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Jonathan And The Quest For A Leadership Model By Fr. Evaristus Bassey

January 29, 2013

Whether the operators are aware of it or not, every business has a model. Business here is not limited to profit making enterprises but entities that render a service with intended beneficiaries, whether they pay for such services or not and where the survival of such entities depends on the rendering of such services. It is better there is awareness of a model rather than thrusting blindly; for awareness enhances intentionality and conscious effort towards putting the model into use and maximizing results.

Whether the operators are aware of it or not, every business has a model. Business here is not limited to profit making enterprises but entities that render a service with intended beneficiaries, whether they pay for such services or not and where the survival of such entities depends on the rendering of such services. It is better there is awareness of a model rather than thrusting blindly; for awareness enhances intentionality and conscious effort towards putting the model into use and maximizing results.

People and different organizations may be doing the same things, but what may bring a two pronged job satisfaction – on one side client/citizen satisfaction and on the other leader/investor satisfaction, is the development and effective deployment of a sound model. Let us be quick to say that a model alone is not magic. If the necessary systems and processes are not well aligned to allow its operation, it is doomed from birth. No matter the model a leadership may create, if decisions are not followed through, if there is room for arbitrariness, if there are no systems and structures of transparency and accountability, if there is no sustainability plan, the model is dead on arrival. Also if there is no sense of corporate good or what is called common good, and leaders or managers are self-seeking, no matter the level of initial success, the entity soon becomes grounded. I have been wondering whether the perceived ineptitude of public institutions and government is not because there is need for more conscious effort to adopt models that work.

John, Christensen, and Kagermann have observed that in order for a model to deliver value, there are four main building blocks (Harvard Business Review On Strategy, 109). The first is what I may paraphrase as client or citizen value proposition. Basically this entails answering the questions: What pressing needs do the client/citizen have?  What are the existing gaps in providing these needs? What can be done to ensure the client/citizen enjoys full satisfaction in the provision of these needs? With the way various governments have run the business of government leaving in their wake mass dissatisfaction on the part of the citizenry, each successful government has a huge potential for a fresh citizen value proposition.  Take the matter of electricity for instance and the huge opportunity that exists in creating a citizens value proposition. And yet, gradually it is appearing more and more to be a missed opportunity. The second building block is the profit formula or in the case of a not-for-profit entity what may be called the cost formula. The balance to ensure here is how value can be created for the entity as well as the client or citizen. For a profit making entity the task is to ensure that there is enough profit while there is satisfactory service manifest in a huge clientele. Many businesses fail in this regard, service is compromised for profit or profit for service. A not-for-profit considering a cost formula would ensure value for money. Many NGOs have the temptation of spending money just because it is available and  budgeted for, without minding if they would do the same thing  if the cost were to be borne by themselves or by an entity desiring to declare dividend. Government may have the worst of this habit, where money is thrown at problems even when there is no solution in sight. At the end resources do not match results. It is unfortunate that government performance is not measured in terms of profit and loss. It would have been so amazing to discover the huge bankruptcy that exists in our government.  To be fair, it must be acknowledged the changes that have taken place with regard to the budget process and implementation since the Obasanjo era. But these changes have mostly resulted in complicated processes without necessarily leading to great outcomes.

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The third element in considering a model is key resources. What to consider here is whether we do have the needed human resources, equipment, technology, and channels to deliver the necessary client or citizen value proposition. It is amazing that when Nigerians live and work abroad, they become part of the driving force of those economies. I was delighted when an American priest friend of mine remarked that most of the Nigerians he encountered in the US were solid professionals. Nigerian Policemen on missions outside the shores of this country present an image of efficiency, not to talk of our soldiers. Within Nigeria there are tremendous human and material resources, sometimes with the latest technology. If equipment can be bought, then it can be available in Nigeria. The issue is not that there aren’t enough key resources therefore. Complementing this is the fourth element: key processes.  This involves mostly the recurrent tasks such as routine activities, planning sessions, budget processes, standard trainings and updates, routine production activities etc. Key processes include also the policies and regulations that guide the personnel and operations in an entity.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Nigeria is not in want of processes. During the Obasanjo years there was an addition called due process, which aimed to put a check on the corrupt, and arbitrary manner contracts were awarded. It actually did save a lot of money for the country, although the major complaint was that it added to the bureaucracy and tended more to slow things down. Several institutions monitoring government processes were also established. Government at some point may have become efficient. But efficiency could not translate to effectiveness. A well-oiled entity would ensure that processes do not emasculate intended activities and results. Nowadays and in several states where such policies have been enacted, they have become another arm of the octopus called corruption and may have contributed in making projects executed by government more expensive and shoddy. It goes a long way to show that the culture or the ethic in an environment is critical to the effective implementation of any model.
 
In Nigeria the culture seems to be corruption. On the 5th December 2012 Transparency International released its 2012 corruption perception index and showed that Nigeria was the 35th most corrupt nation of the world. Nigeria and Nepal tied with a score of 2.7, placing 139th. Although there is an improvement from the 2011 perception rating, what makes corruption in Nigeria cultural is that it has ceased to be something that happens by chance or something that needs persuasion to succumb to. Rather it has become a way of life, a normal expectation and practice. While the focus is on the big ‘goons’, those who sometimes make life terrible for the ordinary citizen are the practitioners at the lower level. The fight against corruption therefore ought to be more embracing, with more focus on a revamped attitude of the ordinary citizen. It does not belie the proposition that attitudinal change is better when it starts from the top.
 The truth is that as a country Nigeria budgets and spends huge sums of money on key resources, but if the processes do not become right, we will still be dancing around a particular spot. As Jonathan is desperate to succeed as a president with a transformation agenda, how the business of government is conducted has to become a top priority to him. He should work towards changing the perception of the institutions that ensure checks and balances as scape-goating agents to agencies that promote a sustainable culture of transparency and accountability. This would mean granting more powers to operate independently.
 
Accountability to results should be a model for government at every level. It should not be the number of contracts awarded or the number of projects embarked upon but how these impact on the lives of citizens that should measure the success of government. In other climes elections are enough confidence yielding tools but in Nigeria we may require institutionalized citizens’ feedback and regular professional evaluation by expert bodies where government would come to know how it is faring as far as citizens satisfaction is concerned. No one can change the primary motivation of the one who serves in government except the person himself. So long as the motive remains personal financial security and not service, every official, appointed or elected, will always find a way to beat the system. But strengthened systems and institutions that are truly independent will curtail the greed. As observed by Johnson,Christen and Kagerman, successful models ‘devise a more or less stable system in which these elements bond to one another in consistent and complementary ways…’ Jonathan could be a president of his dream and our dream if he harnesses all the elements and ensure they work for the good of the citizenry.
    

About the Writer
Fr. Evaristus is the Executive Director of Caritas Nigeria at the Catholic Secretariat.

 

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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