Reforming Nigeria from within

(Continued from yesterday)

INSTEAD, you have to think strategically about where they can be placed to have minimal negative impact.  At the same time you need to identify key ministries and positions where you want your leaders with character to be. Rather than becoming embroiled in confrontation, efforts should be made to negotiate a way of working within the existing system. For example, the political class in Nigeria is funded and run by people importing petrol and diesel. Nigeria will never address its power generating issues until the government starts negotiating with these people, because if the issue is solved, they will be put out of business. Instead ways need to be found to allow them to invest their money into the development of a power sector. It is not an ideal solution; but it could be a workable one. As an example, private individuals are building their own refineries; should they negotiate with government we can have working refineries to meet the needs of the Nigerian people.

In all of this there has to be a better relationship forged between executive, judiciary and legislature; you cannot reconcile without negotiation. However negotiation does not happen frequently enough in Nigerian politics.

Planning for the future

While some of the political class call for a new constitution as a pre-requisite for restructuring and development, others believe that this is a political point-scoring exercise revived close to elections and meant to distract rather than to promote good governance in the country. The federal structure is not the reason why questions are not being asked by State Houses of Assembly about state and local government. Nor is it the reason why we have abandoned our responsibilities in different aspects of governance. But it is the easiest thing to blame. It is like saying that I did not pass my exams because the questions were wrong. Nigeria’s governance problems are a lot to do with institutions and the character of those running those institutions.

Corruption is a problem, yes, but it is a consequence of a bigger issue. When I was appointed Speaker I was given about 20 special advisers to support my work. Some of them did next to nothing, so I returned five and handpicked mentees who I knew were competent, determined and ambitious. By the time I left office in 2011 one was a senator, two were in the House of Representatives and one was a minister. Bringing individuals into the system to begin changing things from within is what I hoped for.

You cannot take on the National Assembly, the judiciary or every criminal, so you need to zero in on what is important and what can have the biggest long-term impact. In Nigeria, it’s about succession plans and getting the right people in the right jobs. Those who can, and will, make a lasting impact on the education sector, for example a university or a school. The thinking has to be strategic. The president should identify those who can be trusted with the leadership of key institutions in 10 years’ time and should be readying and preparing them. The problem is that most politicians in Nigeria are not interested in thinking about the long haul; they see politics as a 100m sprint.


  • Bankole is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives