What is ‘Government’ and what should it do? This is a question not many critics of government have taken time to consider and answer. As a result, they rarely have workable solutions and alternatives to the issues the government of the day deal with.
There are many who go about, having all kinds of thoughts as to what the government should do or not do. And most of these thoughts are not founded on deep reasoning. For example, some think the government should actively make them rich; should give them jobs; should be build ‘social’ amenities and infrastructures; should literally feed and clothe them. Now, none of these ideas is bad in itself. I think the government should be involved in the prosperity of its people, in their welfare, and in the building of reliable and lasting
institutions. But I have a context in which I expect these things. I have a template with which I check and appraise the Government’s actions and it’s overall strategy.
You should develop your template too.
That starts by thinking on what makes up a vibrant society. What are those factors, norms, values, and skills that make a society great, productive and sufficient? You should know that the society predates the government. It exists before the government does. In fact, it is the society that decides what type of government rules them.
Some societies are amenable to communism and authoritarian governments because this ideology is in conformity with their norms, values, and aspirations. Other societies prefer a free market and democratic government. And it is for the same reason that this form of government agrees with their internal templates of what a government should look like and what it should do.
I look at Nigeria, and I wonder at times, if we have consciously developed an internal template for governance. I believe that once our personal templates are set our organization of the State would change as well. Or maybe we do have an internal template that explains why so many things are dysfunctional. I do hope that this template would be totally eradicated within a decade. Less, preferably.
There is an internal template that eventually gives shape to lack of accountability and transparency in government. There is one that gives shape to a culture of silence and withholding important information from the public. There is also one which justifies formations of power-cabals in government and justifies looting public funds, and engaging in nepotism.
When I do a mental add up of all these pieces, I realize that in the heart of heart of the average Nigerian, none of the current
dysfunction in Nigeria is a surprise. They are actually expected. The forces of change towards new forms are actually the suprise. And that bothers me. It should bother anyone who wants a better Nigeria.
If we allow Nigeria to keep operating on this dysfunctional template, then we would keep having authoritarians in government, feelings of marginalization, violent conflicts and zero-sum politics, whose end is to simply have power. This picture closely resembles the sort of arrangement you’d find in the feuding traditional empires of long ago, marked by political intrigues which have nothing to do with industry, or improving the lives of the ‘masses’, or encouraging productivity.
So here is a challenge. Put on your power of reasoning. Take some time in the study room. What makes a society functional? Prioritize your list. Should industry and accountability be second to ethnic ties? What sort of individual ambitions are acceptable- should a
power-hungry person be tolerated and encouraged over the entrepreneur, or sportsman?
Think on these things. And put them on paper. Derive a list of what you personally think are the general roles or principles of
government. Share them with your peers and argue them out. Make them stronger in form and be convinced about them. Then you can look at the current administration and weigh it based on a list worth several hours of valuable contribution from people around you, a list you are convinced of.
You would be surprised at the ease with you are able to come up with solutions and alternatives for the country. That will be because you have invested your mind in the right way. You now have a broad template of expectations. If the government is not passing that template you can tell, and you can blow the whistle. You can tell when the government is over-reaching itself and when it is doing what it has no business doing. You can tell when a private citizen is being politically responsible or not. You can have visions of what the future of the country should look like if your list was followed.
What are you waiting for? Go ahead, and define what you expect of the government.
P.S: You can share your thoughts here. In my next article, I will be sharing some of my thoughts on the issue and we can do some analysis together.