The Coronavirus pandemic with COVID-19 as the acronym has brought about some other sides- some positive, some negative. Some of the other sides are in the realm of governance and communication by government with the populace. Our concern this week is to x-ray these two sides.
Contextually, according to Lynn, et al ‘governance is the exercise of political power to manage a nation’s affairs’ creatively and strategically. Mclean and McMillan in Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics define it as ‘the process of collective decision-making and policy implementation, used distinctively from government to reflect broader concern with norms and processes relating to the delivery of public goods.’
On the other hand, the World Bank sees governance ‘as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.’ Three distinct aspects are readily discernible and as identified by the World Bank, they are the process by which authority is exercised for managing a country’s economic and social resources for development; the capacity of government to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge its functions as enshrined in the Constitution; and the form of political regime’.
The concern of most patriots and writers and as defined above is the ‘governability’ of the people and ‘the capacity of government to govern efficiently and to provide clement environment for socio-economic development of the country and the emancipation of the governed. Akin to these is the best use of human, financial and material resources devoid of primordial or parochial interests.
Unfortunately, the country has not been too blessed in the effective and efficient use of resources. The system of revenue allocation, the implementation of fiscal and true federalism, the nature of political system cum structure and federal character, tribalism and ethnicity and the cry of marginalisation have made a mockery of good governance in Nigeria.
COVID-19 was first noticed in November 2019 as an epidemic in China. By the time it became classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, purposive and responsive nations should have prepared adequately for it being a time-bomb. Regrettably, our response was slow in coming. The Federal Government and nearly all the State governments hardly had facilities in place to treat COVID-19 cases and test suspected cases.
With the daily rise in the number of cases, more facilities are now springing up. We are lucky as a nation that with a population of about 200 million people we still have less than 300 cases; whereas, developed nations like the United States of America, Britain, Italy, Spain and France despite their preparedness have their COVID-19 cases and casualities/fatalities in multiple of thousands.
If we do not embrace good governance and creative and strategic planning, we may not be this lucky again. The volatility of the crude oil market is further exposing our inertia and docility. We are now quavering, sneezing and having headache. Our 2020 budget is in limbo and all the nation’s plan is in disarray.
The second issue is that of communication of government messages to the populace. The provision of timely, adequate and reliable information to the populace contributes to government legitimacy. For governments at all levels (federal, state and local) to be legitimate players in public spheres, they must develop, maintain and enhance creative and strategic communication capacity. This would engender among others, participatory governance, sympathy and empathy for government actions/inactions, understanding and goodwill, information sharing, and appreciation of the workings of government.
Information development and its two sides must be instituted in government communication. The two sides are a culture of disclosure and regular environmental scanning to determine relevant information. Government should realise that communication attitude and aptitude go pari passu. Never must the government manipulate or terrorise the press, and it must realise that innovative approaches are often needed to build trust and understanding. Distrust is frost with danger and consequently, government communication strategy/approach must eschew this like the plague.
The recent cases of the President of the nation being incommunicado leading to speculations, disinformation and misinformation before addressing the citizenry; and the late disclosure of the COVID-19 status of the Chief of Staff to the President should be avoided. The people of this country rightly deserve to constantly see and hear or read from their leader. He is not just one of us, but the President, Commander in-Chief of Nigeria, the most populated black nation in the world.
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