Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who Will Protect Us from Our Protectors?

Don't know how I missed this, but (via Africa Unchained) Former Central Bank Chairman Charles Soludo said "our politics must change". How? Well...

Soludo who was guest lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he spoke on the topic “Who Will Reform Politics in Nigeria” called for the pruning of Nigeria to six regions with Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja as special centres. He said 774 local governments, were merely conduits for profligacy and waste, as well as the adoption of a unicameral legislature that would reduce the number of law- makers from 459-150.


On the surface, I get it: If you want to reduce corruption, which tends to happen mostly at the local and state level, reduce the number of, well, local and state levels. Decreasing the number of states makes for a more effective federalism, and ensures that our oversight mechanisms work better.

Of course, one must ask: Does having less states mean having less corruption?

First of all, you're trimming the number of states, not the size of the country, so basically you'll be giving government officials wider mandates and, effectively more power. You can actually argue that this on-the-surface "pruning" is actually enlarging our government, so much so that it'll make corruption easier. If Jigawa and Kaduna cannot run their individual corners competently, what makes you think it'll be better to add Kano and Zamfara to the mix? What makes you think it'll be easier to catch inefficiencies in larger, bloated states?

Another concern is that civil servants, on the whole and at the local level (where there is more corruption, keep in mind) are not imbued with much respect. This for me is an even bigger deal, and I don't see how this idea addresses it. I don't think having less police commissioners will make policemen stop being corrupt until they get some benefits with their jobs and get paid well and not live in squalid police quarters in Ikeja. I don't think we'll get much progress with our public education system by shrinking the number of state systems if the teachers aren't paid well and don't get enough benefits.

It's just my sense that adding more dignity in public service which, aside from easing the rush into universities and into police and military training, will help attract intelligent people from all walks of life into civil service, which will then give such public work dignity and perhaps offset the need to be filthy rich (A girl can dream, I know, but I think this is right).

It's nice to see someone giving our governance issues some serious thought, and I'll be looking forward to more from Soludo on this stuff, but cutting out the number of institutions seems to me more like addressing a symptom, rather than the problem. Like anybody in Nigeria will probably tell you: The best way to get rid of mosquitoes in your room is not to keep slapping away at them when they bite you; it's closing the damn window and spraying the entire room with Raid. This is slapping away at mosquitoes. We need the big stuff.

Crossposted at Nigerians Talk

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