Being the paper presented by
His Excellency Dr. Kayode FAYEMI
is the noticeable shift in tone and emphasis in the global narrative regarding
Africa, from one of afro-pessimism to that ...
seasons of electoral competition. The first thing to note is that democracy is not
alien to Africa. Many polemicists and s...
Cynicism leads inevitably to apathy. If people cease to believe in their
elected leadership, they will also shortly lose i...
When it is seen and articulated in this light, the mutual estrangement of
government and civil society will end. The civil...
challenges. We also consult broadly in the development of our annual budget
and have become a model for participatory budg...
adversarial elections that have the tendency to be divisive. We therefore have to
be magnanimous in our victories and stri...
Such a forum where you can gather as peers to pool ideas and learn from each
other is highly commended, and is a great pla...
fourth schedule of your country’s new constitution. I assure you that there
would be several other contentious issues with...
you fall short of their hopes. But you will also know the joy of their affection
and affirmation when you make their dream...
challenges of the hour call for politicians and civil servants – all public servants
– to plumb new depths in fulfilling t...
Consider Singapore – a story of development success much admired in
Africa. Many of us are familiar with the tale of how t...
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Imperatives For Successful Sub-National Governance


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Imperatives For Successful Sub-National Governance

  1. 1. IMPERATIVES FOR SUCCESSFUL SUB-NATIONAL GOVERNANCE Being the paper presented by His Excellency Dr. Kayode FAYEMI Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria At the INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE’S (IRI) AFRICA REGIONAL GOVERNANCE BEST PRACTICES CONFERENCE, MOMBASSA, KENYA Thursday, August 1, 2013 Preamble I bring you warm greetings from the land of honour, Ekiti State, Nigeria. Nigeria is a federation of states led by governors. In 1967, the old federal structure of regions led by premiers was dissolved to make way for states led by governors. Over the decades, for reasons of political expediency, we have grown from the initial number of 12 states to the present number of 36 states. I am privileged to be the governor of Ekiti State located in the Southwest of Nigeria with a population of about 2.5 million people. It is one of the 36 states that make up the second tier of government in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our state is further divided into 16 Local Government Councils that make up the third tier of government in the state. We have a largely agrarian economy and some of the most spectacular landscapes and tourist sites in Africa. I assumed office on October 16, 2010 after a 3 and ½ years battle to judicially reclaim my mandate that was denied me by electoral robbers and their collaborators in the April 2007 gubernatorial elections. So in a sense, we are a lot further along on the path that your country has recently chosen. But I have not come here to lecture; I have come to partake in a conversation with peers confronted by similar challenges, and I am convinced that there is much that we have to learn from each other. Let me at this juncture congratulate you on your emergence as Kenya’s pioneer set of governors of the 47 newly created counties and as critical actors in an exciting new chapter in efforts to deepen democracy in Kenya and by extension, the continent of Africa. Your emergence is coming at an auspicious moment. At a time when there is a lot of talk about an African recovery, and the continent is being hailed as the next frontier in the world’s geostrategic order; your leadership is crucial to realizing Africa’s immense promise, beginning of course, with Kenya. One of the most significant signs of our times
  2. 2. is the noticeable shift in tone and emphasis in the global narrative regarding Africa, from one of afro-pessimism to that of afro-optimism. Where reputed international media once carried stories titled “Laggardly Africa” or “The Hopeless Continent,” there are refreshingly sunny headlines like “Africa Rising” and reference to the 21st century as the “African Century”. It is for this reason that I am happy to participate in this historic conference with men and women of like passions, to reflect on a few of the themes that are germane to the success of your tenures. A New Era – Distinguishing Between The Macro and The Micro The creation of gubernatorial offices at county level was clearly meant to bring governance closer to the people; to reduce the sense of alienation that people feel regarding their representatives and to widen the opportunities for civic engagement at the grassroots. One of the criticisms of the process of democratization in Africa has been that in our attempt to clone western-style liberal democracy, we have ended up importing some of its less salutary aspects that do not transplant well and so cannot thrive in our socio-cultural soil. It has been argued that the bipolar of the party in government ranged against an opposition party seeded an unnecessarily adversarial dynamic into African politics. Such polarization worked marvelously well in developed countries where class conflict had matured into a socio-political culture of ideological contest between rightists and leftists. In Africa, this polarization was introduced into a different political economy; one defined not mainly by class but by an array of micro-national identities still jostling for their places in the new colonially-engineered nation-states. The adversarial nature of disputation in partisan politics tended to correspond with ethnic, religious and sub-national fault lines in these young societies. The result was an almost visceral distrust for multi-party politics which in turn became the justification for one-party states. Multi-party electoral democracy was seen as an incubator of destructive and distracting strife. It polarized nations and compounded sectarian animosities. Kenya, like my country Nigeria, has known all too well and sadly so, the insidious nature of this malaise. Today, one-party states have been discredited. By the early 1990s, they had outlived their usefulness. The end of the cold war hastened their demise by eliminating the superpower rivalry that was the impetus for their existence. However, the complexion of many African nations remains heterogeneous and fault lines remain highly flammable in democratic conditions especially in
  3. 3. seasons of electoral competition. The first thing to note is that democracy is not alien to Africa. Many polemicists and scholars have proposed this thesis to explain the apparent crisis of democracy on the continent. In fact, what is alien is not democracy but the mode of operation by which it has become identified. Many pre-colonial African societies were democratic in the sense that their political cultures were based on consultation and consensus. Typically, every member and every household of the community had a say in the matters of collective interest. Governance was therefore based on widespread consultation that broadened the pool of opinion and also the building of consensus. In the end, the decision, though delivered by a chief or a king, had to be a collective one of which he was the instrument of execution. Absolutist monarchies existed only in very few places. The setting that best portrayed the dynamics of governance in pre- colonial Africa was the village square where the community gathered to thrash out issues of common concern. The challenge of democratization in Africa is that in adopting western style democracy, we have forgotten the village square setting that characterized pre-colonial governance. Our formal democratic institutions are exclusive in nature, often depicting politics and governance as a winner-takes-all craft for an exclusive specialist class of politicians. The effect of this is that ordinary people feel alienated from government and their governments feel alienated from the people they claim to represent. The people rarely have any input in the policy-making and implementation processes. This distance between government and the governed is highly inimical to democracy. It creates a lack of trust which simply sabotages ab initio any good faith efforts to govern effectively for the benefit of our people. Reclaiming the Trust Upon my assumption of office, we discovered that our biggest challenge was gaining the people’s trust. Their previous gloomy experiences with our predecessors had calcified considerable cynicism in and about government. Generally, a trust deficit between the government and the governed plagues public life all over Nigeria. People simply do not believe what their politicians say. Indeed, the prevalent notion is that politicians come into office to simply line their pockets. While this is an understandable sentiment, it holds adverse implications for the deepening of our democracy.
  4. 4. Cynicism leads inevitably to apathy. If people cease to believe in their elected leadership, they will also shortly lose interest in public affairs. Democracies are never more vulnerable to hijack or collapse than when citizens lose interest in their political leaders and cease to hold them accountable. The quality of democratic governance depends on the vitality of the intercourse between citizens and their elected officials. It was immediately clear to us that our first task was to rebuild trust in public governance as a service delivery mechanism through practical and symbolic ways. For our administration, this has meant modeling an ideal of public service worthy of the people’s trust. This has not been easy in a climate in which citizens had become accustomed to official non-performance, but we have made considerable progress. By pragmatically instilling the ethos of competence, reliability and transparency, we have gone some way towards earning the trust of our people. But the most important measure that we have taken in this regard is to close the gap between state and civil society. We have done this by trying to restore a communal sense of ownership of governance. The conventional lens through which we, and by we, I mean we, the political elites of Africa, view public affairs is that of mutual antagonism between the state and civil society. We tend to see the state and society as implacably opposed. That is why when I am asked by people who are familiar with my antecedents as a frontline civil society actor, why I decided to “join them”; I patiently explain that in my view, this proposition is a false dichotomy. My foray into politics is an extension of my activism. The government and civil society share the same goals. We want a sustainable collective prosperity in an environment that promotes human dignity. I see the relationship between the state and civil society not in terms of conflict but in terms of harmony and synergy. Of course, the fact that we share the same goals does not mean that there are no differences of opinion. But these are debates over means not ends. We can have heated contestations of priorities, ways and means, and instruments even though we share a broad consensus as to where we want our community to be. These differences exist and they must be entertained because they enrich the relationship between the state and civil society and make it more authentic. We must therefore discard an adversarial perspective that revels in a tension based on chronic disputation for the sake of it. This is not a productive tension that generates solutions but a needless rancour that stalls progress.
