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Public Institutions and the Paradox of Governance

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Public Institutions

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

From available records, it was the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, enforcing EU laws and directing the union’s administrative operations, that in 1995 defined Governance as the sum of the many ways individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs.

It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action may be taken. It includes formal institutions and regimes empowered to enforce compliance as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions either have agreed to or perceived to be in their interests.

Without a doubt, if that is the meaning of governance, then, it will be relevant for/that this piece casts a glance at the meaning of a public institution.

Going by what Wikipedia, the world information search engine says, a public institution is a juristic person which is backed through public funds and controlled by the state.

This explanation/definition by Wiki in my view appears too academic, ambiguous and high sounding. Thus, let’s turn our gaze to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule and in turn inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world, as he offers a more pragmatic, simple, codified graspable meaning.

Writing in his autobiography titled The Story of My Experiment with Truth, he among other things stated that a public institution is an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds of the public, of which whenever such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist.

Gandhi said something else.

Institutions maintained on permanent funds, he noted, are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it. India at every step experienced situations where public institutions instead of living like nature, from day to day, abandoned the ideals of public trust, he concluded.

Indeed, if such worry expressed about a century ago was a challenge, what is currently happening here in Nigeria is a crisis.

Take as an illustration, the news report that despite the overwhelming outcry against the plan to retrace and recover stock routes, popularly called grazing routes, President Muhammadu Buhari via the Federal Government’s relevant institutions is not showing signs of relenting. Characterizing the development as a reality to worry about is that it is coming at a time when every other civilized nation has opted for Ranching. This is not only absurd but a paradox!

From this spiralling awareness, the question may be asked; why is it that public institutions in Nigeria have ‘successfully’ become non-conformists and non-adherents to public opinion?

How come the operations of our public institution have recently become reputed for non-infusion of governance principles of participation, accountability, transparency and non-discrimination towards the attainment of equity and justice in development initiatives? Why are the actions, policies of public institutions in Nigeria devoid of the process that allows the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, and all fundamental freedoms? Why are public institutions in the habit of not expanding the capabilities and choices of individuals/citizens?

Why is it that public institutions in the country are far away from the people even when governance as seen above encourages public institutions to get in constant touch with reality and open dialogues with well-informed and quietly influential citizens and organizations in order to benefit from their experience and expertise? How come what we have here is but a direct opposite- as the public institutions have against all known logic become ‘famous’ for flagrant disregard of public opinions, advice and requests from well-meaning Nigerians and organizations; who ordinarily ought to be their partners in the business of moving the nation forward? Who will stop this progressive decay in our public institutions which like an unchained torrent of water has submerged our political and socioeconomic countryside? Should we allow it to continue, leaving the nation to enjoy or suffer whatever fruit it bears in future?

To this piece, finding answers/solutions to this challenge is important but trumping the factors that fuel public institutions’ inefficiencies and disobedience to public opinion is essential. Principally, this is the duty of the moment.

And I need not pause to know that the most pernicious of all these problems is the inevitable link between our public institution and bureaucracy which characterizes public administration. This challenge is not Nigeria-specific as most countries of the world are guilty of it.

Supporting this assertion about bureaucracy is the argument by Robert Kiyosaki, a world-acclaimed management consultant. He explained that the problem with the world is that many nations allow their institutions to be led by bureaucrats. And he went further to describe a bureaucrat as someone in a position of authority but takes no professional and financial risks; someone who loses a lot of money for his position/and the institution he represents but never loses his money or his job. He/she gets paid whether the job is done or not.

Another reason for non-compliance with public opinion by these public institutions is the barefaced illusion by the occupants of such institutions that they are more nationalistic or patriotic than other citizens. This baffling disposition in effect prepares the ground for exercising power and responsibility, not as a trust for the public good, but as an opportunity for private gains and promotes nepotism, cronyism and corruption as consequences.

Looking ahead, If truly a people- purposed leadership is what we seek if the accelerated economy is our goal, if social and cultural development is our dreams, if promoting peace, supporting our industries and improving our energy sector forms our objectives, then, the solution lies in the government’s urgent recognition that those structures that created failures in those institutions will also prevent the implementation of incentives that will improve performance. Also, attempting to engineer prosperity without first confronting the root cause of the problem and the politics that kept them in place is a mere waste of time.

While calling for the restructuring of public institutions to deliver service, via the adoption of a structural and managerial model globally recognized for curbing bureaucracy and corruption in public institutions and instilling public trust, this piece draws the attention of all to the global warning that governance manifests when societal members find they are interdependent and their actions impinge on each other.

This can lead to conflict or cooperation between the different partners. Conflict, it argues, occurs when the efforts of actors to move toward their goals impinge or interfere with the efforts of others to pursue their own ends. Cooperation on the other hand can ensue when opportunities to increase social capital emerge by managing the relations and interactions of the group – essentially the sum is greater than the parts and actors can achieve their goals from cooperation.

Above all, as the nation prepares for the 2023 general election, Nigerians must come to the recognition of the fact that it takes good people to have a good government. However good the system of government, bad leaders will bring harm to their people.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Feature/OPED

Do Some Politicians Think Their Country is Hopeless?

