In our huge federation of 36 states and counting, some states can be policy innovators in a way that can pull others up. It is one great benefit of genuine federalism. In recent years, I see Kaduna State under El-Rufai, Lagos State since Bola Tinubu, and Anambra State under Peter Obi as the leading examples of policy innovation in Nigeria.


The other day, I saw a heart-warming display of road projects that were completed by the Nasir A. El-Rufai administration in Kaduna State. The images suggest to me that the State is delivering commensurate value with the peoples’ taxes and the monthly manna from Abuja.

I was so impressed that I shared the news in an online group I belong to, where a friend of mine and a consummate city dweller quickly observed that besides beautiful roads, more is being done to turn Kaduna into a “world-class city.” While I don’t have the details of these, it will not surprise me if the very competitive governor of Kaduna State is aiming at making his state capital a ‘global city’ – one of the strategic nodes in the international networks of economic globalisation.

Having a competitive governor in each state of the country is a good thing for federalism. Competitiveness is a necessary quality that all governors of states in our federation must have to move the country forward. Nothing else will produce development; not the concentration of power in the centre, not the monthly sharing of money, not federal character, not a big army. Only the invisible hand of competition can, as it does in a free market, transform Nigeria from its current distressed condition to a true giant of Africa.

In a federation, it is competition with each other that provides an incentive for the constituent states to improve and innovate, develop, and grow. It makes governors work harder for the benefit of their citizens and residents and, in the process, advances the development of all Nigeria unintentionally.

It is this that triggers nostalgia for Nigeria’s First Republic, when each regional premier – M.I. Okpara (East), Ahmadu Bello (North), Obafemi Awolowo (West), and Dennis Osadebay (Mid-west) – competed to develop their regions and, in the course of it, improved Nigeria without intending to.

All these are just to say that it was the healthy competition among those four regions that led to better governance that we hunger for today. That’s why the Kaduna story got me thinking about the idea of innovation states and policy diffusion in a federation such as ours.

Policy diffusion or spillover of “best practice” in policy or governance from one state to another refers to the process where policy choices made in Lagos State, for example, influence those made in other states of the federation such as Kano, Imo, Ondo, Kogi, or Cross River.


Policy diffusion or spillover of “best practice” in policy or governance from one state to another refers to the process where policy choices made in Lagos State, for example, influence those made in other states of the federation such as Kano, Imo, Ondo, Kogi, or Cross River.

Such policy choices adjudged to be “best practices” come in every shape and form. In our huge federation of 36 states and counting, some states can be policy innovators in a way that can pull others up. It is one great benefit of genuine federalism. In recent years, I see Kaduna State under El-Rufai, Lagos State since Bola Tinubu, and Anambra State under Peter Obi as the leading examples of policy innovation in Nigeria.

Peter Obi’s administration, for example, had a policy of linking Anambra’s 177 Communities with accessible asphalted roads complete with drains for flood water. This is a policy choice worth copying by other states, a veritable best practice. Anambra’s capital city, Awka, is new and not in the same league as Kaduna or Lagos to achieve a “world-class city” status. Lagos may be closer to that goal than Kaduna, thanks to the quality of governors chosen by Lagosians themselves over the years.

The Lagos Innovates Programme provides access to what amounts to a powerful incubator that allows its start-ups access to premium infrastructure and capital, as well as learning and networking. This is another good example of best practice that other states can simply copy, thus saving the costs of experimentation.


What has happened in Lagos is nearly miraculous. Not long ago, it was seen as one of the charmless and inhospitable cities of the world. Today, with one good governor after another, it has managed to transform into a veritable alpha city in the making. The successive governments there have taken steps to make this happen. Lagos has a thriving Science Research and Innovation Council to drive innovation in science and technology research. Hear the current governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, as quoted on the website of The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council: We are enabling science and technology start-ups with the investments that will enhance the economy. This suggests a level of enthusiasm for innovation that’s rare in most Nigerian states.

The Lagos Innovates Programme provides access to what amounts to a powerful incubator that allows its start-ups access to premium infrastructure and capital, as well as learning and networking. This is another good example of best practice that other states can simply copy, thus saving the costs of experimentation.

Next week, we shall look for more ‘best practices’ in Nigerian states on the basis of education investments, support for research, or business creation.

Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja. Please send your comments to this number on WhatsApp: +234 (0)701 625 8025; messages only, no calls.