The relationship between government and the governed can be likened to a marriage because they both depend on trust, or lack of it, to thrive or fail. Once trust is lost in a marriage, that will automatically spell the beginning of the end of that union. If love wanes in a marriage, there is still hope that it may be rekindled but once trust is lost between a couple, it is almost impossible to fully regain. Trust is the bedrock of all relationships therefore a relationship without it is like a house attempting to stand when it does not have a foundation. This aptly describes the relationship between the Federal Government in particular and the Nigerian populace. The average Nigerian has little to no confidence in the government and some will argue that this disposition is amply justified.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Bureaucracy was borrowed from the French word, Bureaucratie and it generally, “refers to an entire body of unelected government officials or to the problematic system, often filled with ‘red tape’ ” – otherwise known as bottlenecks. These unelected government officials are the civil servants, who are mainly responsible for the day to day running of government and by extension, the country.
Bureaucracy has been the bane of governance in the Nigerian space for a very long time. Bureaucracy in Nigeria is the undisputed “poster boy” of inefficiency as well as a reference point for corruption. That bureaucracy needs to be strengthened is not debatable. It is something painfully obvious to everybody but for some reason, the powers that be continue to drag their feet regarding it. Nigeria is one of those funny countries where what needs to be done is known to everyone but it remains undone. Outdated processes and procedures which make the most simple things awkward, difficult and long-winded are retained for no justifiable reason. However, there is always a reason. It is just not a justifiable one. Some officials somewhere are benefiting from it. As the great Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore observed during his sometimes tortuous journey to drag his country out of the deep bowels of poverty and underdevelopment; before a developing country can join the league of developed countries, it must first deliberately and intentionally set out to drop Third World habits and then actively adopt developed world ones. Until a Third World mindset is replaced with First World thinking, not much will change. In his efforts to clean up government and keep it clean, he recounted in his memoir, From Third World to First, some of the steps he took to clean up bureaucracy. Quoting him verbatim when talking about the lower public officials, Lee Kuan Yew said, “for the smaller fish we set out to simplify procedures…even doing away with the need for permits or approvals in less important areas. As we ran into problems in securing convictions in prosecutions, we tightened the law in stages”. In the last six years, the Nigerian state has instituted several high profile cases against former public officials but has hardly secured any convictions. Despite this, there doesn’t appear to have been any sense of urgency on the part of either the Executive arm of government, the Legislature or even the Judiciary, to tighten the laws. This apparent lack of sincerity displayed by government to actually make things work and bring about the change it promised, is why the majority of Nigerians do not trust it. The average Nigerian has little to no confidence in any of the different levels of government.
Various obstacles are placed before Nigerians on a daily basis just so some unelected government officials can create opportunities to make unholy gain. Direct human interaction, which modern technology has rendered largely unnecessary, is deliberately left in place for the benefit of unscrupulous officials and this doesn’t just corrupt the entire system but it also causes the wheels of government to turn very slowly. This is responsible for the highly inefficient civil service that we see today.
A sincere government would waste no time in strengthening bureaucratic processes that will guarantee efficiency and ensure results match up to the expectations of the people who voted it into power. As a government, it would also set about strengthening democratic institutions and processes as a means of ensuring good governance. Unlike what obtains in Nigeria today where it appears as if the opinion of the people does not matter, stronger democratic institutions in place will act as a constant reminder to public officials that they are indeed answerable to the people. The zeal to demonstrate loyalty to the President, Governors and other political godfathers, in place of serving the people has done nothing to evoke a sense of trust amongst the electorate.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA. Author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.