The Role of Management in the Achievement of National Goals: Obstacles to Plan Implementation IV

Keynote Address Delivered at the Inaugural National Conference of the Academy of Management, Nigeria, Holding in Rockview Hotel, Abuja on November 23rd, 2005.

By Pita Ejiofor

Cont’d from last edition

Let us however state unequivocally that some of the previous regimes made remarkable achievements, including the construction of the fly-over bridges of Lagos, the express roads, the dams, the refineries etc. But it is also true that the foregoing does not pretend to scratch the surface of what used to go on in some Government organizations during what is now referred to as the years of the locusts. The oil wealth was wasted. That is the point NEEDS was making when it pointed out that “as at Year 2000, Nigeria had earned approximately S300 billion from oil exports since the mid-1970s, but its per capital income was 20% less than in 1975.

4.6 Bureaucratic discontinues

One of the central principles of Planning is the Commitment Principle which requires that the planning period should cover the period long enough for the planner to implement the plan. Frequent changes of regimes and the negative attitude of some Nigerians to predecessors make nonsense of this principle. For a period of thirty years 1960 to 1990, Nigeria had four National Development Plans (NDP) and a Structural Adjustment Programme SAP. Only one of those plans, the Second NDP 1970 – 1974 was fully implemented by the regime that formulated it. The implementation of others was duly commenced by the planner-regime but abandoned by succeeding regimes. Only in 15 years out of the total period of thirty years were the plans implemented by the formulating regime. On eight occasions during the thirty-year period, January 1966 (Ironsi) July 1966 (Gowon), July 1975 Murtala Mohammed), December 1983 (Buhari), August 1985 (Babangida), August 1993 (Shonekan), November 1993 (Abacha), and 1998 (Abubakar), the task of implementing the national budget fell to another Head of State. If to these are compounded the sudden mid-stream changes in Governorships, Ministers, Commissioners, Local Government Chairmen and other chief executives of Nigeria public sector organizations in addition to the penchant of many Nigerians to discredit predecessors and abandon their programmes, the reasons for Nigeria’s Under-Development Paradox become obvious.

Control: Having foiled planning at the ideation, project selection and inheriting stages, plan implementation is further frustrated at the control stage. For instance, writing on the AIDS pandemic in Nigeria, the UNDP gave a clue to one of the causes of Nigeria’s under-development malady. It wrote “AIDS did not just grow into epidemic proportions overnight in Nigeria, it was because the country failed to take the early warning signals seriously that its wounds festered.” (HDR Nigeria 2004 p. iv). Where do we situate failure to heed early warning signals in Management’s classical POSDCC theory (Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating and Control)? Certainly in the Control function, within the sub function of cybernetics, the science of central feedback control system.

Scientific method of control entails mounting systems at strategic joints of the organization to identify deviations or early warning signals, installing, comparatives and activators (Osisioma, Osisioma 1999: 37) and effecting corrections. In many cases, the signals are usually not heeded. Is the fact of our organizations failing to heed “early warning signals? any news to any Nigerian? Were “early warning signals” not usually everywhere on our roads before they developed into craters splitting the road into two in too many places, causing erosion. Are “early warning signals” not ignored before little cracks degenerate into big landslides and gullies? Were there not “early warning signals” that the standard of education was falling before foreign countries started rejecting our degrees? Were the “early warning signals” not there that examination malpractices were over-whelming the integrity of our examinations before the universities had to conduct another examination for the JAMB “graduate
This paper is of the opinion that one of the most revolutionary steps taken by the Administration is the establishment of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). The positive results are all visible on our major Express Ways. How I wish each State Government, each Local Government, each autonomous community, each tertiary institution etc. would have its own “FERMA” counterpart. The disparaged colonial master’s road menders would have been back, and our roads would be better.

In some cases, the nation does not seem to be using the right controls, using antiquated methods to solve modern problems. Take the incidence of road accidents. The control methods in use include checking of motor “particulars” along the roads, positioning officers of the Federal Road Safety Corp, public enlightenment, etc. Despite all these, the incidence of road accidents in Nigeria is probably one of the highest in the world. In developed countries like the USA that has over a hundred times more cars than we have in Nigeria, the accident rate is less. That is not necessarily because their drivers love human lives more than Nigerians. The major reason is that the cost of accident is prohibitive.

Relatives of victims go to court and get vehicle owners pay through their nose for loss of life or limb. Operators and competitors learn their lessons. If the transport company survives after paying the costs, it introduces measures to prevent future occurrence – better vehicle maintenance, use of standby drivers, more careful driving. In Nigeria, the cost of accidents is minimal: a few days detention of vehicle at the police station, then some “seeing” of officials, the following day the vehicle and the driver are back on road to kill more. Relatives collect their dead, gather in prayers and bury them, and that is the end. If Government makes it easier for accident victims to be paid appropriate compensation, the carnage on our roads would reduce.

V. Highlight
Nigeria has presented a most embarrassing Un-Development Paradox. With very abundant natural and human resources, she has remained undeveloped. Her economy remained stagnant for a quarter of a century, 1975 to 2000, with per capita income declining. Her development plans did not bring her any development. Something is amiss.

This paper rejects the popular cliché in Nigeria that “the problem is not in the Plan but in the implementation.” The problem is all-pervading, engulfing all the functions of Management, from Planning’s objective setting to Control. In the first place, there is little or no sincere agreement on the objectives. Often, the publicly announced and official goals are under-laid with the hidden agenda of some of the leaders. As a result, some of the Plans and budgets are in fact only national or State in name. They are simply too boss specific as the personal wishes and caprices of some top political office holders are sprinkled with the holy water of officialdom and legitimized by the appropriate apparatus of government. Successors tend to repudiate them and substitute their own similarly boss-specific plans and programmes. Accordingly, although there is a need for continuity, programmes that are too personality – specific continue to remain vulnerable. Frequent changes in regimes, compound the problems of plans and their implementation.

The old excuses of shortage of men and money can no more stand the realities of contemporary Nigeria. The paper rejects them completely. Money is not Nigeria’s problem but how it is spent. There is no shortage of executive capacity in Nigeria. What is short are men and women of integrity. The ultimate cause of all the problems is corruption which infests all the functions and sub-functions of Management, undermining goals setting, distorting project selection, disorganizing resource allocation, crippling monitoring, neutralizing control, resulting in the diversion of public funds into private pockets, and confining the giant of Africa to a confounding un-development.

Nigeria can no more afford the luxury of un-development in the 21st century. Repeat in the first quarter of this millennium, the sad experiences of the economy in the last quarter of the last millennium, 1975 – 2000, and the results might be disastrously irreversible for the nation. The population is expanding geometrically. With education and the new information technology, the biggest strength of dictators – ignorance of the masses is disappearing. More and more people can now objectively assess governance. With rising un-employment and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, youth restiveness is escalating. On top of it all, the international community is getting increasingly intolerant to bad governance and corruption. Nigeria is a member of the United Nations that set the Millennium Development Goals, and publishes an annual report card in its Human Development Report.

VI Conclusion
Nigeria’s report card is bad. But like all report cards, the embarrassing results being released now, though outcomes of surveys carried out two or three years earlier, are fruits of a corruption driven mismanagement of the nation many years ago.

There is no doubt that the present Administration is taking drastic steps to wake up the sleeping giant of Africa and grow the nation. All the ten fingers of Mr. President are on the pie of national transformation, and the impacts are being felt. Let us just recount ten of the most dramatic innovations.

a) Liberalization of the down-stream sector of the petroleum industry. The petrol shortages and queues, the black markets and the adulterations are gone.

b) The “de-pariahnization of the nation. Through a strategy of “Management by Walking around” perfected by one of the greatest Roman Emperors, Hadrian (76 – 138AD) the President has returned the nation back to the international community.

c) Crusade Against Corruption and Economic Crimes. The Transparency profile of Nigeria is improving.

d) Reform of the public service through privatization of Government parastatals. The most visible outcome is the telecom revolution, while one of the most desirable outcomes is the balkanization of NEPA for better efficiency.

e) Reform of the civil service through monetization of fringe benefits in, and downsizing of, the civil service.

f) Reforms in the banking sector resulting in bank integrations, mergers and acquisitions and the emergence of mega-banking in Nigeria.

g) Sanitization of the Food and Drug sector and the suppression of drug barons.

h) Complete overhaul of Government procurement system through the introduction of “Due Process.” Within the first two years of the introduction, the sum of N137b was saved in Federal Government contracts (Ezekwesili 2004:)

i) Debt forgiveness resulting in the cancellation of 66.66% of Nigeria’s external debt.

j) The tenth. We shall shortly come to it.

All the pre-requisites for rapid development are in place in Nigeria except the will which has been encumbered by the deadly disease of corruption. The mother of all corruptions in Nigeria is election rigging. Whichever Nigerian leader finds an answer to corruption and election rigging would have finally unchained Nigeria, the giant of Africa, and won economic independence for the nation. From his records, the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has a big chance of going down in history as one of Nigeria’s most successful Heads of State. He has already kick-started a big socio-economic transformation. Much now depends on how he handles the on-going 2007 elections. And that is the tenth.

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