First Federal Executive Council Retreat Under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: Matters Arising

By

Otive Igbuzor, PhD

 

Founding Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Abuja.

E-mail: Otive.Igbuzor@centrelsd.org

 

PREAMBLE

The first ministerial retreat for members of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu Federal Executive Council was held from the 1st to 3rd November, 2023. The retreat was held 10 weeks after the President inaugurated the first set of 45 Ministers on 21st August, 2023. Three of them were inaugurated later making a total of 48 ministers. The theme of the retreat was delivering on the renewed Hope Agenda. The retreat was among other things focused on quarterly assessment of performance which would culminate into an annual scorecard and define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the MDAS which will eventually lead to the Ministers signing a performance bond.

RECCOMMENDATIONS FROM THE RETREAT

At the end of the retreat, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. George Akume listed the recommendations from the retreat which were categorised into two namely administrative process of the government and policies and priorities for the renewed Hope Agenda. [1]

a.    Administrative Processes of the Government

1.    Government should raise the approval threshold for public procurement and encourage open bidding for transparency.

2.    Cabinet members should submit memos ahead of time (eg EOD Wednesday) for analysis with Permanent Secretaries before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.

3.    Improve alignment of the budget for the MDAs to the President’s vision, Strategic goals and relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

4.    Formulate a standardised checklist detailing appointment criteria for Ministers and Heads of agencies.

5.    Allow Ministers presenting memoranda at FEC to be accompanied by their Permanent Secretaries to hasten information flow.

6.    Evaluate the efficiency of previous Federal government intervention programmes and conduct proper pre- and post-project assessments to determine the efficiency of the programmes.

7.    Improve judicial process by allowing promoted judges to complete pending cases in their new positions.

8.    Revive the Executive-Legislative Conference/Tripartite meeting to discuss pre-budget issues ahead of time.

b.    Policies and Priorities of the renewed Hope Agenda

1.    Reform of the economy to deliver sustained inclusive growth.

2.    Reform tariff structure to enable trade while supporting domestic production.

3.    Incorporate more equity financing rather than debt financing for fiscal operations.

4.    Ensure the annual budget is aligned with strategic priorities.

5.    Review the implication of forward contract on the economy.

6.    Set up a steering committee to review the issues around the national single window.

7.    Strengthen national security for peace and prosperity.

8.    Intensify efforts to block revenue leakages in the police force.

9.    Engage with Governors to strengthen security at local government levels while addressing issues of autonomy and governance.

10.Have a collaborative and collective approach at the State level to address security challenges in collaboration with Federal Government.

11.Develop and facilitate effective information gathering and sharing mechanisms between and among states, communities and federal government.

12.Prioritise the clean-up of Ogoni communities.

13.Boost agriculture to achieve food security.

14.Utilise technology to increase agricultural yield.

15. Intensify effort to reduce post-harvest losses by driving investments into storage and value addition.

16.Embark on efforts to check coastal erosion.

17.Enhance dry season farming and promote commercial livestock farming.

18.Unlock energy and natural resources for sustainable development.

19.Develop a 10-year plan to increase power generation capacity in line with the country’s needs.

20.Set up a super grid in line with the nation’s generation targets and create semi-autonomous regional grids.

21.Overhaul the structure and coverage of the distribution companies.

22.Revitalise a road map for the steel industry.

23.Revive power plant projects that have been previously paused, including Ajaokuta Steel Plant.

24.Engage with OPEC to increase Nigeria’s crude oil production quota.

25.Drive investments into the upstream petroleum sector, with clear targets while making provisions for sanctions for non-performance and inefficiencies.

26.Focus on education and health development as essential pillars of development.

27.Open up the Sports sector for business by attracting infrastructure, incentives and investments.

28.Accelerate the attainment of universal coverage.

29.Foster grassroots efforts to prevent and mitigate humanitarian crises.

30.Improve governance for effective service delivery.

