Good Governance, A Desiderata For Popular Democracy

By Prince Charles Dickson

During the week the House of Representatives Committee on Power drilled players in that sector, while it lasted the whole thing was no more than a drama. We saw the pitiable defence put up by Imoke and Agagu for Obasanjo while we saw how some of the problems within the power sector came about.

What is obvious is the fact that little or nothing may come out of the entire process which reminds one of the famous Oputa Panel, the Okigbo report before and many such shows put up by our leaders.
 
One fundamental thing one notices that we lack in governance and government is the word good. Many Nigerians talk about good governance as the only guarantee to peace, progress, stability, free and fair elections, infact it is viewed as the only passport to delivering the dividends of democracy, just as credible practice of democracy should be anchored on good governance.
 
For the power, telecom, the manufacturing sectors, education and largely for the nation to work, we need good governance, in order to maximise our potential, improve the general welfare of the Nigerian people and even development in geo-political terms, there must be good governance.
 
But like the late Okadigbo puts it, asked to define good most Nigerians will waffle and babble. Most of our leaders that pride themselves as operating under the parameters of good governance cannot explain how.
 
What we have in the last eight years of our democracy achieved is a battery of contradictory description or proposition as to what good governance is, As a matter of fact the term good is difficult to define and in the essential contexts of the Nigerian condition.
 
Before I go far, defining good in relation to governance has often been a difficult task, to categorize it for decision makers and policy executors, so we say in political science that good is that to which everything tends, and in that regard indefinable and a naturalistic fallacy.
 
In the Nigerian context, our situational ethics sets the tone to the effect that we have a relative dysfunctionality, what is good in one place may be bad in the other, there must be a given situation, time and space.
 
Under this little intellectual exercise we can say that the talk of good governance in and for Nigeria, past, present and future is idle, not lending itself to any objective and precise analysis and this is why our leaders take us for a ride, they promise bridges where there are no rivers and take bald men to the saloon for a barb.
 
So until good governance is viewed as the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). We are still far off simply because the way and manner public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources, are corrupt, and without due regard for the rule of law
 
We lack good governance because despite eight years of political activity under the guise of democracy we are yet to find the balance; we still operate a political economy of state robbery, rather than popular democracy.
 
Good governance within the confines of a popular democracy should be anchored on two things, one, a constitution suited to the special needs and circumstances of Nigeria as multi-dimensional ethno-socio and econo-political structure: and two a leadership suited not only to the exigent needs of Nigeria as an unlawfully under-developed but also to the smooth operation of the same constitution.
 
We should stop glossing and know that by and large good governance require no ordinary type of leadership; tolerance; breadth of outlook, intellectual comprehension; hardwork; selfless devotion; statesmanship; a burning sense of mission are some of the virtues that are necessary to make a success of leading this nation.
 
Unfortunately past administrations have lacked these virtues or at best have possessed one at the expense of the other and as such led them to groping in the dark on how to deliver good governance.
 
We have refused to cultivate a regime of leadership that has shown a knack to develop a mental magnitude, as clear as our problems are, there seems a lack of ability in appreciating and grasping the salient details as well as most of the temporal and practical implications, of a given situation or problem, and in our own case the problem is a lack of good governance.
 
In my honest thinking while we keep debating on the morals or otherwise that good governance, cannot be attained or not definable I say part of the problems will remain because the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles are non-justiciable thereby the issues of good governance will be platitudinous rather than obligatory on our leaders.
 
There is the problem of political in-direction, thus an economic morass in the polity, our lack of anything good is premeditated on our inability to have an ideological notion of destiny. We have no coherent body of thoughts; we have no heroes, nobody to look up to, good governance exists only in a vacuum.
 
Good governance may be difficult to achieve in its totality, but for Nigeria to grow, for popular democracy to be entrenched we should work on; Participation by both men and women, it could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. Participation also means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.
 
Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. Full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities.
It also means an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.

Decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. Information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement.

Institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
Need of mediation of the different interests in communities to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole nation and how this can be achieved.

It also requires a long-term perspective for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. Ensuring that all members of the society feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream. This requires all groups, and especially the most vulnerable to have opportunities to maintain or improve their well being.

Processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. It also means sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.

Governmental institutions as well as the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders.

In general organizations and institutions are accountable to those who will be affected by decisions or actions. The only minus and indeed the major constraint is that all that I have enumerated as a recipe for good governance is what we lack.


Prince Charles Dickson is the Assistant Editor/ Jos Bureau Head for Leadership Newspapers Group and wrote from Jos, Plateau.


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