Policy continuation is something that is lacking in Nigeria. Once a new government takes over power, they usually abandon previous governmental policies or programs. This was made worse by past frequent military interventions in our polity. Even the civilians have not done better; they still follow the concepts of policy inconsistency. Very few policies were retained by subsequent administrations (both military and civilians). Examples of these are as follows; the National Youth Corp Scheme (NYSC). This scheme has lasted over 35 years. The federal character principle (inserted in the 1979 constitution) has lasted since 30 years. High level official corruption, which though is not “legal” but has become part of most governments since over 40 years.
Other policies might have also lasted, but the rate of policy inconsistency is too much and it’s not healthy for the nation and Nigerians. Policy inconsistency is also part of the reasons for numerous abandoned government projects. Am also aware that prevailing economic circumstances might entail a change in policy direction, but a careful study of the Nigerian situation shows most of these policy inconsistencies are an avenue for siphoning public funds. Few examples will be examined.
When Obasanjo first ruled Nigeria as a military head of state (1976-1979), he introduced the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN). It was meant to boost agricultural productivity. His successor, Alhaji Shehu Shagari abandoned the (OFN) and started his Green Revolution campaign. When Buhari came to power he abandoned both schemes started by his predecessors. When Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida came, he introduced the Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Reliance (MAMSER) which also aimed to increase agricultural productivity. IBB also introduced Structural Adjustment Program (SAP). Part of Structural Adjustment Program policies entailed the deregulation of the agricultural sector by abolishing the marketing boards and the elimination of price controls. IBB relaxed most of the restriction on foreign investment put in place by his predecessors.
Buhari suspend all democratic activities, cancelled all the 6 second republic political parties and scraped the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). IBB legalized the formation of political parties in 1989. In 1992 he established the National Electoral Commission (NEC). He later decreed two political parties into existence. The parties were Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC). Abacha dissolved all democratic structures left behind by IBB. He banned political gatherings, annulled the parties (SDP and NRC) and dissolved the National Electoral Commission. Abacha later lifted the ban on political activities. 5 Political parties emerged under his tenure. The 5 political parties later endorsed Abacha for their presidential candidate. A new electoral commission was established by Abacha.
Abacha took the opposite of IBB’s economic policies. He turned away the suggestions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He imposed control on the economy, stabilized the exchange rate between naira and dollars and banned the free repatriation of the export revenue. General Abdulsalam Abubakar cancelled all political parties under Abacha. Started his transition program and finally handed over to Obasanjo.
Nigerian first ladies were not left behind in these policy inconsistencies. Mrs. Maryam Babangida started the Better Life Programme for Rural Women. It’s interesting to note here that, no rural woman was involved with this project. Yet it was them that it was meant to help. Mrs. Maryam Abacha introduced her Family Support Project. Late Stella Obasanjo brought her Child Care Trust Project. Presently Mrs. Yar, Adua is having her pet project called, Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEF). Various wives of state governors and local government chairmen have various pet projects. These projects a times duplicate the functions of some government ministries. The are in reality wasteful projects and waste of public funds. Suffice it to say that, there are no constitutional provisions to fund the pet projects of first ladies yet governments still fund them. Nigerians need to be aware of this.
On assuming power, Obasanjo cancelled most of the contracts/projects started by Abacha and Abdulsami Abubakar. He instituted probe of Abacha government. Each government policy, program or project cancelled means loss of government revenue. It brings with it destabilization. It sets the people and the nation back wards especially when people have invested money, time and other resources into it. These policy inconsistencies were also being replicated in all the states of the federation including the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. No sector or ministry was spared. Today is one policy, tomorrow is another one.
On assumption of office, President Yar’Adua reversed most of the privatization exercises carried out by Obasanjo. He came along with his 7 point agenda. Just recently the federal government revoked its sale of NITEL to TRANSCORP. Their reason for doing so was that TRANSCORP failed to perform and that she lacked the resources and technical competence to run NITEL. The question is why didn’t they discover this on time. It’s obvious that some people might have benefited from the sale of NITEL to TRANSCORP. In the same manner, the federal government has just suspended its gas export projects.
Our leaders should learn to continue policies started by their predecessors in so far as it’s in the national interest. Rather than starting new ones that will be abandoned by another administration, there should continuity. As I write this piece, there more abandoned projects scattered all over the country. Nigeria has the highest rate of abandoned government projects in the world. The sights of uncompleted projects should be an embarrassment to our leaders.
President Yar’Adua has taken a positive step towards continuing a policy started by the Babangida administration. He is seeking to re-establish the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS). Under the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s administration, there was a Centre for Democratic Studies headed by Prof Omo Omoroyi. I will support leaders who can continue on their predecessor programs without having to start fresh ones.
Am also not too surprised due to these policy inconsistencies because our rulers (past and present) have not been true leaders. When true leadership emerges, the interest of the masses will be taken into consideration when starting projects that are meant for them. Let’s do away with all these policy inconsistencies and white elephant projects which will end up being abandoned. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK