Editorial

Between governance and politics

Governance is the act of governing or better still, what a government does. It relates to decisions that define expectations and it is part of leadership processes. Politics, on the other hand, involves processes by which a group of people with initially divergent opinions or interests reach collective decisions generally regarded as binding on the group, and enforced as common policy. Wikipedia explains more succinctly that ‘governance conveys the administrative and process-oriented elements of governing rather than its antagonistic ones’. Such an argument, it states, continues to assume the possibility of the traditional separation between ‘politics’ and ‘governance’.

However, contemporary governance practice and theory sometimes questions this distinction, premising that both ‘governance’ and ‘politics’ involve aspects of power. Those who introduced and perfected the concept of good governance insist that there has to be a clear distinction between ‘governance’ and ‘politics’, other confusion would prevail.

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Former President Barrack Obama and his party played politics that returned him to power as a second-term president. As far as President Obama was concerned, politics was over, and it was time for governance. In his victory speech, President Obama thanked every American who voted, and vowed to work with leaders from both parties to tackle the country’s challenges. He told the cheering crowd on the day his victory was announced, that the economy was recovering and that a decade of war was ending, a long campaign was now over, and that ‘whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you and you have made me a better president’. President Obama said he had ‘never been more hopeful about America… We’re not as divided as our politics suggest. We remain more than a collection of blue states and red states.’

These profound remarks are what we expected of Nigeria’s political leaders. There has to be a clear distinction between ‘politics’ and ‘governance’, not only by way of rhetoric but in action. Politics should have ended when President Buhari received an overwhelming mandate from the Nigerian people to lead them and could start again sometime during 2018 just before another general election in 2019. Instead, what we have is politics in perpetuity. Everything is politics or rather politicized. Every action or decision has political undertone. It is, indeed, very difficult to separate politics from governance. But why not! Given Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances, too much politics is dangerous and poor quality of governance is equally dangerous. The question is whether the country needs to be playing high level politics with the daunting challenges ahead. If the demand for Nigeria’s crude oil and gas drops dramatically given the new discoveries and impeding actions of our trading partners, the price of the commodity would equally drop. How would the country cater for the teeming population that is growing at the rate over three per cent per annum? How would the country cope with the huge jobless youth population? How would the country finance the much-needed development and inclusive growth?

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Nigeria’s political leaders must roll up their sleeves to begin to work extremely hard to lift the nation-state out of the desperate conditions. These conditions include systemic corruption, infrastructure deficiencies, high-level of unemployment, inequality, abject poverty and destitution. Nigeria’s development partners have been asking for what they call inclusive growth or growth with equity. Inclusive growth basically means, broad-based growth, shared growth, and pro-poor growth. Wikipedia explains that it decreases the rapid growth rate of poverty in a country and increases the involvement of people into the growth process of the country. Inclusive growth by its very definition, according to Wikipeidia implies an equitable allocation of resources with benefits incurred to every section of the society. The allocation of resources, it argued, ‘must be focused on the intended short and long term benefits of the society such as availability of consumer goods, people access, employment, standard of living etc. It sets a direct relationship between macro and micro determinant of the economy and its growth’. There are so many issues demanding urgent attention and government does not seem to have enough time and concentration to deal with them and even when political will is mustered to begin to deal with them, there are all sorts of distractions. Very soon, precisely, by next year, the full weight of politics would manifest and there would be very little attention paid to governance. It will be rather unfortunate, not with the brilliant transformation agenda in place.

Those in government often explain that Nigeria’s constitution would not allow for a proper structural transformation. They insist that meritocracy cannot apply in Nigeria for political reason and that they cannot move as fast as expected for some other political reasons. These are all excuses. President Obama pushed ahead his fiscal cliff issue and worked hard to deliver on his election promises even when he knew that he was not entitled to a third term in office. What mattered to him and what should matter to us, is making a remarkable difference for which to be remembered long after the actors are gone.

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