Wednesday, December 16, 2009
THE NIGERIAN STATE AND THE POLITICS OF PUBLIC POLICY IMPLEMENTATION.
The entity called Nigeria was born in the year 1914 as a British colonial construct, but after decades of colonial domination, attained Independence, Sovereign and Republican status in 1960 and 1963 respectively. It is factual that society is ordered, steered and directed towards desired end or goals by the State through policies. Public policies therefore play crucial role in the State and are also instrumental to the development and underdevelopment of a given State. Whereas, there has been no lack of public policies in the Nigerian State since independence, the paradox of public policy implementation has continued to militate cum mar the realization of public objectives in the country. The reason been that, most Government Policies either end prematurely only at the formulation stage; are purposely designed not to be religiously implemented or simply mal-implemented to benefit only a section of the society. The focus of this paper therefore is to critically investigate the character of the Nigerian State and unravel the politics that envelopes public policy implementation in the country. This paper is organized into four sections, which includes: the introduction; Conceptual clarification of the Nigerian State, Politics, Public Policy; the Public Policy implementation Paradox in Nigeria; and lastly the Conclusion/recommendation.
THE NIGERIAN STATE
There is no fundamental straight jacket definition of the State which is acceptable for all men and all purposes. Therefore, scholars conceptualize the State from different perspectives. In simple parlance, the State refers to a group of people, occupying a definite territory, living under a government and incorporating sovereignty.
According to Harold Laski (1961) The State “is the crowning point of the modern social edifice” its character he explains “reveals it as a method of imposing principles of behavior which regulates the lives of men”. The State is the most inclusive organization which has formal institutions for regulating the most significant external relationships of men within its scope (Anifowose, 2008). Thus, it is the organization which exercises coercive authority over the inhabitants of a territory. Political power is exercised through the State. More so, the State is the object of political competition and its nature defines the character of politics in society.
One can poignantly assert that, the fundamental role of the State is the maintenance of social and political order in society. This however has been a subject of debate and contention between liberation and Marxism. The basic argument here is centered on how and in whose favour the State imposes order. Liberal scholars, opines that the State is a legal or public force, which uses its monopoly of coercion to police and guide the society impartially. That is, the State is apolitical and neutral in the exercise of power, therefore, it does not promote one interest against the order. It refutes the contention of the Marxist theory that, there is a ruling class that benefits more from the State(Ekekwe,1986:10)
Be that as it may, the Marxist view of the State, which is the framework of our analysis, contends that the State favours the interest of the ruling class that controls it (Ekekwe 1986:10). The State therefore is an instrument for class domination. Engels, in Alapiki (2004:30) describe the State, as” an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another, it is the creation of “order”, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between the classes.
In a capitalist State like Nigeria, the State promotes the interest of the bourgeoisie (the ruling class) which controls it, and experience has shown that the State plays this role through legislation (Okodudu and Girigiri, 1998:34). Therefore, the laws and policies that emanates from the State reflects the interest of the dominant cum ruling class, to the detriment of the teaming masses. This implies that, State policies are always detrimental to the people it purportedly exist to serve.
Following a critical performance evaluation of the Nigerian State, several scholars have described the Nigerian State: as exploitative, cruel and irresponsible (Ake, 1981, Okowa, 2005), weak, captured, dependent and hegemonic (Orugbani, 2002), illegitimate oppressive and repressive (Okoba, 2003), privatized and lacks autonomy (Ake, 2001), and lastly, the Nigerian State is a failed State, due to the glaring contradictions that defines the character of the Nigerian State. And just because the State lacks autonomy, it is been privatized and used as an instrument for the pursuit of parochial interests, against the pursuit of the public good. The idea is that, corrupt elements and amoral personalities in the State capitalizes on the non-autonomous and weak nature of the State to wickedly direct State resources to their selfish interest cum aggrandizement. That is, in most cases, State resources in the civic public are diverted to infamous channels in the primordial public which benefits only a few category of people in the society.
As a common phenomenon in the social sciences, the concept politics had different connotations or interpretations. The reason, been that, politics as an issue, concept and phenomenon basically invokes a lot of variegated opinions and sentiments. This is because, virtually everybody has an “expert opinion” on issues of politics, and politics as a universal phenomenon affects every one of us in different dimensions. In the globe presently, we live in an age of growing politicization where government actions and inactions, the water we drink, institutions we attend, marriage and divorce, our accommodation and mode of transportation, cost and provision of basic social amenities e.t.c all fall within the purview of politics.