  5. 5. When it is seen and articulated in this light, the mutual estrangement of government and civil society will end. The civil society will continue to express the communal instinct to regulate power and the chronic antagonism that poisons relations between the state and civil society will be replaced by mutual respect and positive tension. Civic engagement means that the state can access a much larger pool of wisdom and knowledge made available by a new rapport with civil society. In return, the sanctums of governance will become much more accessible to the people. The idea at the heart of this discourse is that governance is a burden shared by the community. To be truly effective, the design of policies has to emanate from the people’s perception of their own needs. In this sense, the limitation of African democracy is our emphasis on the conduct of elections often at the expense of the democratic relationship between the government and the governed. We have not yet come to see that democracy means participatory governance which in effect means that policies are generated from the bottom up not imposed from the top down. There is a hubris which leads us to presume to know far more about ordinary people about their problems than they themselves do. This paternalistic attitude causes us to prescribe solutions that often have no relation to the challenges on ground and devise strategies that are consequently unworkable. Despite the tonnage of well-intentioned and even altruistic efforts to fight poverty in Africa, these programmes fail because they are largely imposed on the people by political elites. They have no buy-in at the grassroots level. For development plans to work, the people have to take ownership of their conception and drive their execution. For this to be the case, the development goals have to be generated by citizens and tally with their own needs and aspirations. A more meaningful approach to policy conception and execution calls for us to adopt a posture of listening and attentiveness attuned to the pulse of the communities on the receiving end of our initiatives. This means a return to the ethos of consultation and consensus that our forefathers used to good effect. In our times, this can be interpreted as the forging of strategic partnerships between political leaders and civil society organizations and non- state actors. The foregoing ethos has informed my administration’s mainstreaming of grassroots participation in our policy and programme development and implementation. We do this through regular town hall meetings across the state during which we share details of our milestone achievements as well as
  6. 6. challenges. We also consult broadly in the development of our annual budget and have become a model for participatory budgeting in Nigeria. In addition, my administration has also pioneered veritable community participation in projects’ implementation through our “Community Self-Help Programme”. Through this initiative, stakeholders in the various communities decide amongst themselves the projects that are of priority to them; our government then provides the funds for the implementation of the projects under the supervision of the community leaders, while government acts as overall monitor. We have come to find out that with this model, contractors are extra cautious in delivering projects to time and specifications so as not to attract the ire of a whole community. The culture of maintenance of public property is also greatly leveraged because the people have taken ownership. We are in touch with our people and work with them, not just for them. Freedom of Information and Responsible Statecraft One of the ways in which we can enhance participatory governance and engineer high stakeholder involvement in public affairs is by entrenching a culture of freedom of information. This begins with the freedom of information act but extends beyond this to creating a climate in which our administrations are truly open to the people. Too often, the affairs of government is classified, veiled in secrecy and kept away from the people. This culture offends the democratic spirit which is all about openness and transparency, and is one of the ways in which governors alienate the governed. By entrenching a culture of transparency, we create an atmosphere in which people feel truly closer to their governments; thus, we as political leaders benefit from the intellect and the energy of our people that we can tap into. This is why the Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria is the first state to have domesticated the Freedom of Information act at the sub-national level in the country. We have gone further by developing robust communication channels through which everyone can know about government’s activities. It is noteworthy that our website has been named the best state government website and the most visited public sector website in Nigeria. Indeed, information and communication management is crucial to the deepening of a democratic culture. The responsibility of ensuring the content of our communications is within the confines of civility is as important as the rigours of information dissemination. This is particularly relevant considering the fact that we all as holders of elective political offices are products of
  7. 7. adversarial elections that have the tendency to be divisive. We therefore have to be magnanimous in our victories and strive to elevate the art of statecraft above crass and uncouth communications aimed at undermining opposition. We hold very sensitive positions and our words have to heal and not hurt; bind together and not tear apart; build consensus and not dissension. African nations have suffered much loss of life from needless strife and political bickering. Often these costly conflicts have been rooted in ego, in the inability of politicians to play fairly and to regard each other with courtesy. Given your recent history, you do not need any lectures on the destructive nature of hate-mongering, sectarian intolerance and tribal prejudice. I come from a country familiar with these plagues and which has paid a high price in human life to tame these demons. However, as an expert in conflict and security issues, what is clear to me is that political elites set the tone for the rest of society to follow. If our political debates are poisoned with demagogic rhetoric, hate- speech and incitement, then our streets, farms and towns will burn. Most conflicts begin from the realm of political communication, from how elites mobilize their supporters and along what line they seek to obtain support. If we do so by demonizing others, then the potential of conflict will be magnified. Once we make political contests between individuals synonymous with a communal contests for survival in which the prosperity of one community depends on the extinction of another, then we are setting the stage for violence. There is a great responsibility on all of us who lead to see that we do not encourage the worst instincts of our people; that we turn their hearts and strengths towards constructive rather than destructive ends. This burden is even greater on you as governors because you are closer to the grassroots. You have your fingers on the pulse of the people and you are much more cognizant of the emotions and the sentiments that run so deep that they cannot be readily spotted by the national government. By virtue of your strategic location closer to the people, you are the chief architects of the political culture. You are the first, the nearest and the most readily visible examples of leadership that the people can see. Therefore much depends on how you treat them and how you treat each other. In the same vein, a spirit of cooperation is necessary if you are to succeed. Many of the challenges you face are cut from the same cloth and transcend county lines. They will require concerted effort. That is why I was happy to hear that you have quickly put in place the “Council of Governors”.