31.Improve capacity by training civil servants in critical areas aligned with strategic priorities.

32.Institute stepwise digitalisation of all the MDAs in government.

33.Invest in technology to save cost, time and reduce corruption.

34.Ensure merit is the basis of the inclusivity priority.

35.Ensure civil servants get competitive compensation.

36.Roll out official emails for all civil servants above a particular level.

37.Performance management to enable delivery and execution.

38.Institute consequence management at all levels.

39.Establish performance-based compensation for civil servants tied to appraisal and without interferences.

40.Ensure every ministry, department and agency (MDA) defines targets for investment attraction.

MATTERS ARISING FROM THE RETREAT

The idea of the retreat is a welcome development. The theme of the retreat is very relevant as it resonates with the campaign promise of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. We have documented elsewhere that it is well recognized all over the world that politicians make grand political statements and sweeping promises during campaigns which are difficult to implement while in government.[2] This is why the former governor of New York Mario Cuomo made that famous statement: “You campaign in poetry and govern in prose”. It is therefore incumbent on every new government to devise strategies on how to turn the campaign promises into reality.

The theme of renewed hope which was the campaign theme of the President resonates with the people because Nigerians have had their hopes consistently dashed since return to civil rule in 1999. The enthusiasm that greeted the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 was dashed because the economic growth witnessed during his tenure was not accompanied with reduction of poverty or improvement in the standard of living of the people. The hope that followed the emergence of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was shortlived by the open display of corruption during his administration. The hope of change promised by Buhari was dashed by his lackadaisical attitude to governance.  Renewed Hope is therefore an appropriate catch phrase for Nigerians.

Furthermore, the recommendations emanating from the retreat are relevant and deal with the challenges of governance and service delivery in Nigeria. But there are some gaps which the government must address to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. First and foremost is that the retreat should have come earlier. The idea of hit the ground running presupposes that government will quickly put a strategy  and plan in place and organise the machinery of government and make budgetary allocations to deliver goods and services to the people. But it is better late than never.

Secondly, there should have been discussion about an overarching development strategy from which sectorial strategies will be drawn. Already the departing Buhari Administration developed the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the National Development Plan. The Tinubu administration should quickly review the plans and align them to the administration’s vision, goal and priorities. The piecemeal approach will not be helpful. For instance, allowing promoted judges to complete pending cases on their new positions is not the only thing required for judicial reform. Clean-up of Ogoniland and coastal erosion are not the only issues of environmental degradation in the country. There are other parts of the Niger Delta whose degradation is worse than Ogoni land. There are parts of the country suffering from serious air pollution and desertification. What is needed is an overarching strategy from which sectoral strategies will be developed.

Thirdly, the country needs a process for filtering policy ideas for the government. It is dangerous for a country to get policy ideas from only politically appointed advisers and Politicians. The policy process occupies a central position in the functioning of modern-day government. Public policies are developed by officials within institutions of government to address problems confronting citizens. It is through policies that the government translates its political vision into programmes and actions to deliver the desired change. The neglect of policy making, execution and evaluation produced a situation where there is low institutional capacity to develop, execute and evaluate sound policies. However, the importance of sound policies in service delivery and socio-economic development cannot be over emphasized. Development theory and practice indicates that all the countries that have made significant progress in the last 30 years have relied on the willingness and ability to make sound policies. Examples include China, Chile, Brazil, India, Mauritius, Malaysia and Botswana. Unfortunately, Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world where the government has no think tank. The governing party has no think tank. The think tank of the opposition party is comatose. In the past, the Federal Government used to have a think tank called Independent Policy Group in the 2000s. As country Director of ActionAid, I was regularly invited whenever issues of poverty eradication are discussed. The Federal Government should  set up a Presidential think tank. The government think tank will provide policy analysis to the Presidency, Senior Policy makers and help to develop communication strategies to inform the public on government policies. The idea of flying the kite and relying on public opinion as seen in the case of the Conditional Cash Transfer of eight thousand naira to the poor will be counterproductive.

