Governance and Sustainable Development in Nigeria

Governance and Sustainable Development in Nigeria

The recent ‘cross carpeting’ in Nigeria’s National Assembly is a symptom of dearth of political ideology and vision in the formulation of most political parties in the country. With less than a year to the next general elections politicians are already busy reappraising alliances and pursuing new ones all in a bid to be strategically placed to win the votes of the electorate. None of the meetings currently being held focus on ideological parameters. All that people appear to be concerned with is simply associating with those with whom their personal political objectives stand a better chance of being achieved. Unfortunately, these political office holders are the vehicle of governance in Nigeria and the ‘trusted’ harbinger of sustainable development. It is no wonder that Nigeria’s road to development is long, winding and daunting.

The terms governance and sustainable development are not mutually exclusive. For there to be sustainable development, there has to be good governance. For development to last, there is need for good governance. It is very important to ensure that good governance forms the basis of, and accompanies, development. Otherwise, there will be no sustainable development or “sustainable human development” [UNDP,1997a].  But what does ‘governance’ and ‘sustainable development’ really mean? And how is good governance connected to sustainable development?

Governance is the ” use of power in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development” [The World Bank [1992:1]. It can also be defined [UNDP, 1997b:9] as “the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage a nation’s affairs”. The UNDP [1997b:10] identifies four types of governance. The first is economic governance. This includes the processes of decision making that directly or indirectly affects a country’s activities or its relationships with other economies. Economic governance has a major influence on societal issues such as equity, poverty and quality of life. The second is political governance. It refers to decision making and policy implementation of a legitimate and authoritative state. The state should consist of separate legislative, executive and judicial branches; represent the interests of a pluralist polity; and allow citizens to freely elect their representatives. The third type is administrative governance – a system of policy implementation carried out through an efficient, independent and open public sector. The fourth is systemic governance, which encompasses the processes and structures of society that guide political and socio-economic relationships to protect cultural and religious beliefs and values, and to create and maintain an environment of health, freedom, security and with the opportunity to exercise personal capabilities that lead to a better life for all people.

Development on the other hand can be defined as the process of improving the quality of all human lives (Todaro and Smith: 2003:792). They refer to three important aspects of development:

  • raising people’s living levels – their incomes and consumption levels of food, medical services, education etc., through relevant economic growth processes;
  • creating conditions conducive to the growth of people’s self-esteem through the establishment of social, and economic systems and institutions that promote human dignity and respect; and
  • increasing people’s freedom by enlarging the range of their choice variables, by increasing varieties of consumer goods and services

The Brundtland Commission defines sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Governance is thus the vehicle with which sustainable development is arrived at. In Nigeria, sustaining the gains of development through consistent democratic good governance practices remain a challenge that stare the nation on the face. However, nineteen years of unbroken democracy has provided the needed impetus to locate Nigeria on the trajectory of sustainable development. Thus, as the nation struts into the end of the second half of two decades of democratic rebirth, there are a host of issues on the development agenda that the government has to contend with. These issues range from the much taunted public private and citizens‟ sectors partnership through budgeting and accountability issues, corruption, the reform of public service, information technology and environmental issues, social security and gender issues, poverty alleviation and infrastructure development, to the very urgent need to respond adequately to the current security challenge so as to guarantee a secured and healthy environment for growth and development.

To mitigate this is to institutionalise the term ‘active governance’. Active governance implies a governance system that anticipates and responds to the needs of its citizen and evolving development challenges, with deliberate, targeted, and pro-active planning and delivery. Effective governance is a prerequisite for putting in place the integrated policy making capacity which is needed to drive sustainable development. Active and effective governance requires governing institutions which are capable of delivering reliable and quality services where and when they are needed. It requires public administration which can collect revenues honestly, allocate and invest public funds wisely, and manage public goods, including land and other natural resources, for the benefit of all.

A sustainable development response to the complex and interlinked challenges Nigeria is facing today demands policymaking which views economic growth, poverty reduction, social development, equity, and sustainability not as competing goals to be traded off against each other or to be used as borderline for intra and inter party politics, but as interconnected objectives which are most effectively pursued together. To get the wide range of policies moving in the same direction, governments must be able to understand and harness the connections between them. Policy makers and their advisors need to be able to weigh the evidence and identify the ‘triple-win’ solutions which can bring economic, environmental, and social benefits. Policy and regulatory frameworks must also be designed to attract and use finance and new technologies in ways which generate sustainability and meet the needs of citizens, including the poorest and most vulnerable.

Achieving this puts a premium on having a capable public service and effective governance mechanisms which can weave the economic, social, and environmental strands of sustainable development together.

  1. Babalola, Afe (2018): Nigeria Political Cross Carpeting- Danger to Democracy.
  2. Clark, Helen (2016): The Importance of Governance for Sustainable Development:
  3. Cvijete, Zuzoric et al (2016) Good Governance as a Tool of Sustainable Development. European Journal of Sustainable Development.
  4. Kabumba, Ijuka (2005): Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa: Meaning, Relationship, Problems and Strategies. African Association for Public Administration and Management Ref. AAPAM ZAMBIA 2005 PAPER
  5. Okibe, D.O (2013): Good Governance; A Catalyst to Sustainable Development. Afro Asian Journal of Social Sciences Volume 4, No. 4.3 Quarter III 2013 ISSN: 2229 5313
  6. Ozohu – Suleiman, Abdulhamid (2016): Democracy, Good Governance and Development in Nigeria. Research Paper for Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management Sciences, University of Abuja, Nigeria.
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