27, 2017 3.30PM / Proshare WebTV
Dr. Joe Abah is a seasoned Nigerian administrator
and erstwhile Director-General of the Bureau of Public Sector Reforms, a
critical parastatal in the federal civil service of Nigeria.
For four years of his service (2013-2017),
he led the transformation process for the Nigerian public sector and has left a legacy of
excellence and innovation in the BPSR.
He retired this year.
On Decmber 24, 2017, Dr. Joe Abah shared
his wealth of experience and insight into governance and administration on
Twitter via his handle @DrJoeAbah to address the current state of the Nigerian polity and chart a pathway for
Related Link: https://twitter.com/DrJoeAbah/status/944835329378476033
Dr. Abah begins by pointing out that during election
campaigns, politicians promise a better life. better health, better education,
more jobs, less taxes, etc. among others to woo voters. He is of the opinion
that Experienced politicians are very careful about quantifying these.
According to him They don’t say “We’ll create 3 million jobs annually.”
Looking at the last 2015 general
elections, Abah believed that in order to dislodge the PDP Government,
the APC managed successfully to paint a picture of Eldorado, which will be
achieved overnight by May 30th 2015, after they are sworn in on May 29th. “Many
of the young believed it. Those who studied Governance knew it was just
politics”, he said.
As a governance expert Dr Joe Abah identified
three areas where the current administration needs to address immediately.
Inability to manage
The former DG, BPSR noted that having got into power then, the job of the government was
to manage expectations. He said communication with the citizens, would have
carried words like “Look, we know we said this, but we didn’t know things
were as bad as this. We will still try our best to do it but it will take us
much longer than we thought.”
He said “You see, when you are
outside government, you think everyone in government must be complete idiots.
You can’t understand why “simple and straightforward” things cannot just be
done. You bring a private sector mindset and preach about KPIs, discipline and
the supremacy of markets”.
Giving further insight into this, Abah
stresses that apart from President Buhari, he is not aware of any senior FEC
member with FEDERAL experience. For him it matters so much and most had
Speaking further he raises the concern that
at state level, governors are virtually emperors. While at the Federal level,
the President isn’t. He further notes that at State level, “The
Governor will just call the Speaker of the State House Of Assembly and say “You
know that Budget I gave you, bring it and collect a different one.” Stressing
that this cannot happen at the Federal level, because NASS is unlike State
Houses of Assembly.
Apart from lack of Federal level
experience, Dr Abah believed the other aspect of Underestimation was
automatically assuming that EVERYTHING that happened before you came was wrong.
This according to him leads to time wasting and reinventing the wheel. The
Learning curve is steeper and there was no need for it.
He makes a strong case for intellectualism
in leadership, stating that “A week before the government took power, it also
held an APC Policy Dialogue where some deep thinking happened about what should
be done in all key sectors. I am not aware that much of this thinking has been
taken forward. It is what I referred to as a disdain for Intellectualism”.
Dr. Abah observes that it takes way too long for the current
administration to take decisions. He says “Governance is full of wicked
problems. That don’t go away, but only get worse the longer you don’t act”. You
won’t get it right all the time and I know you must be careful to do no harm”.
“However, when you don’t take prompt action
on even the little things, the buzz in the environment dissipates. Everybody
starts waiting for every single thing. Nobody wants to do something that may
run counter to a decision that has still not been taken. Lethargy sets in”.
He warns against underestimating the
bureaucracy, or the virulence of Boko Haram, or the corruption in the Security
sector, particularly the armed forces, or how bad the Education system is or
how disillusioned the Youth are. “Don’t underestimate ANYTHING at all. It’ll
come back to bite you”.
Underscoring the value of Intellectualism
in the nation, he asserts that “Intellectuals can often be annoying but no nation
has developed without them. Research is the bedrock of development. Populism
wins elections, Intellectualism develops nations. It is very vital to bring
together clusters of intellectuals and challenge them with wicked problems”.
Dr. Abah wants the The APC Policy Dialogue of May 2015 to be
revisited. In his words “It is the approach the PDP used with great success on
issues such as Agriculture, Integrated Transportation, and Sports”. “Successes
in these areas did not happen by accident. Thoughts matter!
He also calls for a pragmatic step in
decision making, which should be done urgently and relentlessly. According to
him “Public Servants must feel that they have the freedom & authority to
implement agreed approaches without seeking yet another approval. Not having it
In conclusion Abah a strategist by all
measures alludes to the perception that some things in
this government are working well, just as some things in the previous
government worked well. For him the most important thing that is missing is the
sense of a “Movement” to a better place. A feeling that the thing is greater
than the sum of its parts.
He believes that It is still doable by the