Service Delivery, the 21st Century Litmus Test for Leadership, By Taiwo Odukoya
These are critical times. The Nigerian economy is almost fully in a post-oil phase and would now have to compete globally for investments. This will require repositioning public service delivery across the country for the 21st century; one that treats citizens as stakeholders and understands the complexity of their needs…
With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord. – (Ephesians 6:7-8a NASB)
There is a growing wave of populist discontent across the world, from Africa to Europe to America. More and more citizens, feeling disenfranchised, are venting out their frustrations on what they perceive to be the political establishment’s ambivalence about the realities they face, and the inability of the political class to truly meet their needs. If there is any one thing it underscores, amongst others, it is the urgency with which governments and leaders everywhere must place priority on the effective delivery of services to the people.
In 2011, the government administration in Punjab, the most populous province in Pakistan, launched a feedback system using SMS requests that improved service delivery by over 75 percent. In the event of interrupted electricity supply, for example, all citizens had to do was walk to a nearby government energy administration office, file a complaint and provide their mobile number. A day later they get a text or robocall asking if the problem had been solved. The process mandated government service providers to create dashboards for citizens that allowed them view real time information on service delivery and provide feedback, and has been lauded by experts and touted as a good example of government delivering service to the people in a serious and efficient manner.
One of the major thrusts of businesses everywhere is the constant improvement of customer service. This cannot be any different for leadership in public service. The needs of the people must be at the core of government’s agenda for development. As Narendra Mordi put it, “Good governance is putting people at the centre of the development process.”
These sentiments deserve utmost consideration in Nigeria. A few weeks ago, the media reported the protest of dissatisfied aviation workers. Part of their angst was targeted at the government’s refusal to meet some of the infrastructural needs of the airports, particularly air traffic control equipment. It is no news that public service delivery in Nigeria is abysmal at best. What is worrying is the impact this has on human lives, on countless Nigerians who die from airplane crashes because of nonchalance and negligence in that sector; or from failures in healthcare service delivery; or from debilitating road infrastructure. Workers do not need to go protesting before some of these issues are attended to; women do not need to go on the streets protesting the atrocities of marauding Fulani herdsmen before government does anything meaningful about it.
Leadership across tiers, across federal and state lines, and across ministries and parastatals, ought to be more proactive with service delivery, particularly where it affects human lives.
Those that will seize the future are those that anticipate it, and those that keep their systems and processes fleet-footed enough to adapt at the speed of the mind. We have to discard the old tools and mindsets that have held us back and adapt new ones that will lead us into the future.
These are critical times. The Nigerian economy is almost fully in a post-oil phase and would now have to compete globally for investments. This will require repositioning public service delivery across the country for the 21st century; one that treats citizens as stakeholders and understands the complexity of their needs; one that dispenses with byzantine structures and bottlenecks in preference for interconnected and fleet-footed systems that meet citizen requirements speedily; one that continues to reinvent itself in order to meet the demands of the modern age; one that delivers on the promise of the government in power.
We have to create a system that does not only effectively meet the basic needs of the people, from food to health and infrastructure, but one that also envisages them and, in other words, stays on top of the situation. As a recent report published by the World Bank tagged Logged On: Smart Government Solutions from South Asia aptly puts it, an effective and proactive government is in place when “the citizen is not coming to the state; the state is coming to the citizen.”
We urge the present administration to do much more in keeping the welfare of the Nigerian people at the centre of its agenda than we have seen in past administrations.
We have to give more attention to modernising governance and less to the cumbersome bureaucracy that stalls progress and to the petty issues that divide us. There is no place at the table globally for reactionary governments and countries. Those that will seize the future are those that anticipate it, and those that keep their systems and processes fleet-footed enough to adapt at the speed of the mind. We have to discard the old tools and mindsets that have held us back and adapt new ones that will lead us into the future.
NIGERIA HAS A GREAT FUTURE.