Fourthly, the government needs to address the issue of co-ordination among the agencies, co-ordination with other arms of government and co-ordination with subnational levels of government at the State and Local Government levels.

Furthermore, the government needs to address the issue of gender and social inclusion. Although there is a Gender Policy that provided for a 35 percent affirmative action for involvement of women in governance since 2006, the policy is observed in breach. This led Nigerian women to go to court. On 6th April, 2022 judgement was delivered in favour of Nigerian women granting them 35 percent affirmative action on appointments. But the Attorney General of the Federation has appealed against the judgement. Similarly, although the Disability Act has been passed and the Disability Commission established, there appears to be no national urgency to sanction discrimination against persons with disabilities; provide access to public premises and buildings; roads; sidewalks and special facilities; right to free education; inclusiveness in education and other beautiful provisions of the Act. It is only through inclusive planning and affirmative measures that these challenges can be addressed. The Federal Government should have a clear strategy to address gender and social inclusion issues in Nigeria.

Moreover, there is an issue that the Federal Government has ignored since return to civil rule in 1999. Despite the recognition of challenges in the political arena and political culture of violence, monetisation of politics and credibility of elections, there is no national strategy to address it. Previous development agendas and plans such as transformation agenda and economic recovery and growth plan (ERGP) focus on economic issues to the exclusion of political reform. There is the need for the Federal Government to have a political reform programme incorporated in the overarching development strategy.

In addition, there are many inherited problems from previous administration that the Government must have a clear strategy to address. The first is the revenue problem. There are many revenue generating MDAs that are not remitting to the national coffers. The MDAs involved are well documented in the Auditor General’s Annual Report and NEITI Audit reports. There are many other areas with huge potential for revenue generation such as the mineral sector and the maritime sector which need to be fully tapped. The second is the issue of corruption. During the Buhari administration, although the President set the tone at the top, the conduct of other government officials was at variance to the tone set at the top. The previous government also joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which was a commendable move. Meanwhile, there are several pending high profile cases with little progress in terms of prosecution. The Tinubu administration must make a clear statement at the top on anti-corruption and the strategy that the government will use. Another key issue is citizen engagement. On return to civil rule in 1999, civil society was engaged in increasing measures. Civil society representatives were included in some constitutional and legal bodies such as the Police Service Commission and NEITI. President Olusegun Obasanjo had summit exclusively with civil society. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had summit with civil society. But Buhari’s eight years saw the decline in engagement of civil society. There is the need for the Tinubu administration to re-engage civil society actively. Finally, the Tinubu administration must establish itself as a progressive government with philosophy of social democracy.  A progressive government must prioritise the welfare and security of the citizenry above capital. A progressive government must clearly recognise the role and intervention of government in the development process to protect the weak and vulnerable from the vagaries of the market. A progressive government must wage war against grand corruption. A progressive government must deliberately formulate policies and programmes to favour the poor such as public schools, public hospitals, rural electrification, social protection and social housing. A progressive government must recognise the place of women in governance and development and implement political and economic empowerment programmes.

Finally, the Tinubu administration must recognise that there are recurrent  challenges facing Nigeria over the years. These are also the same issues that previous administrations have tried to address. These are the issues that all the political parties have promised to address. So, the challenge has never been identification of these problems. The challenge has been that there are other issues which must be addressed before the issues can be addressed. These are the issues which prevented successive administrations from addressing the issues effectively. The problems of insecurity, mismanagement of the economy, decline in agriculture, inadequate power in spite of humongous resources pumped into the sector over the years, corruption in the oil and gas sector, poor transport system, falling standards of education and poor health care are symptoms caused by the underlying issues that have led to progressive degeneration of governance and public services. Therefore, the real issues that should be the priority agenda of the Tinubu administration are what should be focused upon to reverse the trend and tackle the symptoms. The administration must address the issues if it wants to change the narrative. In our view, there are eight issues that the Tinubu administration must prioritise. The issues are:

