ngozi_okonjoiweala osibajo

How can a so-called modern nation be perennially managed since Independence by way of “unsolicited proposals”? President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on the slogan of “Change” but he is still governing Nigeria unrelentingly with the instrument of “unsolicited proposals”. When loans are used to fund “unsolicited proposals” it is no different from gambling, high-stakes gambling. Any government that manages its affairs and vision with total dependence on “unsolicited proposals” is devoid strategic planning, structural effectiveness and reliable outcome expectations beyond the short-term; such is governance by improvisation [haphazard] and instantaneous expediency. Is this truly the way forward for Nigeria?

When one examines the confluence of the currently ‘unapproved’ national budget, the “missing projects” [unsolicited] from that same budget and the relentlessness pursuit of foreign aid to finance the budget, we can clearly see a reason why the Government of Nigeria’s (GON) unending quest for numerous loans never succeeds in producing economic growth or success. The loans whether in cash or bartered goods / services are when they arrive invariably subject to a triad of monumental strategic errors, derisory / non-existent [institutional] capacity and unthinkable economic wastefulness / mismanagement. Under such circumstances, the loans become an inescapable future tsunami waiting to crush Nigeria. Nigeria now owes $60 billion and rising with 80% of its revenues spent on repayments.

In a properly managed modern economy or society, projects are envisioned by the government officials for their immediate and long-term “usefulness”. This would include feasibility studies, practical research and pilot schemes to find out their “usefulness” taking the total costs, benefits, risks, sustainability, local capacity, institutional capacity, receptivity by the public etc. into consideration. Once the government is satisfied by the projects’ overall practicality and “usefulness”, it then formally and openly issues ‘requests for proposal’ (RFPs) to the public. The government decides exactly what it wants, strictly specifies the requirements for the project clearly and encourages credible economic actors to tender. Finally, the execution of the project is carefully monitored by the government in order to ensure the desired outcome is achieved ‘as requested’.

It is true that even with a visionary government in power and the strong enforcements of RPFs in place, major errors can be made in government strategic planning especially “usefulness” and project realities such as timing, cost, outcomes, strikes, and incompetence. However, in a properly governed nation, such errors are usually the exception and never the rule.

If the GON were serious it would determine its own strategic and pressing needs rigorously and elicit the nature of proposals it requires with a good degree of institutional stringency and will have to develop, maintain or reform its institutions in order to guarantee the competent and consistent delivery of such duties and expectations. How can a government seriously build institutions while it is hooked on “unsolicited proposals?” The GON is depriving itself of acquiring much needed substantive institutional capacity!

So why does the GON prefer “unsolicited proposals” to RFPs, knowing that the latter approach is much more successful than the former? “Unsolicited proposals” are the tribal marks of an exceeding lazy and mentally tired government. Once politicians / bureaucrats are elected / appointed to office, respectively, their main source of direction is simply found in “unsolicited” proposals given directly to them or to one of their clients / proxies. If the proposal will make good money for them, 99% of the time, the person(s) who originally drafted the proposals are cut-off from the very existence of the actualisation of the project and a ‘favourite’ is given and credited with creating the proposal.

The theft of “unsolicited proposal” is akin to the theft of intellect property. The thieving of government is not just about money and fungible resources / assets but also information and ideas. It is theft at every turn by government officials. As people are getting wiser and rather keep their ideas to themselves than have them stolen and used to make moderate to great fortunes by others, the government is increasingly becoming bereft of ideas. Yet, constant innovation is supposed to be the thing that drives economies.

In Nigeria (except for those built by Britain in colonial times and Western agencies directly), the highways, bridges, ports, airports, universities, polytechnics, hospitals, stadiums, media houses, schools, transport services, public buildings, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Delta Steel Complex, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, Lagos State Transport Management Agency, Federal Road Safety Corps etc. were all developed or built on the merits of “unsolicited proposals”, stolen proposals.

Some may say the aforementioned projects are “enduring successes”. Constant power failure, endless fuel scarcity, non-functional refineries, no tons of steel produces, poor condition of education, “houses of looting” abounding, stealing with impunity still virulent, roads ever-unsafe; are these perennial events, successes?

When you often here about the formal and informal economy in Nigeria many perspectives are offered. However, is the GON that addictively acquires its vision and direction informally through “unsolicited proposals” and the projects they bear are outsourced for a bribe, though often dressed-up with faked tendering processes, not an informal government? When informality and formality of the institutions of governance are readily interchangeable, bad governance is always the outcome, never good governance even in minute doses. Nevertheless, it is widely believed in the country that such a government can pay back its loans.

If the President truly and decidedly wants to bring “Change” to Nigeria it is time to wean his government and the civil service off their reliance on “unsolicited proposals” and do the work properly. This is most important when the business of the GON is funded by numerous loans and big repayments have to be made.

Grimot Nane

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