart software to monitor activities and projects like or similar to Enterprise Resource Planning, commonly called ERPs, as is done in private companies and financial institutions.

“As part of the revenue drive, we will open up our existing naturally occurring business opportunities in the areas of trade and investment, transportation, making Kogi State a transit traveling state, engineering and maintenance and solid minerals and tourism. Kogi State is naturally positioned almost within the middle of Nigeria and this presents us with an advantage in transportation network to all major cities in Nigeria. 

“Workers have always been the greatest asset in any organization, be it private or public. Workers’ welfare will be given topmost priority. We will also solve the problem of percentage payments of salaries, especially as it affects local government workers by getting into the roots of the problem, sit with all stakeholders affected, open the books and solve the problem permanently, once and for all.”

But activists and scholars have urged Nigerians to retrace its steps by addressing the widespread insecurity and corruption troubling the country’s development. They blamed the Ibrahim Babangida administration’s policy in 1992 as the precursor to institutionalised poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment in the land.

In addition, the blossoming kidnap for ransom, banditry, Boko Haram insurgency, ethno-sectarian strife, and other forms of criminality that undermine the safety of life and property of citizens have persisted, thereby signaling dangers facing the country. The stakeholders, including Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun, veteran journalist and activist, Owei Lakemfa, former Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Kehinde Bamigbetan, among others, highlighted three major lapses of the past that are responsible for the nation’s current problems.

They spoke at the third Prof. Abubakar Momoh Memorial Lecture. For Lakemfa, who was the guest lecturer, “The slave trade is one major calamity that hit our country. It took away our young and fit citizens to foreign lands. The second is colonialism, when we had people who don’t only want our resources but also our lands, thereby leaving us with nothing. There was also military misrule, a system where scavengers claimed they had answers to all questions. They ravaged our land with impunity and destroyed the foundation of our development.

“In Nigeria we say, forget the past and come up with solutions,” he said. “Then we go and make the exact same mistakes we made in the past. Every great country today analysed their past mistakes, learned from the errors and applied them to their present and consequently secured a good future. The solutions to our unique problems lie in our unique past. Until we go back, even as far as a colonial rule, we may continue to repeat the same old errors”

The activist lamented that the country has a major setback of not resolving the crisis but allowing them to persist, evolving or manifesting in other guises. He added that Nigeria’s problems are beyond constitutional amendment by the National Assembly.

“Our problem is that the framework of our constitution, as designed by the military, cannot move the country forward in unity and cannot also engender economic and political growth of any country. Imagine a constitution, which in Chapter II contains the political, economic, social, cultural and developmental rights of the citizens, made non-justiciable by virtue of section 6 (6) (c) of the same constitution.

“This means that citizens cannot obtain redress from the courts if denied their socio-economic, developmental and other rights provided for in this chapter of the constitution. It is, therefore, a formidable impediment to socio-economic development”

Fagbohun, however, challenged all Nigerians, especially youth to stand up for principles, excellence, and ideologies that could further the nation, stressing that all citizens must strive to attain a better society, where no one will be oppressed.

“Everybody must do things in their own way to ensure we move forward,” fagbohun said. “The issue of young people and old people should not take the stage when we talk about national development. We must all come together to struggle for that future regardless of age, party or ethnicity.”

Culture clash in Buhari’s administration
The CASER director, Tietie, explained that culture is an entrenched way of life, in this context it is an entrenched political way of thinking and way of operation, stressing: “As things are, whatever President Buhari has promised was subject to the prevailing culture in our polity which is the culture of reward.

“When it comes to political appointments when it comes to sharing of state resources, it is about the reward mentality. It is driven by trying to satisfy interest above what is expedient. So the president creates a large number of ministries in order to reward certain persons, certain constituencies as a result of one form of political gain or the other that he has received.  

“So it is that same reward mentality that translates to what we had earlier described as a government that has a culture of serving itself because we see governance as a means of subsidized living, as a means of not working so much but earning so much.”

He said that that culture remains the bane of development in Africa and particularly Nigeria, adding that it is the reason for the craze by people to get into government in the erroneous belief that is where they get easy money without much work.

Tietie said Nigeria operates a government and system that is essentially expensive, adding that the presidential and federalist system of government in place connotes a high cost of operation, remarking that he would have canvassed for a setting whereby that high cost of governance is geared towards providing services to the citizens.

“When cost of governance keeps increasing as a result of the consumerist culture of public servants then there is a problem,” he stated, lamenting that Nigerians keep focusing on bloated salaries, emoluments, and entitlements of members of the National Assembly forgetting that the executive that consists essentially of the civil service also accounts for the very high cost of governance.

His words: “Take a look at their travel expenses, maintenance costs and running cost for offices. They have deployed the concept that the government serves those who operate it first of all, so they take the resources of the state to serve themselves until when they are satisfied.

“After that, they will then think of how to deliver on services to the people, hence the reason for abysmal low budget performances over the years. You will hardly get up to 40 per cent performance of the budget. Whereas when it comes to recurrent expenditure in terms of payment of salary, in terms of payment of esta codes for travels and other forms of allowances in the course of doing the work, such implementation is nearly 100 per cent performance.”

On whether the short span of four years for political office is part of the predisposing factors for the greed, Tietie agreed and pointed out that members of the executive, especially in the civil service, establish the culture and gradually see government as a means of satisfying their consumerist culture, causing it to spread across a long period of time.

However, the CASER boss said the political operators in government, who are members of the public service, knowing that they have such a limited time, go all out to increase and expand the means of expenditure in order to satisfy themselves. 

“It is an unspoken and unwritten law across the entire world that those who operate government use the resources of the state to, first of all, serve themselves in the pretext that government is more important than any other thing because government serves the people.”

“The degree to which that happens, whether between zero to 100 per cent, is influenced by the knowledge and the alertness of the people as to how state resources are used. So, when there is a culture of accountability or when there is a culture of aloofness on the part of the people, it creates more room for the situation.”

He wondered why people don’t know how much the state earns and how much it spends, saying that creates the opportunity for those who operate governments to continue to have a field day.

According to Tietie, “Those who operate the executive arm, that is the civil service and then the legislature which is the National Assembly with all the replications in the state and then the Judiciary, all of these form what we refer to as the public service. So in the public service, there is silent collusion among themselves, whether executive, judiciary or legislature, to expend state resources first to the satisfaction of those who operate the system and that is why you find out that development is at a slow pace.

“However, when you talk about development for providing social infrastructure for the people it is usually very slow and budget is hardly ever performing well.” 

While insisting that the satisfaction of payment of salaries and all other perks that make government work exciting and that satisfy government operators’ craving for consumption is nearly 100 per cent performance, Tietie predicted that Nigeria will continue to experience increase in high cost of governance, because the culture with which those who operate government carry about their business is that of satisfying themselves first before the people.