i.                 Ethical re-orientation: The problems facing Nigeria are known.[3] What needs to be done to address these challenges including free, fair and credible elections, strategic leadership and accountable and responsive governance are known.[4] But lack of ethics and corruption prevents the right action to be taken. The  administration must set the tone at the top that the administration will implement an anti-corruption agenda and create environment of justice, fairness and equity. Setting the tone at the top must go beyond declarations and speeches that the administration will have zero tolerance for corruption. The behaviour and actions of the President and Senior government officials must indicate that the administration will not tolerate corruption. In addition, the Tinubu administration should launch a new anti-corruption agenda taking into cognisance lessons from the past and addressing the issues of sanctions, systems and society. From the beginning of the administration, the President must set the tone of zero tolerance for corruption at the top. This must be followed with political will to implement the agenda. As the South African National Anti-Corruption Strategy clearly stated, the realisation of anti-corruption strategy depends on the resolute political will of those who serve in public office and ethical leadership in all sectors of society.[5]  In addition, the agenda must be a whole-of-society approach. Corruption in Nigeria can only be dealt with if the whole of society is involved in the fight against it. The agenda must be comprehensive and integrated and combine elements of sanctions, systems and society.

 

ii.               Leadership: Leadership has been recognised as one of the most important variables that affect the performance of any organisation, institution or nation. Study after study, superior financial and organisational performance, as well as other forms of success, have been linked to leadership.[6] Scholars have opined that the success or failure of organisations and nations depends on leadership excellence and not managerial acumen.[7] The importance of leadership for the success of organizations and nations cannot be overemphasized. Some scholars have pointed out that everything rises and falls on leadership.[8]  Meanwhile, it has been documented that all great nations were blessed with leaders who harnessed the potentialities of their people and moulded them into the envy of others because as Maxwell argued, the leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.[9] There are many ways that the Tinubu leadership can bring about national rebirth. The first thing is to develop a strong vision, mission and values for the country specifying strategic imperatives and critical success factors.[10] The second is to set a long-term direction for the country. Rebirth requires long term perspectives which must be managed with short term political demands. Luckily, the departing Buhari administration developed Nigeria Agenda 2050. The Tinubu administration must review and adopt a long term development plan for the country. So far, government is silent on the agenda. The third is to create democratically transparent, open and fair processes and systems in all sectors in government, private sector and civil society. The fourth is to initiate a comprehensive change agenda affecting all facets of life: security, economy, politics, social and technology and manage the change effectively through education and communication, participation and involvement, facilitation and support, negotiation and rewards and recruiting strategic change champions.[11] Finally, leadership can bring about rebirth by promoting performance. Leadership can play a big role in engendering a high-performance organizational culture. Leaders can do three things to create a high-performance organisation.[12] The first is to lead from the centre of the group, team, unit or organisation to engage team members to unleash their desire and abilities and achieve extra ordinary results. The leader must clarify values of the nation and share a common vision and enable others to act to unleash their desires and abilities. Second, the leader must create effective systems and processes by developing a performance enhancing organizational culture through challenging the processes and ensuring continuous improvement. Third, the leader must establish a direction for the nation that is clear, concise and compelling.

iii.             Law and Order: Law and order is very important to provide appropriate standards and regulations for everyone’s behaviour. The challenge of law and order is huge in Nigeria. Modern society requires the strict enforcement of law and order. The security and criminal justice system exist to enforce law and order. But it requires the support of all others in society to effectively enforce law and order and punish those who breach the laws to serve as deterrence to others. The Tinubu  administration must prioritise law and order. Those who break the laws should be brought to book without selective justice. The administration should avoid the situation where the Federal Government will ignore its own laws as it has done with the Public Procurement Act by the Yaradua, Goodluck and Buhari administrations since 2007 by refusing to inaugurate the Public Procurement Council. It should ensure that the relevant authorities (Police, Federal Road Safety etc) bring order to our roads and anyone without exemption that commits traffic offence is fined in a transparent and accountable manner as it is done in other countries. There must be order in policy making, project execution, recruitment of personnel etc. Indeed, there must be law and order in all sectors. The administration must deal with increasing cases of executive lawlessness and impunity.