  8. 8. Such a forum where you can gather as peers to pool ideas and learn from each other is highly commended, and is a great platform by which you can all access the collective wisdom of the group. The Council of Governors can evolve a peer review mechanism that serves both as an instrument of collective development and learning, as well as a tool of self-regulation. There is much that you can accomplish together. I am a great believer in the spirit of cooperation beyond political party lines, especially in the service of national development. Moreover, such a spirit once operative here will flow inevitable downwards to inseminate our communities with the means to collectively tackle their problems. In this regard, I recommend that you understudy the workings of the Nigeria Governors Forum founded in 1999. The NGF consists of all governors of the 36 states in Nigeria irrespective of political party. The widely publicised leadership crisis currently facing the forum is a passing phase that would further strengthen our role as a frontline pressure group and unifying entity in my country. The good work done over the past 14 years cannot be discounted on account of the current crisis; neither can it undermine our prospects for the future. Entrenching a spirit of cooperation also extends to the tenor of executive- legislative relations. Given the differing mandates of both sets of political actors, the relationship between them is bound to be marked by a certain degree of tension. This residual tension will be compounded by party differences. What is important however is that we do not let that tension degenerate into outright conflict that paralyzes governance. Rather we should aim to make it a creative tension that gets the best out of all of us. In my state, 24 out of the 26 members of the State House of Assembly belong to my party. On one level, this makes things relatively easier because we all subscribe to the same party’s manifesto. But even so, I still have a duty to manage the relationship between my administration and the legislators. As part of my efforts in this regard, we instituted a periodic executive-legislative retreat to enable us all bond, rub minds, share ideas and just generally create a relational context within which we can disagree with civility. It is in the overall interest of our democratic projects to create a strong executive- legislative regime. Another point to note is the need to maintain a healthy relationship between the governments at the Counties level and the Central Government. It is understandable the current agitation by the Council of Governors to see the expeditious full implementation of devolved functions as provided for under the
  9. 9. fourth schedule of your country’s new constitution. I assure you that there would be several other contentious issues within the coming months and years as the new political arrangement matures. What should however guide such engagements is the patriotic zeal to better the lives of the people of your counties. In the spirit of robust Cooperative Federalism, all tiers of government in Kenya have to interact cooperatively and collectively towards solving common problems and avoiding waste by the duplication of efforts. You have to ensure consultations between the Counties’ Governments and the Central Government are deep and enduring with a view to driving development faster to the people you are called to serve. Ultimately, democracy is about the accommodation of various shades of opinion. The ability to disagree without being disagreeable is a vital political skill. We do ourselves no credit if every political dispute or difference of opinion leads to a loss of life. This is why it is absolutely imperative that you instill a culture of civility in your interactions with each other as peers and with the higher authorities in the Central Government. It is quite alright to have differences. Indeed, being seasoned political actors it would be most unusual if there were no differences of opinions among you. But it is necessary that whatever your disagreements, you retain the belief that you are all working in the greater interest of Kenya. The people are watching and will take their cue from your conduct. The Necessity of Service Delivery and Meritocracy Considering the central reason for creating your positions is to shift governance closer to the people, it is natural that you would bear the greater burden of the people’s expectations for a better life. Devolution of governance is effectively devolution of service delivery. But you can also devolve corruption, lack of transparency and other negatives. How meaningful democracy is to the people depends to a large extent on how honourably you carry out your duties. Democracy, in the final analysis, is not just the right to vote and be voted for, it is the equalization of access to public goods – education, healthcare, basic infrastructure and jobs. It is expanding the range of opportunities available to the people to live creative lives and achieve upward mobility. The question of service delivery therefore is inescapable and it is the plumb line by which you will be measured and judged. Naturally, because you are the nearest representation of governance to the people, you will feel the brunt of the anger and their disappointment should