The above scenario corroborates the declaration of the famous great philosopher, Aristotle and originator of the term “politics” that “man by nature is a political animal”. He went further to opine that the essence of social existence is politics and that where two or more men are interacting with one another, they are invariably involved in a political relationship, and this is a natural and inevitable predisposition among men…As men seek to define their positions in society, as they attempt to wring personal security from available resources and as they try to influence others to accept their points of view, they find themselves engaging in politics (cited in Rodee, et al 1972:2). Politics is therefore a ubiquisitous phenomenon and an unavoidable fact of human existence.
Politics basically refers to the conscious or unconscious struggle for domination, advantage and interest actualization by man in society. Hence politics is been defined as “who gets what, when and how (Lasswell 1930:23), some scholars prefers “and how much” to Lasswell’s conceptualization. Politics is organized dispute about power and its use, involving choice among competing values, ideas persons, interests and demands (Curtis, 2007). Politics is the manner in which power is obtained, exercised and controlled, the purpose for which it is used, the manner in which decisions are made, the factors which influence the making of those decisions, and the content in which those decisions take place (Sohari, 1987:10). The above implies that politics connotes social relations involving the intrigue to gain authority or power. To Bierce (1992:2) politics is strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. It is the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Put differently, politics refers to the activities associated with the control of public decisions among a given people and in a given territory, where this control may be backed up by authoritative and coercive means (Almond, et al 2001:4). Nnoli (1986) posit that, politics connotes “all those activities which are directly or indirectly associated with the seizure of state power, the consolidation of state power, and the use of state power”. While to Iyoho (1983:27)” Politics is the sharing of power between the various organs of government within the state, and the relationship between those who govern and those that are governed”. But in the words of David Easton (1965) politics implies, the authoritative allocation of values.
We can deduce from the above definitions that politics is a dynamic and interactive activity. It is the act of influencing, controlling and manipulating others in societal settings. Politics is also equated with government, that is, the activities that take place around the legally based institutions of the state. What this means is that, politics comes to play whenever there is struggle among decision makers over access to the distributive mechanisms of scarce resources in the State.
More so, whereas the liberalists argues that politics has utilitarian value, that is geared towards the good of the whole community, Marxist contends that politics is an integral part of class struggle between the dominant class (political elites) and the dominated or underprivileged class (the hoi polloi). And that, since the political elites are in control of the state structure (government), the tendency is that, they will always use their access to the instruments of the state to make decisions that will benefit the upper class to the detriment of the under privileged class (Paki and Inokoba, 2006). The Marxist analysis thus exposes the class character of politics, it reveals those in charge of the authoritative allocation of values and those that benefit from such allocations.
Different definitions of public policy abound, and it may simply be futile trying to discover which is correct or proper. One of the widely quoted but simple definitions of public policy is that by Thomas Dye (1975:1), where he defines public policy as “what government choose to do or not to do”. He went further to explain that: Governments do many things. They regulate conflicts within society, they organize society to carry on conflicts with other societies, they distribute a great variety of symbolic rewards and material services to members of the society and extracts money form the society, most at times in the form of taxes. Thus policies may regulate behavior, organize bureaucracies, distribute benefits, extract taxes or all of these things at once…”.
One crucial point to note from the above conceptualization is the concepts of “non decisions”. The reason been that, a decision by government to ignore a problem or make changes is in a sense a policy decision because it tends to favour the perpetuation of the status quo. Secondly, there may be a divergence between what governments decide to do and what they actually do which captures reality in the Nigerian context. Public policy is a future oriented inquiry into the optimum means of achieving a given governmental objective. Thus, it is a governmental programme found in a nation’s laws or in public statements by a functionary of government. Other conceptualizations of public policy includes: it is a government programme of action which stands for various degrees of goal articulation and normative regulations of government activities, that is what government intends to do or achieve and how it intends to do it (Egonnniwan 2004). Ira Shankansy (1970) contends that, public policy refers to important activities of government. The reality however is that public policy embraces all governmental activities or outputs as it affects members of the society, and can not be limited only to important activities of government. Public policy is also defined as a purposive course of action followed by an actor or set of actors in dealing with a problem or matter of concern (Anderson, 1975). It is a series of goal-oriented actions taken by government actors (Leichter, 1975:19). Public policy also connotes official statements determining the plan of action or what the government what to do (Mlekwa, 1976).
It is indeed factual that, the special character of public policies stems from the fact that, they are basically formulated public by authorities. This implies that those persons who engage in the daily affairs of a political system, are recognized by most members of the system as having responsibility for these matters and take decision that are accepted as binding most of the time by most of the members so long as they act within the limits of their roles (Anderson, 1975). The argument is that, public policy has to do with actions taken by public authorities. And due to the fact that, it is a product of governmental process and activities, it affects a large spectrum of issues and sectors of the society which governments have something to do. This includes the economy, housing, defense, transportation, health care, education etc. And expressions of public policy embraces, laws, judicial decisions, executive orders and rules government budgets, local ordinances, administrative decisions, organizational directives or any rule of conduct behind which stands the enforcing power of the principal system. Public policies are in essence designed to resolve societal problems. Particularly those considered to require public or collective action. Again public policies can be categorized as been distributive redistributive, regulatory and constituent respectively in accordance with the purpose they are created to serve in the society.
THE PUBLIC POLICY IMPLEMENTATION PARADOX IN NIGERIA
In an ideal situation the public policy process is divided into different phases or stages, which rightly includes problem identification, policy initiation, deliberation and formulation, implementation and the policy evaluation stages respectively. The adopted policy is only a statement of intentions, expectations, goals, prescriptions, standards and requirements; it is basically a carefully drafted set of exhortations, directions and hopes. Therefore most public policies require actions and enforcement mechanisms to effectuate them. Public policy implementation is the act and process of converting a policy into reality or simply enforcing the policy. That is, it is the process of translating policy mandates into actions, and policy goals into reality. It refers to the actions taken to accomplish the intents, objectives and desired outcomes of a policy.
The implementation process consists of the implementing organization, the socio-political and economic environment, the policy target group, the policy objectives, the enumerated methods of implementation and the policy resources ( Sharkansky and Meter, 1975: 71-81).
We must reiterate the fact that, Nigeria is presently swimming in the ocean of abject poverty, absence of basic social amenities and excruciating underdevelopment, not because, there are no good public policies to ameliorate the situation, but because policy implementation is the Achilles heel of the Nigerian State.
An historical excursion into the annals of public policies in Nigeria reveals that, if all the policies formulated in the country were religiously implemented, Nigeria no doubt would have been in a fast lane of development. Paradoxically however, most of these public policies only exist on paper and are never implemented to actualize the objectives of such policies. The culture of non-implementation of public policies is therefore in a very high degree in the country and virtually affects all levels of government. For instance, it is pitiable to note that some projects conceived in the First National Development Plan in the country are still not implemented. Public policies are thus debased to mere rhetoric with no iota of commitment and implementation. The politics of public policy implementation in Nigeria is multidimensional, we shall therefore proceed to identify and explain some of them.
LACK OF POLITICAL WILL/ATTITUDE TO PUBLIC POLICY IMPLEMENTATION
Public Policy Implementation or delivery is negatively or positively affected by the attitude or behavior of implementers. That is, if they are negatively disposed to a policy, there will be lack of commitment to the implementation process.
It has been identified that the Nigerian state is privatized dependent, weak and lacks autonomy. Therefore, despite the availability of public policies that stands to better the lot of the average Nigerian, the State unfortunately lacks the political will to positively realize such policy objectives. The argument is that, even though the set objectives of government policies stand to benefit the public, the cabal that holds the top echelon of government hostage will jeopardize or frustrate the implementation of public policies. In the energy sector for instance, Nigeria with a population of over 140 million people presently generates only a miserable capacity of 1,500 mega watts. And despite the sinking of a copious 13.2 billion American dollars in the sector by former President Obasanjo regime, no tangible result was achieved (The Source, 2009: April 6: 16).
POOR IMPLEMENTATION DESIGN, CONCEPTION AND DISCIPLINE
Planning is of paramount importance no matter what your venture might be. Therefore, the design of the modes and methods of implementation of a policy is critical to implementation success. Wrong choices of means and methods could mar implementation chances and cause policy failure. This is because the instruments, methods, knowledge, technology, equipment, models and modes of delivery utilized in implementing a policy determine whether implementation and performance would be successful or not (Ikelegbe, 2005; 183).
The Nigerian State in most cases, down plays the crucial issue of implementation design of public policies. This trend translates to the advent of public policies without clear-cut modalities or mechanism of implementation. Policy objectives are therefore in most cases misinterpreted or worst still abandoned. There are also cases where by the Federal Government will formulate National policies without consulting the Local Governments, but only to direct them to implement such policies without adequate enlightenment and education.
POOR PROGRAMME LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT
It is truism that programme leaders could be quite facilitative of implementation. They steer, direct and motivate programme efforts. That is, an able, committed and enthusiastic leadership could build and strengthen the commitment devotion, loyalty, support and enthusiasm of staffs in programme implementation. Unfortunately, the Nigerian State majorly parades an array of misfits for highly sensitive, public positions. And this ugly scenario led to the inability of programme leaders to create favourable environment for policy implementation. In a dispensation where square pegs are put in rounds holes and merit sacrificed on the alter of mediocrity, policy objectives can not be positively realized.
LACK OF RESOURCES
It is not as if, Nigeria is a poor country in terms of material and human resources, but it is the formulation of wrong policies at the right time and dicriminative/segregative funding of some policies that has led to the problem of lack or resources. This is because when most public policies are formulated, adequate provision of resources is not made to implement them. The Primary Health Care programme, for instance stand to benefit massively the rural population and urban poor in the country, but resources are not appropriated to make it a success. There is thus politics of implementation because, the resources needed for adequate implementation are not provided to realize policy objectives. Policies such has the NYSC scheme, National Immunization Programme, Universal Basic Education and Transport Policies etc has continued to suffer set back due to the above trend.
Corruption is also a major issue in the politics of public policy implementation in Nigeria. When corruption penetrates the implementation process, public policies becomes mutated and the desired goals may not be achieved. Most public policies are formulated and funds appropriated for, but corruption like an octopus has continued to entangle, ruin and make impossible the implementation process.
Due to corruption, Nigerian are still under the yolk of excruciating poverty despite the several efforts been made to alleviate poverty. For instance, the Administration of General Babangida, in 1986 establishment the National Directorate of Employment aimed at promoting skill acquisition and self employment among the unemployed. The Administration also introduced the People’s Bank of Nigeria, the Community Bank and Nigeria Agricultural and cooperative Bank, to provide loans to low income earners for the financing of small scale businesses. There were equally National Agricultural Land Development Authority and the Directorate of food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) all aimed at empowering the people and in alleviating poverty in the country (Nigerian news world October 13, 2008:15). The sum of 50 billion naira has also been allocated to the National Poverty Eradication Programme NAPEP created by the former President Obasanjo’s administration, but paradoxically, the level of poverty instead of decreasing is rather on the increase. The fact remain that resources appropriated for the implementation of public policies are criminally diverted to private ends, hence frustrating the implementation process. It is also sad to note that most public policies only exist as conduct pipes to drain state resources by corrupt elements. For instance, the National poverty Eradication Programme was designed to pay the sum of three thousand naira monthly to some category of the unemployed in Nigerian to better their living condition. The programme was however hijacked by corrupt politicians and instead of the poor benefiting from the scheme, the pay roll was filled by ghost names, unwarranted party loyalists and their children. Just because the State lacks autonomy and is dependent, those who controls State power use it to enrich themselves and their Cronies, which is detrimental to policy implementation. Service to the State in an uncorrupt manner is replaced with personal aggrandizement, therefore State resources are looted every now and then.
SECTIONALISM AND ETHNIC BIASES
Sectionalism cum ethnicity has also continued to marr public policy implementation in Nigeria Experience has shown that, some national policies are implemented fully in some parts of the country, but simply abandoned or marginally implemented in other areas. The petroleum Trust Fund head by General Buhari, for instance, constructed a lot of good roads in the northern part or the country but nothing tangible was done on road construction in the Niger Delta where the fund was derived from. In terms of Health care, the former Yobe State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mamman Mohammed, for example said “drugs and other consumables worth over N7,528 billion supplied by the PTF to the state in 2003, under the Bamako Initiative Scheme expired and became useless before they were sold” as they were more than what the state required. He went further to state that “the yearly Drug requirement of the state is N1 million only, but PTF supplied a total of about N198 million worth of drugs and Hospital consumables to about ten General Hospitals in Yobe State between 2001-2003 (Etekpe, 2007:73).
Juxtaposing the Yobe State experience with the Niger Delta and South East States reveals that those areas suffers from gross inadequacy in the supply of drugs. But, Yobe State was simply favored because the chief implementation officer was from the northern extraction. Moreso, it is factual that implementing officers of policies do so to benefit their immediate ethnic groups and abandon same polices sited for implementation in other ethnic groups dominated areas. In essence, compromises made during implementation that seeks to alter basic policy goals are detrimental to the successful execution of programmes. That is, in any situation where by actors in the implementation process are self centred or motivated by self aggrandizement, policy objectives would be difficult to be realized maximally.
