9th May, 2012
The concept of democracy has received varying definitions and interpretations from scholars and political observers depending on the ideological leaning or interest of the contending scholars. However, there are certain basic features of democracy that serve as consensus among the contending perspectives. One of such is accountability. Every democratically elected government is accountable to the people, to whom it owes its existence. These people, therefore, need to be consistently told how public funds are being spent and that the mandate given, are being utilized. This is why it has become traditional for the Fashola led administration to render periodic account of its stewardship to the people every 100 days. The administration has never derided itself of having the monopoly of knowledge with regards to finding the right solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the State. It has therefore consistently thrown its doors open to divergent opinions and views from various sources, the oppositions inclusive. In fact, the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of public functionaries including members of the State Executive Council, Local Government Chairmen, Permanent Secretaries, Police Commissioner, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers ( DPOs), have become public properties in order to make them more accessible to members of the public.
To further cement the interaction between it and the people , the administration has been convening stakeholders meetings on various issues ranging from the Coroners Law, to the Inland Waterways Law, to the GIS project , to the new Tenement law among others. In addition, public hearings and Town Hall meetings are being organized by the State Legislature, as well as various Summits on critical sectors (Education, Climate Change and Ehingbeti) in the state.
Lagos State is indeed blessed by its position as Nigeria’s financial, commercial and industrial nerve centre with over 2,000 manufacturing industries and over 200 financial institutions. The State alone harbours about 60 per cent of the Federation’s total industrial investments and foreign trade while also attracting 65 per cent of Nigeria’s commercial activities. It accounts for more than 40 per cent of all labour emoluments paid in the country. Inarguably, Lagos today occupies an important place in the socio-economic equation of Nigeria and indeed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). With such high profile, it is important that any government that is desirous of maximizing the diverse potentials of the state embraces every genuine input from all legitimate stakeholders in the state. The Yoruba culture reinforces the relevance of wider consultations when it affirms that: “ogbon ologbon ki je ka pe agba ni were” as well as: “omode gbon agba gbon lafi da ile ife” literarily meaning a problem shared is half problem solved.
The major goal of the Lagos State Government in seeking the input of stakeholders through public forums is to create strategic ways to determine ways of evolving ideas that will alleviate the sufferings of the people and improve the quality of social life and economic development which have been greatly hampered by ineffective governance as manifested by corruption, congestions in our cities nationwide among others. The state government has been very proactive in this regard. This was what informed some of the several stakeholders’ forums, town hall meetings, seminars and conferences which it has held especially with the aim of adopting and adapting some of the best practices in the advanced nation.
Worldwide, effective service delivery has been identified as a significant engine room driving national economic development. It is, however, regrettable that since independence, Nigeria is yet to have and implement effective and reliable service delivery system. Therefore, the major objective of the tradition of periodic rendering of stewardship by the state government is to provide a steady forum for local and international experts and stakeholders in public administration, drawn from the private, public and non-governmental sectors, to brainstorm and provide solutions on key contemporary and emergent issues confronting the public sector .
At the onset of the administration Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) underscored the resolve of his administration to tow the path of accountability when he promised the citizenry regular briefings on achievements and activities of the State Government as a way of involving the people alongside the State Government as partners in progress. As a people’s Government, the administration wanted to establish an effective communication strategy, which would give no room for any break in the established partnership. In fulfilment of this promise, the governor has since his first 100 days in office been rendering accounts of his administration’s stewardship to the citizenry through various segments of the society every other 100 days.
In its bid to integrate a culture of integrated service delivery in the state, the state government has embarked on countless numbers of public dialogues and interactions with various stakeholders in the state with a view to evaluating the various integrated options for addressing the perennial problems of bad governance in Nigeria. Consequently, the state government has been able to examine the different challenges and issues confronting public governance in the country, as well as prioritising key areas where action is needed that would enable the state to balance competitiveness with quality of life and institutionalized sustainability.
Similarly, in order to sustain good governance through prudent management, the state government, in partnership with both public and private sectors’ stakeholders, has been examining and evaluating the existing weak revenue base and low cost recovery in the state’s public sector and proffer practical solutions towards ensuring financial sustainability. The result, of course, has been quite astonishing as it could be seen in the recent improved revenue base of the state government.
Related to the above is the fact that the state government , still in collaboration with various stakeholders through its numerous periodic public meetings, has equally been analysing the financial complexities involved in building, operating and maintaining public infrastructure, capable of meeting the needs of a rapidly expanding urban population; and examining the pivotal role of the private sector in contributing to enhance efficiency of public service delivery; and to ultimately; finding ways and means of harmonizing responsibilities at the State and Local Government levels regarding the multiplicity of agencies with overlapping and-related functions, particularly as it relates to policies, regulations, revenue generation, planning, and maintenance of public infrastructure.
One cannot but mention the key role which the various periodic meetings have played in the new tax order in the new dispensation of quality service delivery in the state. In our society, everyone blames the government for almost everything. Unfortunately, the resources available to the government in servicing the needs of the people are quite minimal when compared to the huge needs of the people. It is in order to resolve this imbalance that the state government organised numerous town hall meetings with various sectors in the state on the importance of taxation.
Given the current thinking in the State, it is strongly believed that all stakeholders in the state should play a major role in ensuring the full realization of the lofty policies and programmes of the government for the people. As the Yoruba will say: “Agbajowo lafi n soya, owo kan o gberu dori” (meaning: together we stand). Therefore, to meet the growing demand for integrated service delivery in the state, there must be continuous constructive engagements and collaborations between the government and the governed.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.