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Exigencies of public policy formulation in Nigeria

Public Policy Formulation in Nigeria, Bukar Usman, Klamidas Communications, 2017, pp. 68

By Henry Akubuiro

The ability to levitate across multiple frontiers of knowledge is the hallmark of genius. Though not a university scholar, Bukar Usman makes scholarship look so easy from his closet. From creative writing, pan-African narratives, history, culture, governance, to security issues, he has demonstrated a cerebral nous in discourse. Public Policy Formulation in Nigeria is another testament of the depth of his profound wit.

On May 23, 2017, the author presented a paper on the same topic at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Bwari, Abuja. This handy book is based on the text of that lecture. Like he always does, Usman ensures his conference papers are secured for posterity and a wider audience by publishing them in book form.

Approaching public formulation in Nigeria with primary focus on constitution making as the major framework for public policy formulation for the country, he examines the metamorphosis of policy formulations in Nigeria from the pre-independence till date.

The treatise tees off with the definition of terms aimed at highlighting Nigeria’s historical background and the changes that trailed the socio-political and constitutional framework for the formulation of public policy in the country. While the pre-independence phase covers the advent of British colonial administration in Nigeria, the independence phase encompasses the independence era itself, civil rule in post-independence Nigeria and military rule in post-independence Nigeria.

Before a public policy statement is announced, it has to pass through seven stages, of which the crucial stages include agenda setting, consultation and policy enactment, says Usman.

The series of constitutions that were issued between 1914 and 1960, according to the book, sufficiently attest to the serious challenges faced in policy formulation. He writes: “Under the Indirect Rule system on which Lugard’s rule over the vast territory of Nigeria was anchored, traditional rulers were involved more in policy implementation than formulation. Under the system of governance, the traditional rulers enjoyed great latitude in running the affairs of their areas as sole authorities, under the watchful eyes of the British administrators…” (p 24). Notable constitutions that came into existence within this period were the Clifford Constitution (1922), The Richards Constitution (1947), the Macpherson Constitution (1952), and the Lyttleton Constitution (1954).

Examining the public policy formulation in post-independence Nigeria, which covers the period between 1960 till date, Usman describes it as a period of alternate fortunes for Nigeria, as the country rotated from democratic to military rule, leading to adverse effect on the evolution and institutionalisation of a sound framework for policy formulation that provides maximal satisfaction to the expectations of the people.

Thus: “There were no radical policy shifts following the immediate years after independence (1960-1963). In the critical area of the economy, government policies showed little signs of deviation from what obtained in pre-colonial times… The new indigenous rulers’ failure to generate turnkey policies in national consolidation and economic freedom resulted more from lack of cohesive political vision than from any relational disharmony between the executive and the legislature” (p.27).

Nigeria’s post-independence constitutions, writes the author, include the Independence Constitution (1960), the Republican Constitution (1963), the Presidential Constitution (1979) and the Presidential Constitution (1999). However, Usman regrets that “the nation is yet to strike the right balance in constitution-making in Nigeria for over a century”, especially the difficulty in accommodating, as much as possible, the socio-cultural diversity of the country.

The two phases of civil rule, he notes in the fifth chapter, are the parliamentary phase (1960-1966, the First Republic) modelled after the British parliamentary system, and the presidential phase (1979-1983, 1999-date) modelled after the American presidential system.

Aside the communications received from the executive, the legislature on its own could initiate a policy by motions and bills or resolutions, says Usman. The judiciary, too, has a role to play, he adds. Political party’s manifestoes also form part of the public policy after they have been smoothen out by bureaucracy.

The fifth chapter focuses on military rule in post-independence Nigeria, with the author assessing policy formulation in the nearly 28 years of military interventions in politics, which is autocratic and unitary-driven, but instrumental to state and local government creations; while the concluding chapters address confidentiality in policy formulation in which public servants are expected to be secretive about government secrets. It also examines the gaps, challenges and prospects of nationhood.

This book is a veritable research material for political scientists, public administrators, and the reading pleasure of the general reader.

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