Transition from one government to another

IN Nigeria, elections are generally held about three months to the end of the tenure of a subsisting government. When the ruling party is re-elected, there is usually no problem. But when a new administration is to take over, then some problems arise. These include embarking on new projects/contracts, massive recruitment of staff, staff promotions and appointment of new permanent secretaries, and creation of new local governments, usually designated local council development areas. These invariably involve heavy financial commitments for which the outgoing administrations enter into fresh financial arrangements with banks and other financial institutions. These may include fresh loans and borrowings.

The outgoing governments often argue that their mandates last till the day before the swearing in of the new administrations and that they reserve the right to carry on with their activities till then as the legitimate government. This may be legally plausible but in reality, it does not make sense for the outgoing party to unduly commit the incoming one to a course of action to which it was not privy. A situation of ‘leave it or take it’ or a fait accompli is not good or desirable enough. It usually has a political undertone and can be a booby trap for the government that is expected to take over.

What has been happening in the country, since the manifestos and action plans of the parties are not always the same, is that the new government on assuming office reverses all the ‘last-minute’ decisions and actions of the previous era. Instead of concentrating on hitting the ground running, it spends valuable time, energy and resources reviewing what had been rushed through since the elections. More often than not, the poor civil servants and public officials swallow the bitter pill of retirement, ‘return to sender’ down-grading and job loss with the resultant effects on them, their children, families, kith and kin. These are for offences which they may be innocent of. For when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

What then is the way forward? It is common practice that the outgoing and incoming administrations usually set up transition committees. My well considered view is that such committees must work sincerely and closely together to consider any necessary action of government for the good and welfare of the people and have joint inputs so that neither is put at a disadvantage. Such activities must be the barest minimum so that the new government can settle down to begin to fulfill its election promises and let the people enjoy the dividends of democracy. If, however, tolerance and maturity of our politics will not allow such cooperation and synergy, perhaps the constitution and electoral laws should be reviewed to ban outgoing administrations from embarking on any new or major actions during the period of transition from one government to the other.

  • Chief Olasope, a veteran broadcaster, writes in from Efon Alaaye, Ekiti State.