Guest Columnist

Nigeria: Towards Exemplifying Singapore, By Abdulwarees Solanke

Reflection on National Transformation (1)

Abdulwarees Solanke
Abdulwarees Solanke

In size, Nigeria and Singapore are poles apart. But in strategic eminence in their respective regions, both countries have somewhat similar qualifications. Nigeria is popular as Giant of Africa all over the world just like the tiny Singapore is celebrated as an Asian Tiger globally.

Last year Singapore clocked 50, with remarkably compelling evidences of development. But Nigeria, clocking 60 later this year, is still pursuing so many reform initiatives and development projects to arrive at the Singaporean station of transformation today.

So, as Nigeria inches rapidly towards her sixtieth Independence anniversary, there is a need to interrogate the options available for the country to achieve true nationhood and national transformation. Is there anything Nigeria, the African Voice   can learn from the tiny Singapore bestriding Asia as a titan?

Indeed, there comes a time in the life of any nation desirous of change, transformation and development that difficult choices and decisions must be made. This definitely is the time for Nigeria. But that choice or decision is not for the government or the leadership alone to make. While the buck may stop at the desk of the leader, whatever choice or decision he makes in the final analysis is still subject to citizens’ approval and support.

For us in Nigeria, the challenge is not only of economic dimension, even though it seems most manifest in the past dismal macroeconomic indices of low productivity, unemployment, poor savings, investment and consumption.  These, the present leadership in working assiduously to reverse since 2015.

Our real challenge can be located within the structure of our polity which invariably determines the colour of our politics, dictates the nature of our governance and affects the stability of our economy.

The combination of the structure of our polity, colour of our politics and fibre of our governance has so far been dictating how various stakeholders within and outside government support, validate and implement reform projects and policies in the country.

The issue is: we have not outlived the politics of prebendalism in our land as we still grapple with foundational elements of nation building crisis. The virulent criticisms, indeed the rejection of many public policies by interest groups are pointers to the weakness of our national cohesion, when the dominant themes of discourses in the press and the airwaves are usually national restructuring, marginalization, corruption and other negativities that compromise national growth and development.

In this scenario, no matter how sincere or well-intentioned a leader or government may be in any reform initiative, the initiative will still be a victim of circumstance. This combination qualifies the aggregation of the elites, the bureaucrats and technocrats, the labour movement, the mass media and other interest groups on policy issues we have to address as a nation.

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

This being so, Nigeria is usually constrained, whenever any reform project is to be embarked upon, in the process of decision making, the constituent of participants, the sincerity of advisers, the range and rationality of choices and alternatives  and the quality and acceptability of decision.

However, does this address the foundational elements that are only manifesting in the economic realm? In this context, we need to raise a dozen questions germane to achieving success in our reform projects.

What development must INSPIRE our government? Our post-independence experiences at policy and reform projects suggest that we are almost always responding to crises as the structure and forms of governments that have dominated our history have largely being dictated by emergencies and political misadventures. Therefore, our policies and programmes, even if they were genuine, were not enduring.

Today, Nigeria is certainly in another economic emergency. The logic here is if emergency management has not yielded for us sustainability, we must return to long-term and long range planning.

My take on this is that for every reform project in the country, we must draw inspiration from countries with similar national experiences and best practices in governance. Brazil, India and China are good case studies for us just as we have some fine lessons in reforms from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

What policies must we INITIATE? At any point in time and in every situation, our concern must be delivering policies and programmes that ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people, with least compliance lethargy. This entails rigorous identification and analysis of issues and problems, real, extant or potential.

Again, this demands foresight and sensitivity from the government. Therefore, we must be interested in the likely responses to reform initiatives by employing all rational and behavioural analytic tools in our predictions on outcomes.

Who must we INVOLVE? Critical to the success of any reform project is the support and legitimacy of all stakeholders and interest groups, beneficiaries or victims.

Without consultation, engagement and collaboration with those to be affected, programmes and reform initiatives are justifiably misconstrued, opposed and rejected or they suffer apathy and indifference even from the intended beneficiaries.

Strategic communication, wide consultation and close collaboration are necessary to carry all along and at best limit obstacles to pushing through in reform.

 What framework must we INSTITUTE?  In consideration of reform initiatives, experts and officials are bordered by how well or how soon a programme will yield the desired result. Such result is measured by the efficiency, effectiveness, economy and the impact of the tools and strategies adopted in the implementation process. Since most reforms are bitter, painful and unusual, they are necessarily prone to rejection.

Therefore, the framework that is best suited to preventing policy shock and glut is one that gives room for learning, coping and adjustment by those likely to be affected and those implementing the policies as realities on the field may alter projections in the plan.

Denoted as incrementalism, such framework gives room for manoeuvring and building on experience to correct mistakes. On the strength of these questions, we can probe further other specific questions that should guide our reform and transformation   agenda.

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