This shallow approach to problem solving

phillip-isakpa

The two most important words, in my view, in the political governance framework of any democratic country are politics and economy. Politics is crucial because it is the vehicle through which elected government officials get into office. Those who aspire to these offices must understand the guile required to play the politics that can bring them to power. Sometimes, honest men and women play the political chess game and come into office meaning to do good for their citizens; and indeed, many of them do. At many other times, dishonest men and women, handicapped by their contrived lack of a deep understanding of how political office is supposed to help bring positive change to society and its people, come into office and make life miserable for citizens. For the two sets of people, the honest and the dishonest, once the contestation of power, which takes place under the common place meaning of politics, is over, the reality of governing a country dawns, especially on the successful politicians who then assume office.

The language of political campaigning, often embellished in the rhetoric of promises to deliver to the heart content of citizens, is met by the reality that is the second most important word in political governance in a democracy – economy. Where countries are not at war (and even when they are) or are not faced with some natural disasters (and even when they are), how elected political office holders deal with the economic challenges that confront them as a nation, is crucial to how they are eventually viewed by history. Some are very interested in how history views them; others are not. In Nigeria, nobody cares – not the politicians, not the citizens. It is often for this particular reason of not giving a care in the world, that failed politicians and failed technocrats brazenly, unashamedly, go about, warts and all, displaying their cruelty, ignorance and cantankerous selves, and then have the audacity to still speak in public, and are accepted in some cases by people who should know better (a forensic examination of the Natioanl Assembly population will easily prove this). Economics, especially in its understanding as a social science concerned with the allocation of resources (which are often not enough) among competing needs, is at the heart of governance.

This is why the real issues, including the subject of corruption, which are played up in electioneering campaigns are those that have to do with dealing with how these scarce resources can be managed effectively to better the lot of citizens – in the provision of social and economic needs, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, creating jobs, among others. Genuine politicians, who engage in political contestation for power, are often clear in their minds what they see as the problems that confront citizens and the nation that they want solve. The solutions that are formulated may be different from one politician to another, but they are clear that they are going into office to provide a solution or a set of solutions to problems. It is never a tea party and while the political campaigning is on, each politician in providing counterfactual arguments on why the incumbent is responsible for a country’s problems, is mindful of the fact that by putting himself forward he is offering an alternative solution to what he perceives as the failed effort of the incumbent. So, genuine politicians who mean well, admit from the outset, that they are politicking to get into office to solve problems. It is fallacious, disingenuous and, perhaps, criminal, for politicians who, after offering themselves as able to provide alternative solutions to the failures of incumbent office holders, and finding their alternative accepted by the people, turn around and spend a good part of their tenure feasting on why the former government is responsible for why the country is in its present state.

While this approach is common in Nigeria, and most of the developing world (so called Third World), it is important to restate, and at the risk of emphasis, that political office seekers, seek to get into government to solve problems. In Nigeria, too much effort is spent on politics, which is a mere mechanism, instrument if you like, to get into office. That’s why the central government after getting into office sees states where it is not in control of the government as enemies and seeks to capture them from the other political parties. And this is followed by a lot of laziness around how politicians deal with the economics ass government. It would seem to me that, either for lack of genuine commitment to citizens’ needs and therefore, developing much robust approach to providing solutions to the problems that the nation and citizens face, or a complete lack of preparedness through self-immersion in deeply understanding the problems and issues, Nigerian elected politicians are choosing not to believe in political economy as the twin words upon which success or failure of a government is based. For instance, recession is an economic problem, not a political one. It needs to be seen and dealt with as such. It is the responsibility of the government to get us out of recession because that is what we elected it to do. It is concentrating on politics if it continues to spend valuable time talking about a government that it has replaced as being responsible. Of course, many citizens likely knew this, and that’s why they voted this government in to provide alternative solutions. It has to approach this task responsibly and its approach must be seen to be providing answers, because failure to do so will mean that its promise to save Nigeria from the clutches of the failed policies of the past during the elections, was at best, coloured in deception.

Yet, as the country faces millions of problems, government approach to them must be such that it is taking a broader rather than a narrow view on the solutions. For instance, it is not enough to seek to solve a rail transport problem by just providing rail tracks and coaches and then return to Abuja and watch your citizens travel on those same coaches in inhuman, degrading conditions. Government would think that they have solved a problem by just making sure that there are trains and coaches, but this is a very simplistic, myopic and wicked approach to solving citizens’ problems. It’s probably one of two things (or both), a lack of depth in the thought process of problem solving, or an outright disdain for citizens, that government would think that patching potholes on a road that citizens experience heavy traffic on, will solve the problems that actually require building a completely new road elsewhere or having a brand new tram system in the median of a wide road like Ikorodu road in Lagos, because human and vehicle numbers have quadrupled decades after the road was built. Government and its officials need to think more and deeper if they are genuine about providing solutions to citizens’ problems; and not be on a high horse, ego tripping, insensitive governance mission. 

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