As we closed the Moses vs George debate, Dr. Aluko reflects on its aftermath:
I would like to comment further on my own two "How" posers that I adapted from Sadiq Manzan's two "Why" posers: (See Dialogue USA/Africa Dialogue, No. 254: George vs Moses XVIII)
1. Echoing Dr. Otiso (in Dialogue No. 261), the requirement of a decentralized federal system of governance as a desirable arrangement for ANY multi-traditional, multi-ethnic country - following a period of involuntary amalgamation by the departed colonialists - should seem obvious to any one: that is IF the desire is to re-connect them to those traditional values. IF this is not happening, there can be MANY reasons:
(A) those who believe that those traditional values do not exist; must be very few.
(B) those who believe that they are NOT worth going back to just for the sake of going back to them; for example, that they are deleterious to progress; there are many people like this.
(C) those who believe that going back to those traditional values MILITATE against the formation of a NATION OF SHARED VALUES from a country of FRAGMENTED values. There are many die-hard nationalists like this, who would rather establish a homogenized nation RIGHT AWAY rather than go through any gradual process. So while they know that a unitary government will not work, at least for now, the CENTER of the federal government that they support is so STRONG that it might well be a unitary government. Any divisions in government is strictly for administrative purposes and does not take into consideration differing traditional and ethnic values.
The last group of leaders is the most difficult to deal with, because they mean well. The only problem is that those traditional values developed over centuries, even possibly millenia, and cannot be wished away just like that.
I propose a second way to this last group: a MODERATELY strong center committed to TRUE Fiscal Federalism, where substantive power is devolved to sub-national and local units. I stress "Fiscal" because without such an economic empowerment, aka local resource control, local governance is a sham.
The task of building a nation of shared values is a commendable one, which I share. However I believe that that moderately strong center should use visionary, intentional means to build that nation, rather than beat the sub-units over the head with it. Such intentional means might include:
i. parliamentary system rather than a presidential system. This introduces quite a large measure of give-and-take in compromises and shared governance. Ironically, a presidential system that seeks a national symbol merely EXCERBATES tensions in a fragmented society as many feel excluded from such a high symbol of authority. [Nigeria for example practices a presidential system from the federal level down to the local government level.]
ii. proportional representation in elections rather than first-past-the-post.
iii. language learning in schools, from primary to university. By the time a student graduates from the university, he must have gained reasonable speaking ability (through classroom learning) of at least three other local languages outside the one he or she speaks at home.
iv. unity schools - where students of different parts of the country learn together and are offered scholarships to do so.
v. national service - like the National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria. This should somehow be extended to secondary schools, where impressions can still be modified.
vii. inter-marriage promotion: don't ask me how !
My point is to acknowledge the presence of multi-traditions and multi-ethnicity - don't criminalize them - while encouraging ways to break the barriers down by non-threatening intentional measures.
2. The second point has to do with using local resources (human and material) and incorporating locally-generated solutions together with non-local "best practice" solutions to optimally solve local problems.
No adult CONFIDENT in himself will expect somebody else to solve his problems for him. In fact, an over-confident child will sometimes over-reach himself - and that is fine too. So one can only surmise that it is lack of confidence first in themselves and then in their citizens that contribute to many of our leaders seeking solutions EXCLUSIVELY outside the continent. The solution to this is either to elect self-confident leaders, or to build the self-confidence of these leaders - although I am not sure how the latter can be done !
Please note that I have tried to be charitable here in assigning only self-confidence as the drawback of such leadership: plain incompetence, corrupt prebendalist tendencies, etc. are the subject of another symposium.
Those leaders who may not lack self-confidence have a desperation: in their HURRY to adopt what they believe are models of success outside of the continent so as to quickly develop their own countries, they tend to forget that those countries too went through a trajectory, and that certain factors came together to make them adopt CURRENT methods, and that they adopted a Best Process before reaching a Best Practice. [The current rush to privatization in Nigeria is not even Best Practice and certainly is not a result of Best Process. In the West, the biggest enterprise - Government - is not privatized, is it ?]
By Best Process here, I mean
- problem definition
- expert panel analysis and recommendation presentation (including sensitivity analysis)
- public comment and buy-in
- government white paper (incorporating as much consensus as possible)
- implementation and evaluation
- feedback and continuous improvement
So I have therefore arrived at the second point that I wanted to make here: we should use the best local talent (both leaders and the led) and robust solutions coupled with "best processes" (not "best practices") from abroad to develop our continent, otherwise we will have a burial ground full of failed policies.
- True Fiscal & Parliamentary Federalism + Intentional Shared-Value-Creating Steps
- Best Local Talent + Best International Processes
are some of my major recommendations towards making our continent a better place.