iv.             Execution capacity:  Nigeria is today experiencing arrested development characterised by low economic growth, criminality, corruption, poverty and poor governance. It has been established that for many developing countries especially in Africa, decision making and policy formulation appears to be the easier job and moving from policy making to policy execution and providing public goods and services is the tougher task.[13] It has been pointed out that the factors that are significant in policy execution include characteristics of implementing agencies, predisposition of implementers, level of interest, commitment and support by principal actors. Scholars have identified the challenges of policy implementation in developing countries to include unrealistic goal setting, lack of clear definition of goals, political patronage, neglect of target beneficiaries, lack of consideration of policy environment, lack of continuity in government policies, lack of appropriate technology for implementation, lack of synergy and co-ordination.[14] In order to improve execution, the administration must appoint capable people into various positions, prioritise strategy and planning in order to have clinical execution.

 

v.               Public Service Reform: The Public service represents the machinery of government through which public policies are formulated and implemented.[15]  Public Service achieves this by converting government policies and programmes into tangible goods and services for the consumption of the citizenry. The normal process of doing this is for a country to develop a national vision which encapsulates a long-term national development plan (usually about 20-30 years) to guide the political, social and economic development of the country.[16] From the national vision, a country is then expected to draw a National Development Plan usually medium term of about five years to give expression to the national vision. The National development plan will contain strategic direction for sectoral plans (e.g. Education, Health, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Security etc). Every sector is then expected to develop a medium-term sector strategy usually 3-5 years to link planning, policy and budgets. Similarly, every sector is expected to produce a Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) usually 3 years to contain the estimate of the current and medium term costs of existing policy and ultimately matching of these costs with available resources.[17] Finally, the country now prepares annual budget drawing from all these documents. The public service provides the system and process through which the machinery of government operates.[18] But there is a dysfunction in the public service in Nigeria necessitating reform in the last thirty-five years. The problems include poor ethical orientation, poor communication, bloated staff, poor planning, unstable polity, lack of institutional integrity, archaic infrastructures, lack of an efficient capacity and readiness, erosion of public confidence in government, and the all too pervasive problem of endemic bureaucratic corruption.[19] Unfortunately, most of the reforms to address these problems have failed because they were undermined by vested interests.[20] There is therefore the need for a fresh attempt to overhaul and reform all public service institutions of government reconsidering purpose, mandate, organisation, capacity, performance and endemic bureaucratic corruption.

vi.             Open Government Partnership (OGP): One of the challenges facing governments all over the world is to make governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens. This is what led to the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011. As at today, 77 countries have signed unto the OGP. Nigeria signed in 2016 and have completed two National Action Plans focused on the issues of fiscal transparency, extractive transparency, access to information, citizens engagement and empowerment, inclusiveness and service delivery. Nigeria has an approved third national action plan. But the government is not giving the OGP process the priority and commitment that it deserves. The Tinubu administration should give priority and commitment to OGP.

vii.           Restructuring: One of the recurrent underlying issues in Nigeria is the need for restructuring. Right from the first republic, scholars and commentators have pointed out the challenge of the unbalanced nature of the federation and the asymmetry in size and power among the constituent units of Nigeria. There is therefore the need to restructure the structure of Nigeria and redefine the roles, responsibilities and resources available to the Federal Government, States and Local Government Areas. But in addition, there is the need for restructuring of leadership and the selection process, restructuring of institutions, restructuring of plans, policies and budgets, restructuring of the mindset and restructuring of politics and the economy to ensure free and fair elections, production of goods and services and incentives for hard work and elimination of trading on influence.

viii.          Promotion of Justice, Equity and Fairness: The institutions of government for the distribution of wealth and opportunities in Nigeria such as taxation, social insurance, social protection (including conditional cash transfers), public health, public school, public services, labour laws and regulation of markets have been unfair and skewed against the poor, youth and women.[21] Deliberate policies and concrete programmes should be put in place by the administration to address these issues.

