Nigeria’s 2015 General Election’s rapidly approaching and the campaigns are gearing up. This post is for those fortunate to win. Once you do win, you’ll be expected to come up with policies that match all the bragging you did during the election.
The first thing to realise is that policy-making in Nigeria is damn easy and when you’re placed in the position to make such policies, you can get away with doing nothing. During an education summit, the former Education minister Wike once repeatedly said that “the minister does not make policy”. Irrespective of the fact that he headed a rather policy-based ministry, no one called him out on that.
Once you understand the ramifications of this story, you don’t have to read any further because you’ve fully grasped how easy it is to make policy in Nigeria. But if you’re still in need of step-by-step instructions, continue reading.
Look for something easy to build. Build roads. This never fails. Nothing else shows that you’re working hard other than contracting a construction company (preferably Julius Berger) to build a road (that might not outlast your tenure). The quality of the road, drainage, maintenance…those things do not matter. Just build the darn road. And when you finally build the road, ensure that there is a launch. The cost of the launch must be commensurate to the cost of the road. After all, in Africa’s largest economy, building roads should never be classified as low-hanging fruits: it is a really big deal.
Looking to improve education standards? Simply build more schools and buy new school uniforms! Nothing accelerates the level of literacy faster than edifices of education. Never mind the numerous other schools on strike, the other crumbling buildings, the ill-trained teachers, the students who are unable to read or afford the fee. These things don’t matter. As long as you can tweet a picture of a building, you’ve solved the education problem.
Same goes for the health sector. Just build hospitals. Don’t worry about the welfare and competence of staff or cost to patients, they’ll afford it…somehow.
Remember: it is important that you ensure anything you do can be pic-tweeted. If it cannot be grasped from a picture, don’t embark on it. Nigerians will not understand it.
Ban / Suspend
This method is the new black
-listing technique and it’s important you adopt it. Nigeria’s Government has discovered that you can simultaneously lower price, encourage demand for local goods and grow domestic industries by simply banning any form of foreign competition. Quite ingenious. Ensure you imitate this tactic. Even if it raises prices of such goods and doesn’t spur these industries, no one will fault you for trying. As Feyi Fawehinmi (writer of the blog, Aguntasoolo) said “banning is something, and therefore it must be done”. If you’re too lazy to think up new ones, here are some that have been tried. Feel free to copy from the playbook.
1) If you wish to spur creation of domestic books, simply increase tariff on foreign books from 0% to 62.5%.
2) Have a passion for spurring the domestic market for rice? place a 110% tariff on imported rice.
3) Want to grow the Nigerian leather industry, simply mull a ban on ponmo.
4) Wish to spur domestic production of affordable cars, establish bans and raise importation cost.
5) Your national football team embarrasses the nation at the World Cup, suspend them if you want better results next time.
I genuinely care, so just like drug commercials, I’ll rapidly run through a list of the side-effects (which could be as potent as the original illness). The side-effects of these polices include: increased levels of piracy of banned/over-tariffed products, lower government revenue from border receipts, richer bordering nations like Benin Republic, richer corrupt border officials and black market smugglers, more expensive domestic products (at shoddier quality), limited reading materials, lower literacy rate and numerous other side-effects that smart policy decision makers might catch.
When you get appointed, be sure to banish every single policy enacted by your predecessor. If you’re a nice person, look for appropriately euphemistic wordings like ‘less than satisfactory results’ and eradicate every previous policy (whether it worked or not). You don’t want people pressuring you to fill in big shoes. Big shoes are annoyingly difficult to work in. Neither do you want the ghost of your predecessor’s successes hanging over you— no one likes ghosts.
Another advantage of this move: you do not have to set up new policies, just tear old ones down. No one will judge you, tearing down is difficult work.
Bonus Policy Tips
- Feel free to backdate any policy to fit into your development agenda. It doesn’t matter if a previous or rival administration began or implemented a successful policy, simply take credit for it. Nigerians are not good with dates, except birthdays, weddings and holidays. No one will notice.
