Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Training our public officials (YNaija Frontpage)







“Maybe you can be my intern, and in turn I’ll show you how to cook up summer in the winter”- Kanye West (Gone)

One of the most interesting quirks about politics and public life in Nigeria is what constitutes preparation for it – and I very strongly believe this might be the foundational issue with how and why governance is broken. You see, in Nigeria the path to public office is riddled with visits to stakeholders”. After all, the constituents’ votes don’t count for much when a trip to Maradona’s Minna mansion, Baba’s Library, Bourdillon Road and maybe an Okija Shrine or two is pretty much par for the course for winning an election. As said candidate travels from oligarch to oligarch soliciting bought votes and shifty allegiance, one can only imagine what promises must be made behind those closed doors.

Now I am not going to play naïve. I understand that it is a bit of a pipe dream to expect politicians not to roam the porches of the country’s most influential people in search of political support and endorsement. However I have serious issues with the idea that these visits to traditional rulers and godfathers should constitute adequate preparation for public life in a democratic Nigeria. How can we expect politicians, even when they are well intentioned, to know or care the development priorities of the people they should serve when the only endorsements available are those of the people who have wrecked the country? What we need to understand is that as Aristotle said, “it is not fortune’s power to make a city good; that is a matter of scientific planning and deliberative policy”.

Our reliance on politics and public policy by the “will of God” is killing us and we have to come to a better arrangement. It is not enough for us just “hope” that politicians will do their best when we have not prepared them to. So it raises the question, how can we better prepare our politicians for public life? One idea I have been mulling is actually compelling politicians to undergo a rigorous training program in politics, public policy and economics before we can vote for them – or in the case of ministers, take them seriously. I think it is necessary for public officials in Nigeria to have a solid understanding of the basics of politics and economics.

I look at some of the policy that comes out of our national assembly, and it is quite clear a basic understanding of economics 101 escaped them. It might be necessary to get our politicians in classrooms in Nigeria or online (trips to Harvard are not necessary – we are too broke for that) so they can regain an understanding of how macroeconomics works. There might also be other useful modules we can include in this training program including, development priorities, what makes for an effective law, and how to work against and around corruption in the civil service. Now, I am under no illusions that the government will work with us on this – and to be honest, I wouldn’t even want them to. It will have to be a citizen’s effort to work well. How I imagine this would work would be said politician interested in elective office voluntarily goes through a public policy training program put together by an independent third party non-for profit (not INEC) headed by credible Nigerians who are knowledgeable about policy and economic issues.

At the end of the training program, instead of an exam, he writes, not a wishful political statement chucked full with “free” everything, but a realistic manifesto guided by whatever ideology he subscribes to. This public policy training program can then certify his or her manifesto as one that has come out of this rigorous training program. Also, politicians who have had the good sense to participate in the program will have a special logo they can put on their campaign and communication material to let everyone know they are a sane public official.

Just as we have done in the world of fair trade agricultural products with and industrial manufacturing, this system of endorsement and certification will give us more clarity into who is wheat and who is chaff in our politics. More importantly, instead of relying on paid endorsements from Bourdillon Road, Hilltop and Otta, we can rest easy in the hopes that the people who make life-changing decisions on our behalf are not absolute idiots. After all, if we don’t train our public officials in the art of responsible governance, who will?


* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comments (5)

  1. First responder (Titanium) I would have been so in agreement with your point I would have hugged you (virtually lol) but for your second point which is so wrong and is in fact one of the problems with this country today.

    The fashion in Nigeria today is to acquire more and more certificates from ever bigger-named universities all over the world in order to get and merit positions in the country which do not need specialised training only to find out that the individual in question is lacking in the role due to a deficit of more simple virtues in human nature. I think educational certificates should be expunged from requirements in our country and the fact that a person can perform well in assessments or on the job itself should be the ultimate test. Your president right now is said to have a Ph.D and you can see how he reads speeches, his choice of a wife and his knowledge base. He is no different from many people who barely have a secondary school education.

    Many people base the validity of their argument or their credibility on the educational certificates they have and if that were a determinant of how developed or well-managed a nation would be, then Nigeria would be a First World nation.

    Time will not allow me expatiate further on this issue but I invite you, if you're an intellectual, to please join me on "The Intellectual Society" on Facebook which I'm trying to put together for people to grow in their knowledge base and public speaking abilities. Thanks


  2. This is an awesome idea!!!!! Would love to see this happen. Iyin, you are the man for this job!

  3. Now this is what I call putting ideas forward on how to make things better, not the empty criticisms we often hear.

    Brilliant idea, only thing though is th non-profit part, I actually think if this is run as a business it would be more sustainable.

    Would take years for it to really have an impact(the body has to build some credibility over time,and for sure,there'll be initial resistance), but this is an idea I totally buy into.

    Great article

  4. Good idea but just a few thoughts:

    1. Does knowledge correlate with good governance or good intentions? Knowledge is double edged eg nuclear power( think nuclear bombs and nuclear electricity) some of the most corrupt people are the smartest and most knowledgeable.

    2. The minimum education requirement to become a president according to the 1999 constitution in Nigeria is completing secondary school (not actually passing WAEC) may be we need to raise the bar here.

    3. You don't need to know everything as a leader, just surround yourself with people who know. Your job is to set the vision and manage these people well.

    1. How will you know people who know if you yourself don't have a framework for knowing?

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail