We know that gorvenance in Nigeria is challenging.
At federal, state and local governments, governance appears to be mystifying and defies the understanding of many well-meaning Nigerians who, rightly so, do not think it is rocket science. We know that there is a lot of talk about corruption being a major bane of progress in Nigeria. But we think there is a constructed notion of difficulty, of oversized problems that are beyond the capacity of those who come to govern. Otherwise, we think that, given the number of supposed brilliant men and women, even in the face of corruption, there ought to be first, a basic understanding of what is commonsensical, the nature of providing solutions to basic problems. We think that there is a shallow approach to problem solving, hence the apparent failure to satisfy the Nigerian people with every passing government.
For example, let us take government’s approach to the problems posed by a growing population and what we call the ‘connective governance’ being provided by those who are elected to solve them. Across levels of governments, we find a complete lack of connective governance in the
attempts often made to solve citizens’ challenges.
This is the reason why we see as a refreshing relief the understanding shared recently by the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, when he toured some infrastructural projects across different parts of the state, recently.
At the heart of Governor Ambode’s approach is the connection that is made with providing infrastructure, population and development. We know that on the basis of population size, Nigeria has a good number of mega and potential megacities. But as Nigeria appears to deliberately become less concerned about its population growth, unmoved by the fact that, placed against a dismal gross domestic products (GDP) growth, the country is facing a serious economic crisis, the story about its growing megacities is not a sweet one. In fact, our megacities – from Lagos to Abuja; from Port Harcourt to Kaduna; from Kano to Jos – represent what has been aptly described by economists, development, urban and
regional planning experts as ‘urban failures’.
Our view is that Nigeria’s population explosion is a time bomb that is ticking very fast, requiring urgent attention, because it’s a major shaper of infrastructural requirement and provision. We are appalled, to say the least, that it is not an issue of concern for serious policy discussion in government circles across the country. The levity with which those in authority treat the important things that matter for the welfare of the people continues to be of serious concern.
We know that economic resources are always going to be scarce and the primary job of government is to joggle the balls in such a way that, enables it maximize the limited resource for the benefit of its people. But it can, and should, manage the variables that it can do something about; including working with its people to ensure that economic hardship is not something that they unwittingly bring upon themselves through unwise actions that they take.
We think that education is a major weapon for addressing this challenge.
But we are mindful how elite struggle for power has ensured that education is neglected to such a level that there are more ignorant among the population than are wise enough to understand that the economics do not sit right for an exploding population where resources are truly and, indeed, scarce. For the size of the Nigerian population and the rate at which it is growing, GDP growth needs to be in the double digits year after year; and some say for at least 10 years. With the silence on the rate of population growth, we think it is really a wonder that government does not recognise that it is hitting its head on a wall when it seems not to be pushing for ambitious levels of growth to underwrite a nagging population explosion about which it is burying its head in the sand.
We cannot ignore the devastating impact that population growth is having on resources, especially the continuous need to provide infrastructure that enables comfort for citizens. This is why we think that Ambode’s connective governance approach to infrastructure provision and development, in which he recognises population growth and the need to provide infrastructure in a way that creates liveable, self-sustaining urban communities and cities, should be emulated across the country.
In Governor Ambode’s own words: “What we are trying to send as a message here is that every nook and cranny of Lagos should become economically viable and also economically liveable because, people should be able to stay where they are and actually earn their own living and income in a very comfortable way and that is the whole essence of this, and overall, we will be able to grow our GDP and allow more people to enjoy dividends of democracy and also pay their taxes, perform their civic obligations and in a complete circle; that same money gotten from the taxes, would be used to continue to renew infrastructure and allow
more people to live a comfortable life. That is what Lagos wants to do; that is what we are committed to and that is the direction we are going.”
This is good thinking and it is governance that connects to solve citizens’ problems directly. We welcome and endorse this approach because it is close to our earlier demand that Nigerian governors have a responsibility to build new self-sustaining cities.