Most of us are familiar with the phrase “Good governance”. It is used in private sector circles when describing effective management of corporations and it is also commonly used as an ideal to aspire to by leaders of a nation. Often we do not fully realize that achieving Good Governance is a very tall order. The path towards it should not be taken lightly. However, the fruits of Good Governance which encompass sustainable and inclusive development for a country and its peoples, is worth the effort.
The costs of not adhering to the principals of Good Governance have led to the destruction of nation-states and the folding up of large corporate entities. Indeed, most of Nigeria’s challenges today stem from a lack of Good Governance. To achieve good governance, we must first understand what “Governance” means. We must also be aware of the principles and pillars of an effective government as truth be told, the majority of Nigerians if asked will tell you they have never experienced what good governance looks or feels like.
There are several available definitions for Governance. The one provided by the Worldwide Governance Indicators initiative (WGI), an independent research dataset initiative, seems most befitting for Nigeria. “Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them.” In its assessments, the WGI uses 6 pillars as indicators to measure the strength or weakness of governance across the world: Voice and accountability, Political Stability & Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law and Control of corruption.
Voice and accountability – Voice and accountability is the first on the list for WGI. It is probably the most important. Governance is about managing resources effectively for the governed. The state is accountable to the citizens because they put them in power, making citizen participation a major success factor. Participation also means freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of the media and free, fair and safe elections that do not exploit the naivety of the youth and the desperation of the poor.
Political Instability and Absence of Violence - We are all too familiar with political instability in Nigeria most notably in North Eastern Nigeria and the Niger-Delta region in the South South. Political instability includes ethnic tensions, terrorism, politically motivated violence such as assassinations and riots. Good governance means the absence of all this.
Government effectiveness – How efficient are our leaders in providing for the needs of various stakeholders? This has to do with the management of Nigeria’s resources by government on behalf of the people. This includes managing the human, natural, environmental, technological and financial resources of the state. Our government’s inability to provide basic needs is seen on a daily basis i.e. insufficient power supply and health facilities, poor water supply, and an inadequate education system. Good governance means that all this is provided to citizens as a basic human right. This is the bare minimum of what is expected from our government.
Regulatory Quality – This refers to the ability of the government to create and implement policies that will foster private sector growth and economic development for the country. Subsidization of petrol or certain foods, investment freedoms, tax regulations for the growth of businesses, labour laws that protect both employer and employee, ease of starting a business, and property rights are some growth-inducing state tools that will benefit from an effective regulatory environment.
Rule of Law – Without the Rule of Law governance falls flat on its face. Good governance needs legal frameworks that work for all citizens irrespective of gender, ethnicity, social class and political leanings. In a good governance setting the rule of law is enforced and will protect the civil rights of all citizens in a fair manner.
Control of Corruption – Corruption is part and parcel of bad governance. We have seen this in the recent EFCC and NDDC cases. Good governance requires that a country implement policies that eliminate opportunities for corruption. Examples of such efforts would include the political will to identify and punish perpetrators as a warning to future offenders, whistleblowing policies and the digitalization of government processes such as salary payments and procurement activities.
On the other hand, this interchange can only work properly when Nigerians use their voices collectively and know their rights as citizens. This is where citizenship education is crucial. In England for example, Citizenship Education is a statutory subject on the National Curriculum in Secondary Schools. The course has been running since 2002. It provides the skills and knowledge to engage in a democratic society. Many Nigerians who are now in their 30s and 40s remember taking a course called ‘Government’ in Secondary School. Unfortunately, the syllabus mainly taught them about the military leaders and the coup d’état’s that followed. The point is, citizenship education is needed for both adults and youth, inside and outside of the education system. This is the only way to promote democratic principles and approaches.