Question: As public perception is essential to whatever is being presented for consumption, how can this be related to the situation in Nigeria vis-à-vis the current standard of governance in the country – A.O. Equan
Even where the submission here may ‘sound’ political, it is essential to still point out (as expressed in its earlier segments) its correlation with marketing. “Product” and “consumers” (two related elements of this field) occupy the centre stage here – Governance depicts the former while the public or Nigerians comprise the “consumers” many are familiar with in commercial marketing.
With one scandal or another and all about gratification, keen watchers of the National Assembly (NASS) see no significant pointer to its readiness to do away with corruption – Major illustrations being the out come of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Capital Markets and Other Financial Institutions probe into the activities of the Securities and Exchange Commission that culminated in its chairman, Herman Hembe, being grilled in court; an ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy of the same body having its chairman being fingered for allegedly helping himself with $620,000, out of purported $3million bribe.
At a time when the Senate is yet to pass up to 25 bills, and the issue of absenteeism looming large , Nigerians now tend to identify the latest trend of constituting probe panels by NASS as ‘a sure bet’ for making money. Many tend to hold the view that rather than NASS facing its primary duty of lawmaking, there seems to be an increasing penchant for oversight and other review functions. This is perceived to be at the expense of Nigeria’s political process. Maybe, one or two major positive outcome of these probes will reverse this perception.
The attempt of the immediate past NASS (the 6th) to amend the 1999 Constitution, mainly as applicable to electoral laws, made for public perception of such efforts as self-serving. One that stands out to me is the issue of cross-carpeting. All about a political office holder being a member of one political party at breakfast and moving into another by dinner (without relinquishing office being held). A prominent politician even cashed in on this to ‘replicate’ the triple jump of the Olympics – Hopping from one party, stepping into another, and jumping on to a third all in under 25 days.
As this body endorsed defection by politicians (from one political party to another) becoming a ‘stroll in the park’, Nigerians came to realize that political parties can be compared to twelve and half dozen – the same. It became clear to the electorate that parties’ ideologies, policies, manifestos, agenda, etc, no longer matter. The result being that these lawmakers shot themselves in the foot, as Nigerian prospective voters’ reaction now is to consider only candidates instead of political parties at elections.
While I view the present NASS as trying to incur favourable public perception through plunging into issues that would placate the people, its recent moves on amending the 1999 Constitution through establishing a Committee on Constitution Review confirms this. Going by the contentious issues within 16 agenda which this Committee has drawn up (beginning with Devolution of Powers, and concluding with Residency/Indigene provisions), questions in these vital areas which this body continuously gloss over, keep coming to my mind:
(a) Change of Political System – Who drew the conclusion that the present US style presidential system is best suited for the country? Why should the parliamentary system jettisoned by the military in 1966 not be reintroduced, having realised the numerous demerits of the present approach? What about evolving a system comprising hotchpotch of other systems to arrive at a suitable “Nigerian political system”?
(b) National Conference - Why is NASS having a vice-like grip on amending the 1999 Constitution, at a period when there is relatively national consensus and urgent desires for a Constitution which reflects the true will of the people (not that foisted by the military), and must evolve from a national dialogue among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria?
Public perception is clearly skewed towards an impression which tallies with the saying, “Why would a turkey vote for Christmas?”, as the lawmakers seem to portray fear of burning their fingers through probability of “out-legislating” themselves. Why is the Senate not even considering the issue of Political System? I wonder why the fear for allowing the people to come together to discuss their future in a national conference. From all indications, I see the Senate losing out on this, and the obvious general clamour for a national dialogue prevailing. To simply stem any fear about the fragmentation of Nigeria through such gathering, one ‘No go area’ should be introduced – The indivisibility of Nigeria.
In summary, on what can be done to sway public perception favourably for good governance, these should be applied:
NASS should make good laws for the welfare and general goodwill of the people; it should purge itself of corruption and other forms of graft, through self cleansing; embark on convincing cost reduction measures, as Nigerians tend to perceive the legislature as drain pipes; NASS should try to tell its own stories, for the people to really know what they are doing through effective media coverage of proceedings; the legislature should adhere to what the constitution says about numbers of attendance, as its rate of absenteeism is becoming embarrassing; it should henceforth portray itself to be all out for ‘packaging’ laws which will impact on the lives of the average Nigerian; NASS must refrain from dodging the issue of declaring its bloated remunerations, which really has given cause for so much public disregard for legislators, as none has come forward to publicly refute this impression with any contrary proof.
Since the advent of democracy in Nigeria, in 1999, there have been clear indications that the prerequisites of good governance stated here have not been fully in place (e.g. the perceived misgivings in the performance of leadership), hence an unfavourable public perception.
(To be continued)