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Good local governance: Still a mirage in Nigeria – Mero Asagba

BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
CORRUPTION is a cankerworm that must be rooted out of the fabric of the nation if the country must move forward and join the club of developed nations of the globe… Nigeria is ranked 139th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index.

While it is a known fact that political corruption is not a recent phenomenon in Nigeria, the scale and ramification are becoming more alarming daily. Billions and trillions of Naira are voted annually by the different tiers of government for infrastructure rehabilitation, upgrade and renewal, but the nation has little to show for the huge resources expended, largely because of corruption…

MERO ASAGBA
MERO ASAGBA

“When a Nigerian is given political appointment, his friends and members of his community of origin, celebrate because they see it as an opportunity for one of their own to corruptly amass wealth. If at the end of his tenure, it is discovered that he did not primitively accumulate capital, he is ridiculed and dubbed a fool. If he did, he is further celebrated and given all sorts of chieftaincy titles. This signifies that we live in a society that tolerates corruption. Consequently, efforts by various institutions such as the EFCC and ICPC are bound to fail.”

With these words, Dr Gbesimi Mero Amojaine Asagba, outlines in a three-part, 2117-page book titled: “Good Local Governance,” why good local governance is far from sight in Nigeria and why the country still wallows in poverty in spite of abundant human and material resources.

Asagba, who wrote in a simple, free-flowing and comprehensive manner, attributed the inability of Nigeria to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which would have improved the lot of the citizenry, to graft. “We need to go back to the practice in our various traditional communities whereby corrupt members of the communities are labeled and socially ostracized. This will send the correct message to public office holders that as a people, we are intolerant of corruption,” the medical doctor-turn author suggested.

Calling for urgent action against corruption, he lamented that “our failure to achieve collaborative anti-corruption success has positioned us in a situation of war.” Essentially, the books outline interrelated processes that can move Nigeria out of the valley of poverty, corruption and needless pains, if practiced. It deals with virtually all issues affecting man such as healthcare, economics, politics, environment, administration and human behaviour among others and their effects on socio-economic well-being of the citizenry and the way out.

Book one, 438 pages, which consists of 51 chapters, presents the principles of good governance and establishing good governance, in what the author described as standard treatment guidelines (STGs). It dealt with six principles: focusing on the purpose of governance and its outcomes for citizens; transforming effectively defined goals; taking informed and transparent decisions and managing risks; promoting values demonstrated through behaviours; developing capacity and capability of the leadership group to be effective; and engaging stakeholders in making decisions.

Book two (Diagnosis), 703 pages, looked at change factors of leadership. The first part of it deals with corruption threats and inefficiency challenges, while the second part deals with anti-corruption issues, electoral credibility, child development, and primary health care development possibilities.

Having done the diagnosis, the author goes ahead in Book three (1068 pages) to proffer cures for the sickness – corruption. Book three deals with leadership behavioural changes, applying four strategies, the MERO strategies: the Moral change, Educational change, Respect and regulatory change and Organizational change.

Apart from stressing the need for behavioural change, book three deals with health issues – achieving health for all. How? It presents Primary health care strategies, physiological welfare, safety and security issue and maternal health care, the mother before pregnancy, during pregnancy, child birth and after birth. It lays emphasis on the child, the needs of the child, its nutrition and immunization, growth and development and issues of perfect monitoring measurement and control.

Why I wrote  the book

Asked why he wrote the books, which he said took him 10 years to write, he said: “Having been around, having worked in critical health sectors as a doctor in both government and private hospitals, it became clear to me that we have omitted some things. We are not paying attention to critical things that will make our hospitals to function effectively.  We found out that the issues of politics, economics and public administration were not addressed. I started by writing a little bit on child survival. Before I knew it, it had become mother survival. “So, the main purpose of writing this book is to make Nigerians understand the real issues of effective governance. A better understanding of the corruption issues will help us fight corruption. Behavioural change is the fulcrum of the whole work.

For instance, we say that 80 per cent of the total cause of HIV/AIDS transmission is through sexual intercourse, yet in its treatment, moral issues are not brought presented. “For example, if a young growing boy or girl is meant to know that he must abstain from sex until after marriage and have the fear of God, HIV/AIDS will take a mild toll. The educational strategy is also important here. The Millennium Development Goals must also be discussed. We found out that over 90 per cent of Nigerians are not aware of what these goals are. I go around and ask so many professionals, including doctors, they don’t know. The respect strategy is necessary because we have to respect the rule of law and the organizational strategy is also crucial. It’s also crucial that every Nigerian be represented effectively, because the so-called representatives we have are not representing anybody but themselves.”

Faulty federalism

The author also picked holes in the type of federalism practiced in the country, which he was hampering democracy at the grassroots. At the local level, we had expected democracy to be high but it is least there because of over-concentration of power at the centre. “I support autonomy for local councils. This will engender devolution of powers, setting the right priorities and the right people to be in power, which will bring the dividends of democracy closer to the people.”

Asagba wrote: “Local government constitutes a training ground for democracy, wherein elected representatives would ‘learn the ropes’ before going on to service at a more senior level, and local citizens would learn about exercising their democratic rights in the context of issues which are relatively simple and understandable.

“Local government institutions constitute the strength of free nations, it is the level at which the democratic ideal is most likely to b fulfilled. The citizen is more likely to understand the issues under consideration locally than the increasing complex, technical matters that predominate at the senior levels of government.”

He urged leaders to cater for the wellbeing of the people and stressed the need for quality education because an illiterate is a time bomb.

“While in power, the major assignment those entrusted with power should be to reach the people. It should be serious work for those entrusted with leadership in this country. The schools also have a major role to play in the education of the citizenry.”


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