  10. 10. you fall short of their hopes. But you will also know the joy of their affection and affirmation when you make their dreams come true. It is such joys that make a political career so rewarding – the notion that your leadership is tangibly affecting lives for the better. In addition to our policies of free and compulsory education up to senior secondary school, as well as free and qualitative healthcare for vulnerable segments of the society, we have also developed a Social Security Scheme through which we cater for qualifying elderly citizens above the age of 65. We give these senior citizens a token amount for their upkeep every month, in a bid to ensure members of this vulnerable segment of the society are not left behind in indigence. There is immense elation that comes with keeping up with the tradition of caring for our elderly, even with the complexities of governance in these modern times. One of the accomplishments that I am proud we have achieved through our social service delivery efforts is that Ekiti now ranks number one in Nigeria in terms of life expectancy. Improving service delivery means changing the dominant paradigm of public service in Africa. Our onerous development challenges are not for want of brilliant policies and programmes or even dedicated leadership. The fact is that most African countries simply lack the institutional capacity to execute and pursue their developmental goals. This deficiency is readily discernible in the condition of civil services across the continent. The dilemma therefore for political leaders is that it is not even enough to have great ideas and programmes that will help the people. We must develop the delivery capacity that takes a proposal and translates from a bright idea into a truly tangibly transformative policy with material consequences. The task of creating an efficient public service is inseparable from the calling of political leadership to motivate, inspire and rally a corps of public servants with whom they will jointly seek to actualize the people’s aspirations for a better quality of life. It is only in this way that the quest for the better life can be properly institutionalised and thereby go beyond the politician’s tenure. No matter how gifted a politician may be, his ultimate success lies in his ability to strengthen institutions so that they can function optimally independent of his own exertions. The public service is the designated site of this success. The reforms that we need call for political leaders to set the right tone in terms of professional and public conduct, in their approach to the task of governance and the sanctity they accord to the people’s mandate. Political leadership which is itself an instrument of public service is a sacred trust. The
  11. 11. challenges of the hour call for politicians and civil servants – all public servants – to plumb new depths in fulfilling the ideal of leadership as service. Conclusion: Leading with Legacy in Mind; Success and Succession It may seem strange and even premature to be talking about succession planning when you only just got here but this is a critical and much neglected facet of leadership in Africa. And it dovetails neatly with the theme of institutionalising our successes and building durable institutions. However noble our motives for going into politics, however accomplished we may be as administrators, one truth stands unimpeachable: No man is indispensable. We serve by the grace of God and at the pleasure of the electorate who put us in office and have the right to remove us as well. We must lead with one eye on today and the other on the future. As political leaders, this involves mentoring a corps of young leaders to carry on from where we stop. This has not particularly been a strong point of African leadership. Too often we are suspicious of the young. We marginalize talented youth that we should be grooming, seeing them as threats instead of nurturing them as successors. Archaic Paternalistic attitudes still dominate African leadership models and have aborted countless opportunities for positive change and innovation to move the continent forward. As a new generation of leaders in Kenya, you have an opportunity to change this negative dynamic which is impeding progress in our societies. As James Freeman Clark said, “A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman, of the next generation”. Leadership is a continuum and for our leadership to truly stand the test of time it must be driven by a trans- generational perspective. We must build up those who will take our exertions for a better society to higher levels. We absolutely must begin to mentor young people. The litmus test for our success as leaders is not how many people we are leading but how many people we are transforming into leaders. In other words, how many people are we empowering to realize their own potential as leaders? Each generation of leaders must stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before them. We have a responsibility to boost the next generation up on our shoulders. Whatever our successes as individual leaders, they are incomplete until we have prepared the grounds for succession. This is how positive leadership cultures are perpetuated. Too many promising movements and organizations have died out with their charismatic founders because they failed to mentor the next generation to carry the baton of leadership into new frontiers.
  12. 12. Consider Singapore – a story of development success much admired in Africa. Many of us are familiar with the tale of how the sterling leadership of Lee Kwan Yew steered the small island from a pacific backwater to a first world city-state and one of the best run nations in the world today. But Singapore’s success story also owes much to adequate succession planning in which leadership has been taken up by a corps of younger leaders that were initiated into the governing party very early. They now constitute the second generation of leaders charged with consolidating the success story of Singapore. What we can learn from this and other examples of national success is that nation-building is a trans-generational task. It is not about gifted individuals; it is about leadership traditions based on ideas and values shared across generations. This is what ensures that leadership is continuously refreshed and society is continually renewed. This is how we can create a national success story that endures for the ages. I very warmly welcome you on board and wish you success in actualising the mandate of your people. Thank you. Dr. Kayode Fayemi Governor, Ekiti State, Nigeria Thursday, August 1, 2013, Mombasa, Kenya