BATOCRACY: An Effective Governance Model? Part 1

One striking impact our adversity, as a nation, has had on us as citizens of Nigeria is our unity and collective desire for a major shift. We are united by those things that have seemingly left us unadmiring to other nations of the world, and events in the past few months have shown a people in need of hope. 

More than ever, an increasing number of Nigerians have taken interest in the leadership process, including voting and being voted for. Once again, we are gradually reigniting the spirit of patriotism that once existed during the days of our heroes past. We have all agreed we are at our lowest ebb as a nation, and it will take a radical change in our approach through deliberate decision-making within a democratic ambience and not some forcible overthrow of our current social order to achieve true nationhood. After all, the worst of democratic rule is far more worthy of patronage than the best of military rule.

While we groan and bemoan our current state as a nation, a period of despair, setback and quagmire is not uncommon in the history of nations. 

The 1780s, in the history of the United States of America(USA), were marred by economic downturn due to debts, inability to levy taxes, and significant inflation of the continental dollar, among others. 

But it took a man to fix all of these. George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, as the President of the United States of America(USA), and his leadership unified the country and set the model for democratic executive leadership in the modern world that has become a template embraced globally. Where a man fails, it will take another man to rebuild the ruins. A man who will show that it is more important to build strong institutions than strong men. 

The government of the people, by the people and for the people empowers the citizen to review the state of their nation after a period of time, which further guides them to decide on whether there should be continuity of a particular style of government or a call for a complete departure from the status quo. This happens every four years as enshrined in our constitution as Nigerians. One of such opportunities is before us come February 2023. 

In the midst of the frenzies in the political and social space, a man must emerge who will steer the course of our nation as the Commander in Chief(C in C). It is instructive to acknowledge that what will guide us into making the best decision for our country and countrymen spread across the world is the understanding of what we need, which will help us know the kind of leader we need.

To function as a nation, we need a model. We need a government model within our democratic system. A model wrapped in the tenets of good governance, as described by Indian sociologist, Dr. Surendra Munshi, as “…a participative manner of governing that functions in a responsible, accountable, and transparent manner based on the principles of efficiency, legitimacy, and consensus for the purpose of promoting the rights of individual citizens and the public interest.” 

This model has to be translated into the betterment of over 200 million Nigerians, including the over 10 million out-of-school children, the youth unemployment rate of 17.7 percent, and the inflation rate of 21.09 percent. It then has to be a tested model we can trust.

To replicate this model, we need, first, a patriot, someone who is committed to Nigeria’s indivisibility, someone who is committed to building a nation bound in freedom, peace and unity, as expressed in the last line of our national anthem’s first stanza. For 2023 and beyond, it has to be a tested and trusted model. It has to be an election of “what I have done” and not “what I will do” for whoever sees fit to install this model. It will require a personality, Bold, Audacious and Tenacious (BAT) to replicate this system of government (CRACY)

May 29, 2022, made it exactly fifteen years since Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu held a public position, either elected or appointed. In fact, that was the only office he has ever held, apart from being a senator during the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic in 1993. Consequently, he has not been part of the policy-making process or its implementation. Since handing over to Babatunde Fashola, SAN, who succeeded him as Governor, the closest he has come to being in power was his decision to jostle for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to stand a chance to be on the ballot for the number one seat in the country, which he successfully won. 

As stated earlier, 2023 would be an election of fact-checking antecedents and not some trial and error venture. Right before us, we have a man whose trajectory within our national discourse speaks of excellence and quality service delivery in the public interest.

Agreeing with Dr. Surendra on the good governance model, it becomes a catalyst for reform processes, which has been exemplified by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the governor of Lagos State. Transformations were birthed through consistent political will and leadership; strategic visioning of development, a knowledge-based approach to planning, budget reform and its linkage with activities of government institutions; institutional reform for efficient service delivery, partnership building with popular participation, policy, legislative, and institutional reforms; resource mobilization, transparency, and accountability; application of information and communication technology and data in governance; pragmatic intervention, and sustainable urban planning. 

Asiwaju inherited a seemingly failed state when he became Lagos State Governor in 1999, after Sixteen (16) years of military dictatorship. As a reformer with foresight, he promoted a consistent pattern of reforms to promote development. Successive administrations of Babatunde Fashola, Akinwumi Ambode, and Babajide Sanwoolu have continued with the same consistent approach. 

Since year 2000, during Tinubu’s administration, Lagos State has always organised the Lagos State Economic Summit (Ehingbeti). This explains a government’s understanding of the essence of integrating and sharing knowledge within an organization. This knowledge-based approach to planning has provided a framework for public-private partnerships (PPPs) to support development. The latest edition of this idea in October this year brought no fewer than 25 speakers who are experts from different sectors of the nation’s economy, where a 30-year development plan was unveiled for the country’s commercial nerve centre. 

This kind of approach in times past led to the creation of the 16,500-hectare Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ), which was developed as an international public-private partnership. Conceived as a hi-tech industrial zone, this economic powerhouse currently harbours $25 billion worth of investment, including Deep Sea Port, Dangote Refinery, Airport, fertiliser plant and over 200 other enterprises. The master plan of the LFTZ was initiated and prepared by Lagos State government under Asiwaju in 2006. One other far-reaching result of the PPP was the construction of the N43 Billion Lekki-Epe Expressway. Around this infrastructure lies iconic structures like Oriental Hotel, the Civic Centre, and the Boat Club along Ozumba Mbadiwe Way. This axis was a vast refuse dump as of 1999. 