- Also remember to use fancy words to explain simple actions. Say ‘renovation’ when you mean ‘repainting’. It not only sounds fancier, it gives you room to inflate costs.
- Organize meetings in Abuja. Having meetings is the best way to talk about doing something without actually doing it. Don’t forget the brown envelopes for the Journalists you invited. They will show their appreciation in the next day’s papers.
- Make use of bogus statistics to show your success rate e.g. “Our Government has reduced poverty by 50%.” It doesn’t matter that you have no proof of your positive statistics. Nigerians don’t need proof, we work by faith.
- Always remember to shove God into the undertaking of your policy. It doesn’t matter if 70% of the contract money will end up in your private account, just add him. After all, two loaves of bread and five fishes had left overs by the time he was done. God understands your hustle and will make the project a resounding success. Amen.
- You can also pass the buck to the religious institutions. They already provide some of your best primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. Plus ‘free’ supernatural healthcare to boot. Don’t forget to show your gratitude by donating generously to their coffers.
Why’s this prevalent?
Now that you’re sufficiently inundated with an eclectic mix of the best policies in Nigeria, perhaps it’s time to understand why these policy types are popular. In Nigeria, the semblance of doing something is greater/cheaper/easier/faster than actually doing it. Note that this applies everywhere, however, in Nigeria, you can actually get away with doing little to nothing. What makes it so easy to get away with doing little or nothing?
Inputs /= Output
First, we use proof of execution as proof of success. To us, building the extra school block is seen as proof of success, when rising numbers of graduates or improving WAEC scores are more accurate targets.
It’s what happens when we look at input rather than output. Inputs are metrics that indicate one is going in the right direction, inputs should not be proof of the final destination. Here’s another way to see it: writing an exam isn’t proof of success, passing the exam is. You don’t congratulate yourself for taking the exam, you congratulate yourself for passing the exam.
Output tends to fall in the realm of the uncertain, especially when policies are involved. Policies are not only tricky to implement, they also take longer to actualize. To get themselves reelected, Public officials need actual concrete seeable projects they can show off to their constituency. The incentives clearly favor taking immediate action rather than deliberately thought-out policies.
Ephemeral Economic Policies & Addiction to Low Hanging Fruits
Moreover, formulating robust long-term policies can be to your disadvantage. Nigerians have seen more economic programs than democracies: Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Vision 2010, Transformation Agenda, 7-Point Agenda. Given the alacrity with which subsequent agendas are scrapped for the next, every incumbent has an incentive to focus on the quick short-term achievements: typically the low-hanging fruits.
In Nigeria, chasing these low hanging fruits might have its advantage. Decision making becomes more complex when policy makers have to formulate policies, then consider the cost benefit analysis of such policies.The increased technicalities as well as vested interests leads to gridlock or obscure interpretations of success. Consequently, the low hanging fruits give decision makers an opportunity to at least execute something.
However, this perceived advantage only further exposes the dearth of sound technocrats in leadership positions. Nations that achieve advancement eschew the addictive allure of low hanging fruits. Instead, these nations see low hanging fruits as seeds for a larger vineyard.
As explained above, imitating such an attitude in Nigeria will be no small feat. Politics, ethnic and religious bigotry, as well as corruption stymie the evolution of sound policies. Consequently, incentives that reward policies based on a measurable metric of progress should be encouraged. Reward of result and not just action should be encouraged. For that to happen, Nigeria will need to develop functioning Monitoring and Evaluation systems. Currently, such systems are lacking in Nigeria. A different Education Minister recognized this and said “Monitoring and Evaluation is a weakness in our clime”. Nigeria has lacked that for some time now: leadership that recognizes what’s needed to craft sensible policies. So for now, relax. Until such a time exists, I encourage you to feel free to pick any of the great policy options I’ve listed above.