That “Government has no business being in Business” is a well referenced quip that gives the notion of a tight division of Politics and the Economy into two different blocs.

This neo-classical thinking emphasises the Public Sector as different from the Private Sector; the former being where little or no attention is given to efficiency and results, and the latter being the place that epitomizes enterprise, efficiency, and results. It is a thought pattern that is usually called upon in aid of arguments for the liberalization of the economies of developing countries and used to posit that such economies would be better off if Government privatizes national assets and acts merely as a Regulator.

While whatever iota of merit that exists in this thinking is not entirely dismissed, this discourse highlights the injustice it does to the institution of Government and Politics (the Public sector). It portrays this pillar of human society  as one where mediocrity, nepotism, ethnicity, and other base manifestations of our humanity hold sway. This is with the unfortunate consequence that the field of politics is seen as one where the virtues of creativity, diligence, intellect, probity, and result orientation are not celebrated nor their utility recognised.

But, governance is serious business.

For governance to be really impacting, it ought to be conceived as an enterprise, the objective of which is to create value and deliver results. It ought to be seen as business, one which the legendary Peter F. Drucker defined as ‘…a process that converts an outside resource, namely knowledge, into outside results, namely economic values’. Driving this process should be a viable system of personnel and institutions at the head of which will be the President and ‘Chief Executive Officer’ of the Federation, or the Governor at the State level.

When governance is conceived as enterprise, the people in Government know that they must consistently create and deliver value with the effective use of resources- human, material, and financial- in order to remain acceptable to the electorate, in much the same way as the successful enterprise must strive to impress the market, if it would remain in business.

When governance is conceived as enterprise, the Budget-a document of proposed public finance- will be treated with the same seriousness and result orientation that a Business Plan is treated; and not like another subject of political patronage, allocating scarce resources to areas that are both socially and economically unproductive.

When governance is conceived as enterprise, political leadership sees itself as constituting Management which has to give account of its stewardship to Shareholders (the Citizenry/Electorate) at Annual General Meetings (General Elections). Just as the Management of private enterprises work diligently to report favourable results at the AGM, usually with the declaration of dividends to the delight of shareholders; political leadership would also work to deliver tangible and measurable dividends of good governance to the electorate, which reserves the right to vote it back into office in grateful acknowledgment of its commendable performance, or to vote it out of office if displeased with its performance.

When governance is conceived as enterprise, the Citizenry is treated with the same sense of respect and right to accountability that shareholders of corporate entities are treated.
The Citizenry too, like shareholders of the corporate entity, would position itself to expect and demand objective, tangible, and measurable performance from political leadership. And just as the shareholder religiously follows the performance of his company on the Stock Exchange, the citizenry would keep itself abreast of the activities of government, taking notes of developments and arming itself with the knowledge with which to assess and engage government officials as opportunities present themselves.

The conception of governance as enterprise, and not merely politics, will greatly modify the orientation and disposition of the government and the governed in Nigeria to this very important subject. It will help to underscore the fact that the virtues of accountability, creativity, diligence, vision, persistence, result orientation, service, and others that contribute to the making of great enterprises are not the exclusive preserve of the Private Sector. They can also be productively applied to the delivery of service and good governance in the Public Sector.

The President, Governors, and Chairmen- at their various levels of authority- are best positioned to personify this orientation. When they do so, such orientation will cascade down the hierarchy of government and the development aspirations of Nigeria will be met faster, more formidably, and more sustainably.

What do you think?



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