EGOCENTRISM AND DUALITY OF PUBLIC POLICIES
The dependent and weak character of the Nigerian State more often than not, has led to egocentrism and duality of policies. Instead of continuing with, policies that are advantageous to the masses, every new policy. And this has always translated to duality of policies which exist to achieve same objectives. Duality negatively impacts on implementation in several ways. It may generate competition and rivalry among staff of the programme, as each programme would strive for more visibility and attention. They may seek to castigate, undermine and outplace each other which might unhealthy for stable and be successful implementation.
CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS FACTORS
The State which has monopoly of the coercive use of force ought to regulation all facets of the society. But in the Nigerian content, the State in some instance, plays the culture and religious card to undermine the implementation process of public policies in some parts of the country. A notable example is the purported link between polio immunization and infertility that have continued to limit the polio eradication process in Northern Nigeria. The imposition of Sharia Law in some of the northern States when constitutionally, Nigeria profess to be a secular State is another case in point.
SELECTIVE CUM NON-IMPLEMENTATION OF BUDGETS
Budget implementation have become a different ball game in recent times, and has assumed a recurrent decimal often resulting into stalemate between the Executive and Legislature (Nigerian News World, 2008 October 20: 21). Whereas in an ideal situation, budgets are religiously implemented to actualize set goals, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Prior to now, some Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, after, idling away their time for a full year would just amorally share among a category of their workers money appropriated for projects in the budget they fail to execute. At other times, frivolous contracts were hurriedly awarded in the closing days of the year, just to ensure that money was spent. The alleged sharing of 300 million naira by Ministers and top officials of the Ministry of Health, Head by Professor Adenike Grange is a reference point. However, due to the Presidential directive to prosecute those involved in the sharing of unspent funds, the new trend is the return of unspent funds to government covers at the end of the fiscal year. For instance, in December 2008, over 400 billion naira, more than 50% of the capital vote was returned to the treasury as unspent funds, while the important projects the money was budgeted for litter the country uncompleted (Tell, 2008 December 22). In present 2009 Budget, have also recorded very low implementation. The logic therefore is that, policies are formulated and funds appropriated for, but deliberately never implemented, only to deceive the public. Government especially at the Federal level carry out yearly Budgetary rituals but consciously politicized the implementation process for no just course.
There is also the issue of selective implementation of Budgets. And in this case only policies and programmes that directly benefits the government or its loyalists are selected for implementation, while others are simply abandoned or poorly implemented. The East West Road, which links the South-West to the South-East and South South, has been in deplorable condition for decades, causing hardship to commuters, but nothing has been done to improve the condition of the road. On the contrary, the present administration has awarded contract of over 300 billion naira to increase the number of lanes in Kubwa and Airport roads in Abuja with over 50% of the money paid. In essence, Public policies are enacted for purposes other than implementation, thus is most cases, they are only symbolic.
Most public policies in Nigeria are squarely reflections of the personal interest of the political class rather than the demand of the citizens, thus such policies lacks public support in terms of implementation. This is attributed to lack of political sensitivity. Experience has shown and there is no denying the fact that, most public policies that are speedily implemented in the country turn out to be misplaced priorities. The logic is that policies are implemented based on what the implementing officials stands to benefit from the process. For instance, a community might be in need of a functional Hospital, Link Roads, Portable Water and Classroom Blocks etc. But, due to the politics of public policy implementation and the personal benefits that might accrue to the implementing officials, government will proceed to build a VIP Toilet without the provision of water in a community that can not boast of a guaranteed source of water supply. Policies are therefore implemented in areas that does not necessarily need them and in other cases simply very difficult to implement.
It is crystal clear at this junction to assert that the public policy implementation realm in Nigeria is seriously being ravaged and swallowed up by the impure fire of corruption, mismanagement of resources, self-centeredness, favoritism, duplication of policies and inordinate political will etc. Public policy implementation is almost a failure in Nigeria and until the issues being raised are adequately addressed, public policies will continue to exist only on paper and thus eluding or frustrating the implementation process. One can poignantly assert that, due to the inherent contradictions and politics in the sphere of public policy implementation in Nigeria the inordinate marginal and non-implementation of public policies is the policy of the Nigerian State.
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