Nige­ria Needs Rep­utable Pub­lic Pol­icy Agen­cies

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - OPINION -

IN the past us­ing this plat­form, one had made a strong case for a time­less and well-ar­tic­u­lated na­tional sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy blue-print that has at its core, a set­ting up of a na­tional sci­ence re­search cen­ter that would not only help in pre­par­ing the stage for cut­ting-edge tech­no­log­i­cal feats, but would read­ily form an ex­cel­lent plat­form for ex­change of ideas and in­for­ma­tion be­tween home and for­eign­based Nige­rian sci­en­tists and engi­neers.

Tow­ing that same line of ar­gu­ment in this piece, one wants to high­light a se­ri­ous and per­haps, un­der-com­mented im­ped­i­ment to our com­pet­i­tive­ness and great­ness as a nation – and that is the ob­vi­ous dearth of rep­utable pub­lic pol­icy or­ga­ni­za­tions, where bright and ex­pe­ri­enced minds can ed­u­cate, an­a­lyze and carry out re­search in the so­cial sciences pri­mar­ily in eco­nomics, na­tional econ­omy and de­vel­op­ment, for­eign pol­icy and do­mes­tic pol­icy – es­sen­tial for sound lo­cal, state, and fed­eral gov­ern­ment pol­icy for­mu­la­tions. This anom­aly is am­ply ev­i­dent in our ex­tremely shal­low, non-sus­tain­able, re­ac­tionary, and flawed pub­lic poli­cies.

What is trou­bling is how for in­stance, we con­tinue to rely on for­eign pub­lic pol­icy or in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the World Bank or UNICEF, to sup­ply us with data and re­ports on the state of most cru­cial as­pects of our nation - some of which con­tain stud­ies that pre­dict how close the Nige­rian state is to dis­in­te­gra­tion - es­sen­tially the kind of thing one gets when one stands idly by and sub­lets the nar­rat­ing of ones story to an­other.

The most frus­trat­ing as­pect of such re­ports is that even when we are aware of some of their con­spic­u­ous flaws, we are hand­i­capped in straight­en­ing the records since we do not have equiv­a­lent rep­utable or­ga­ni­za­tions in our coun­try that could pro­duce well-re­searched and an­a­lyzed data. Ob­vi­ously, re­ports from high­lyre­spected for­eign or­ga­ni­za­tions can only be coun­tered with qual­ity data and not with some lousy, beer-par­lor and in­co­her­ent rants. One re­fuses to un­der­stand why, for in­stance, a Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Coun­cil will have to wait on a Wash­ing­ton D.c-based think-tank for a study and re­port on is­sues that af­fect com­mu­ni­ties in the Coun­cil.

The truth is that this con­di­tion will per­sist to the ex­tent that we con­tinue to lack home-based pub­lic pol­icy think-tanks that can sup­ply us with well-re­searched and an­a­lyzed data on th­ese some­times, ge­o­graph­i­cally unique is­sues. One does not see why we can­not at the min­i­mum, come up with our own “Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion” – a place where our young, old and bright minds as well as in­di­vid­u­als with in­valu­able pub­lic ser­vice and for­eign pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ences can re­search, an­a­lyze, ed­u­cate, and de­velop sound pub­lic poli­cies that could read­ily be adopted as blue-prints and im­ple­mented by var­i­ous lev­els of our gov­ern­ment.

It is an un­der­state­ment to say that the pres­ence of th­ese think-tanks re­mains one of the ge­niuses of the de­vel­oped world, and which is why they do not nec­es­sar­ily need to rely on any for­eign body to up­date or sup­ply them with ac­tion­able data on any as­pect of their gov­ern­ment and pub­lic pol­icy. One does not see how we can make any mea­sur­able and sus­tain­able progress in the area of gover­nance and pub­lic pol­icy if we con­tinue to lack th­ese cru­cial pub­lic pol­icy or­ga­ni­za­tions run by very bright minds that con­tin­u­ously an­a­lyze and re­search var­i­ous as­pects of pub­lic pol­icy - from health-care to ed­u­ca­tion, eco­nomics, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and for­eign re­la­tions.

A crit­i­cal as­pect of th­ese think-tanks is their abil­ity to pro­vide adept and highly knowl­edge­able man-power pool that could eas­ily be tapped by the pres­i­dent, gov­er­nors, se­na­tors, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the form of min­is­ters, com­mis­sion­ers, heads of gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and agen­cies, spe­cial as­sis­tants, and spe­cial ad­vis­ers. Such bright and ex­pe­ri­enced minds surely have the ex­per­tise to pro­vide sound prac­ti­cal ad­vice and analy­ses nec­es­sary for sound pub­lic pol­icy for­mu­la­tions and leg­is­la­tion. Ul­ti­mately, this will fi­nally help in putting an end to the era of hir­ing mo­tor park touts as pub­lic pol­icy ad­vis­ers.

The truth is that to­day’s mod­ern and func­tional so­ci­eties are never the re­sult of any serendip­ity; rather, they are the care­ful crafts of men and women who have la­bored to not only re­search, an­a­lyze, and doc­u­ment their past pub­lic poli­cies, but have also used the re­sults of those analy­ses as tem­plates and bench­marks for present and fu­ture poli­cies. And as such, they hardly re­peat the mis­takes of the past. The re­verse is the case for us and that is why we may con­tinue on our south­ward tra­jec­tory since we do not have the nec­es­sary struc­tures for such se­ri­ous pub­lic pol­icy re­search and analy­ses.

A good case study could be the mas­sive fail­ure of NECO ex­am­i­na­tion by our se­condary school stu­dents a few years ago, which made lot of news while the cam­eras were still rolling but faded into the wood works im­me­di­ately the cam­eras went off. In se­ri­ous so­ci­eties, ex­ten­sive re­search and analy­ses would have been car­ried out usu­ally by an ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy think-tank with the aim of un­der­stand­ing the im­me­di­ate and re­mote causes of the mass fail­ure so as to fore­stall a re­oc­cur­rence and map out a way for­ward that could end up be­ing adopted as pol­icy by rel­e­vant lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Th­ese in­tel­lec­tual cen­ters serve as for­mi­da­ble plat­forms for pub­lic pol­icy analy­ses, re­search, and ed­u­ca­tion - an ab­sence of which is one of the banes of our pub­lic sec­tor. Be­cause of the lack of th­ese cen­ters, there are hardly av­enues for for­mer sea­soned and hon­est pub­lic of­fice hold­ers, civil ser­vants, spe­cial as­sis­tants, and diplo­mats, etcetera, to doc­u­ment their per­spec­tives, ex­pe­ri­ences, and chal­lenges as well as share them with their present and fu­ture re­place­ments. As such, the de­fault po­si­tion now is that cred­i­ble and hon­est Nige­ri­ans, after serv­ing mer­i­to­ri­ously in ex­alted and im­por­tant po­si­tions in the pub­lic and even pri­vate sec­tors, end up rot­ting away in their vil­lages or even so­journ abroad.

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