JONATHAN’S GOVERNMENT BY ‘COMMITTEEOCRACY’   15 comments

The machinery of government is supposed to be designed to expeditiously deliver on the formulation and implementation of government policies, programs and projects. Sadly, in the case of Nigeria, this has been the rare exception rather than the rule. However, in a feigned effort to be perceived as making pragmatic effort to fast-track its deliverable obligations, Nigeria’s federal government – especially under Umaru Yar’Adua, and more prominently under Goodluck Jonathan, has resorted to creating committees on virtually every Dick, Tom and Harry issue of national concern.

Ordinarily, committees should add further depth to the government’s performance since a committee is special group delegated to consider some pressing matter. Not in Nigeria’s case, though! By all intents and purposes, most committees under President Jonathan have just not been necessary and where necessary, they have not been effective enough. What’s more? Where they have been even minimally effective, their modest and sometimes honest recommendations have often been ignored.

It must be this sad scenario that prompted prominent satirist, Stanley Azuakola to write that, “The presidential spokesman has explained government’s decision to set up committees for every issue under the sun. He said: “Firstly, it is for pride and innovation sake. Just as ancient Greeks brought about democracy, who says modern Nigeria can’t invent committeocracy – the government of the committees, by the committees and for the committees.”

The number of committees Jonathan has created is simply overwhelming. No reasonable government devolves so much of its direct responsibilities to any group of people whether they are qualified or not. At best, it amounts to the absence of diligence on that government’s part.

Most of the committees the Jonathan administration has created have simply not made sense. Consider the following two examples of the Committee to Review the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Report on Environmental Degradation in Ogoni and the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force.

Following the publication of that UNEP report on the destruction of the environment in Ogoni in particular and elsewhere in the Niger Delta, caused by massive oil spills, Jonathan created a committee to “advise the government on how to respond to [it].” The committee was yet to meet as at February 2012, six months after the report was published, and its membership did not include any representative of Ogoniland – the immediate affected community. Even so, what really is the usefulness of such a committee? UNEP released a comprehensive report with clear recommendations needing urgent, decisive implementation. There absolutely was no point creating a committee on the report.

Another crazy committee which Jonathan created and gave it an impossible task is the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force – created on February 28, 2012 and charged to probe and clean up the entire oil industry – in sixty working days! Headed by Nuhu Ribadu, the committee/task-force has essentially been created to perform the duties of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to whom it is intriguingly directly accountable. While inaugurating the task force, Alison-Madueke said several attempts to reform the oil industry had failed because of vested interests. How could she then expect a sixty-day attempt by anyone to succeed at that? Indeed, in a similar fashion, the federal government created another taskforce and assigned it to revive Nigeria’s refineries in sixty days! An obsession with very likely failure, you would say! My friend, Adenike Adebayo, reacted to it this way: “They wake up in the morning and they don’t know what to do so they put committees together to perform magic.”

Such obvious lapses and blatant disregard for purposefulness in the creation of committees is what US businessman and politician, Henry Ross Perot, meant when he wisely said, “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”

Another problem with the committees Jonathan has created is the number of the members they comprise. On August 19, 2011, for example, President Jonathan expanded the Presidential Economic Management Team (EMT) comprising government and private sector personalities. He also set up a fifteen-member Economic Implementation Team which he charged with overseeing the effective implementation of the decisions of the EMT, whatever that means, and to help ensure that the goals of the federal government are attained. Ironically, some of the selfsame members of the cabal responsible for the plundering of funds meant for the fuel subsidy like Femi Otedola are members of the EMT which has done little to alleviate the burgeoning poverty in the land. A better example Jonathan would do well to emulate is that in 1993, wherein then US President Bill Clinton formed a council of only three pragmatic economic advisers to provide sound economic advice, and it worked like magic and boosted America’s economic growth throughout his tenure.

Yet another problem with Jonathan’s committees besides the lack of substance in their creation or the number of members they have is that the government scarcely implements their recommendations. Proving this claim, on February 12, 2012, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances (formed in August 2011), Sheikh Ahmad Lemu, expressed disappointment on how the federal government rejected the committee’s spot-on recommendations, while constituting a white paper drafting committee on their report which was presented on October 10, 2011. Lemu expressed dismay that the government was reluctant to include any member of the investigation panel as a member of the white paper committee, in order to make them truly understand the basic recommendations of the report.

Courtesy of this gloomy ‘committeeocratic’ caricature of governance under Jonathan, activist and blogger, Oluwaseun Fakuade wrote that “The only thing visibly working [in Nigeria today], asides corruption, is [the] setting up of committees…” Complementing this view, another prominent blogger and activist, Japheth Omojuwa said, “One success you cannot deny [President Jonathan] is that he has created more committees than Nigeria will ever need. Committees don’t solve national problems. If they did Nigeria would be a haven today. The tragedy of a presidential single story: set up a committee for every problem.” Indeed, even Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Jonathan’s Central Bank Governor, said on March 22, 2012 that “We have all sorts of committees and panels set up right now. NEITI is supposed to do exactly what Ribadu is billed to do.”

In her captivating #PublicPolicy101 tweet series, former Education Minister and outgoing World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili, pointed out that “It will take a menu of structural changes to [Nigeria’s] political economy to tackle dysfunction.” Ezekwesili added that, “The quest for quick solutions in the face of grievous dysfunction… seldom delivers.” As we have seen above, committees are often formed to proffer quick solutions whereas a structural overhaul, for instance, that should see the 72% worth of wasteful recurrent spending interchanged with the outrageously minuscule 28% capital spending is what is truly desirable and germane for Nigeria. This is even more so when we realise that creating committees further adds to our already immense recurrent spending.

Nigeria cannot afford to continue this costly and dysfunctional government by committeeocracy! Jonathan, beware!

For further reading:
Jonathan’s government by committees: http://www.punchng.com/editorial/jonathans-government-by-committees/
Jonathan and the excessive use of committees: http://www.punchng.com/viewpoint/jonathan-and-the-excessive-use-of-committees/
A rash of committees: http://www.punchng.com/viewpoint/a-rash-of-committees/

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Posted March 20, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Aso Villa

15 responses to “JONATHAN’S GOVERNMENT BY ‘COMMITTEEOCRACY’

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  1. But what do you expect? A people get the kind of leadership they deserve. GEJ is a product of the same twisted society. A society where the most competent hardly ever gets the opportunity they rightly deserve. While it will appear disrespectful to speak rashly about those whom God has placed in position of Authority, it has become rather obvious that the kind of leadership we darely need for relevant transformation in Nigeria is far from those who pride themselves with endless accorlades and superior intelligence but men and women of common sense and decency, who knows just what to do, what time to get it done and also possess the courage to get it done. If only you know how much of our national resources that is squandered by these senseless and endless committees in the name of logistics, travel allowances, hotel bills and sitting allowances, you will waste no time at recommending that all our leaders should go for psychiatric examination. It is so sad that our country has sank this deep. Obviously, the passion and drive of our heroes past, has not only been drifted away from by our present leaders but i dare say that it is almost non existent. If you really want to quantify the extent of our drift from our original national core values, just read the nation’s national anthem and pledge. Sometimes, i rather not read the papers nor listen to news about what’s going on. That way, i have a chance of living longer. Solomon was said, too much knowlege brings about vexation. The more you know, the more sad you become. So what’s the use losing my sleep over a nation state where error, injustice and mediocity is celebrated rather than abhored?

    • Thanks for your poignant and thought-provoking addition, my brother. It is really sad – the gross leadership failure in our country. We need genuine change agents to arise!

  2. On the spot. The issue of committees in Nigeria shows how lazy and committed the government is at creating shying away from its responsibilities and its eagerness to divert funds to enrich their cronies or to divert attention from itself of pressing issues. Why set up a committee when you know you re duplicating the function of a standing ministry ? Or better still why set up when you know you re not implementing anything from the committee ?

  3. More committees show how our government is shying away from its responsibilities. The government is or has always been eager to set up a committee where its not needed at all take a look at the Ribadu task force and you wonder what the petroleum ministry is for ?
    When you look at it at a different angle they either create committees to enrich their cronies or to divert attention of importance from themselves. My question is why set up a committee when you do not intend to make use of the outcome ? Take a look at the Uwais report on election reforms , Lemu’s post election violence are just one too many. I agree with you my brother on the spot as usual !

  4. That is Nigeria for you. He copied it from our past leaders. The archives of the Federal Government is full with millions of committees’ reports that only needed to be dusted and reported back again to be thrown back into the archives, where they rightly belong. What is important is the allowances the reporters earn, the tensions cooled and the deception continues.

    • That’s so true and unfortunate, my brother. In 2015, the onus is on Nigeria to get a leadership and a president that can deliver the goods without using this lazy and wasteful approach of creating committees left, right and centre!

  5. This is wasteful. well…its a proof of poor vision and lack of the goodwill to serve and lead the Nigerian people to their promised land. its a pity that our president lacks the grace of proper reasoning to see that these committees yield no result and even when they do, they are consequently ignored by the Federal Government whose main aim is to deceive the poor and helpless masses while sharing our money through so-called useless committees!

  6. Great Piece

  7. My brother, I am reading your blog for the first time and I couldn’t agree more with your points. The entire youth,teenagers and generations to come is being taking for ride by the united vampires as omojowa put it in his recent article on ynaija. I have had doubts on jonathan’s policy priority three months into his administration which informed this article http://wp.me/p1WSw3-e . He has no plan for this country or how can you explain his reslove to solve all the problems in Nigeria instead of taking few out to tackle. I remember reading then he said he didn’t want to use the agenda pattern, he wanted to tackle it all. The agenda would serve as a guide towards achieving his set goals, a man without a goal has no where he is going. Its only understandable why his administration welcomes the influx of committee, no set agenda, so no goal to be achieved. Another troubling issue is PDP as a party. I wish I could see a party, with doctrine and intention, full of youth with similar motives and passion for change in Nigeria. PDP has become a fruitless tree that need be cursed like the biblical fig tree. I elucidated the role PDP as a party seem to be playing in all the mal-administration nigeria is experiencing, please check http://wp.me/p1WSw3-Y . PDP led-government is the bane of development in Nigeria. Its PDP led-government that give birth to the committee’s, so I think the problem is PDP government.

    • Manuel, you’re very correct in all your observations. Thanks for adding your voice on the issue and for all the work you’re doing to make Nigeria better. Thanks also for the links to the write-ups. I’ll read them.

  8. gbam. there is practically a committee for everything in this country.This government has been swept by the committee fever.there will soon be a toilet committee, just saying

  9. Indeed, Ope! Toilet Committee abi? Hahaha… Nasiru Abubakar put it succinctly: “[GEJ] is setting up committees to review recommendations of other committees that were set up [by] other committees.” GOD help our beloved Nigeria!

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