Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Transformation? Try transparency first (YNaija Frontpage)

“Turn up the lights in here baby,
Extra bright I want y’all to see this
Turn up the lights in here baby,
You know what I need, want you to see everything,
Want you to see all of the light”

– Kanye West (All of the lights

Last week, the government of Goodluck Jonathan released the Sure and Steady transformation report. It is intended to be a progress report of his administration. If you haven’t had a chance to look it up, you really should. You can find it at sureandsteadytransformation.gov.ng.

Now, of course I don’t think the President will or should get bonus points his aides probably imagine this act of faux transparency should guarantee them. Apart from the fact that the report seems to be ridden with errors, grammatical and otherwise (your highness, on pg. 28 its “business model, not “business mode”), the report is filled with many mundane ministerial tasks garbed in the deceptive cloak of triumphant achievements. Quite honestly, I long for the days when rehabilitation of already existing infrastructure and buying coaster buses are less worthy of mention.

Nonetheless, despite how awful the report is, it is easy to see the ministers who have actually been working on important strategic initiatives and the ministers that seem to have spent all their time commissioning rehabilitation projects and organizing tweet meets. The good thing is that this will allow citizens and civil society organizations refocus their effort from broadly panning government for corrupt inefficiency to taking the war to the couple of ministers and government agencies that seem especially lax in their responsibilities.

You see, contrary to what Mr. President and his aides will have you believe, developing Nigeria is far from a magic formula. It doesn’t just happen because we keep “praying for the country”. If and when it happens, we will watch it –in real time. Mr. President and his non-reporting committees of magicians can’t convince us progress is bombings all over the country, billions of naira siphoned to rebels instead of education and a fuel subsidy scam, which is the greatest wealth transfer scheme in modern Nigerian history. However, this is what we can see and remember about his administration.

What baffles me is why more conscientious government officials don’t quite understand transparency in government is really in their own interest as public officials who place some kind of value on their reputation. Sure, they might have to turn the blind eye to their colleague’s corruption to keep things cordial at NEC meetings. However, do they not realize that it is only by being completely transparent about their own activities in government that they can earn our trust and differentiate themselves from the corrupt pack?

Unfortunately, whether the issue is why the President must pull a Mitt Romney and refuse to declare his assets, or where the first lady is right now, or why the power privatization timeline has been delayed and rescheduled numerous times, this administration has always preferred obfuscation to transparency.

Recently, I was having a conversation with one of my American friends about Nigeria as an investment destination. According to him, Nigeria looks like a great investment destination on paper – and perhaps in reality but in his words, “Nigeria really doesn’t afford us the chance to see how it works.” It turns out that the biggest problem a lot of foreign investors have with Nigeria isn’t really as one might think, insecurity, corruption or government meddling but simply transparency. Imagine how many opportunities for economic transformation are passing us by because this government has a cultural preference for operating in the dark.

You know what I think?

Jonathan might want to give up on transformation if he can’t try transparency.


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


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