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Country is Hopeless

By Nneka Okumazie

Money is king, but it mustn’t always rule and it could be the line separating lawful countries and lawless countries.

Is there a possibility that the situation in some developing countries is hopeless? Is it possible that a few politicians know?

The dominant economic system in the world is capitalism. This system, for some countries, had led to progress, while for others, it has led to ruin. There are nations where everyone is looking for money for survival, comfort and for the sake of it, not money as a tool for true progress.

Businesses, projects, etc. to a good extent should have parts dedicated directly to the progress of that country. Others should bear indirect importance.

However, in any country, where businesses or projects bear no direct or indirect contribution to progress, such that it is just for survival or for a profit of no beneficial purpose, the country will be motionless.

There are lots of these kinds of countries where everyone hates government, but no government is more powerful than the system it operates. Most nations are weakened by a system, a collective sightlessness and a lack of courage.

What is the use of so many businesses if they cannot fashion out how to lead their country to progress, beyond just importing to sell things made elsewhere?

What is the value of business education if the knowledge provided cannot coordinate adjustments?

The purpose must not always be capital. The end result must not always be money. There should be designs for long term endeavours with people who would be ready to go with it for the good of their nation.

People of knowledge and potential are abundant in every country, but it is one thing to be smart, it is another thing to be smart and courageous for new paths for progress, and it is something more, to be smart and for that smartness to be ready.

There are many learned people who seem to be doing fine, but whatever they know or can do is not ready – in what it takes to make a difference or bring good change.

Therefore, for many, the perks of where they are are enough, but they have careers that can never take aim – at risk of losing everything – towards real development.

[1 Samuel 17:33, But Saul replied, “You can’t go fight this Philistine. You’re just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young.”]

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7 Ways Tech Can Help to Get You on Track with Your Resolutions

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new year resolutions

The new year is only a few weeks old, but for many, the optimism for fresh opportunities and goal setting that informed their new year’s resolutions may be starting to disappear.

If you’ve already gone off track, adopting technology can help ensure you achieve your goals. Here are seven ways that technology can help you conquer 2022.

  1. Stay motivated, ask Assistant: One way to make sure that you stay on track with your set goals is to stay consistently motivated. Using your mobile device or phone, simply ask Google Assistant: “Hey Google, how do I stay motivated?” You will get a list of suggestions on how to regularly review your goals, how to find mentors, how to surround yourself with positive people and how to exercise among other motivational tips.
  2. Set reminders, be punctual: If you’re looking to be more punctual this year, set reminders so you don’t lose track of time. You can easily create reminders with the help of Google Assistant. Using your mobile device or phone, simply say, “Hey Google, set a reminder”, or “Hey Google, remind me to attend a meeting at 7am.” Google Assistant will go on to set a reminder and send you a notification when it is close to the time. This way, you can be sure that you will always be on time.
  3. Eat healthy, count calories: Are you planning to start your healthy eating journey? You can search for healthy diet recipes for satisfying meals. You can also watch a variety of videos on YouTube to learn how to make healthy foods at home. Also, you can check the amount of calories in single-ingredient foods by simply asking Google Assistant. For instance, you can say, “Ok Google, how many calories are in bananas?” This way, you are conscious about what you eat, whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight or simply maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Keep in touch, meet friends: The COVID-19 pandemic limited social activities like travelling, seeing friends and going out. Even with the recommendations now to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions, connecting virtually is still the adopted norm to keep in touch with friends. If you vowed to be more sociable this year, you can connect with friends and family using Google Meet. Just set up a time to meet and share the link with your friends to join. Using Meet allows you to save time and the hassle of planning actual physical hangouts. Most of all, it is flexible as you can join meetings on the go from your mobile devices, on the Meet app or Gmail.
  5. Learn something new: If your goal for 2022 was to increase your knowledge on a subject matter, learn new interesting things or develop a skill, YouTube videos are a treasure trove of knowledge. For instance, you can watch videos that teach you how to play an instrument, cook like a pro, learn video editing or photography. There are lots of videos on YouTube that can help you take the initiative to learn without the assistance of anyone. If you plan to accelerate your digital skills as well, for your business or career, the Google digital skills for Africa program offers free online training.
  6. Fitness goals, workout devices: Improve your workouts by connecting a fitness device to your Android phone. There are a host of devices from fitness watches, to heart rate monitors or foot pods that will pair with thousands of apps available in the Play Store, to help you reach your fitness goals. Throw in a YouTube playlist of your favourite songs, and you’re sure to get your heart rate up in no time.
  7. Explore new destinations: Whether you are planning to travel out of the country or just to explore more local destinations this year, Google Maps helps beyond just providing navigation, getting alternative routes and real-time information about traffic jams. You can also search for exciting places such as restaurants, parks, tourist attractions, cultural sites, beaches and natural areas that you would like to visit.

For your resolutions to be successful, they should follow the SMART principle and be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound bound. Technology provides the tools for you to tackle your goals in the smartest way possible.

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Feature/OPED

2023: North Central, PDP and the Coming Victory

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PDP anambra election

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

History does matter and has shown clearly that ordinary calculation can be upturned by extraordinary personalities. Working under this assumption, it will not be considered an overstatement to conclude that the People Democratic Party (PDP) is set to upturn the present political calculation in Nigeria.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to underline that the above assertion is not anchored on, or a function of the below-average performance of the current federal government which daily manifests in areas such as; ‘continued state of insecurity in the country, the persistent and ceaseless flow of Nigerians blood on a daily basis in many parts of Nigeria, the near-collapse of the security situation in Nigeria, their inability to manage the nation’s economy and develop the oil-rich but socioeconomically backwards Niger Delta’.

Rather, the present intervention is predicated on far-reaching decisions, people–purposed steps and result-oriented actions and inactions recently taken by the party, the PDP.

Essentially, the party aside from demonstrating that it owes its growth and success in the forthcoming 2023 general elections to certain causative factors, Nigerians with discerning minds and development professionals now believe that PDP has finally become reputed for being development-focused and ready to provide good governance.

If it continues on this pedestal, it will definitely lead to victory in the forthcoming 2023 general election and see the Party form government at the centre, they concluded.

To validate that this claim is not misleading, this piece will not only add context to the discourse but spread out with examples of developments.

First and very fundamental is the recently held seamless, rancour-free and credible convention by the party, an exercise that led to the emergence of a former Senate President, Iyorcha Ayu, from Benue State, North Central zone as the party’s National Chairman.

Worthy of commendation is that this success was achieved at a time when other parties in the country, including the ruling party, are still experiencing challenges organizing their convention, Mr Iyorchia Ayu-led National Executive Committee is already hitting the ground running with respect to repositioning the PDP into a credible vehicle for RESCUING and REBUILDING Nigeria which, according to the PDP, has been battered by a bad economy, insecurity, unemployment and other social ills by the incompetent and inept APC administration.

From the above flows the second factor and actor propelling the belief of a PDP likely victory in the forthcoming general election in the country. This particular ‘concern’ has to do with the fresh in-road made by the party in the North Central part of the country. This current ‘onslaught’ is spearheaded by Samuel Ortom, the Governor of Benue state.

Ortom, as we know, is the only PDP Governor in the whole North-Central political zone. That notwithstanding, he has achieved so many feats and firsts for himself, the state and the political zones. He has promoted tirelessly the party not just in his state but the political zone.

Today, through his ceaseless effort, meetings and consultation with PDP stakeholders from the zone with support coming from the new National Chairman, political alignments and realignments across all the states of the zone is now the order of the day.

The North Central has more or less become a PDP zone as those who were initially deceived in 2015 and have remained in darkness appear to have finally seen the light and known the truth. They are now willing to switch to the PDP in readiness for the 2023 general election.

The people of the zone seems to have come to terms that behind every major socioeconomic and security failure in the last seven years in the country, lies a failed decision by the government at the centre, and behind every failed decision lies a government that failed its people- a government that did not carry out its duty properly, and having made the wrong decision or delaying the process.

Beyond the party’s achievement in the North Central, there are in fact other glaring reasons that will work in PDP’s favour.

This piece/intervention may not be alone with the above position. The communiqué issued by the PDP Governors Forum after their recently-held crucial meeting on Monday, January 17, 2022, at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, not only speaks volumes but supports this position.

The party spoke the mind of Nigerians.

Fundamentally, let us begin to address the content of the PDP Governors’ communiqué by repeating some points already made in the areas of insecurity, economy among others, as it says something new and different.

Beginning with the economy, the party said in part; The Nigerian economy has continued to deteriorate and Nigerians have become numb and accustomed to bad economic news as exemplified by the inconsistent and differential exchange rate regime, high-interest rates, unsustainable unemployment figures and borrowing spree some of which have not been applied to important projects, and other bad economic indicators.

In particular, it is clear that the APC Government is a massive failure when compared with the records of PDP in government. The PDP handed over a $550 billion economy (the largest in Africa), but under APC, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world.

In 2015, under PDP, the exchange rate was N198 per Dollar, it is now under APC almost N500 to a Dollar; In 2015, the unemployment rate was 7.3% under PDP, it is now 33%, one of the highest in the world under APC; In 2015, the Pump price of Petroleum was N87 per litre, it is now N165 per litre and climbing under APC. Debt servicing now under APC takes over 98% of the Federal budget. The tales of woe are endless.

Undoubtedly, this piece and of course the world is in agreement with the above analysis by the party.

And among all the reasons, deep-seated is the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country, a state of depression, and proliferation of insecurity in the country which today typifies Nigeria as a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various socio-political groups. Over the years, myriads of socio-political contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace.

On insecurity in the country, the PDP spoke what has been on the minds of Nigerians as they (PDP EXCO) lamented the continued state of insecurity in the country, the persistent and ceaseless flow of Nigerians blood on a daily basis in many parts of Nigeria, the near-collapse of the security situation in Nigeria. The strategies to confront terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and other criminals are still a major problem of the APC administration.

The situation says something more.

To be continued.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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