CONCLUSION                                                                                                     

Nigeria is at a critical juncture. The way that the Tinubu administration will address the challenges facing the country will determine the development trajectory of the country. The challenges facing the country are known. What needs to be done is known. We expect and hope that the Tinubu administration will address the challenges and change the narrative of our country and produce a just, peaceful and prosperous country.

 

Dr. Otive Igbuzor

6th November, 2023

 

 

 ENDNOTES


 

[1] The Cable, 4th November, 2023. LG Autonomy, Overhaul of DisCoS…Akume lists Recommendations from Ministers Retreat.

[2] Igbuzor, Otive (2023), Beyond the Rhetoric of Campaigns: The Role of Citizens and the Media in Ensuring Democratic accountability. A Paper presented at Stakeholders Roundatble by the International Press Centre (IPC) on 20th June, 2023.

[3] Igbuzor, O (2009), Challenges of Development in Nigeria. Lagos, Robitos Alliance Publishers Limited.

[4] Igbuzor, O (2012), Overcoming the Challenges of Development in Nigeria. Lagos, Joe-Tolalu & Associates.

[5] Republic of South Africa, National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2023

[6] Fulmer, R. M and Bleak, J. L (2008), The Leadership Advantage: How the Best Companies are Developing their Talent to Pave the Way for Future Success. New York, Amacom.

[7] Sinek, Simon (2017), Leaders Eat Last. UK, Penguin Ramdom House.

[8] Maxwell, J. C. (1999), The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson Inc.

[9] Gimba Hassan (2022), An Agenda for National Rebirth in Blueprint, 28th August, 2022.

[10] ISMN Study Pack 2012-2015

[11] Igbuzor, Otive (2017), Leadership, Development and Change. Ibadan, Kraft Books Limited.

[12] Truskie, S (2010), Leadership in high Performance Organisational Cultures

[13] Uganda Development Management Policy Forum (UDMPF), Policy Brief on Redeem Policy Implementation in Uganda by Tackling the Political Question.

[14] Ajulor, O. V. (2018), The Challenges of Policy Implementation in Africa and Sustainable Development Goals in PEOPLE: International Journal of Social Sciences, 3(3), 1497-1518; Makinde, T. (2017), Problems of Policy Implementation in Developing Nations: The Nigerian Experience in Journal of Social Sciences 11:1, 63-81, DOI and Problems and Challenges of Policy Implementation for National Development. Research in Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 6, No. 15, 2010.

[15] Shittu, A. K. (2020), Public Service and Service Delivery in Farazmand, A. (Eds), Global Encyclopaedia of Public Administration, Public Policy and Governance. Pp 1-8. https://doi.org

[16] Edigheji, O (), National Long Term Visions and Development Plans of African Countries: A Critical Review of their Gender Content

[17] World Bank Public Expenditure Handbook, 1998

[18] Igbuzor, O (2015), Nigeria: Public Administration Reforms and the Emergence of Buhari. Lagos, Joe-Tolalu & Associates.

[19] Olaopa, Tunji (2017), Transforming the African Public Service. USA, Pan-African University Press.

[20] Olaopa, Tunji (2023), The Unending Quest for Reform: An Intellectual Memoir. USA, Pan-African University Press.

[21] Igbuzor, O (2021), Contemporary Issues on Development and Change in Nigeria. Abuja, Risafu Publishers.