Lagos State, under Asiwaju on August 1, 1999, was the first to break the sole monopoly of power generation and distribution from the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) with the Enron Power Project, which was an independent power project. This initiative was greeted with controversy, but the Federal Government acknowledged the wisdom of breaking the monopoly of NEPA. This demonstrated the capacity of some states to generate electricity, if the power to legislate on it is on the concurrent list. 

A major takeaway from this is the courage of a man who seeks to provide solutions through ideas that will promote good governance.

When the Federal Government introduced a home-grown poverty reduction strategy, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) in 2003, Lagos State formulated and adopted the LASEEDS (Lagos State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy) in 2005. This birthed reform through basic strategic planning techniques for stimulating sustainable development mainly through empowering people (human capital), developing the private sector (wealth creation), and reforming the government and its institutions (public sector reform). There has been the implementation of several institutional reforms through the creation of new agencies. 

Before 1999, the transport landscape in Lagos State used to be dominated by the notorious ‘molue’ buses as well as the unruly yellow ‘danfo’ buses. The former gradually extinct while the latter is methodically being phased out. 

The bill to establish Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) was signed by Bola Tinubu in 2002 to coordinate transport planning, policies and public transport infrastructure implementation in the Lagos metropolitan area. This innovation has produced the Lagos Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system and the Lagos State Strategic Transport Master Plan (LASSTMP) as well as the Lagos Rail Mass Transit system. Today, we hear of the Blue and the Red rail lines which are part of the “Seven Rail Line Vision” being implemented by the incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who was also part of the committee that designed the plan in 2005. 

There was creation of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Emergency Medical Services (LASEMS), Lagos State Microfinance Institution (LASMI), Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) among others. 

Sometimes in July this year, the United States announced that it is building its largest embassy in the world in Eko Atlantic City. This was a terrain that used to be washed by perennial flooding, and even forced the Federal Government and the state government to abandon their guest houses and liaison offices. The Federal Government annually spent billions of naira to pour sand into the ocean to prevent flooding but to no avail. But the Tinubu administration then requested the Federal Government to hand over the beach to Lagos State and the Bar Beach flood prevention line was first constructed. This challenge has now transformed into the ogling construction of the Eko Atlantic City, a brand new city emerging from the belly of the ocean. 

Re-engineering the State’s Board of internal Revenue and its revenue collection capacity led to aggressive resource mobilisation. Now renamed Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, the Tinubu administration reformed the tax administration process through the computerisation of the State’s tax assessment records and the introduction of electronic tax clearance card—a fraud-free, convenient method of keeping taxpayers record. The result? Internally-generated revenue of Lagos rose from about N600m per month in 1999 to an average of N5billion per month in 2006, with revenue peaking between N6.9bn and N8.1bn per month in March 2007.

Lagos State became the first State to approach the capital market to raise development funds through the issuance of bonds which were successfully floated. A former Solicitor-General of the State and Commissioner for Lands in the Tinubu administration, Mr. Fola Arthur-Worrey, better put this in perspective in his 2012 essay on Tinubu’s exemplary developmental leadership where he said, “…the mix of Tinubu’s top-notch knowledge of financial systems with the legal and financial knowledge inherent in his team and among the civil servants in the finance and budget ministries and the debt Office, the fact that Asiwaju had ensured that there was an up-to-grade state finances audit report and with the input of external experts, we saw it through.” 

By the time Tinubu left office in 2007, the State’s reliance on statutory allocations from Federation Accounts had been reduced to about 25 percent that the state was unperturbed by the seizure of more than N23.6 billion by the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led federal government—an indication of its financial stability. Today, Lagos makes the greatest contribution to Nigeria’s leading economic indicators with industries, including manufacturing and service delivery, banking, and telecommunications services.  

The restructuring of the State’s Ministry of Works and Housing during Tinubu’s tenure, which involved the upgrading of the housing department into a full-fledged Ministry, marked the beginning of the reform in the Housing sector. Coordinated by the Lagos Building Investment Company (LBIC) and the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) for better management, the ministry was tasked with providing 500 housing units annually. Through this, the Michael Otedola Low Income Housing project was revived as well as others like the Abraham Adesanya Housing Estate, part of the Jubilee Housing Scheme, is a 1,300-unit complex for low-income people. The ministry itself took on the initiative of the project. The Oko Oba flats in Ikeja’s Oregun Estate, the Femi Okunnu Housing Estate in Lekki, and the Mile 2 Housing Estate in Lagos were also completed and delivered. Gbagada 1&2, Ibeshe, Ikeja 1, Ikeja 2, Oko Oba/Alaba, and Ewu Elepe were also targeted for development. To ensure improved governance at the grassroots, Tinubu created additional 37 local councils areas, bringing the total number of councils to 57, even against the refusal of the National Assembly to list the councils in the constitution. 

Beyond a presidential candidate, Nigeria needs a performer, a reformer, and a visioner who carries with him an institution made up of progressive ideologies, a proactive and highly resourceful individual who has committed to the work of advancing Nigeria. 

What the nation needs is a system of government built on the assemblage of quality men and women with the much required mentality and resources to push Nigeria forward, the ones that comes with the institution called BATOCRACY.

Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and member representing Akoko North East/North West Federal Constituency and writes from Abuja

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